Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XXXI: Queen of Victory

 

John Byrne, "Goblin Queen" (From a story by Chris Claremont)

Good news! My employer has been persuaded that "But I don't wanna!" is not an adequate argument against the labour code requirement that I get an extra day off to celebrate the birthday of our undying Queen-Empress.That's next week; this week I celebrated it with lots of overtime instead, so I am going to pluck another low-hanging fruit before engaging with postblogging next week. 

So the story here is that the Indo-European languages emerge into the light with The Proclamation of Anittas, a unique document on Old Hittite extant in an early as well as late-Kingdom copies, anchoring the  use of the Hittite tongue to a c. 1600BC central Anatolian context.  And I am engaged here in the fun and low-stakes enterprise of arguing that this is not only the oldest Indo-European, but the source of the language family. Today we're going to go a bit further and single out an individual:  Puduhepa, the Queen of the Night. 





Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XXX: Quoi?

 

This one originally qualified as a response to something I read online: not here, of course: Over at Quora, where the best of the resident historical geneticists, Ygor Coelho, accepts the final collapse of the "Yamnaya expansion" thesis as far as it concerns ancient Anatolia --and then reconstructs it. 

Some time ago I wrote that my understanding about the origins of the Indo-European language family and the early Indo-European migrations, after reading many scientific papers about the archaeogenetic findings in connection with the archaeological ones, had been evolving to favor the Pontic-Caspian Steppe hypothesis, but not in its classic “Yamnaya hypothesis” (too late to be really representative of Proto-Indo-European, as opposed to some Indo-European branches, possibly those ancestral to Greek, Armenian and perhaps Albanian), and also in complete disagreement with those population geneticists that were interpreting the data as an evidence of an origin of Proto-Indo-European south of the Caucasus, probably close to Armenia.


It could also qualify as a book review, in that I took the decision to spend a lazy Saturday working this material over as an invitation to read Eric Cline's  After 1177: The Survival of Civilisations. Also, Narendra Modi is going to win re-election in India on his "Sure would be a shame if an ethnic cleansing were to just happen around here" platform, and if I can't do anything about that, at least I can direct some impotent aggression towards his Hindutva loons. 

So, first, Professor Cline. I read  1177 BC: The Year Civilisation Collapsed as a somewhat less than passionately felt book, and that is even more true of  Survival. That's not to say that it is a bad read, much less bad scholarship. I see omissions and neglect in the literature, But Cline has a professional expertise in the field so that is much more likely to be my misperception than reality, except insofar as I was hyperfocussed on his treatment of the brilliant Saro Wallace, and found his use of her work shallow. To be fair,  Travellers in Time came out too late to be considered; but Cline's whole monograph is permeated with the idea of a "successful collapse," and Wallace offers a mechanism for it that would explain what Cline finds so mysterious about the Phoenician anti-collapse and which might have come into his treatment of Israel if he had taken Finkelstein more to heart. (A redistribution of everyday economic activity across elevations enriches the "Phoenician" city states and makes the Kingdom of Judah possible). 

Oh, well, maybe I'm just white knighting it But, you know, Cline only catches fire when it ambles off the reservation to talk about climate change. I'm totally on board with worrying abot climate change, but the presumed "mega-drought" plays an important, if not quite starring role in Collapsed, and is central to Survival, is rooted in archaeobotanical studies, and drawing universal conclusions from localised archaeobotanical sites is a fraught activity, as witness repeated revisions of claims about forest cover changes based on revised understandings of the environmental history of specific sites. I get that Cline would like to use the enormous amount of money he has made for his publisher and turn into public intellectual clout in the service of something more important, but there are fine young scholars out there failing to get tenure-track jobs, and I'd like Cline to back off them if he can.  

Back to Ygor, who, as an Internet warrior still has his bones to make, and can get down into it. Ancient Anatolians do not have Steppe ancestry, and that's that. The Indo-European language family was not spread into Anatolia by a wave of demic advance. "Migration." So then he fixed it by finding a mutual ancestral group in the southern Caucasus in the right timeframe for Proto-Indo-European (4000BC, according to him. 

