We remember them, also from Neptunus Lex. Eloquent writing even by Lex's own high standards. And for 2011,Lex links to thoughts from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the CNO, the Marine Corps Commandant, and the writer Mark Helprin.
Picked up the March 1939 issue of Aviation magazine at a used book store. There is a lot of interesting content; here are some highlights...
(1)The big story was the delivery to Pan American Airways of the new Boeing 314 flying boats, intended to support Pan Am's first transatlantic service, as well as for expansion of its existing transpacific service. (Atlantic service came 4 years later than the Pacific service due to strictly political reasons.)
The Boeing 314 ("Clipper") could carry 74 passengers, but configured for overnight service, as it was for the transoceanic runs, the number of passengers was limited to 40. There was a 14-seat dining room, davenports convertible into upper and lower berths for the passengers, and a special private suite ("honeymoon suite") in the tail of the plane.
Google is sponsoring a science fair for kids around the world, ages 13-18. The 60 semifinalists have been announced and their projects are posted on the website--in addition to judging process being done by an expert panel, there is a "People's Choice" award which allows you to vote for your favorite project.
The length of time from the end of the American Civil War to the release of "Gone With the Wind" (the movie) was very nearly the same as the length of time from the movie to the present. (74 years vs 72 years)
The length of time from Richard Trevithick's prototype steam locomotive to the Wright Brothers' first flight was less than the time from that first flight to the present. (99 years vs 108 years)
The length of time from the Wright Brothers' first flight to the first commercial jetliner (DH 106 Comet) was less than the time from the Comet to the present (48 years vs 60 years)
The length of time from the coronation of Elizabeth I to the American Declaration of Independence was less than the time from the Declaration to to the present (217 years vs 235 years)
The length of time from Robert Goddard's first liquid-fueled rocket to the first manned landing on the moon was almost exactly the same as the time from the lunar landing to the present (43 years vs 42 years)
Friday, May 13, 2011 "CARBON" IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR "CO2"
...any more than "hydrogen" is a synonym for "H2O."
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) seems a little confused on this point.
I've noticed quite a few people, in various debates about environmental matters, referring to "carbon" as generically a bad thing. Some of them are probably just using it as a shorthand for carbon dioxide, in order to save syllables or characters---others, though, really do seem to think that the discussion is about some sinister product of the Industrial Revolution, rather than the natural compound that they exhale with every breath and that is required for the growth of plants. Maybe they think it's about carbon particulates.
The situation isn't helped by various corporations which, when promoting their products/technologies on environmental grounds, now almost always talk about how they reduce carbon, or at best carbon dioxide, rather than talking about reductions in real air pollution in the form of mercury, sulfur dioxide, etc. The terms "carbon" and "carbon dioxide" are now generally being used as shorthand for atmospheric Bad Things.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 A NEGLECTED BUT SIGNIFICANT ANNIVERSARY
‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin, ‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin. When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go, And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe… When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’
(A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)
On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:
The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.
If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.
This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.
Sunday, May 08, 2011 THE SERIES AND THE MINI-SERIES
Movies intended for theater distribution are usually about 90-120 minutes long--this surely puts some serious constraints on character and plot development. The additional time made available by the series and mini-series formats (apparently the distinction between series and mini-series lies in whether the full set of episodes is planned in advance or not) would seem to open up some additional degrees of artistic freedom. And the changes in the way video is distributed, including Netflix and the various video-on-demand services, play very well with the series/miniseries format.
Over the past couple of years, I've watched several series, mostly via Netflix, which I thought were particularly noteworthy:
Richard Fernandez compares the methods used to fight our present terrorist enemy with those used to fight the U-boats of WWI and WWII.
The Social Pathologist notes that it is possible to get far more than the rated horsepower out of an engine--but at the price of reduced operational life and/or greatly increased maintenance costs--and sees an analogy with certain kinds of individual and societal decision-making.
In my post icebreakers, lizards, and gasoline prices, I referenced the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence from the Disney movie Fantasia. While researching this post, I discovered that the story of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, as used in the movie, comes from a 1797 poem by Goethe. Here is is, in English and in German: Der Zauberlehrling.
That means Americans, Europeans and other buyers will have to pay more for those goods or seek lower-cost suppliers elsewhere. In some cases, retailers are bidding for goods at prices the exporters consider too low.
“I hear that many Chinese exporters are rejecting orders from Wal-Mart and other Western retailers,” Mr. Tao said. “I’ve been covering the Chinese economy for a long time, and I’ve never heard that before.”
...which has the same effect of making U.S. manufacturing generally more competitive.
The natural effect of these phenomena is that manufacturing in the U.S., for export and for domestic consumption, becomes more competitive and hence factories operate at higher capacity, new ones are built, and employment increases along with economic growth. There are other factors that seem to point in this direction.
The greatly increased availability of U.S. natural gas, driven by new drilling technologies, offers potential advantages both to companies using gas as a feedstock and to those which are heavy energy consumers. Dow Chemical, for example, is increasing its production of ethane and of ethane's downstream products: Dow's plastics business has led earnings growth this year after lower natural-gas prices made U.S. production cheaper than oil-based resins made in Europe and Asia.
And in the broader manufacturing realm, quite a few companies are realizing that the "offshoring" boom was in some cases based on superficial analysis, ignoring the logistical realities of a 6000-mile-long supply chain and the consequent inventory, forecasting, and human communications problems. Our friends at Evolving Excellence cover this topic frequently. Note also that rising oil prices directly increase the costs of bunker fuel (for ships) and jet fuel (for planes) and hence have a significant negative effect on the economics of offshoring for many kinds of products.
So, can we expect a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S.? There are certainly indications of at least a temporary uptrend, and there are structural factors, as discussed above, which have the potential of creating growth over the long term.
I am afraid, though, that we are likely to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Multiple political and social factors will, unless they are reversed, make it difficult for U.S. manufacturing to live up to its full potential.
Tomorrow, May 2, is Holocaust Remembrance and Heroism Day, Yom Hashoah Ve Hagevurah. The date for this observance was chosen in part because of its calendrical proximity to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; more here.
In this video, Jay Black (born David Blatt--singer for the 1960s group Jay and the Americans) sings "Where is the little street?" ("Vi iz dus geseleh?") accompanied by images from Marc Chagall paintings.