Sunday, May 31, 2020

Expanding the Shipyards

It's what we started with that made it possible.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Fighting Temeraire

ASM826 has been posting about the fate of old ships, which reminded me of one of the most famous nautical portraits of all time.

It's "The Fighting Temeraire". painted in 1839 by J M W Turner.  You can see it in London at the National Gallery.  The complete title gives a better sense of what's going on: The Fighting Temeraire, tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838.  It was the last voyage of a renowned ship,

She came by her fame honestly.  She was in line of battle immediately behind Admiral Nelson's flagship HMS Victory at Trafalgar, and saved the day when Victory was in hard fighting.  She not only saved the flagship but captured two french ships as well.

But time and tide wait for no man, and for no ship.  A 98 gun ship of the line was not only expensive (it took a small forest of oak to build her) but the advent of steam power made her obsolete.  Wikipedia tells the sad tale of her fate:
Temeraire was hauled up onto the mud, where she lay as she was slowly broken up.[62] The final voyage was announced in a number of papers, and thousands of spectators came to see her towed up the Thames or laid up at Beatson's yard.[72] The shipbreakers undertook a thorough dismantling, removing all the copper sheathing, rudder pintles and gudgeons, copper bolts, nails and other fastenings to be sold back to the Admiralty. The timber was mostly sold to house builders and shipyard owners, though some was retained for working into specialist commemorative furniture.[62]
A lot of famous furniture seemingly was made from her.

The painting also has an interesting history.  It made Turner famous.  It was also the favorite of all his many paintings (at least one of which has graced the pages of this blog).  He only loaned it once, and regretted it.  He refused to sell it, and on his death bequeathed it to the Realm.  If you find yourself in London, you can see his painting in the National Gallery and his grave in St. Paul's, and muse on how tempus fugits.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


The Fore Shipyard was an active shipyard on Quincy Point in 1901. They were bought by Bethlehem Steel in 1913 and later became known as the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation. Sold in the 1960s to General Dynamics and finally closed in 1986. They made all sort of ships, cargo vessels, submarines, tankers, even some ships for foreign navies.

This is the Thomas Lawson, a seven masted schooner they built in 1902.

But it's the U.S. Navy ships I want to focus on.

They built the first USS Lexington (CV2) in 1927 and when she was sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea and they built the second USS Lexington (CV16) in 1943, along with the carriers USS Wasp, USS Bunker Hill, and USS Hancock.

The battleships USS New Jersey (BB-16), USS Rhode Island (BB-17), USS Vermont (BB-20), USS North Dakota (BB-29), USS Nevada (BB-36), and the USS Massachusetts (BB-59).

Here's the USS Massachusetts. Another ship with a battle history worthy of a post.

Add to that 32 Cruisers, 63 Destroyers, and 49 Subs. 

A lot of that was WWII production. There were 32,000 people working in the shipyard in 1943. In 1950, the number of workers was around 3,200. There was production throughout the life of the yard, but in the end the last ship was a cargo vessel, the USNS SGT William R. Button.

The docks and buildings are there and have been reasonably maintained.  The tools, the equipment, and most importantly, the people are gone. Maybe we'll never need to build ships like these again. But if we do, at least at Quincy, we'll be starting from scratch. Here's what's left.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

USS Nevada

I saw a news article today that the USS Nevada had been located. She's upside down on the sea floor 65 nautical miles southwest of Pearl Harbor. The story of how she got there is part of today's post.

First, we have to go back to Old America. The USS Nevada was the first of her class. The first U.S. battleship to have oil fired boilers instead of coal. The first to have triple gun turrets. The first to have geared turbine drives. She was twice the displacement of the previous generation of battleships.

She was built in Quincy, Massachusetts at the Fore River Shipyard. You can remember that name because that will be subject of my next post. There was time when saying "it was Quincy built" meant something to sailors. And The USS Nevada was laid down near the beginning of that time. They laid her keel in November 1912 and launched her in July of 1914. The Navy took her into active service in May of 1916.

She did not see battle in WWI and spent the years between the wars showing the flag in various places around the world. She was modernized in the late 1920s, but still, in December 1941, she was almost 30 years old, the oldest of the battleships tied up to the docks at Pearl Harbor on December 7th.

Everyone remembers the USS Arizona. Destroyed by a massive explosion and sunk.

Today we remember the USS Nevada. Her commanding office was ashore. When the attack began, two of her boilers was lit, as the engineering officer was planning on switching power and taking the first one off-line. The Officer of the Deck made his decisions and brought up all available steam, had the other boilers fired, opened the magazines and had the sailors man the guns and begin to return fire. They cut the mooring lines with fire axes and got the ship underway. The only battleship that morning to do so.

They didn't make open water. Hit by six bombs and the a torpedo, she was deliberately grounded on Ford Island to prevent her sinking in the main channel. Sixty men died, another one hundred and ten were wounded. On February 12th, 1942, she was refloated. Repaired and retrofitted with modern guns at Puget Sound Navy Yard, she rejoined the fleet in October 1942.

She served in convoy escort duty in the Atlantic for several months, then joined the preparations for the Normandy landing. Provided fire support against shore positions during Normandy. Then again during an landing operation in the Mediterranean, where she fired against counter battery fire reducing a Nazi fort. By then she had worn out her gun barrels, having fired 354 salvos and went back to the States for repairs.

They mounted the Mark 8 guns that had been salvaged off the USS Arizona and set the USS Nevada off to the Pacific, to Iwo Jima, where she came within 600 yards of shore and fired in direct support of the Marines ashore. And then on to the Battle of Okinawa, where after firing on shore positions, she was caught without air cover and attacked by 7 kamikazis, one of which managed to hit the ship.

