Wednesday, August 17, 2016

History: The Year is 1851

I've uploaded year 1851 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Speak of the Devil: Moby Dick and the Wrath of Khan -- The novel "Moby Dick" is based on a real-life event. I discuss a famous quote from the novel and point out that Star Trek used the same quote in the movie.

Support Your Australian Gold Rush -- Gold is discovered yet again, but this time it takes.

Record Rain in Iowa -- I give advice on sandbags.

In Other News -- Singer sewing machine, assembly line cheese and the New York Times.

Speak of the Devil: Moby Dick and the Wrath of Khan

In the 1820s, two sailors were found adrift in a small whaler. They were delirious with thirst, covered in salt, sores and blood as they gnawed on the bones of their dead. They told a story of the sinking of the Essex after it was attacked by a mighty sperm whale. From this tragedy comes Herman Melville's magnificent novel: Moby Dick. Captain Ahab has lost his leg to the white whale, Moby Dick. He sets out with his crew from Nantucket to seek out sperm whales to produce clean-burning lamp oil world-wide. (Kerosene is not yet practical.) However, Ahab has an additional purpose. He promises a gold piece to the first man to put three harpoons into the white whale that took his leg. The crew cheers but Mr. Starbuck is worried. This is more than simple revenge. It has become a religious obsession. Ahab shall smite the devil and seek out Satan in his lair. If his chest was a cannon he would have fired the shell of his heart against the white whale. I am paraphrasing a line out of the novel, but here is a direct quote that will be familiar...[1] the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.
-- Captain Ahab as he confronts Moby Dick. [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
This is a great novel, even today. You can download it for free from Gutenberg ([Click here]). But if your preference is film, the 1957 movie starring Gregory Peck and a very young Richard Basehart is excellent. The original story of the Essex came out as a movie in 2015 entitled In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard. I haven't seen the movie, but the trailer looks terrific. And for Star Trek fans, no doubt you have recognized the quote from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan ([Click here]). In a lot of ways The Wrath of Khan is a rewrite of Moby Dick with a direct quote from the novel as Khan sets off the "Genesis Device." The Genesis Device looks suspiciously like a harpoon and apparently, the USS Enterprise substitutes for the "white whale". Good stories never die. They are simply remade into science fiction classics. BTW, David Weber has used the Horatio Hornblower novels as a loose framework for his Honor Harrington science fiction series. You can download the first book in the series for free from Amazon. ([Click here]) Great stuff. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Support Your Australian Gold Rush

The United Kingdom has been using Australia as a dumping ground for criminals and ne'er-do-wells. Gold has been discovered in Australia before but the information has been suppressed out of fear that the criminal element would be difficult to control. To quote the governor, "We shall have our throats cut". (Well... yeah!) But the California Gold Rush has sparked a get-rich-quick interest in any gold find, so when Edward Hargraves finds a few grains of gold in Lewis Ponds Creek he writes to the Sydney Morning Herald. The secret is out, and frankly everyone is ready for the Australian Gold Rush. [9]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Today my mind in on films. I was watching an old comedy starring James Garner entitled Support Your Local Sheriff. Gold is found in California and everyone gets gold fever. A stranger comes to town looking for gold. He makes it clear that he is on his way to Australia, but he is willing to take the job of Sheriff on a temporary basis. A fine jail has been constructed but the bars for the cells have not arrived, so the new Sheriff draws a chalk line on the floor where the bars should be. He tells the murderer in the cell that the jail is working on "the honor system". Of course, I still remember those slogans of the John Birch Society: "Support Your Local Police" and "Support Your Local Sheriff." The campaign was meant to encourage the police to remain independent and not allow themselves to be absorbed into a Federal police force. Traditionally, Sheriffs have exercised local authority over the agents of the King and by extension local authority over agents of the Federal government. That is why there are appeals to the Sheriff when the Feds appear on a farmer's land to shoot the hogs or other such incursions of the Federal government. [10] [11] [12]

Record Rain in Iowa

74.5 inches of rain has fallen in Iowa and produces a flood that practically wipes out Des Moines. There are no levees. This flood marks the unbroken record for rainfall in Iowa. Just about everything else in Iowa is broken this year. The flooding is followed by mud and outbreaks of disease.
Roads were rendered impassable-bridges swept away-the mails stopped, and traveling by land to any distance utterly vetoed. Houses were carried away, mills damaged, timber floated off, and all manner of mischief done by the flood.
-- J. M. Dixon. [13]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
As a younger man I recall news reports of flooding in the Midwest. Pictures of houses and people floating away were commonplace. Emergency services would arrive, favorable loans would be made and people would rebuild. Then it would flood again and I wondered why anyone was bothering to rebuild. Temporary sheds, sure. Some moveable farming equipment seemed reasonable, but the levees kept collapsing no matter how many sandbags they piled up. I don't know what the solution is except to move further away from flood areas. I have some advice for people carrying sandbags, though. Often these levees have temporary roads that run parallel. When the rain really comes down, heavy trucks filled with sandbags appear. The temporary roads get chewed up and produce soft spots next to the levee. I was watching the TV when someone pointed out such a soft spot. The tire marks were obvious. When the soil is wet and a heavy truck goes by, the shaking pumps the water to the surface. (The same thing can happen during an earthquake.) The soil can lose its ability to take a load such as the load of a levee filled with water. If you must move sandbags, use smaller, lighter trucks and avoid choke points where vehicles travel over a single spot in the road near the levee.

In Other News

  • Jesse Williams starts the first assembly-line cheese factory. Small-scale production has been around since 1815 but Jesse really cranks it up in Rome, New York. [14]
  • The New York Times is established. Brace yourselves. It is a conservative Whig newspaper that will transition to Republican. [15] [16]
  • Isaac Singer invents the continuous stitch sewing machine. The Singer's elegant design allows it to be mass produced and available for the home. No electricity required. It works on peddle power. (My grandmother had one of these!) [15] [17]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1851, Wikipedia.

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