No disrespect to Ygor, but this is crazy. It's like, "I read some historical linguistics stuff on the Internet, and now I'm going to do a genetic study of the recovered DNA of more than 200 Neolithic individuals and unleash enough statistical analysis software on them to take a Lunar lander to the Sea of Tranquility and back." 

See? This is why linguistics is secretly the hardest historical science. We all take it for granted that we're not going to understand what the historical linguists are talking about, so we just nod along. It's like the Grand Unified Theory. Or it would be if we were using the contradictions between General Relativity and quantum mechanics to justify some light genocide. 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, January 1954: Dieselpunk

 


Did anyone else reading this frequent Young and Bloor in the early Nineties? Remember the giant poster of Pamela Anderson as Barbed Wire? There's something about comic book movies about girl characters where a dyke director (I assume) gets hold of the property and makes a movie with an aesthetic that says, "Hey, straight guys, we're just not going to apologise for not being for you," and then the straight guys don't go to see it and everybody looks at the box office and is,  like, "What happened?' I mean, I don't want to be the culture warrior here. I liked Birds of Prey well enough. But "we're going to shoot Ella Jay Bosco like she's chunky (she's not!) because you should be ashamed of your male gaze" is quite a message to swallow to enjoy me some movie. While I am determined to validate the artistic choice, I am wondering how you get to spend eight figures on a movie when your head is that far up your ass. It's not like you got the MoD (MoS) to pay for it!

By MigMigXII - Animated from CAD drawing, CC BY-SA 3.0,
 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24337752

Speaking of which, this cool animation adorns the Wikipedia article about the Napier Deltic, an 18-cylinder opposed-piston diesel engine consisting of six layers of cylinders arranged in a stack of equilateral triangles. Beginning as Napier's visionary submission to an Admiralty requirement for a diesel engine suitable for Coastal Forces, as of January of 1954 it has been at sea in a proving boat for almost two years, and is about to go into service on 18 "Dark" class 50t patrol boat, as noted in The Engineer for 5 January 1954, which covers the current state of the Royal Navy (which absolutely needs 60 cruisers and its battleships, but which can afford to cut the size of its new aircraft carriers from the excessive 37,000t displacement of Eagle and Ark Royal.) The article also notes that the Deltic has "been covered fully in these pages." But in the first half of whatever month the article ran in, damn it! Apart from the "Darks," Deltics went into a number of subsequent large coastal classes and several classes of British railways locomotives, Especially the Class 55, which made an indelible impression on the trainspotting public running 100mph services and hitting 125mph descending Stoke Bank with its distinctive noise. (Did I mention that this high speed, high power diesel was noisy? And smoky? I know. Next thing I'll be saying that it rattled!) Boring and conventional engines rule the diesel engine world today since given the costs involved in high speed rail infrastructure they might as well be electrified. The Deltic isn't precisely forgotten, but it is a curiosity of a bygone age, and not the only one in this post.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Postblogging Technology, January 1954, I: Night of the Comet

 





R_. C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada




Dear Father:

We're back in London, fully settled in, and back on the edge of the Comet investigation. It will probably be flying again, although James is pessimistic, mainly because he has lost confidence in De Havilland. The children are settling in, with Jim-Jim very cutely looking forward to nursery school, which we've discussed. 

Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie




Monday, April 29, 2024

Postblogging Technology, January 1951, I: A Whole New Year

R_.C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada




Dear Father:

Thank you again for your hospitality, which I am sorry I am so late, but things in London have been hectic. You may have noticed from the calendar that we flew out of Montreal the day of the Comet grounding, and London was an absolute zoo when we got there. On the other hand the Azores are BEAUTIFUL, which is just as well because renting a car and touring made up for spending a week there.  Or almost did, because why did there have to be an entire class of children aboard that plane? Why? 