By now, if you're like me, you are wondering how you didn't already know some of this story. And it's not over yet. Almost 35 years old, the Navy decided not to retain the USS Nevada after the war. She was used as a target ship for the Able nuclear test at Operation Crossroads and badly damaged. Still floating, she was used again during the Baker test, the underwater detonation that everyone remembers from the dramatic photos.

Now dangerously radioactive and damaged beyond repair, she was towed to sea and used for gunnery practice in July 1948. After fours days of gunnery, she was finally sunk by a torpedo.

You can't save everything, but part of me thinks the USS Nevada should be tied up to a dock somewhere, visited by school groups and aging vets in Navy ball caps. There is a memorial to the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor. It is situated with a view of the harbor and lists the names of the men who died on December 7th, 1941 in the opening minutes of WWII.

There are no atheists in a foxhole

Especially with priests like this around.  Wow.  "Just War Doctrine" goes all the way back to St. Augustine.  Maybe this guy is a saint, too.

Like I said, wow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A decade of Liberal failure

Actually, it's more like two decades.  Maybe more.  I posted this ten years ago, and it has held up remarkably well over that time. 

The one thing I could add looking back from the present is that Donald Trump has figured out how to successfully exploit the weakened trust in our corrupted institutions, and that this is at the core of why so many people hate him with the fire of a thousand suns.  They were expecting to make further advances using the power of those institutions, but Trump shows them (again and again) that the institutions are now easily bypassed.

For example, who follows the Nightly News anymore?  Only Tools and Fools.  Everyone else has wised up - thus the inability of the News to get rid of Trump.

I also predict that governmental institutions like CDC will never recover their reputations once people realize just how badly CDC screwed up their virus projections and recommendations, and how much damage that did to the economy.  Not that this is a hard prediction to make ...


The Liberal Crackup

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian political theorist and Communist during the early part of the twentieth century. His ideas about the importance of the Intellectual Elite led to what is called "the Long March Through the Institutions", where leftist ideology gradually takes over the key intellectual institutions - film, the media, Universities - as a means of fostering social change.

It's fair to say that by the 1990s, that march was complete. The education system, Television, movies were safely bastions of leftist thought, with any few remaining islands of non-left thinking (say the College of Engineering) safely marginalized. At this point, the left were finally free to indoctrinate at will, to mold society in their image.

The election of 2008 is perhaps the greatest success of these institutions, where a combination of news media propaganda, University group-think spoon fed to students, and a glittering collection of Hollywood stars led to the election of Barack Obama, the most liberal president in history. The ground had been carefully prepared, and now the left could finally complete the transformation of the Country, as Gramsci had predicted.

It hasn't worked out that way. Certainly Obama has had some legislative victories, but at terrible cost. Maybe a million people have taken to the streets in protest, in the Tea Party movement. Even if a supine news media downplays or simply refuses to report these events, it's clear that the careful preparation of the Intellectual battlefield have not had at all the expected result. The Intellectual organs do not seem to be pushing the country in the desired direction. On the contrary.

The Long March Through The Institutions is complete, but the results are not what were expected:
  • American's trust in the news media has been falling since 1976.
  • Newspaper circulation has been falling since 1990.
  • None of the top dozen highest grossing Hollywood films has been made in the last 25 years (counting in inflation-adjusted dollars). [written in 2009 - Borepatch]
  • Previously respected initiatives like the Environmental Movement are no longer respected.
  • Trust that the Government will do the right thing has been falling since the early 1960s, from a high around 80% to the mid 20% range.
The only conclusion we can reach is that the Long March Through The Institutions has effectively destroyed the Institutions.

At what should be the height of the Intellectual's power under the Obama Administration, they are being rejected by the country. And so they're cracking up, like Woody Allen and Tom Friedman dreaming about a Dictatorship.  Roger L. Simon suggests why:
They sense — and Woody and Friedman sense with a different reaction — that the Culture Wars are turning. It’s partly the Tea Parties, but it’s more than that. It’s the zeitgeist. The times, they are definitely a-changin’. Liberalism, as we have known it for decades, is on the defensive. With the welfare state unsustainable, it has nowhere to turn and its adherents are turning tail in every direction. They are mad and they are, in many cases, unmoored. Lifetime ideologies are beginning to crumble. Personality constructs are at risk.
Gramsci was wrong, at least for America. We don't care about Intellectualism, and never have. All the dreaming and wishing that America "becomes more like Europe" is empty. Not happening, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

The crackup isn't pretty. Bush wasn't supposed to win, and we saw Bush Derangement Syndrome. Obama did win, but we still see Palin Derangement Syndrome. Charges of "racist" and "sedition" are tossed around, to general derision. At what should be their moment of final victory, it's all turning to dust.

Will the last people to leave the Institutions please turn out the lights? We're trying to be Green and Save the Planet ...

UPDATE 3 June 2010 10:57: Welcome visitors from Tam's place, and she's quite correct: you should also read this and this and this. I've focused here on the Great Tyranny, the one on the national level. The petty tyranny of the local school board or zoning council is another post or ten. You should also read this follow-up post that was triggered by Wolfwalker's excellent comment here.

Monday, May 25, 2020

What happens to Memorial Day when nobody serves?

Decoration Day - the predecessor of today's Memorial Day - was established in the aftermath of the War of Southern Independence*.  There were essentially no families untouched by that charnel house.  When co-blogger and Brother-From-Another-Mother ASM826 and I grew up in the 1960s, the Second World War was still fresh in the nation's memory.  No families were untouched by casualty, and Memorial Day parades were a key event in towns across the land.

