Friday, September 30, 2016

History: The Year is 1882

I've uploaded year 1882 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Knights of Columbus and the Oaths We Take -- The Knights of Columbus are founded in New Haven. I talk about oaths and what might happen if religious oaths conflict with oaths made to our country.

Gay Science and the Death of God -- It's HAPPY Science. Gay means something else. I argue that we don't have to kill off God to live in an Enlightened world.

Give us your Huddled Masses, except the Chinese -- The Chinese Exclusion Act will remain in effect for a very long time. I talk about the musical, Flower Drum Song.

In Other News -- Comets, cannons and the Sister Wives.

The Knights of Columbus and the Oaths We Take

No. They are not from Columbus, Ohio. They are from New Haven, Connecticut. Catholic immigrants to the United States have very little money, so when they get sick or when the main provider dies (that would be the husband) it becomes a problem for the community. To address this problem, Father Michael McGivney organizes a mutual aid society at his local parish. He calls it the Knights of Columbus in honor of Christopher Columbus. (He is also tweaking the Protestants who like Christopher Columbus, but would like to forget that Chris was a Catholic.) With few government benefits available, mutual aid societies have formed to render assistance to their membership. Usually they focus on the orphan, the widow and the elderly, providing insurance and pension plans. (Wait! They don't have government help! They'll all die! Are they insane?) No. They are not insane. They are religious people who take seriously the commandments to help the sick, the widow and the orphan. Catholics are often excluded from mutual aid societies. They are even excluded from labor unions, so Father McGivney has taken action, not by forcing Catholics onto unwilling organizations, but creating an organization of his own. The Knights grow into a fraternal order. Since the Pope has expressed his unhappiness with the Freemasons and their oaths of secrecy, the Knights of Columbus act as an acceptable alternative. They combine American patriotism with religious devotion, so naturally the Klu Klux Klan accuses them of being anti-American. Sometimes a group recommends itself not by the friends it keeps, but by the enemies it makes. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Catholics are as much loyal citizens of the countries in which they reside as any other. It might seem ridiculous in the 21st century to argue that they are a 5th-column ready to attack at the command of the Pope, but until 1870, the Pope was not only a religious leader but the head of the Papal States in what are now the middle provinces of Italy. His secular rule has since been reduced to a few acres of real estate in Rome. Stalin once smirked, "The Pope! How many divisions has he got?" The answer is zero, but I suspect that if the President of the United States ordered the carpet bombing of the Vatican, most pilots would refuse whether Catholic or not. The same goes for attacking Israel. When rumors suggested that President Obama would order US fighter jets to shoot down Israeli bombers on their way to take out Iranian nuclear facilities, religious individuals within military circles reflected on the serious nature of such an order if it were given. Oaths of loyalty had been taken, but did they override one's oaths to God? In a war, people of the same religion might fight each other, but in a war with a major religious dimension, I'm not sure what would happen. Something would have to be hellishly wrong for it to seem right. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

Gay Science and the Death of God

The title of this history segment is a little misleading, but certain advocacy groups like to distort titles for their own purposes and "Gay Science" is the title THEY prefer. The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (NEE-chah) has published one of his greatest works, entitled Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (DEE FROE-lick VISS-en-shahft). Google translates this as The Happy Science. The word "gay" once meant "happy" but not any more. This is a book of poetry but it doesn't sell well. What makes the book great is what people say about it much later. From these poems we learn that the author does not believe in God. In fact, he says that God is dead and that we are His murderers. Exactly how this translates into a "happy" science is a mystery to me, but he suggests that society has lost its meaning and we have slipped into a passive nihilism. Certainly this Second Industrial Revolution is causing a crisis of the soul for some, but Nietzsche is feeling no pain. He is heavy into opium right now and writes prescriptions for himself, signing them as "Dr. Nietzsche". In a few more years the "Doctor" will be "Out". He will slip into madness and death. [11] [12]
  • God is dead.
-- Nietzsche, 1882.
  • Nietzsche is dead.
-- God, 1900.
My Take by Alex Shrugged
It think that Nietzsche was an atheist, so he cannot argue both that God does not exist and that God is dead. So, assuming that he is using a metaphor, he is suggesting that the Enlightenment Movement has changed the idea of God from a moral absolute into a useful philosophy. Thus if God's word is the absolute standard, then God need not prove that He is correct. But we don't act as if God is the absolute standard. Otherwise, the same text would produce a single Church or several churches with minor differences. But there is an honest way around this absolutest argument without killing God. After all, God gave His Law to Moses, and the Law was handed down from generation to generation. All this time we have used this Law to guide us. If God wanted to direct our actions from Heaven, He would have kept the Law to Himself and issued His directives as we went along. Since He didn't do that, ipso facto, (that is Latin for, "by virtue of the fact") we assume that He expects us to draw our own conclusions from the Law without His direct guidance, which is, in fact, what we do. Some depend on experts, and others figure it out on their own, but the guiding principles are assumed to be morally correct and that is what I assume. I don't have to kill God or even risk giving Him a summer cold. However, when I turn God into a moral code equal to any other, there is nothing morally superior to my philosophy over yours... except that I'm carrying a bigger gun. Hands up. That universe is a little too loosey-goosey for my tastes so I'm sticking with God as a moral absolute with His permission to add footnotes. You can put your hands down now.

Give us your Huddled Masses, except the Chinese

The Congress, in its wisdom, has cut off almost all Chinese immigration, especially Chinese miners. The initial California Gold Rush is winding down and the Transcontinental railroad is mostly in place. With jobs drying up, competition is fierce, so the ethnic Chinese are banned from immigration for 10 years. That includes ethnic Chinese from other countries like the Philippines. California has passed state laws specifically targeting the Chinese, seeing them as a danger to good order and discipline. Plus they will work harder for less money, but that is a side issue. Let's move on. There is a general concern that out-of-work immigrants might be a burden to local communities, so Congress grants wide authority to refuse immigration for people who stand no chance of getting a job. Usually this means anyone who cannot perform heavy or continuous labor. Exceptions for skilled Chinese laborers are granted if they are certified by the Chinese government, but certifications are so easy to get that it soon becomes a worthless condition. In 10 years, the Chinese exclusion rule will be renewed and then made permanent. It will remain in effect until 1943 when 105 entry visas will be issued to Chinese immigrants EVERY YEAR! (Don't say it, Alex. Reach for your happy place. Oh crap! Where did my happy place go?) [13] [14] [15]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
There was a loophole. The law specifically talked about immigrants arriving by boat. They said nothing about immigrants going to Canada and coming over the border by train! Eventually immigration officials could exclude almost anyone for medical or mental defects, but the number turned away was 1 percent or less. The exclusion of the Chinese was the backdrop to Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical Flower Drum Song (1961). A young Chinese girl and her father are stowaways arriving in San Francisco to complete a marriage contract with a Chinese-American nightclub owner played by comedian Jack Soo. But he is in love with an "exotic dancer" at his club. Love triangles abound and the song "I Enjoy Being a Girl" becomes a hit. I won't give away the ending, but the danger centers on the new bride's immigration status as a Chinese national. There is also tension between a desire to maintain Chinese tradition and the pressure to assimilate into American culture. [16] [17] [18]

In Other News

  • A comet is seen in daylight. It passes so close to the Sun that it reflects a lot of light. A month later, an aurora shaped like a Zeppelin travels across the sky. I'm sure it was just swamp gas. [19] [20]
  • Polygamy is now illegal in the USA. ITS THE LAW! Will someone PLEASE tell that knucklehead on Sister Wives? There are rules for polygamy that help one avoid the heartache I see on that TV show. The Latter-day Saints at the time were following the rules. [23]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1882, Wikipedia.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

History: The Year is 1881

I've uploaded year 1881 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Scramble for Africa and Venezuela -- Africa is partitioned by the Europeans... mostly because of the tariff wars are killing the economy of Europe. I talk about Venezuela and what happens after you kick the evil foreigners out and replace them with local evil authoritarians.