All this bad enough before the Britannia accident. And, yes, this should have been in the mail long before the first week of February, but what can I say?  I've been touring James around because we've only the one car and I've had business in the counties, too trying to get the business of assorted people who were trying to move sterling into dollars ahead of the Crash of '54 and don't hold with old-fashioned surface shipping any more. 

So. Late. Sorry. Grateful. Missing you. Busy. Azores nice. Summaries good.  


Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie



Friday, April 19, 2024

A Technological and Nimrodian Appendix to Postblogging Technology, Fall 1953: Delta Dawn

 There was something about "Delta Dawn," an earworm of my childhood (written by Larry Collins and Alex Harvey, as performed byTanya Tucker, Bette Midler, and Helen Reddy) that bothered me as a young man. That's not surprising given its disturbing lyrics, but I did not then pick up that it was written about Alex Harvey's survivor's guilt over his mother's apparent suicide. So there's that, even before the Wikipedia article has to disambiguate the song from an even sadder story, which is definitely not the kind of competition that people should be having. 

The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, on the other hand, just didn't go as fast as it was supposed to. Not much of a story, but jeez, the subtext. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Technological and Muck-Raking Appendix to Postblogging Technology, December Titanium

 

By Anynobody - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18445244

Titanium is, we keep hearing, going to be one of the major structural elements in the North American XF-108 Rapier supersonic interceptor. We hear a great deal about how much of it is being used in the DC-7; and while the XF-108 will be cancelled, fifteen A-12s, 3 YF-12s and  34 SR-71s will fill some of the gap. 

Another thing we here today is that a shortage of American titanium led to the surreptitious import of  Russian titanium during the 1960s, so that the Soviet Union was spied upon by planes made with the Motherland's titanium. And as if that weren't enough to make for a story about oopsy-themed metals instead of planes, we have the sour suggestion that the real reason America is dragging its feet over titanium is that all that newly-built magnesium infrastructure would go to waste, and this finally makes the story of "Mag-Thor," or magnesium-thorium alloy, the slightly radioactive  structural metal so widely used in the early years of the Space Race, but mostly on "New Look" weapon systems like the Bomarc missile, one of the great cringing embarrassments of Canadian industrial and political history of the last century, make sense. For Dow-Corning to make adequate excuses for the titanium shortage, there had to be a competitive magnesium product. 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Postblogging Technology, December 1953, II: Girls Who Won't Say No






R_.C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada




Dear Father:
Norah Docker for woman of the year, 1953!


I guess the day had to come when I wasn't done writing one of these until after I was snug in my room and waiting for whoever it comes on the Twenty-Eighth. The ghost of the Park Royal Boxing Day Sale? Anyway, I'm going to drop this in the courier box so that everyone else can see it. Now this is the part where I mention a winsome event in my life and that of your grandchildren. So did I mention that I saw Field-Marshal Montgomery on the plane? I did? In giddy tones when I got here a week ago? Drat. I've got nothing else. 


Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie



Sunday, March 31, 2024

Postblogging Technology, December 1953, I: The Louche Years Begin

 



R_., C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada

Dear Father:


Thank you for the tickets, which we received on Monday. I have no idea how you found out when James' leave began, as he swears that he didn't tell you. We are very happy to accept the invitation, I repeat, just in case our letter is, I don't know, eaten by the Purple People Eater whilst winging its way across the Atlantic. I feel as though I should be updating you with our plans, but I obviously don't have to tell you our schedule for a trip you paid for and arranged! I would tell you how much luggage we are bringing, but I haven't even begun to sort that out! 

As  this completely upends Christmas shopping, I would be happy to have an updated list of suggestions from Vancouver, if you could find the time to forward one. You'll also have to give some thought to gifts that will satisfy the little ones and still be small enough to pack back with us. Don't worry about space in the apartment, unless for some reason you decide to give them a pot! 
 


Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie

Saturday, March 23, 2024

A Socio-Technological Preface to Postblogging Technology, Decemer 1953: The Louche Years

I started the first installment of December technological postblogging yesterday before deciding that I was a bit too spent from the work week to have a hope of finishing it over the weekend. But before giving up (because it was hard), I did some pretty basic things, like finding the big Christmas song of 1953?


Which was Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby, which I'm saving for next week. Have some meta-commentary instead! So then I had a reaction. I'm not offended by Santa Baby. "Sex positive," I remind myself. We're sex positive these days. And it's a Christmas classic, which, I don't know, did we ever get it sorted out whether that saved Baby, It's Cold Out There? And it's not like Kitt invented the idea of putting double entendres in hit parade music. But it's Christmas. It's for the kids! So that was what I was thinking just before I thought to myself, "Speaking of louche things in popular culture, I forgot to make a fuss for the first issue of Playboy when it came out! When did it come out, anyway?"

December of 1953, it turns out. Begun, the louche years have! We are starting down a valley at the bottom of which is the moment when you're not allowed to complain about skin magazines at the front of the corner store, and all the cool high school teachers are sleeping with their students, and the "Me Too" moment, which might be over as a cry for justice, but sure seems like the mood in public culture. We may or may not be back where we started,  but this isn't about  before it began, some images below notwithstanding, and it's not about where we are now. It's about things that happened in the louche years, and here I'm thinking about that second wave feminist thing about pornography being a way to hold women back. Without going too far down that road, there's a story of images --or, should I say, because we're about technology around here, graphics?

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Boom: The Space Race, 1

 


Everyone has a first public event they remember, and for me, it is the live television broadcast of the landing of Apollo 9. I was a bit young as these stories go, and this might have something to do with the fact that, as it turns out, this was four days before my fifth birthday. I was far too young to remember the two events sequentially, but heightened attention to the one  might have leaked over to heightened attention to the other, I dunno. The point here, such as it is, is that I will have my 60th birthday this year. I try not to blather on about work around here too much, so I won't go into the details of why I am not getting all the paid time off that the contract says I get, just to note, once again, that it has to do with the lack of younger workers at my place of employment and in the Canadian economy in general. Hence the clever double meaning of the title of this series, a reference to the baby boom as well as to the "space race" that culminated on 20 July 1964. Do the two things go together? I sure think so right now!

Even if they don't, this blog obviously can't ignore the space race, and this is the first occasion in the progression of the technological postblogging where it seems appropriate to give the space race its own series. Notice how I've cleverly begun the enumeration of this series in Arabic numerals? That's so I'm not working out the Roman notation for "47" at some point in the probably not-so-distant future. 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, November 1952, II: Around the Gyrotron

 The biggest industrial and technological story of this week is the collision of ongoing talk about civil defence or continental air defence with ongoing planning for OPERATION CASTLE, in which the BRAVO test blast of 1 March 1954 will demonstrate the feasibility of noncryogenic, "dry" hydrogen bombs. It will also detonate with two-and-a-half times the predicted yield, and catch Daigo Fukuryu Maru within its unexpectedly large fallout radius. With its usual maladroitness (I seriously  do not get the Eisenhower revisionism school at this point), the Administration tried to cover up the enormous screw-up and blame the crew of the trawler at a very delicate moment in American-Japanese postwar relations, and possibly leading (not a Japan expert!) to the confirmation of the postwar "pacifist"  constitution, and certainly to Godzilla. Would we have otaku culture without Godzilla? I don't know. Probably. 