But today's wars are fought with a much smaller military.  Casualty reports are smaller, and simply don't effect many people.  As one of the soldiers remarked from Iraq: America's not at war.  We're at war.  America is at the Mall.

But not quite everyone.  Some hear the Call, and some of them die.  Those left behind know the full meaning of Memorial Day.  I posted this eight years ago, and it is worth thinking about today.  Christian Golczynski is now 20 years old and going to the University of Alabama on a scholarship from the Marine Corps Foundation.


Memorial Day isn't about barbecues for Christian Golczynski.  He was eight years old when LTC Ric Thompson handed him the flag that had draped his father's coffin.  That was nine years ago.

This weekend will be the ninth Memorial Day where he won't be thinking about barbecues.  Next month will be the ninth Father's Day with an empty chair at the dinner table.

That is what Memorial Day is about.

I've posted this song a number of times over the last few years, as it captures in music the sound of a heart breaking.  The song alternates between memories of the loved and lost, and the stumbling emptiness as the singer tries - and fails - to make sense of the loss.  It's not your typical sentimental Country music song, it's pure, distilled, 100 proof grief.

For some, that is what Memorial Day is about.

There is no official music video for this song; Messina is no longer the chart topping singer that she was in the 1990s.  But people have taken this music and found photographs that amplify the music and make it personal.  The second picture in the video is one that I found particularly moving - nearly as much as the one of young Mister Golczynski shown here.

This is what Memorial Day is about. 

Heaven Was Needing A Hero (songwriter: Jo Dee Messina)
I came by today to see you
Though I had to let you know
If I knew the last time that I held you was the last time,
I'd have held you and never let go
Oh it's kept me awake night wonderin'
Lie in the dark, just asking "why?"
I've always been told you won't be called home until it's your time

I guess Heaven was needing a hero
Somebody just like you
Brave enough to stand up for what you believe and follow it though
When I try to make it make sense in my mind
The only conclusion I come to
Is that Heaven was needing a hero like you

I remember the last time I saw you
Oh you held your head up proud
I laughed inside when I saw how you were, standing out in the crowd
You're such a part of who I am
Now that part will just be void
No matter how much I need you now
Heaven needed you more

'Cause Heaven was needing a hero
Somebody just like you
Brave enough to stand up for what you believe and follow it though
When I try to make it make sense in my mind
The only conclusion I come to
Is that Heaven was needing a hero like you

Yes, Heaven was needing a hero...that's you.
Abraham Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby is justly famous:
Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln
Christian Golczynski also laid a sacrifice on that same altar of our freedom, a sacrifice costly beyond our reckoning.  I hope that the fullness of time will ease his anguish as well.  I fear that it will not.

That is what Memorial Day is about.  Not a barbecue in sight, just pure, 100 proof grief.  This weekend as you go about your normal business of life, remember SSgt Marcus Golczynski.  And Christian.  And what that sacrifice means.  May this Republic be worthy of them.

* It wasn't a "Civil War" because the South didn't want to take over the North.  "War Between The States" is not specific about the issue involved.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

It's Parades and Picnics, Too

I remember marching in a Memorial Day parade in 1966. I was a Cub Scout. They probably started with a band and fire truck. There would have be antique cars decorated with bunting. Convertibles with the Gold Star Mothers riding along. The VFW would march with rifles. There was a small group of WWI vets that always marched together. Then the Boy Scouts and Cubs. The Girl Scouts and Brownies.

And if you weren't marching, you were on the curb or sidewalk watching. The whole procession came out of the high school parking lot and went down the main street until it turned left just before the river. The parade turned there because that took you to the main cemetery. The podium was set up and the various speakers took their turns before the veteran's graves. You knew which ones were the veterans because the stones were decorated with a flag.

I don't remember anything that was said. Just that it was solemn. I went looking. You can watch 5000 home movies of 1950s and 1960s Memorial Day Parades if you are so inclined. I picked one. Not because it seemed special, but because it seemed typical. This is what towns big and small used to do on Memorial Day.

It's a minute long. The video quality is poor. There is no sound. It looks like America.

Our dads and uncles were the guys that fought in WWII. Our grandfathers in WWI. They knew the guys with the flags on their headstones from high school and church. America was what all these men had fought for and Memorial Day was for the ones that hadn't made it home.

And there were picnics. Burgers and dogs, baked beans and chips, cold soda and beer. The smell of charcoal. Memorial Day was a celebration, too. A time to remember back at what it cost and a time to appreciate the day, the freedom, the life and the people we share it with.

Saving Private Ryan is a great movie. It would be a good movie without this scene, but this scene is what elevates it to greatness. It is the question that we should all ask ourselves. Is the life we are living worth the cost that was paid? I, too, hope that in their eyes it is.

John Williams - Hymn To The Fallen

This weekend is Memorial Day - not Thank A Veteran Day.  It used to be called Decoration Day, when people would go and decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers.  It is a day set aside for those who gave that last measure of sacrifice.

I am frequently quite harsh in my opinion of Hollywood, but every now and again something remarkable emerges from that Gomorrah.  Saving Private Ryan was such a film, one that is perfect for this weekend of remembrance.

John Williams wrote a remarkable score for the film, and this finale to the soundtrack perfectly captures the mood of the survivors, looking back.  Ave atque vale.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Remembering Uncle George

For the Fallen 
Robert Laurence Binyon 
Published in The Times newspaper on 21 September 1914. 