The President has been Shot! By a Lawyer! -- Garfield takes two in the back. I talk about the government spoils system and corruption.

In Other News -- Pillsbury, the first cabaret, and Kansas goes dry.

The Scramble for Africa and Venezuela

To this point European presence on the African continent has been limited to a few islands, trading posts, and larger areas including French Algeria, the Congo and the British Cape Colony. But Sir Henry Stanley (who found Dr. Livingston but probably did not say "Dr. Livingstone, I presume") has mapped the interior of Africa and given it a new name: "The Dark Continent." Europeans have a better idea of the resources to be exploited and they want to stake out their claim. The question is, "Why now?" Well... the Long Depression has been really... long. Tariff wars and protectionist policies between European countries have made trade goods very expensive. That makes tariff-free Africa very attractive, and with diamonds and gold available for the taking (except for a few annoying African Zulus, or Dutch Boers wandering around) the race is on. There is a potential for war between the Europeans so in a couple of years they will agree to carve up Africa in a more friendly manner... friendly to Europeans... less friendly to actual Africans. Thus the shape of modern African nations will be defined by the Europeans without regard to whether the borders make any sense to the Africans who must live within them. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The "Scramble for Africa" in a modern context refers to the exploitation of oil and other resources on the African continent. The controversy is usually framed as a battle between good and evil. The USA gives aid to Africa, but there are moral strings attached. For China it's just business. I could explain this issue quickly using 4-letter words, but I won't, so bear with me. Labor is cheap in some countries because it doesn't take much money there to pay for food and a nice place to sleep. This allows foreign companies to build infrastructure and pay the workers a lot less. Then socialist agitators tell the workers that their labor and natural resources are being stolen! POWER TO THE PEOPLE! But once the foreign devils are forced to leave, everything comes apart. The Venezuelan government nationalized the oil companies. The People were supposed to get rich, but the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money... and toilet paper! Union agreements specify that workplace restrooms shall be fully stocked with TP, but the workers are stealing it. The owner is facing a union strike, so he buys black-market TP. Then the Secret Police confiscate it in the name of the people, and everyone is just out of luck. Venezuela blames the USA for this crisis. [8] [9] [10]

The President has been Shot! By a Lawyer!

President Garfield was the "dark-horse" candidate at the Republican nominating convention starting with 60 votes and building from there. During the campaign, the Republicans blamed the South for everything but a rainy day. The South wanted lower tariffs which would improve cotton sales and make goods easier to buy. Republicans wanted to protect American jobs. America First! (Yeah. I know. The Long Depression is going to get a lot longer.) Hello Mr. President... and good-bye. At this time, "the spoils system" means that cushy government jobs are handed out to political cronies. (Not like today. Huh?) But Garfield actually thinks before he hands out these jobs. Then he receives a letter from a Chicago lawyer named John who expects a job too. John's 1st choice is Ambassador to Vienna. Yes. You guessed it. He is a nut and frankly, he is not much of a lawyer. (In those days, my dog could have passed the Bar in Chicago.) His application is DENIED! John buys a Bulldog revolver. Call it a snub-nose .44 with ivory grips. (He wants it to look good in a museum.) He waits at the train station for the President, walks up from behind and plugs Garfield twice: once in the shoulder and once about midway up the spine. The bullet misses the spinal cord and lodges in the pancreas. It takes Garfield 11 weeks to die... probably from infection. Surgical instruments were not normally sterilized. Chester Arthur is now President. [11] [12] [13]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Who? Chester Arthur was a supporter of the spoils system that led to so much overt government corruption. (Not like today. Right?) When President Arthur took his oath of office there was an ongoing investigation and trial of government officials who accepted bribes in exchange for lucrative postal delivery contracts. (Yes. The US Postal Service had a delivery service that was partly privatized.) The fear was that the new President would kill the investigation and trial. (Imagine that.) But in fact he fired a number of government officials based on suspicion alone. He brought some reform to government because the courts sure couldn't do the job. Despite evidence and the discovery of defendants attempting to bribe jury members, not a single conviction was upheld. And what happened to John the Assassin? He wrote letters to Republican leaders in order to reunite the Party. The jury returned a guilty verdict, so he called them all jackasses. (Apparently, that insanity plea didn't work.) After his appeal was rejected, he danced to the gallows and recited a poem entitled "I am Going to the Lordy." His request for an orchestra was denied. I assume everyone listened politely. They put a black hood over his head, pulled the handle and hanged him. [14]

In Other News

  • Pillsbury opens the largest flour mill in the world. It has a capacity of 5,000 barrels a day when 500 is considered a large operation. The mill won't always operate at full capacity, though. [15]
  • The "Black Cat" cabaret opens in Paris. Cheap wine, bad decor and a variety show marks the first cabaret. The owners and clientele are raising a "middle finger" to conventional society. [11] [16]
  • Kansas becomes the first "dry" state. The Methodists push a law to prohibit the sale of alcohol. Hey. If your state was host to the Chisholm Trail and the "Queen of Cowtowns" (Dodge City) you'd prohibit drinking too. The law will be repealed in 1948. [11] [17]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1881, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

History: The Year is 1880

I've uploaded year 1880 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Greatest Show on Earth! -- Barnum meets Bailey. I talk about the film industry and blacklisting and my personal experiences as a professional clown.

Flex-Electricity is Discovered -- The effect of generating electricity by stressing certain materials is seen as a lab curiosity, but today it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Notable Births -- Helen Keller, Tom Mix, MacArthur and WC Fields.

The Greatest Show on Earth!

P.T. Barnum is a former state congressman and past mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut so you know you can trust him. His various "hoaxes" are explained away as publicity stunts to attract the public to his museum. After all, who could possibly believe that a monkey from Fiji was actually born with the tail of a fish, or that General Tom Thumb was really that tall? (He was actually a 4 year-old dwarf from Bridgeport who smoked too much.) Despite these dubious publicity stunts, many of his museum exhibits were real. He also promoted the Swedish singer, Jenny Lind whose crystal clear voice attracted tens of thousands. (He made half a million on that deal. She made $350,000 which is like 94 million in 2015 dollars.) He didn't get into the circus business until he was 60 years old and here we are today. He is in competition with the Cooper and Bailey's Circus. They both want to buy a baby elephant named Columbia, the first elephant born in the United States. Barnum and Baily meet in Philadelphia and decide to merge their circuses instead. By next year they will buy Jumbo the Elephant and introduce three rings to the circus. The circus will be called Barnum and Baily's Greatest Show on Earth. It will be bought out by the Ringling Brothers in 1907. Elephants will get the boot in 2016 after the circus wins a lawsuit against animal rights activists, but decides that compliance with local regulations regarding the use of elephants in entertainment just isn't worth the trouble any more. [1]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I was a professional clown, but I'll talk about that in a moment. First, the movie "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952) starring Charlton Heston and freakin' EMMETT KELLY won the Academy Award for best picture. It was good but not THAT good. The contending film, "High Noon," had a COMMUNIST in it and we can't have the All-American Academy Awards going Red! Ah... those were the days. The Las Vegas illusionist Penn Jillette graduated from the Barnum and Baily Clown School, but Penn didn't become a clown. He met this guy named Teller and they talked... well... Penn talked. Teller listened. (That's a gag! Teller can talk.) I became a clown in the 1980s. I was a cook, an earthworks inspector, a magazine editor, a writer, a salesman, an improvisational comedian, a BIOS programmer for Dell Computers, and clowning was in the middle, somewhere. Why a clown? I needed a way to payback the community. I was a very bad boy when I was younger. I apologized for my misdeeds, but there were people I could never find. How was I to repay them? I got training as a real clown. People act differently when you are a real clown. They will walk into traffic for you. I've seen it. Some children and even adults will be frightened. It is your responsibility to help them through that. One day a man tried to hit me, he was so frightened. I turned away. I was willing to let him hit me because I am the clown. I don't hurt. I only help. Clowning is not enough to make up for everything in my past. I know that, but that doesn't excuse me from trying. I tell you this not to make myself look good, but to remind everyone that redemption is possible. In my case, it took a miracle, and it took a few people who went out of their way to help me. [2] [3] [4]