Hydrogen bombs are a few things. First, they make civil defence seem vaguely ridiculous. Second, they need even less precise aiming than the previous generation of mere atomic bombs. Third, they can be lighter than that previous generation. People have been talking about intercontinental ballistic missiles since before the end of the war in Europe. Hydrogen bomb-tipped missiles actually make sense, because with an error of 3 km at the delivery end, you can still aim at "Moscow" and blow up all the strategic tarets in the Moscow vicinity, along with the rest of Moscow. That being said, ICBMs are a lot harder to build than to imagine. In the rough sketch of a plan for the future of the British nuclear deterrence that developed within its aviation-technical community after WWII, the ICBM would be preceded by an intermediate range ballistic missile. In April of 1954, the outgoing Minister of Supply in the Churchill government, Duncan Sandys, pushed through the concrete realisation of this schedule: the BLUE STREAK, a somewhat more advanced counterpart to the American Thor and Jupiter missiles that would deploy in underground bases in 1964, following several generations of life extensions for the V-bomber fleet and preceding an all-British ICBM that would never be ordered.

Today we are not talking about the BLUE STREAK so much as its guidance system, and we have been led to that discussion via a technology which was not used in it, the "tuning fork" gyroscope. My inspiration for this was taken from an article in Aviation Week about this new "gyratron" or "vibragyro," and an offhand mention of the fact that it had been tried by Smiths in the Smith's Automatic Pilot, SEP2 militarised as  the RAF Mk10. The Sperry vibrayro of 1953 doesn't appear to have gone any further. The idea was revived by Westinghouse for the space programme in the 1960s, but it wasn't until they were made piezoelectric that they became common in such vital gyrostablising applications as electric skateboards. 

So instead I'm going to talk about the technology that was used, and the concept of the BLUE STREAK as a total weapon system.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Postblogging Technology, November 1953, II: Calamity White




R_C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada


Dear Father:

I know that you're going to call me a flighty girl for saying it, but the biggest technology story of the week is a silly movie from a producer who obviously hasn't a clue what he or she (but let's be honest, it's a "he") is doing: Flight to Tangier, in which the studio's money was staked on Jack Palance as a romantic lead. The movie itself, a CinemaScope, Technicolor production for flat screen, 3D or widescreen viewing, is just an amazing statement on the progress of the technology of film making over the last few years. If you can credit television with anything, it is for getting the studios to drop some money into something besides' actors' salaries. I'm thinking about this a lot because of the amount of time I am spending up at Bray, and I know that the studio doesn't exactly spell "sophisticated" to anyone who isn't impressed that I have Eva Bartok's autograph. I don't care. More money is being spent on making bad movies look good (and sound good, too, how did we get beat out to be the first with video tape?) than anything else besides going fast. It's going to matter some day! And not just for those of us making money by smuggling silver. 
 

Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie



Saturday, February 24, 2024

Postblogging Technology, November 1953, I: Kulturkampf





R_.C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada




Dear Father:

An update from London, where yours truly continues to look for something to do that isn't swanning around film studios like a crazy investment-minded great aunt. Maybe I'll write a science fiction novel. It doesn't look that hard! Your son has not had any more chances to indulge his particular passions, because he has been attending one meeting after another in London about making sure that British radars play politely with American radars. Which, he says, "If I was interested in all this stuff I would be in television and making ten times as much money." SIGH.  

Your grandchildren are fine, not neglected in any way. It's just that I have plenty of help. The only reason Nat is cooking for us is that there isn't room to turn around in the kitchen due to the way that the building got a wall kicked in courtesy of Herr Goering, so the help doesn't eat here. Don't worry, though, Harry MacMillan has promised to pop over and fix it personally, so the place will be back at its full Edwardian grandeur by the time we leave next summer.


Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie




Friday, February 16, 2024

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, October 1953: Transducer Days

 


With the very low key add for the IBM 650,  "the first mass--produced computer in the world,"we take another big step in the direction of home computing. With the bizarre use of a Mark 14 bombsight as a frame to describe the workings of the bellows in a modern pneumatic system points us towards AIRPASS. With all that going on, Aviation Week has a pictorial for us showing how transistors are made, and everyone in avionics seems to have a transducer on ad this month. And something strange is going on. By this I do not mean the Wikipedia article illustration.