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The lamp of civilization flickers

But it does not go out.  As ASM826 has posted, the Past is a foreign country - they do things differently there.  But even from Blighty, where it seems that the post-whatever elite has made fair their triumph, comes this: the first real Commando raid, sponsored by Churchill himself.

Yeah, it suffered two thirds casualties, but it accomplished the mission.  I wonder what the current generation would make of this.

Actually, I don't.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Puff, puff

This is Borepatch, resurfacing.  Life has been busy, and I'm very grateful for co-blogger and Brother-From-Another-Mother ASM826 single handedly keeping the lights on here while I've been otherwise occupied.  Everything is well, but hokey smokes it's been busy.

I'll get back to work here presently.  I guess I better, before the Management here cans me.  You know what a jerk The Management can be ...

Today's News

My post yesterday about the removal of older, unmaintained dams became today's news in Michigan.

The Edenville Dam, built privately in 1924, had been owned and operated by Boyce Hydro Power. In 2018, their permit to operate had be revoked when a survey of the dam noted structural deficiencies and design flaws that made it vulnerable to a high water event. The spillways were only capable of shedding about 50% of the anticipated water. As water built up in the reservoir, pressure on the back side of the earthen dam would exceed the strength of the dam and a catastrophic failure was deemed possible.

Late yesterday afternoon, this predicted event occurred. 2.9 billion cubic feet of water were released into the Tittabawassee River. Wixom lake was drained.  Here's footage during and then after.

New Hampshire

This video is self explanatory. It's New Hampshire in 1947. A window into Old America of farms and textile mills. A time when New Hampshire made 20% of the shoes sold in the United States. Where fishing was abundant enough to be an export from the state.

This is home, no matter how long I have been away. I have memories of childhood. Hiking along old stone walls along the edges of farm fields. 4th of July picnics and parades. Leaves burning in the fall. Standing on the line with my grandfather at the trap range wanting to break them all.

“The past is never dead. It's not even past.”
William Faulkner

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Exeter, New Hampshire is a town, like thousands of others, built at the fall line on a river. It was the potential energy of the water as it fell across the last rocks before entering the coastal plain that made the place attractive. To maximize that energy and direct the water into the wheels, people built dams.

By 1802, when this map was drawn, there were several dams just above the tidal section of the river. If you enlarge the map, you can see grist mills, linseed oil mills, and a fulling mill. The early industry in Exeter is all dependent on water power and the dams.

In the 1820s, a company formed and bought all the upstream dams and water rights, and built one large dam just downstream of the main bridge. In 1829, the Exeter Manufacturing Company built it's first buildings and started using the power provided by the four water wheels at the dam. It was the only power source available until the 1870s. 

I couldn't find any history of how they moved away from water power, but I suspect it was first to steam and then to electricity. If you are familiar with how water power is transmitted to pulleys and shafts, tying that to steam seems a logical step. There was still use for water and the last dam was built in 1914.

Here's Exeter as it was in the 1940s. The dam was already an artifact. Exeter at that time was a mill town with several industries, primary the cotton mill and a shoe factory. The mill owner had most of the political power in town and also a controlling interest in the local bank. It was not an idyllic situation. The hours were long, working conditions poor and dangerous, and it was only changes in the laws that lead to eight hours shifts and improvements in conditions.

It did provide jobs and manufacturing for 150 years.

The Exeter Manufacturing Company was sold in 1966, then sold again in 1981, finally closing in 1983. The mill building was turned into apartments. Somewhere along the way the dam became the responsibility of the town. It served no function. It had been neglected for decades.

A survey found that significant upgrades would be necessary if it was to be maintained and re-certified as safe. It had been known since colonial times that the dam blocked migratory fish from reaching the spawning grounds in the upper fresh water reaches of the river. Fish ladders had been installed in the 1950s without much success. You can see how this was going to go.

No necessarily a bad decision and one that made economic sense as removing the dam was the least expensive option. It was put to a vote and the decision was 2 to 1 in favor. The Exeter River was reopened for the first time since 1638. Here's a documentary. It's not the loss of the unused dam. It's the changes to the town and the people I was noticing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Having the will and the financial resources isn't enough. Someone has to know how.

EngelsCoachShop has a YouTube channel and he has posted some very interesting videos of his work.  What follows is a compilation video of wheel building. I picked this one because these are huge wheels, built for a heavy borax wagon, and because the whole job is shown in one video. You can watch this and other projects in detail on his channel.

The shop has all the tools and machines. Some new, some very old. They use what works. You might see a century old hand tool one moment and a chainsaw the next. They are building wagons and wheels for antique repairs and reproductions.

 If you put me in there and told me to build a wheel, my first attempts would pretty sorry affairs. Even with all the equipment, it is the decades of accumulated knowledge gained while working in a craft that is important.

Monday, May 18, 2020

White Elephant

By 1850, the Catholic population of Albany, New York had grown too large and needed a new church. Plans were drawn, funds raised, land secured, and then they went big. Three spires, the main one reaching 235 feet. The second largest organ in the country when it was installed. A bell tower in the main spire with ten bells. Three marble altars. A soaring Gothic church with 14,000 sq. feet of space under roof.

Completed in 1860, it served the needs of the Catholic community for over a century. It was magnificent.

Even in ruin, it is magnificent.

The community was shrinking by the 1970s. Maintenance was put off. Then put off again. The building was sold in 1981, but the new owner allowed the building to be used by the church. The last Mass held in the main church was in 1983. Parts of the building were used until 1994 by various groups.