Flex-Electricity is Discovered

I don't know where they came up with the name for this phenomenon, but two French scientists discover that when pressure is applied to certain materials, an electric current is produced. You push the button and BAM! For years scientists have noticed that changes in temperature can cause a static charge to develop in some materials. This is called the pyro-electric effect, but the Curie brothers figure that this effect occurs due to stresses on the crystal structure of the material. Thus, if you flex or stress certain types of material, you should get an electric current. It works! They call it piezoelectricity (That's, PYE-zoh.) They demonstrate the effect on quartz, topaz and cane sugar among other materials! They also reason that if flexing can cause an electric current to be produced, applying electricity to the same substance will cause it to flex. That also works. But it's all just laboratory fun. There can't possibly be an application for this stuff. Is there? [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Today it is a multi-billion dollar business. It started with a submarine detector in World War 1. They send out a sound pulse in the water and measure the time it takes for the sound wave to bounce back to the detector. The detector "flexes" and generates a signal. They find all sorts of applications after this. One is a guitar mike pickup. It's that little device that a musician will attach to his acoustic guitar to transfer the sound to an amplifier or recorder. The sound of the guitar causes a membrane inside the mike to flex slightly, generating a signal. Other applications are as a cigarette lighter that needs no fuel or batteries, various types of detectors and as a source of electricity embedded in a soldier's boots. Those night vision goggles take batteries, so how are you supposed to recharge them in the field? Soldiers can't be sitting around all day waiting for solar power to work. You either carry a lot of batteries along or recharge them from current generated as you walk around. This is wearable electronics. Brilliant.

Notable Births

  • Douglas MacArthur. US Army General. He will fight in the Philippines in World War 2, occupy Japan, and invade Korea until President Truman fires him for insubordination. [6]
  • Helen Keller. Socialist. Born deaf and blind, she will overcome her handicaps with the help of Anne Sullivan. [7]
  • B. C. Forbes. Financial journalist. He will found Forbes Magazine in 1917. [8]
  • Tom Mix. Film star. He will define the western cowboy in film. [9]
  • W. C. Fields. Comedian and professional cynic. "Don't say you can't give up drinking. It's easy. I've done it a thousand times." and "I never vote for anyone; I always vote against." [10] [11]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1880, Wikipedia.

Monday, September 26, 2016

History: The Year is 1878

I've uploaded year 1878 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Tolstoy Tells It All to You -- He publishes his greatest work. It's about marriage, and he has a terrible one. I talk about keeping secrets from my wife.

Let's Hang Mr. Edison! -- When will all the inventing stop? I talk about science and life after death in computers.

The "Man of Steel" is born -- Joseph Stalin. I talk about his extermination of the Ukrainians and compare him to Hitler and Mao.

In Other News -- Flying saucers, Black Bart and the Great Mill Explosion.

Tolstoy Tells It All to You

Socialism means different things to different people. To the Russian author, Count Leo Tolstoy, it means the overthrow of an abusive government through passive resistance and replacing it with... nothing at all. But don't take that too seriously. He knows that the old despots will be replaced by the new despots even if those despots call themselves Marxists. He has made some effort to help the common man by building schools, and designing labor-saving farm equipment. He even cobbles his own shoes! But keep in mind that those "common people" are serfs.... HIS SERFS. When there was a call for releasing the serfs in the 1850s, he opposed it. (The Tsar freed the serfs in 1861.) Tolstoy talks about God as if he is a Christian, but his vision of God is more brotherly and co-equal. In fact, historian Paul Johnson calls Tolstoy, "God's elder brother". His remaking of Christianity will result in his excommunication from the Orthodox Church in 1901. Count Tolstoy feels misunderstood. (His wife, Sonya, feels like rolling her eyes.) This year he publishes the novel "Anna Karenina". Time magazine calls it the "greatest book ever written". (What about the Bible?) The main character, Anna, is an aristocrat trapped in a loveless marriage by the pressure of Russian society. As we follow her life, she gets pregnant by another man, her husband tries to divorce her, but then he forgives her and loves the child. (THAT SNAKE!) I don't want to giveaway the whole book. It is 1,000 pages so that would be difficult to do, but we learn that marriage just causes a lot of trouble. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I read Paul Johnson's book, Intellectuals. It is a scathing indictment of the intellectuals who have shaped our world. They all seem to love humanity, but hate people... especially women. For example, Count Tolstoy wanted no secrets from his wife, Sonya, so he let her read all of his past diaries. As the marriage soured, Tolstoy realized his mistake and kept a public diary for Sonya to read and a private diary for himself. When she found his hidden diary, it got very ugly. Regarding sharing EVERYTHING with one's wife... please don't do that. When my wife asks me, "Does this make me look fat?" I THINK FAST! What is she asking? She wants to know if she looks good or not. I usually say, "You look good, honey," but if she looks bad I let her know that too... gently. Honesty without compassion is cruelty and she deserves better than cruelty from her husband. I also keep secrets from my wife, mostly because they are not my secrets to give. For example, my divorce from my previous wife did not free me from my obligation to keep her secrets. Granted, my current wife is not entirely happy about that, but she ALSO knows that I won't be blabbing her secrets to anyone else either. I share more things with my wife than most men would find necessary, but if a man says that he shares everything with his wife and they are still happy, he is a dues-paying member of the Brotherhood of WEASELs (Waffle, Evade, And Sidestep, Every, Landmine). [4]

Let's Hang Mr. Edison!

Some folks are a little miffed at Mr. Edison. In the Age of Invention, life is changing faster than people can absorb. Edison's phonograph is a good example. Mr. Edison is exploring the uses of his recorder. Ever since his electric vote counter went down the drain, he has decided never to invent anything he can't make money at, but he has invented the phonograph without considering its possible uses or impact on society. After thinking about it, he promotes the phonograph recorder as a way to preserve the last words of the dying so that dead relatives can live again. He suggests that audio recordings could be stored at the grave site or at home to be brought out on a Sunday to remember. This becomes a serious discussion in Scientific American, but the general public is unhappy with rumors surrounding Mr. Edison. He has apparently discovered a mysterious force that he carries about on his person. His new Phono-Graph can record the slightest sound or voice that he can replay to confuse the public at his will. It is rumored that he is working on the electric light bulb right now! (True.) Mr. Edison is inventing too many things! When will it stop?! [5] [6] [7] [8]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
If you'll notice, Edison wanted his device used on Sunday, the time when the general public was devoted to religious ritual and reflection. In modern times, with religion taking a backseat, science has been trying to fill the void. I'm OK with visiting a doctor rather than waiting for a cure from God, but looking for a God Particle using the Large Hadron Collider seems a little weird. The research is great, but calling the Higgs Boson a "God Particle" is a little too patronizing. I feel like the medicine wagon just rolled into town with a new cure for my rheumatism. Religious people recognize a religious argument when they hear it. Scientists usually don't, so when they try to make a religious argument (like I saw the director of Fermi Labs try to do in their hunt for the "God Particle") their arguments sound trite, clumsy and insincere. The phonograph was a scientific life-after-death machine for Edison. It was a path to immortality for the masses. We want our Twitter accounts to remain responsive even after we drop out of life. The PBS science show, NOVA, interviewed the android Philip K. Dick. (FYI, the author of Blade Runner died in 1982.) Artificial intelligence (or A.I.) is science's answer to life-after-death. The movie, "Her" (2013), is about an A.I. that can react like a real live girl! It is iPhone's Siri on steroids. I'm fine with exploring these possibilities, but I would like science to be more honest about it. I don't think they can, though. They are like cats trying to imitate dogs. They might be able to fool other cats, but the dogs smell something funny. [9] [10] [11]

The "Man of Steel" is born

That is Joseph Stalin, He is born in Georgia (the country, not the state). He will go by several nick names. The nickname he goes by in the West is "Stalin" which means "Man of Steel". He will lead the Soviet Union shortly after Lenin dies of a stroke. It will be a power struggle, but Stalin will come out on top by hook or by crook. He will murder millions of people in his purges... not least of which will be the people of Ukraine. Between 1932 and 1933, millions of Ukrainians will starve to death after he gathers all their food for fair and proper redistribution... to everyone but the people of Ukraine. The exact number of the dead is unknown, but if someone said 10 million I'd believe it. It will be called Holodomor or "Extermination by Starvation." Whatever sins the Ukrainians had committed before 1932, they paid for them then. Clean slate. Start over. [12] [13] [14] [15]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Stalin made Hitler look like a piker, but compared to Chairman Mao, Stalin was the piker. As children, we made a joke when our mothers would try to guilt us into eating our vegetables by reminding us that "there are children starving in China who would love to have that food." Indeed, mother was right. 22 million Chinese died of starvation when Mao did to the Chinese what Stalin did to the Ukrainians. In fact, Stalin thought that Mao was crazy, and you know what kind of crazy someone would have to be to make Stalin think something like that. [16]

In Other News

  • A saucer-like UFO is seen moving through the sky at fantastic speed. Flying saucers are born. A photo of a UFO will be taken 5 years from now. [17] [18]
  • Black Bart is shot while robbing his last stagecoach. He usually recites poetry during his robberies. Charles "Black Bart" Bowles gets 6 years. [19]
  • The Great Mill Explosion kills 23 in Minneapolis. A spark ignites flour dust in the air. The Washburn A Mill will be rebuilt with better ventilation and safety features. [20]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1878, Wikipedia.

Friday, September 23, 2016

History: The Year is 1877

I've uploaded year 1877 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Shrek! It's Swan Lake -- I note the similarities to this ballet and the movie Shrek!, Harry Potter and a Japanese anime series.

The Long Surrender of the South -- A backroom deal is made to make the Republican nominees President of the United States. What he has to give to Southern Democrats may make you feel dirty at first.

Congress is Off to the Races -- Hose races. Congress adjourns to go gambling! It's more than that, though. It is a way to substitute gunshots for your team winning... or losing.

In Other News -- The phonograph, canals on Mars and the Quaker Oats Man.

Shrek! It's Swan Lake

The Russian composer, Tchaikovsky, has scored a hit. It's not just another chick-ballet. It's Swan Lake. The story surrounds Princess Odette who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer. She is cursed to remain a beautiful swan by day, and take her true form at night. (Wait. This sounds like the plot for Shrek!) Her only hope is Prince Siegfried who must break the spell with his true love. (It IS Shrek! Those turkeys!) Swan Lake has parallels in several folks tales where the young Princess does not listen to the warnings of her Prince, and is turned into a duck or a swan by a witch. The witch then disguises herself as the Princess until the Prince discovers the deception. In Swan Lake, the ending is tragic. (Spoiler alert! This ballet has been remade into a major motion picture, "Black Swan" (2010) starring Natalie Portman so if you don't know how this all ends, it's not as if society hasn't been hitting you over the head with it, over and over again.) The evil sorcerer tricks the Prince into believing that Princess Odile is really Princess Odette. It's "the bride switch!" as old as the Bible. Odette is betrayed ... and lost. She casts herself into the lake of tears. Prince Siegfried jumps in after her. But some good comes from Odette's sacrifice. The sorcerer's power is broken and the other swans under his spell are freed. The musical themes introduced in the ballet will be repeated in various forms into the modern day and the story of Swan Lake will be remade into popular movies, TV shows, video games and a couple of hilarious skits on Saturday Night Live. [1] [2] [3] [4]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Swan Lake is visually interesting even to a philistine like I... am. (Did I say that right?) I recognize several musical themes such as the Four Swans and when Odette forgives the Prince. Swan Lake had a reasonable first run but it wasn't an instant hit. It comes down to us with modifications that were contemplated by the composer and approved by his surviving relatives. The Harry Potter movies contain some of the lilting elements of Swan Lake. That is my opinion and no one else. However, music experts have noted that the Harry Potter music harkens back to traditional musical themes... meaning that it sounds old in a GOOD way. Swan Lake was turned into a Japanese anime series entitled "Princess Tutu." In this series, a duck is turned into a Princess. Her rival for the love of the Prince is a raven. It is endlessly cute and remarkably beautiful as they mix elements of Swan Lake with several popular ballets in 26 episodes. It is worth watching by kids and adults alike. Barbie's Swan Lake? Not so much. [5] [6]

The Long Surrender of the South

The election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as President marks the end of Reconstruction as he sells his soul in the Compromise of 1877. (It didn't take long. Did it?) The Presidential election has ended in a stalemate in the electoral college with the Democrat candidate holding the majority of the popular vote. To break the log jam, Hayes makes a number of informal promises to the Southern Democrats. He will remove all Federal troops from the Southern States, appoint a Southern Democrat to his Cabinet, and support the Southern transcontinental railroad plans of the Texas and Pacific. (The T&P will merge with the Missouri Pacific Railroad later on.) Hayes also promises to promote industry in the South. Since these promises are informal, they are not enforceable. (Most of these things would have occurred anyway, so why do I feel so dirty?) Hayes appoints a Southerner as Postmaster General and removes Federal troops. Southern Pacific Railroad will block the Texas and Pacific plan. Hayes will not object too much. His hands are full with the current Railroad Strike. B&O Railroad has cut the pay of its workers for a 3rd time as the world economy continues on its death spiral. Hayes sends Federal Troops to quell the riots. The result will be a deeply felt need for unions and a conviction that the surrender of the South is not yet over. [7] [8] [9]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Federal forces were in the South to put down any reorganization of Confederate troops and to facilitate a change in the South's state governments. Removal of Federal troops might seem like a betrayal of the ex-slaves still living in the South, but the Federal occupation had to come to an end some time. President Grant had already removed the troops from Florida. Unless everyone wanted a dictatorship, it was going to happen. The real danger of the South was their attitude that the better man had lost the war... morally speaking. I think they were full of it, but you cannot change that kind of attitude at the point of a gun unless you are willing to shoot them all. Even then, historically speaking, shooting all the rebels has never worked. Their sons remember and quietly plan their revenge unless you can convince them that shooting their fathers was a reasonable thing to do. Good luck with that one. Probably the only thing the Union might have done to mitigate the withdrawal of troops would have been to make gun control illegal. That would have allowed ex-slaves to defend themselves effectively. I think that government control over bazookas is probably a good idea, but if the government cannot tell the difference between male and female any more, they sure shouldn't be giving me lessons on what an assault rifle is vs a hunting rifle or how many bullets are "too many." [10]

Congress is Off to the Races

Horse races. On October 24th, 1877, the United States House of Representatives adjourns early to attend the races in Baltimore. Coincidentally, the Senate adjourned yesterday. The Great Sweepstakes is the race of the century! The very suggestion that this race represents the battle between North and South, slave and free, vile Republican vs evil Democrat is ridiculous! It's just some friendly rivalry and time for some old-fashioned fun. But with the election of a Republican President in a backroom deal, the Kentucky Democrats have vowed revenge. If this is the revenge, I say, we're off to the races. Running for Kentucky is one of the greatest horses of all time. His name is "Ten Brook" as the song will go. The others are from New Jersey and New York respectively: Parole and Tom Ochiltree. Parole is a light strider but not good off the mark. Ochiltree is massive and is not expected to win against Ten Brooks. It is a beautiful day with a fair track at Pimlico. People are showing up early. The stakes are high. The purse is $2000 but with the side-buy-in its more like $10,000. (In modern dollars that is anywhere from a quarter-million to a million and a half.) As "Ten Brook" steps out, the crowd roars. He is the favorite to win. All the experts say so... a sure thing. You had better get Grandpa's heart medicine ready because the "favorite" is going to place second. Parole will win by 5 lengths and going away. The South's chance to rise again is foiled... for now. [11] [12] [13]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I am reminded of that scene from the movie "M.A.S.H." when the General is trying to convince the Colonel that they ought to arrange a friendly football game.... (FYI, Don't watch this movie unless you are at least 40 years old, married, deaf, dumb and blind.)
General: Henry, If we had closer relations, we wouldn't have this misunderstanding. Right? Now that's where a football game would help between your outfit and mine.
Colonel: Football game?
General: Yeah, yeah. We put up a few bets. 5,000, maybe, and have a little fun. Special Services in Tokyo says its one of the best gimmicks we've got to keep the American Way of Life going here in Asia!
Colonel: Betting?
General: No! Football!
-- From the movie M.A.S.H, 1970. [14]

In Other News

  • Edison invents the phonograph. He records "Mary's Little Lamb" using tinfoil wrapped around a cylinder. It works the first time which worries him a little. [15] [16] [17]
  • Canals are observed on Mars. An Italian astronomer sketches Mars with connecting lines across the surface. Straight lines imply intelligent life. Don't they? [15] [18]
  • The Quaker Oats Man is trademarked. Henry Seymour chooses this symbol to represent his Mill because he believes Quakers represent purity. [19] [20] [21]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1877, Wikipedia.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

History: The Year is 1876

I've uploaded year 1876 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

USA: One Hundred Years in the Making -- I lament that I can't tell you all of it.

Food, Fixin' and Fightin': The First College in Texas -- It's Texas A&M of course. I talk about racism and presumptions. I also recommend the book "Up from Slavery."

Here Comes the Telephone -- Bell is not an engineer and good thing too. If he knew what he was getting into he wouldn't have tried to do it.

In Other News -- Budweiser, Korea and the 4-stroke engine.

USA: One Hundred Years in the Making

I'm feeling guilty because so much is happening at once that I can't get everything in. As the United State's celebrates its 100th birthday, the entire world is undergoing a Second Industrial Revolution. Electric motors are no longer toys. We have the fuel-based engine. Telephones are emerging. I didn't even mention Maxwell's Equations for God's sake! Albert Einstein is going take those equations and run with them after he is born... THREE YEARS FROM NOW! Wyatt Earp gets his first job in Tombstone, Arizona. Jesse James and company are robbing trains. Melvil Dewey has invented the Dewey decimal system used in libraries today. Freakin' Tom Sawyer has been published. I can't get it all in... and these people can't even imagine where it will all lead.

Food, Fixin' and Fightin': The First College in Texas

We're flying the "Maroon and White" over here, buddy! It's Texas A&M! Back in 1850s, a few US Congressmen wanted to establish agricultural schools across the nation. The idea never got off the ground, so to speak, until they included the mechanical arts and military training... oh... and science and classical studies, too. Don't forget that. In other words, the college was required to cover the basics: Food, Fixin' and Fightin'. College land grants were offered by the US government for this purpose. The result is the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas that will one day be named Texas A&M University. It starts with a faculty of 6 and 6 students. Enrollment grows to 48 before the semester is out. Then enrollment more than doubles. Cadet Corp military training is required. The student numbers will grow until 1883 when another college opens in Austin, Texas. They call it "The Forty Acres" which is "The University of Texas." Oddly, UT and Texas A&M will be separate college systems ruled by different Boards of Directors. Competition between the two campuses will grow until UT dominates. To prevent Texas A&M from closing, they will hire the Confederate Brigadier General Ross to run the college. He will square up the discipline and establish traditions that will remain into the modern day, not least of which will be the school ring that any graduate will be glad to show you. You will have to ask them NOT to show you... actually. George H.W. Bush's Presidential Library will be located at Texas A&M and they will produce an inordinate number of political leaders, athletes, Medal of Honor recipients and celebrities including the Libertarian radio talk show host, Neal Boortz. [1] [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I'm required by my obsessive pursuit of balance to say that Texas A&M was a "white men only" school. Race relations have improved since then. My son will be graduating from Texas A&M with a doctorate this year. He is no more white than I am. Life is good here in central Texas but people outside of Texas have strange notions of what goes on here. They seem to think that Texas is filled with rubes and idiots without enough sense to look both ways before walking into traffic. I can walk around Texas A&M without fear. The Jewish student organizations are expanding and my kids get the news by Pony Express every week! There are parts of Texas famous for their racism. I'm not prancing around like the sugar-fairy. I am polite to all, and everyone is polite to me as is the custom. I say yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am and act like gentleman. Everything goes fine. I grew up in Southern California, which is supposed to be cosmopolitan, but I have experienced more ignorance, antisemitism and fool racist comments in California than I have ever experienced in Texas. I'm glad to be here. FYI: on the educational opportunities for ex-slaves I recommend, "Up from Slavery" by Booker T. Washington. He established the Tuskegee Teachers School for Colored People which became Tuskegee University. Classes began with building their own classrooms. [3] [4] [5]

Here Comes the Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell is now the patron saint of teenage girls with his invention of the telephone. Bell is born of deaf parents and a grandfather with deep interest in phonetic languages. (Think of "My Fair Lady" and Professor's Higgins' phonetic alphabet. [Click here.]) Alexander Bell is interested in sound. After pouring over scientific journals that he poorly understands, he comes upon an article regarding mimicking vowel sounds by means of an electrical device. Bell wrote, "Without knowing much about the subject, it seemed to me that if vowel sounds could be produced by electrical means, so could consonants, so could articulate speech." Thankfully everything that Bell knew about electricity could be stuffed into a thimble. Otherwise he would have never have attempted what he was about to do next. He worked nights and eventually gave up his professorship in Boston to concentrate on his work. At that time, telegraph traffic was overwhelming the single-wire system. They needed a way to send multiple messages over a single wire rather than string more wires. Bell mentions to investors that he can transmit multiple sounds over a single wire using tuning reeds. They fund him immediately. Bell hires Thomas Watson who is a real engineer. (It says so on the certificate.) In the midst of setting up the test rig, Watson accidentally hits a single tuning reed. What Bell hears on the other end are a range of tones. He realizes he is making his rig more complex than it needs to be. It's a race to the patent office as another inventor has notified the patent office of a similar "harmonic telegraph". Bell is issued the patent and uses his competitor's ideas to produce a demonstration model. He uses his first working model to say, "Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you." Bell's voice comes through clearly. He strings four miles or wire and can hear sounds from the other end clear as a ... Bell. They are going to be rich! Alexander Bell's residuals will net him nearly a million dollars. He will devote much of the proceeds to educating the deaf. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The vast money involved and what appears to be lying under oath makes it is impossible to determine who really owns the rights to the telephone. Bell didn't need the hassle and he had plenty of money, so he resigned. When you look at the actual mechanics of the early telephones you realize that they are fairly simple devices. Most of the guts were dedicated to switching you to the correct line automatically rather than depending on an operator to pull the wire from the switchboard and connect it to the right circuit. That is why they say, "connecting..." because in the old days, making a phone call involved negotiating with an operator who would make the physical connection on your behalf. With some bribery, an operator could be convinced to connect business calls to a competitor. When an businessman realized he was being bamboozled by his competitor this way, he invented the dial telephone and automatic switch board, thus returning the power to the people to make their own decisions on who to call. Voice-over-IP is the common way to make connections now. I can explain it, but it would take more room than I have here. In short... It's magic! And if you pay me, I'll bring the Sun back too. [11]

In Other News

  • Budweiser is introduced to Missouri. Budweiser, means "From Budweiss." It's a hit in the USA, but the American company will be fighting trademark law suits into the modern day. The city of Budweiss actually has a patent from the old King to produce beer and the European authorities take that patent seriously. [12] [13]
  • Korea is now an independent nation. Japan says so. Under gunboat diplomacy, Japan makes the Kingdom of Joseon (later the Korean Empire) into a tributary of Japan. The treaty calls the Kingdom an "independent nation". It's in writing so you know it is true. [6] [14]
  • Nikolaus Otto invents the 4-stroke engine. The engine compresses fuel without exploding and ruining your whole day... a key design feature. It's fuel efficiency will make it a success. Later, the engine will be adapted for automobiles. [6] [15] [16]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1876, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

History: The Year is 1875

Civil Rights Rhetoric that Lacks Reality

The US Congress passes a law banning racial discrimination in all public and private facilities this allows access to theaters, public transportation, and allows ex-slaves to sit on juries. This bill is signed into law by President Grant, but it has been kicking around Congress for the last 5 years or so. The Vice-President had to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, and it finally passed in the House. It has been slow-going because Southern Democrats are being voted back into office, replacing many Republicans (including Black Republicans). This is a consequence of a loss in faith in Republicans. The Grant Administration has proven exceptionally corrupt, although President Grant, himself, appears to be impeccably honest. That is probably his weak point. He was a General, and hasn't been able to make the transition to politician. This will be the last of the Civil Rights laws enacted until the Civil Rights Act of 1957 where all of the laws they passed in 1875 will be passed again with equal effect. The problem is enforcement. The Federal government has only limited authority to enforce Federal law within the states... at least... everyone will believe that is true until they stop believing it. That will take several more generations and a systematic "forgetting" of the Constitution... in part, thanks to our educational system which teaches students to read and write, but not how to think critically about what they are reading or writing... or watching. [1] [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was eventually ruled unconstitutional. Apparently the Federal government was acting like a benevolent dictator... again. In an emergency, the Romans would appoint a dictator with limited powers to make things happen. In a sense we have that system today when the Congress grants power to the President "to make things happen" in the name of goodness and beauty. But when good things are made possible by the stroke of a pen, BAD THINGS are made possible as well. As the old proverb goes, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." The good comes first. It turns to hell later. In 1984, Thomas Sowell wrote "Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality." He analyzed what the Civil Rights Acts had INTENDED to do and whether they actually did it. For the most part, the law succeeded in its execution, but failed in its intention. The intent was to help Black people or African-Americans to achieve equal prosperity with Whites. The impediment to that goal was seen as racial prejudice, but the statistics don't bear that out. Certainly racial prejudice kept people from getting certain jobs, but that block-point was already being overwhelmed by a change in attitude at the local level. The law REFLECTED the change. The law didn't create it. As it turned out, the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s actually impeded progress. We can debate why that was so, but generally speaking, by the time government shows up to help you out of your hole, you'll be so deep in, they'll just fill the hole in. In other words, when the metrics clearly demonstrate that a government program is failing, they won't change the program. They'll stop tracking the metrics. [3] [4] [5]

A Friendly Act of Insurance

Before there was the welfare state there were benevolence societies, otherwise known as "Friendly Societies". People join together for the purpose of providing medical and pension benefits for their members. (In modern terms the AARP would qualify as such an organization.) These societies grew up out of a need to help the sick, the elderly and helpless without need to resort to government intervention. At this point, the government of the United Kingdom is amazingly benevolent compared to governments of the past, but it would be considered cruel to modern sensibilities. Necessities, such as retirement, are seen as a problem for the individual to handle. Since it often becomes an intractable problem for the individual, community organizations have sprung up to mitigate the issue... at least for some people. This year, government is blessing these benevolent societies and sets up rules and regulations to manage them for the benefit of the public. [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
A little government regulation can be a good thing, but like the camel that sticks it's nose into the tent, eventually the whole camel is in there with you. (Camels are disagreeable and they smell.... so it is obvious I'm talking about Congress.) The problem with any large organization that holds your money in trust is that you must trust them. We have been trained to look to government to manage that trust in terms of regulation and the ability to sue them should they breech the public trust. But a better job could be achieved by limiting the size of these organizations and having private (rather an government) watchdogs overseeing their management. That doesn't always work, but neither does government oversight. The difference is that when the government drops the ball, you can't sue them. The idea that a larger organization can "get things done" is also a fallacy. As an organization grows, it hits a breaking point where it becomes less and less efficient no matter how many rules you pile onto it to force it to heel. If a doctor charged a monthly fee and treated patients without resort to insurance companies, his practice would be more efficient. All the people his pays to deal with the insurance companies vanish. The savings goes into his own pocket! No longer will he have to wait months for a pittance. Usually doctors become doctors because they want to practice medicine... not practice accounting or debt collection, but if a doctor did all of this he would be arrested... for your safety. We can't have radical thinkers preying on helpless citizens when they are most vulnerable. That is the job of government! (That is somewhat of a joke, but only somewhat.)

In Other News

  • Mary Baker Eddy founds Christian Science. She believes that sickness is an illusion conquered through prayer. She will begin publication of "The Christian Science Monitor" in 1908. [7] [8]
  • Nestlé milk chocolate bars are born. Daniel Peter adds Henri Nestlé's powdered milk to the recipe. Henri makes baby food but in 3 years he and Daniel will be selling a lot of candy bars. [9] [10] [11] [12]
  • The first ice hockey game is played indoors... ON PURPOSE! It takes place in Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Canada. [13]
  • And born this year are... Walter Chrysler (automaker), J.C. Penny (department store owner), Carl Jung (psychiatrist) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of "Tarzan" and "John Carter on Mars".) [14] [15] [16] [17]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1875, Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

History: The Year is 1874

I've uploaded year 1874 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Second Chicago Fire -- This is a smaller fire but more claims come into the insurance companies so they stop writing policies until the city starts enforcing new fire regulations.

Dear Diary... How about a Zeppelin? -- This is the Zeppelin on paper only. I talk about the Hindenburg and why it was using hydrogen instead of the safer helium.

Tennis, Anyone? -- Tennis comes to the USA. It is called tennis because no one can figure out how to pronounce the real name. I talk about drug testing and the recent controversy on banned drugs for Tennis Players.

Significant Births -- Harry Houdini, Robert Frost, Gertrude Stein, and G. Marconi.

The Second Chicago Fire

Three years ago, the Great Chicago Fire killed 300 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed 3.3 square miles of Chicago. The fire started in the O'Leary barn and was spread by the wind. The balloon wood-frame construction used in those days just about guaranteed that any fire would climb straight up the walls and into the attic. In the aftermath, changes were made in the building code... such as it was, but new construction is slow to begin in the midst of a world-wide economic depression. Two more fires break out this year. 812 buildings are destroyed including schools and churches. 47 acres just south of the Chicago business district go up in flames. Even though the loss of life was greater in the Great Chicago Fire, the insurance companies have been hit in the pocketbook harder because this time the fire has destroyed an established neighborhood with more expensive buildings. The Board of Underwriters makes demands on the city for major changes in fire regulations, enforcement of the building codes and the provision of fire hydrants, but the city seems to blow them off. The Underwriters resolve not to write another policy until the new fire regulations are implemented and enforced... not just changed in writing, but actually enforced. Have a nice day. [1] [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The previous fire gets more attention in history due to the legend of Mrs. O'Leary's cow... an event that may or may not have happened. The fire also killed more people, but it was a poorer part of the city, so the insurance companies experienced what might be called "acceptable losses" in economic terms. The 1874 fires were in a more established part of town so the insurance losses really hurt the Underwriters. Wothout insurance coverage the building owners were forced to take future losses upon themselves. The owners put pressure on the city to give the fire department greater authority, and change building practices. Wood-frame construction can survive a fire, but it must be built properly. Those small horizontal cross members in the walls are fire blocks. Don't leave them out just to save money. They choke back the flames, delaying the spread of fire and give time for residents to flee. They also give time for the fire department to arrive. If the firemen can't save the building, they might prevent the fire from spreading to your neighbors. One day I turned down my block and saw smoke. I said a prayer asking God for help and for strength to handle whatever happened next. I did NOT say, "Dear God! Don't let that be MY house," because I would be asking God to set my neighbor's house on fire or to change reality. I try not to wish bad things for my neighbors and I've seen too many time travel movies to risk messing with reality. As it turned out, it wasn't my house. It was the house behind and the fire department was able to limit the damage. Our neighborhood was saved. [3] [4]

Dear Diary... How about a Zeppelin?

Ferdinand von Zeppelin scribbles his first ideas on the design of a new type of airship. It is a rigid-frame that holds together several balloon envelopes within itself. His inspiration has not come to him instantly. It has been a process. Von Zeppelin was an official observer for Germany during the War Between the States. Balloons were used by the Union Army to rise above the battlefield in order to judge the size and position of Confederate forces. In fact, General Armstrong Custer was one of the first to use this system, although not very successfully. As he went aloft, Custer asked the pilot if the balloon was safe. The pilot jumped up and down in the basket to assure the General that the balloon was quite sturdy. Custer stopped asking after that. Around that time Von Zeppelin took a balloon ride and that sparked his interest. Years later, while attending a lecture, the speaker suggested that the mail could be transported via balloons. The problem with that idea is that balloons only follow the winds. What is needed is a lighter-than-air vehicle with a rudder and propeller, like a ship at sea. Von Zeppelin writes down his initial thoughts in his diary. He is on his way to creating a lighter-than-air ship that can go where he aims it. [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The word "dirigible" comes from the Latin word meaning "to direct". Thus "dirigible" means "steerable." Germany supported Von Zeppelin in his dirigible building program because he promoted it as a military necessity for the defense of Germany. But if helium is a safe, lighter-than-air gas, why did Nazi Germany fill the Hindenburg with hydrogen which is a highly flammable gas? The Hindenburg was the dirigible that suddenly burst into flames and collapsed onto a New Jersey airfield in 1937. The debate continues over how the explosion occurred and why the flames spread so quickly. Whatever the reason, hydrogen must have fueled the disaster at least partially. The question I had was why use hydrogen at all? The answer was difficult to find but the reasoning went like this: the main source for helium was (and still is) the USA. Congress noticed that German Zeppelins were used to drop bombs on Allied forces during World War 1, so Congress restricted the export of helium. The helium shortage forced Germany to substitute hydrogen which is a lot cheaper and easier to produce. The downside in using it was that if it caught fire it would burn really, really fast. (Don't try that experiment at home kids. Your Mom will kill you... if you live through it.) I saw a Mythbusters episode that made the case that the paint on the skin of the Hindenburg was the main source for the dramatic fire, but I think the use of hydrogen must have contributed to the disaster in a significant way. [6]

Tennis, Anyone?

There is this game where serious people swat a fuzzy green ball back and forth over a net while others watch and applaud. I'd tell you the name of the game but it is Greek to me and thus unpronounceable. (It's called: sphairistikè.) The English call it "Sticky" because they can't pronounce the Greek name either. The developer of this game is an Englishman and a good marketer (except for the name). He boxes a net, rackets, balls and a rulebook and ships several packages across the world to friends, officials and religious leaders. He encourages them to give it a try. An American woman spots the game being played and brings the idea to the United States. Now they call it lawn tennis and they follow the rules that came in the box. By 1877 the Wimbledon Championships will begin. [7] [8]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I noticed in the news that certain tennis players have been using drugs that are normally banned. Exceptions had been made through official channels so I'm not sure what the complaint is here. What was implied in the reporting was that making an exception for these players was like cheating. As I listened to the reporter stumble through the list of drugs, they seemed like ones that a player would take after an injury. I know there is a lot of money riding on these games and people don't want the players to hurt themselves by taking drugs, but we don't want them to suffer by NOT taking drugs either. I assume that adults can make their own decisions. Part of the rules is a procedure to get an exception to the rules. Thus exceptions to the rules are also part of the rules. But when the system becomes so repressive that even following the rules is seen as wrong, then people will stop following the rules. Just don't act surprised when it happens. [9] [10]

Significant Births

  • Harry Houdini, the escape artist and illusionist. He will expose false mediums as he searches for proof of an afterlife. [11]
  • Robert Frost, the poet. "And miles to go before I sleep." [12]
  • Gertrude Stein, the author. She will say, "There is no 'there' there," referring to Oakland, California as a destination. [13]
  • G. Marconi, developer of the wireless telegraph. Using a copper antenna, spark-gap amplifier, and telegraph rig he will build the first radio transmitter. [14] [15]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1874, Wikipedia.

Monday, September 19, 2016

History: The Year is 1873

I've uploaded year 1873 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Money Monster and the First Great Depression -- I relate the Panic of 1873 to the movie Money Monster and to Armstrong Custer.

East Bound and Down, Loaded Up and Truckin' -- I talk about Coors, Heineken and the movie "Smokey and the Bandit".

Remington Typewriters and Good Testing -- Remington Firearms takes on typewriters. I talk about how important testing is for producing a good consumer product.

In Other News -- Barbed wire, rivets in Levis and DDT.

The Money Monster and the First Great Depression

The big money guys are making some big money, and this Money Monster is feeding on the mid-range investor who is trying to make the big score... people like Colonel Custer. He is a war hero without a war. The US Army is shrinking so rather than retire, General Custer trades on his political connections and wins a colonel's commission. Why stay in the Army? Well... he needs a steady source of income. He has overcome his drinking problem, but the Wall Street Money Monster has reawakened his gambling habit. Without his wife's knowledge, he has put all their savings and borrowed even more money to buy a silver mine. It seemed like a good idea at the time... too good. By law, silver is trading at a ratio of 16 ounces of silver to 1 ounce of gold. The actual market value is closer to 32 to 1. In modern times the ratio is more like 77 to 1, but you see the point. With a trade ratio fixed by law rather than by market forces the owner of a silver mine could strike it rich in gold... supposedly. But the world economy is at the breaking point. There is the disaster when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicks the lamp over and causes the Great Chicago Fire, (OK. No one knows how the fire started, but it began in O'Leary's barn.) Then there is Vienna's economic collapse followed by Germany discontinuing the silver thaler (or dollar). Good money pushes out the bad, and in this case, the value of silver is dropping fast and thus becoming the "bad money". It is pushing gold out of the market. That is why Congress, in its wisdom, demonetizes silver this year. Oh dear God! The USA is now on the GOLD STANDARD! Silver is now traded at fair market prices which suddenly makes Custer's silver mine scheme unworkable. Jay Cooke is heavily invested in railroad bonds when the money supply suddenly contracts. Jay Cooke is one of the big boys and he is going down hard. What follows next will be called "the Great Depression"... that is, until the next "Great Depression" comes along. It is a world-wide economic slowdown and it is going to last for years. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I've seen the movie "Money Monster" and even though it stars George Clooney, it is still pretty good. Clooney plays a TV financial pundit who recommends buying a certain stock. It's a sure bet! A delivery man dumps all his savings into the investment and loses it all. He uses a bomb and a gun to take over the TV studio and demands the truth. (No spoilers. The movie has a lot of twists and turns. It's not perfect, but it is exciting.) There is corruption in large markets, so only the large investors can be expected to weather the storm. I read an article in a magazine about an investor that made a deal with Chinese manufacturers for DVD players. But when the price of DVD players dropped he could not cover the contract. Then he disappeared like Jimmy Hoffa. Know what I mean? J.P. Morgan survived the Great Depression of 1873. He always kept his word which meant that you had to understand EXACTLY what he was promising because that was all you were going to get. And you always lived up to your word because if you didn't, there was no hole deep enough to hide. Mr. Morgan was quite dependable in that respect too. He objected to letting the small investor into the big leagues because they didn't fully understand the markets. He also thought that government could not guarantee fair dealing other than through contract enforcement in the courts which was always after the fact. Creating more and more complex regulations just confuses the regulators and fools the unwary investor into believing that he is safe when he is nothing of the sort. [7]

East Bound and Down, Loaded Up and Truckin'

Adolf Coors and Company have bought the formula for a Pilsner beer. It is a relatively new process that provides a lighter color and more consistent taste. Mr. Coors establishes his first brewery near the springs of Golden, Colorado. No preservatives. It is shipped cold. Eventually he will buy out his partners and it will become a family business. I'd like to say that the fame of his brew soon spread from sea to shining sea, but it will remain a favorite of the west until a popular movie starring Burt Reynolds, and his then girlfriend, Sally Field will bring the brand name to national attention... along with the Pontiac Trans-Am. In the movie "Smokey and the Bandit," Reynolds takes a bet that he can deliver a truckload of Coors Beer from Texarkana to Atlanta, Georgia in 28 hours. "That's bootleggin' son!" In the 1970s when the movie is made, Coors Beer cannot be sold east of the Mississippi River. ITS THE LAW! As far as I can tell, it is a law left over from the Prohibition era. In any case, Reynolds and his stunt drivers will go through 4 Trans-Ams and push the last car to the finish. The theme music for the film is "East Bound and Down" and is sung by Jerry Reed who also drives the truck in the movie. (It's a Kenworth W900A.) "Smokey and the Bandit" is a classic CB movie. (That is a movie where citizen band radio is used as a theme.) Several sequels will be filmed but none better than the original. It's not Shakespeare. It's just fun. [8] [9] [10] [11]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
1873 was the same year that a Dutch concern opened its second brewery in Rotterdam and renamed itself Heineken. In the same year they hired Dr. Elion who was a student of Louis Pasteur. He eventually developed a new type of yeast for brewing. One assumes it added a distinctive taste to the beer. I wouldn't know. I don't drink beer. It is actually funny that I am writing about beer at all. I hate beer and I believe I've said why before but it bears repeating. One day, as a child, my father decided that he would free me from any desire to drink or smoke, so he gave me a cigarette and a beer. I was delighted until I took a big swig and a puff. I just about puked. And it worked. I never again desired a beer or cigarettes. Instead I grew up to drink whiskey and smoke cigars! I can't do either any more. I used up all my tickets on that ride. Just about killed me. It was exciting, though. [12] [13]

Remington Typewriters and Good Testing

Remington makes firearms, sewing machines and farm equipment, but after they are approached by two inventors with a new-fangled thing they call a typewriter, Remington agrees to buy the patent. They pay $12,000 to one of the patent holders, but to the other they pay a royalty. In the long run the one who gets the royalty collects over a million dollars. ($12,000 is something like a quarter of a million in today's money.) This typewriter has gone through extensive testing by a rather critical stenographer who reviews the machine with the eye to actually using it over and over again. He doesn't hold back... at all... and breaks machine after machine. They would like to strangle him, but they realize that it is best to discover all the defects and fix them BEFORE they become a problem for customers. In addressing the problems with their typewriter, a machinist recommends Remington for manufacturing the completed machine. The deal is done and the first commercially viable typewriter is on the market. Remington will eventually sell off the typewriter business, and the spinoff company will retain the Remington Typewriter name. [14] [15] [16]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I used to be a computer BIOS programmer. I was always friendly to the testing department even though testing is essentially trying to break my work. When they break something it is a GOOD thing because the customer won't have to deal with it later. I tested my own stuff as well. One day, after we released a product we were called in. Something had gone wrong, so naturally we had a meeting. These things always went poorly since I don't like meetings. Yes. I'm THAT guy. Our new machine wasn't working and it was a major failure. My co-worker said, "We'll test it some more, I guess." Everyone started to get up but I said, "Hold it! I don't want to do this." The machine was good. I knew that. I had tested it. I said, "Let's all get into a time machine. It is now one week later and we haven't seen a darn thing in testing. What do we do now?" Eventually we found that a technician had jury-rigged a crude Ethernet hub out of pieces of copper wire and had hidden it under the workbench... BECAUSE HE KNEW IT WAS WRONG! It was amazing that it worked at all. We replaced it with a real hub. We were saved. Years later, I walked into an electronics store looking for an Ethernet hub. The counter guy said, "Oh. I just tell everyone to use one of these Y-connectors. It works!" I just about strangled the little... uh... guy.

In Other News

  • Barbed wire for corralling your cattle. Mr. Joseph Glidden is going to be filthy rich. [17]
  • Copper rivets for corralling your Levis. Levi Strauss patents the copper rivet for his blue jeans. [18]
  • DDT for corralling nothing at all. It is only a curiosity. It's lethality to insects will be noticed by Dr. Paul Müller in 1939. He will win a Nobel Prize for saving million and millions. Rachel Carson will have DDT banned thus casting away the lives of millions and millions. [19]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1873, Wikipedia.