According to the Wikipedia Commons credit, is from the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, and I am guessing that it is from the early Sixties. The obvious sociological question I have here is why the two operators in our retrospective view of early computing are male, while at the time operators of complex technological systems consistently code as female. It's a very striking change that I've worn out the electrons commenting on, because I want some smart person who isn't me to do all the hard work of coming up with an analysis of it. 

What I mean, rather, is the default assumption that a "transistor" is made of germanium, in a month in which piezoelectric transducers are being pushed heavily in the advertising space. Only 40 tons of germanium were mined "by the end of the Fifties," per Wikipedia. (Or, in 1998, germanium cost $800/kg, silicon, $10/kg. We are not getting to the Information Age using the 50th most abundant element in missile guidance systems.Crystals of various germanium do appear to have piezoelectric properties, but I'm not sure anyone knew that in 1954, and in any event quartz is a satisfactory piezoelectric material and is as common as dirt, so that would be what we would use here.  

But first, before the jump, something for 1954 from the Paul/Ford studio, although not obviously electronica, which word I apparently can't use because "electronica" is a 1990s music genre and holy shit look at this Wikipedia listicle. 


Saturday, February 10, 2024

Postblogging Technology, October 1953, II: The Warren Court and the Idiots


R_.C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada




Dear Father:

Greetings from London, where we only talk about the important things, such as Anthony Eden's digestion and Winston Churchill's weight! Oh, and whether we can have a nonaggression treaty with Russia before we're ready to throw H-bombs capable of flattening New York around. In the meantime, the RAF is working on being as good as it possibly can be at dropping the dang things. If you've got five million tons of dynamite under the hood, you only have to hit "Moscow" to get Malenkov. (But should it be Khrushchev?) But at 600mph at 60,000ft, can you even do that? Somehow the earliest version of the RAF's latest bombsight is in the pages of The Engineer this week, and it is all part and parcel of this new trans-Atlantic cooperation on electronic controls and relays in Very Secret Airplanes that has Reggie visiting Hadlett this week. As for me, well, if you deigned to notice, there was a little television serial over the summer called The Quatermass Experiment. And it has been proposed that one is not done making money from it just yet.  


Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie





Saturday, February 3, 2024

Postblogging Technology, October 1953, I: Cheque or Cash, It's Easy Money




R_C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada


Dear Father:

Well, here we are in London. I am seeing the sights, although a year of this and I might go a bit stir-crazy if I didn't have family business to attend to. I was up to Bray to meet the cast of what looks like a positively awful science fiction movie and ask searching questions about where are money is going, but by the books they're making money even before we "wash" the silver nitrate movements. Which isn't bad for such cheesy movies! Reggie has also been travelling, flying to Stockport to see (you must shoot me after reading this) Britain's Great White Hope to upset the F-100 speed record. He is officially there to worry over cooling servos, mostly electronic ones (which has implications for air-to-air missiles, too), but Fairey is apparently hoping for fighter sales and wants to get the word out in the USN. I don't know if anyone up there has met Reggie, but he is at least susceptible to a nice machine, even if he does think that fighters are a waste of time. 

London, by the way, is much livelier than I expected from stories told by certain older male relatives recently here resident. Perhaps it is just the lack of glum foreboding and uncertainty about the Eisenhower Depression. Or maybe it is because the Prime Minister has already had his stroke, so  you don't have to wake up every morning and turn on the radio to find out if Richard Nixon is your new President. (Instead you get to put money down on whether it will be Eden or RAB. Which is fun in a appalling sort of way.)

Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie

Saturday, January 27, 2024

A Technologo-Scientific and Popular Cultural Appendix to Postblogging Technology, September 1953, II: Soylent Green is Etc!

 


I'm sure everyone has seen 1973's "Soylent Green is People" clip, and the opening credits are actually pretty fun. And a good reminder that Harry Harrison's Make Room, Make Room, came out in the same era as John Brunner's Dos Passos-inspired pseudo-found novels beginning with 1968's overpopulation-centred Stand on Zanzibar. I'm not sure how the movie money came to be left on the table for Harrison. but he did have the good sense to write a police procedural instead of a quadrology of sprawling, experimental novels. Harrison was, if anything, too succinct for his own good, hence Deathworld not being Dune. 