At the time of the closure in 1994, there was a $2,000,000 estimate for immediate repairs to the roof, the stained glass, and the foundation. In 1996, the church bought the building back and there was a committee comprised of the church, some local preservation groups, and local and state government representatives to try to find a use for the building and raise money to do critical repairs.

It came to nothing.

In danger of collapsing, the city condemned the building in 2001, seized it by eminent domain  and emergency repairs to shore up the roof were made. $700,000 were spent to stabilize it and it was considered safe for use in 2007. Ownership moved to the Albany Historic Foundation, then to a non-profit that was supposed to make the church their headquarters and restore the building.

That came to nothing as well.

The treasurer of the group went to jail for financial fraud. Renovations were never done. The building, as of 2013, reverted to government ownership and remains there. It is beyond practical recovery. There is no community to make contributions and no will to do so.

Here's a one minute video of a drone flying up the outside of the main spire. The decay is evident. But it will also give you a sense of the scale of the building.

Now on to the inside.This was made by a couple of urban explorers. Whatever you think of this activity, they do a good job of capturing the church in it's current state.

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. --Ecc 3:1

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Wheelbarrow of Thesus

The guy who made the video called it a restoration. Here's what he started with.

The first step was a complete disassembly. That put him here.

This isn't the start of a restoration. It's a 3D model of a wooden wheelbarrow. There's just enough remaining to use as a guide to fashion replacements. He uses a few salvageable parts from the right side in the finished product mostly as an homage.

It's a great job and a good video, even if you skip along, worth it to see the finished project.

There are a few things that make this project possible. He had the wreckage of the original. He had the skill, the tools, and the interest to take on the work. The scale of the project was manageable. That last one, given the state of decay, is crucial. He might have been able to save a horse drawn wagon in a similar condition. But a barn? A church? A boat?

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Lee Marvin

Lee Marvin was a star of westerns and war movies. He often played the bad guy, but whatever his role he played, I remember as his portrayals as tough, no nonsense, and direct.

He came by that honestly. He joined the Marine Corps in August of 1942. Served in the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific. He was with 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines when he was wounded by Japanese machine gun fire at the battle of Saipan. He spent a year recovering in Navy hospitals.

Got an acting start after the war, then into TV and film. Won the Academy award for Best Actor in 1965. He played a starring role in The Dirty Dozen. Here's the trailer. I had forgotten what a great cast this movie had.

He acted in over a hundred movie and television shows. Made a lot of money. Won a lot of awards.

When he died at the age of 63 in 1987, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. What did he want to be remembered for?

Friday, May 15, 2020

Jimmy Stewart

In a recent post I promised in the comments to write about Jimmy Stewart. The more I looked, the harder it got. Jimmy Stewart certainly was a hero but his life story is an American story and his heroism has a context as part of that life.

I'm not going to retype the biography, you can read it here at the Jimmy Stewart Museum.

Here's what they say about his time in the service.
In the military, he was to make extensive use of his pilot’s training. In March 1941 at age 32, he reported for duty as Private James Stewart at Fort McArthur and was assigned to the Army Air Corps at Moffett Field.  To comply with the regulations of the Air Corps proficiency board, Stewart required additional 100 flying hours and bought them at a nearby field, at this own expense.  He then took and passed a very stiff proficiency board examination.  In January 1942 Stewart was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He was then sent to Mather Field in California as a twin engine instructor this included both the B-17 and B-24.  Much to his dismay, Stewart stayed stateside for almost two years, until commanding officers finally yielded to his request to be sent overseas.  In November 1943, now a Captain and Operations Officer for the 703rd Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group of the Eight Air Force, he arrived in Tibenham, England.  In March of 1944 he was transferred to the 453rd Bombardment Group at Old Buckenham.  While stateside, Stewart flew B-17’s (The Flying Fortress).  In England he flew B-24’s (The Liberator) and did so for the remaining years of the war.  Stewart’s war record included 20 dangerous combat missions as command pilot, wing commander or squadron commander.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, The Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.  At the end of the war he had risen to the rank of Colonel.  After the war he remained with the US Air Force Reserves and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1959.  His tuxedo and dress blues with all the correct medals are on display at The Jimmy Stewart Museum.  He retired from the Air Force in 1968 (mandatory retirement age) and received the Distinguished Service Medal. 
You did go RTWT, right? Boy Scout, devoted husband and father, conservative in Hollywood, winner of all those award for humanitarian service? Performed in 80 movies over 55 years?

Here he is as a young man in a recruiting film for the Army Air Corps.

And here's some scenes from a few of his films with a narration by George Kennedy that gives a picture of Jimmy Stewart the actor.

And all that is good and interesting, but I'm going to give Jimmy Stewart himself the last word. He was being interviewed late in his life and was asked how he would like to be remembered.

I hope to be remembered as someone who believed in hard work and love of country, love of family and love of community. 
--Jimmy Stewart

Thursday, May 14, 2020


When we start talking about the fabric of society, I think of a tapestry. The warp and weave holding all the strands of color creating a work of art. If each part of the society and each person is a single thread, how many can you pluck before it is unrecognizable? Before it falls apart?

And how important is each person and the contributions they make? We can look at the news and it appears that everything is headed into chaos. Yet, we all know many people that continue to push back. They make things. They repair things. They care for others. They are the people you can count on to do what is right when no one is looking.

I have been watching a man in Gorham, Maine repair old furniture on YouTube. Sometimes it's a complete restoration. Other times, it's a little glue and a refinish. I realized something watching this video today. I think it explains why I like to watch his work. I would bet it doesn't seem to him like he's one of the people holding America together but I think he might be. Not by himself, but as one of the threads that remains unbroken, along with many others. If there is hope, it is not in Washington, D.C., it's out in America.

I have a profound respect for the human race, and I believe that its future is going to be much better than its present. Even knowing that their days are numbered and that everything will end when they least expect it, people make of their lives a battle that is worthy of a being with eternal life. Paulo Coelho

What Are You In For?


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Randall's Grocery

Here's a video of some completely unremarkable commercials for Randall's Grocery Stores from 1990. They are unremarkable because they look like every grocery store. Shelves filled with products, fresh fruit and vegetables, toothpaste, whatever you could put on a shopping list in vast array.

What makes Randall's remarkable is that they won the Cold War.

In 1989 Boris Yeltsin, then a member of the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union, came to Texas to visit the Johnson Space Center. I'm sure it was impressive but he would have expected that. What he did not expect, could not have imagined, what was what he saw in a Randall's Grocery in suburban Houston. Overwhelming product selection and quantities available to everyone. He did not believe it at first, thought it was staged. When he understood that this was an average store, that stores like this were everywhere, it was a profound moment.

Boris Yeltsin became the Russian President in 1991 and in 1992 began the reforms that finished the dismantling of the Soviet Union that began under Gorbachev. His vision of what Russia needed to become shaped by an American grocery store. The reports say he was especially impressed by the pudding pops.
“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people.” --Boris Yeltsin

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Soviet B-52

OK, the post title is misleading - the airplanes are very different.  But the Tu-95 serves the same role as the BUFF and has been in active service for as long.  The propellers make it look like an anachronism, but an almost 70 year service history belies that.

Say what you will about the Soviets, they could make some good designs.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Before The B-52

The transition to jet bomber aircraft wasn't made in a single step. The B-24s and B-17s gave way to the B-29 at the end of WWII. What would become the B-52 started as a conventional straight wing 4 engine propeller aircraft like the B-29 when the design first began in 1946. Technological developments brought radical changes in those years. Those plans were modified several times leading to the swept wing 8 jet bomber that the Air Force made operational in 1955.

But there was a bomber in between the B-29 and the B-52. The B-36. It had it's genesis before the U.S. entered WWII . When it looked like England was going to fall to the Nazis, the Army was looking for a long range bomber capable of launching from Greenland and bombing Europe. The original design was a multi-engine bomber with a 45,000 foot ceiling and a 12,000 mile max range. It got shelved for most of the war when B-24s and B-17s were being built and flown out of England.

Late in the war, it got revived as a bomber capable of bombing Japan from Hawaii. Two prototypes were built at the end of the war and were test by the Army in 1946. It was a six engine propeller plane in the original configuration.

The largest production piston aircraft ever made. The longest wing of any production aircraft. Capable of staying in flight for up to 40 hours and traveling about 7,000 miles, it was the final development before the jets took over. To get an idea of what this plane was, here's a picture of an early B-36 side by side with a B-29.

It was obsolete when it entered service In a time of incredibly rapid technological change, it would become obsolete in a few years. The jet age had begun. But it was an intercontinental bomber capable of reaching any point in the world with the capacity to carry nuclear weapons. It had a payload lift capacity that was not exceeded until the 747 and C5-A entered service decades later. So it was produced and made operational with the new Air Force in 1949.

With one radical design change. Four jets engines were mounted, two on each wing. In the words of the time, six turning and four burning.

As I said at the start, the B-52 entered service in 1955. The last B-36s were mothballed in 1959. There are four in museums. None in flying status and none likely of ever being returned to flight. Big, complicated, and increasing vulnerable to more modern fighters that could climb to their cruising altitude, their day was past.

None of my recent posts would be complete without a video, so here is a 7 minute clip from the 1955 movie Strategic Air Command starring Jimmy Stewart. It is preflight to takeoff and shows off the aircraft in great detail.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Sweat And Spirit of Free Men

Weirton Steel got it's start in 1905. Ernest Wier, with an 8th grade education, started with a tin mill. By the 1920s, his company was producing steel in West Virginia. They expanded, modernized, and in the 1960s had one of the most modern steel operations in the world. 14,000 people worked in the mill at the height of operations.

I found the history of this company and videos of several stages in it's life. First up, and important to the overall theme I'm developing, is a video of WWII operations, making steel artillery projectiles designed to be filled with high explosives. Think about what this took. How much equipment and knowledge it took to set up this production this fast, this efficient, and this accurate. And wonder who would do it for us now if we needed it.

Next up, Weirton's modernization in the 1960s to create a high speed steel process capable of using raw materials and recycled steel to make new casts.

Now, the workers. They never had a strike. In fact, when a crisis happened in the 1980s, they took major pay cuts, banded together, and bought the plant. It was employee owned for several years until they offered stock to gain capital for improvements.

It wasn't enough. In spite of legal protections against "dumping", the sale of steel from overseas below the cost of manufacture, this practice was common as foreign companies deliberately drove U.S. steel manufacturing into bankruptcy. 41 of 43 steel manufacturers closed. Weirton was one of the last. It because a ghost, without the people and the work, it sat empty. A place for birds and urban explorers.

And finally, it was reduced to scrap.

One of the core strengths of this country was it's manufacturing. We built things. Beyond the loss of jobs and identity, the loss to the country is irreplaceable.

Florence Foster Jenkins sings "The Queen of the Night" by Mozart

Her performance was never exactly an aesthetic experience, or only to the degree that an early Christian among the lions provided aesthetic experience; it was chiefly immolatory, and Madame Jenkins was always eaten, in the end.
- William Meredith
The not-divine Mrs. Jenkins
The Queen Of The World is delightful in every way imaginable, but one of the things I most enjoy about her is how she sings only when she thinks that nobody's listening.  I can't figure out why, because she has quite a nice singing voice, but I only hear it when she's off in some corner of Castle Borepatch and thinks that nobody's around.  I love to listen to her, and sometimes sneak a little closer to hear better.  Like I said, she's quite good (if shy).

But what about someone who wasn't good, and wasn't shy?  That would be Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy socialite who had enough money to produce her own recitals - staring herself, of course - but who didn't have enough self-awareness to realize just how stunningly bad she was.

This piece by Mozart is famously difficult.  Here's the divine Maria Callas doing it properly so you know what it should sound like:

The vocal fireworks start about 40 seconds in.  You'll notice that this piece was not for the faint of heart.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), Mrs. Jenkins was not faint of heart.  But fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.  Warning: this is without doubt the worst performance of this ever recorded:

She was called the "Anti-Callas" for good reason.  What's funny is that Jenkins became quite popular, and regular attendees at her performances included Enrico Caruso and Cole Porter.  She attracted the loyalty of quite an impressive audience because she was completely fearless.  A few years back they made a film about her:

This Mother's Day I hope that all the Moms sing as fearlessly as Mrs. Jenkins, for the joy of it - even if they don't have the voice of a Maria Callas or The Queen Of The World.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Little Richard Has Joined The Band

He was 87.

The lockdown death toll

The Silicon Graybeard looks at New York Governor Cuomo's comment that the cost of a human life is priceless.  He's less than impressed:
Get this through your thick skull:  No Matter What You Do People Will Die.  Like when you ordered nursing homes to take covid positive patients in and killed more people in nursing homes alonethan have died in total in all of my state (Florida)?  Like how 66% of patients with covid in NYC supposedly were isolated and staying at home - if it's even possible in NYC to stay in your apartment and not breathe the air from the whole building.  Or the whole block you're on.  

The big question is whether what you're doing is saving more lives than it's costing.  Add up all the good things you're accomplishing, add up all the bad things you're causing and weigh them against each other.  You can't answer that because you don't know any of those except the death count.  
I was listening to the radio yesterday and a (medical) doctor was being interviewed (can't remember his name, but he's from Stanford University's Hoover Institute).  He talked about this exact point - the death toll from the shutdown.  Three points in particular stuck with me:

  • Each month 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancer.  Medical Science tells us (loudly and repeatedly) that early detection and treatment is the key to survival.  Well, for two months, people haven't been getting biopsies because Governor Cumo's (and other Governor's) lockdown has basically shut this down.  We won't know the death toll for this for years, but there will be a spike in cancer deaths down the road because of the lockdown.
  • Cancer patients are foregoing chemotherapy, probably because the politicians and the media have frightened them with stories about increased risk for co-morbidities.  They seem to be more worried about catching a hypothetical disease that they are not taking therapies against a disease that will literally kill them.  How many will die is unclear, and we won't know for years, but the number sure isn't zero.
  • Organ donation surgeries are down 85% from a year ago, for the same reason.

There is a death toll here.  Nobody is looking at this, nobody is counting it, but it's real.  As Governor Cuomo put it, human life is priceless.  End the lockdown.

Friday, May 8, 2020

One For Glen

It was a Ford plant in Canada. Started out making Falcons in the 1960s. When they shut down, it was Crown Vics. There's a lot of why but some of it was an agreement between the U.S. and Canada that some auto production would have to be in Canada for the companies to sell cars there. When that agreement was found to be illegal, it meant the manufacturers could consolidate production elsewhere.

The plant had been making full sized rear wheel drive cars. It might have been a billion dollar project to convert it to something more modern. It wasn't money Ford was willing to invest.

Here's an elegy.

Observe your Philosopher-Kings in action, and despair

The central conceit of progressivism is the dream that really smart public servants can conceive of and implement optimal public policy.  The problem is simple - who are you going to believe, Progressives or your lyin' eyes?

"Smart" public policy for the Kung Flu doesn't include shutting cemeteries:
Nobody on the inside is at risk to either transmit or receive the disease.  And anyway, by definition they are all six feet away even if you are indelicate enough to stand right on them.
Tim is much kinder to them than I would be, but he's much more of a gentleman than I.  But he was also an ER doctor, and so there is a clarity to his thinking that our Governmental Overlords could use a heapin' helping of:
The vehicle gate on the other end of the cemetery was naturally open so this the sort of response to the Current Unpleasantness that grates because it is ineffectual as well as petty and lazy.
We have top men creating public policy.  Top.  Men.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

George Eyston

If Ayn Rand had written about an auto racer, her character would have been based on George Eyston.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Your must-read post of the day

It's over at Aesop's.  Go.  Read.

Plus (because he hasn't spent his entire career in healthcare, but in film and audio as well) you have a great film clip and a great song to illustrate his post.  Which is 100% correct.

He and I have been jousting over the quality of the CDC virus database (and quite frankly, nobody wins that, at least for 3-4 weeks or more).  But he is one wicked smaht bastid, and you should go get you there for this post.  And probably his others which - while I probably don't agree 100% on all of them - are all wicked smaht.

And oh by the way, Aesop - I wouldn't mind being a Rooftop Korean with you, if it came down to it.  I'm not the world's best shot, but I can ring the gong all day at 200 yards with my Enfield ...

And in the spirit of his posts, and describing what he's talking about, here's John Mellencamp bringing the Coronavirus situation home:

And even though I like to try to keep this place rated PG, this is indisputable:

Alan Shepard

The anniversary was yesterday, but we are going to carry on. On May 5th, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to leave Earth's atmosphere and make a suborbital trip into space. The Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin beat him by about three weeks due to a series of postponements.

 That alone would be the accomplishment of a lifetime, but it does not begin to cover Alan Shepard's career. He went to the Naval Academy during WWII and saw service on a destroyer in the Pacific in the last two years of the war. He was a gunnery officer when his ship was assigned picket duty facing the kamikaze attacks at the Battle of Okinawa.

He went to flight school in 1946 . Started his flying in F4U Corsairs on the carrier USS Franklin Roosevelt. In 1950 he went to test pilot school and during his time as a test pilot, he flew the F2H Banshee, F3H Demon, F-8 Crusader, F4D Skyray and the Grumman F-11 Tiger. Starting with the Corsair, his test planes are a history of the development of jet fighters.

You can imagine what the selection process looked like for the first Astronauts. The process began with 508 successful test pilots. They picked 110, then asked for volunteers. Eliminations and declines got them to 32. Testing, training, and selection got them to 7. These were the Mercury 7.

Alan Shepard went first.

He would have flown a Gemini mission, but he was grounded and removed from flight status from a condition that caused him dizziness due to excess fluid in his inner ear. Developments in a surgical treatment for the condition allowed him to return to flying and astronaut status in May of 1969.

He flew as commander of Apollo 14 in February of 1971. He was the oldest man to walk on the moon and the only one of the original Mercury astronauts to do so. He's also the guy that hit golf balls on the moon.

He retired as a Rear Admiral in 1974.

I have not done his story justice, no blog post could. His other accomplishments, the awards he received, the life he lead, deserve to be remembered. It was an American life lived at the height of America's apogee.

Alan Shepard: Dear Lord - please don't let me f*** up.
Gordon Cooper: [at launch control center] I didn't quite copy that. Say again, please.
Alan Shepard [realizing his voice is being monitored]: Uh, I said everything is A-OK!

The Kung Flu death data *is* getting better

I've been criticized for citing CDC data in yesterday's post because CDC updates the data.  Fair enough.  I haven't been tracking how the updates have been running.

But other people have:
As of Monday, the CDC reported that deaths from covid-19 in the week ended May 2 (Saturday) were 138 nationwide. That is 1% of the 12,516 covid-19 deaths for the week ended April 11, which was the peak week of this pandemic.

Now then, the CDC cautioned readers.

It said, "Death counts for earlier weeks are continually revised and may increase or decrease as new and updated death certificate data are received from the states by NCHS. Covid-19 death counts shown here may differ from other published sources, as data currently are lagged by an average of 1–2 weeks."

The week ended April 25 initially was reported as 461 covid-19 deaths.

Now it is listed at 3,699 -- a nine-fold increase.

A nine-fold increase in week ended May 2 would mean a 90% drop from the peak week. Clearly the time has come to re-open the nation.
Like I said in yesterday's post, we're on the other side of the mountain.

Anyone who wants to keep the lockdown in place (with the possible exception of the New York City metropolitan area) needs to do some justification that includes data showing that there is an existential crisis.  Just saying that "people will die" isn't enough to keep 30M (and counting) out of work.

At this point the government is doing nothing but immiserating the working class and going full frontal fascist.  Oh, and destroying the health care system.  Enough.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Happy Quatro de Cinco!

A fawning press tried to explain his gaffe away, but couldn't.  I guess his teleprompter isn't bilingual.

The data on Kung Flu deaths is getting better

CDC just revised Wuhan Flu deaths down by 44%, to 37,000.  Here's why:

Click through to the CDC's web site - the data are very interesting.  Everything that I've seen reported by the idiot media has been a big grab bag of "Death by Kung Flu" + "Death with Kung Flu" + "We think it might have been Death with Kung Flu but couldn't be bothered to test to make sure".  Now CDC has broken this all out explicitly.  Looking at just the "Death From Kung Flu", things are looking pretty encouraging:

Source: CDC

We're on the other side of the mountain.  The graph looks the same if you plot "We think it might have been Death with Kung Flu but couldn't be bothered to test to make sure":

Source: CDC
How dodgy is this particular plot (the "Kitchen Sink" Kung Flu Deaths)?  About the same number of people died in the week of 4/25/2020 as before the flu broke out.  That is either extra crazy medical juju, or it's crummy data.  But even with data this bad, it's clear that we've crossed the mountain.


1. The data have been dodgy but we're getting better visibility.  Things are better - a lot better - than anyone has been saying.

2. Even using crappy data (where nobody dies of natural causes anymore) it's very clear that things are a lot better than anyone has been saying.

3. Prediction: when the data for this week are in, the plot trajectories will continue in the same direction, heading towards zero.

4. There is absolutely no data justifying maintaining the lockdown that has thrown 30 Million out of work.  The trajectory of that graph is also clear - each day another million people lose their jobs.

5. There is no data that shows that the lockdown is saving lives.  There is no data that shows that the lockdown is preventing ICUs from being overloaded.  You can say that after the lockdown were imposed the deaths peaked and then declined, but the lockdown went into effect a month ago - why the delay in turning the curve? Where's your control group so you can compare lockdown vs. non-lockdown deaths?  This is nothing but post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.  OK, maybe it's also bureaucratic ass-covering.

6. The lockdown is being implemented by fascists.  That by itself is sufficient reason to end it.

We're over the mountain.  It's over, we're just waiting for the Fat Woman to sing.  Given how wretched our government is, that means it will only be another month of lockdown.