Blue green algae might also be too succinct for its own good. It's small, and short-lived; There have been a million generations since blue-green algae started out being the next big thing in fighting overpopulation and the "limits to growth," and as far as I can tell, we're still waiting. But, then, that's the point of the movie, isn't it? "Soylent" is the food of the future; Blue-green algae would should have been the food of the future,  but it turns out that there's a problem

I know, I know, that's a link to a weird and poorly reviewed science fiction novel from the early Seventies. The Ballentine second hands are everywhere, so I suspect it sold well but was received coldly, and I can see why, because it is a strange, if epic, story. And it happens to be the place where the  idea of the empty oceans was introduced to me --along with a lot of other very weird stuff.  T. J. Bass probably deserves some kind of attention, and the idea of a dead ocean was definitely resonating in the early 1970s, replacing earlier optimism about the bounteous harvest to come of "Fish and plankton, sea greens and protein from the sea." Protein. It's always protein. And cannibalism. Yum!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, September 1953, II: Missing Plugs, Missing Rebuttals

 


Is that a bandwagon going by? Let me hop right on that thing! 

I am going to go with the assumption that no-one wants to hear my potted history of Boeing's ongoing struggle to not embarrass itself with the millions of 737s-only-slightly-different it is currently selling to the airlines that only want 737s. (Even if they are slightly different.) I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with an  industry being locked into an airplane that looks and acts like an old-time 737 in spite of having a ridiculously large pair of engines dragging off their wing and a whole app on its computer set up so that it will fly like a 737 even though if you use the app wrong you crash and die. 

Because if I was going to make fun of this situation I'd say something like "Good thing grandparents don't fly planes," and then the dam would burst and I would point and laugh and laugh and laugh, and we're way more serious about that around here. And anyway it frankly doesn't even crack the top fifty of inexplicable institutional malfunctions we've got going on these days. (Just kidding about "inexplicable." It's obviously all the old people we've got these days.) 

On the other hand, I can go back to 1953 and the approximate moment we got locked into this path and try to understand how we started down it.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Postblogging Technology, September 1953, II: Sweetness, Thorazine, and the Madness of Howard Hughes



R_.C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada


Dear Father:

You will be pleased to hear that Reggie's paper went well, with none of the security-related theatrics that scuttled the conference's most anticipated paper, the Avro reply to George Schairer on pods. (I think pretty much everyone knows that the paper was considered far too embarrassing and dangerous because it discussed the extraordinary frequency with which B-47 engines explode, and J47s by extension, but the face-saving story is that it couldn't be given because the Vulcan is still on the Secret List, or something like that. 

Aside from attending conferences and sad associated"wine and cheeses," I have been enjoying London, although that must come to an end next week when I head out to the studio and find out what they've been doing with our money. Hopefully there will be a convincing explanation and some wonderful film is in the can, and I will spend the day enjoying out-takes and what passes for British food, which is even worse than Californian. 

Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie



Saturday, January 6, 2024

Postblogging Technology, September 1953, I: Scupper me Skull-and-Crossbones!

R_.C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver, Canada


Dear Father:

It was so good to see you in London, and you were so sweet with Nat. McGraw-Hill certainly didn't where it is by paying its correspondents too much! now I know why they were so slow to admit that the Russians had a hydrogen bomb. Actually, no-one has a hydrogen bomb! I suppose I shouldn't be any more clear than that, lest I reveal the big secret here in my secret letters.  

I'm still mad that you couldn't stay long enough to take in Farnham. I do understand. You're only back in the land of your disgrace on Her Majesty's Secret Service. I hope you will find Vancouver well and that you will listen to  your doctor, no matter how badly that is working out these days for someone taking the new wonder drugs, and have a good long rest. 

I would to, but I'm in London

Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie