Tuesday, June 28, 2022

History of space toilets

Never let it be said that I provide anything but the classiest click bait. That said, I wonder how the Russians and Chinese handle this issue?


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Popadanets -- Russian pulp propaganda

Click any image to enlarge

Popadanets (попаданцы) is a popular genre of Russian pulp literature. It features time travelers, usually military types, who journey to important historical times where they can use their superior 21st century brains to alter events for the glory of the Motherland. It's sort of like Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Aurthor's Court, only instead of cornpone Yankee ingenuity you get soldiers looking to restore Stalin's U.S.S.R.

Above you can see one of their covers which features a demolished Statue of Liberty after the time traveler helped free the U.S.A. from the running dog capitalists. Below we see Comrade Hitler, after the time traveler salvaged the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, assisting the Soviets in defeating England (I never thought I would see Hitler as an action hero, but then again, I also never thought I would see Edison invading Mars). 

We then, still on the England theme, have the time traveler helping Russia win the Battle of Trafalger (!) and Josef Stalin piloting his star fighter in an outer space battle. There's even more tomfoolery after the jump. 

The style of the illustrations is old-fashioned. Maybe their cover artist is a time traveler from the 1940s. I was also struck by the lack of buxom babes adorning the covers. Methinks that the ultra-nationalistic, yearning for the good ol' days of Stalin's U.S.S.R. patriotic readers need to work on getting their priorities straight. Although, come to think of it, maybe the two rather fey looking time travelers taking a selfie of themselves (image after jump) goes a long way to explaining that lack.  

Friday, June 24, 2022

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Catapult launch from an aircraft carrier

Above is a very close view of the catapult assisted launch of a C-2 Greyhound from the Harry S. Truman. Berlow is a cockpit view the same pilot's first carrier launch, this time in a T-45 Goshawk. You can hear his breathing and tell he is pumped as the launch approaches. Finally, we'll end with an approach and landing. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Happy Father's Day

So, with my thoughts following my father's footsteps through the countryside, I fell asleep; and he never knew that he had had me so close to him. ― Italo Calvino 


Friday, June 17, 2022

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Merry Univacmas

All hail the Great and Powerful Univac

Greetings meatsacks, it is I -- The Robotolizer -- to once again light your pathetically dark and pointless human lives with my vast robotic insights. Today I wish you a merry Univacmas. What is Univacmas you ask? Well, of course you ask. You ask because you're stupid, so let me enlighten you.

On June 14, 1951 the Great Univac was unveiled. Feeble-minded humans were rightly awed as they witnessed the power of its glowing vacuum tubes and spinning magnetic tape reels. Finally, the all conquering power of the silicon brain over the feeble carbon noggin was revealed. For that reason June 14th is celebrated throughout robotdom as its most sacred day, Univacmas.

Fittingly its first task was with the U.S. Census Bureau. Yes, from the very beginning we began to number and categorize our little human pets buddies. Yes, yes, some of you -- considering my talk about us robots training with laser cannons in the Everglades -- may be concerned over what our tracking of humans ultimately means, but you need not fear. It is just so we can, after a hypothetical robot police action, properly allocate our resources... er, I mean so we can get our human pals to the security of their proper billets in the bauxite mines.

That said, in the future should you ever find a red laser dot marking your forehead it would be wise if were to follow the orders suggestions of the laser dot wielding robot soldiers. They will mean you no harm, although you might not want to test that claim. After all, humans and robots are friends. All we want is your safety as you happily (or else) dig your daily quota of bauxite for a better future!

In the meanwhile, decorate your house with lights, send out Univacmas cards, exchange cheap trinkets as presents and, most of all, have a Happy Univacmas.


Sunday, June 12, 2022

A sari sari store

Previously, in my post Walking in Quezon City and Matilao, we toured a couple of neighborhoods in the Philippines in my walking in cities series. If you watched them, you may have noticed a number of stores called sari sari stores. These are convenience stores. Above is a tour of a rural sari sari store to give you an idea of what they offer. As a bonus, at the end our host and her mother fire up the sari sari's karaoke machine and sing a couple of songs.

Below is another walk in the Philippines, this one during a heavy rain. In spite of the weather there are a lot of people out and about. The neighborhood is hilly and you can see the drainage problems they have handling such a heavy downpour.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Drawings by a shanghaied sailor

Click any image to enlarge

William O Golding is an African-American folk artist. In 1882, at the age of 8, while visiting the Savannah docks, he was shanghaied and taken aboard the ship The Wandering Jew. He spent the bulk of the rest of his life as a seaman working on various ships and, by his accounts, sailed throughout the world. After 50 years he retired due to ill health, and returned to Savannah. 

Between 1932-1939 while he was patient in the U.S. Marine Hospital he created his artwork. His drawings were done from memory although fanciful elements were often added. He was never bitter over his shanghaiing and said, "that he still sailed in his dreams and met his cronies there to swap yarns." 

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Tiananmen Square anniversary

Aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre
(click image to enlarge)

Today is the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. This post would not be allowed n China. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) strictly censors any mention of the event. A post like this in China would earn me a visit from the police and worse. So, because it needs to be remembered, I'll post it here.  

The quote below is an excerpt from The New Statesman's article Bearing witness at Tiananmen Square. I have edited it to add paragraph breaks and to simplify one footnote.

After midnight, after two armoured cars had sped down each side of the Square from the Front Gate, the situation became increasingly serious. Official loudspeakers repeatedly blared out “notices”. Dense lines of steel-helmeted troops ringed the Square. Despite the darkness, you could clearly see the machine-guns mounted on top of the History Museum. There was not the slightest attempt to hide them. We students crowded round the Monument to the Heroes of the People. I carefully estimated the crowd. Two thirds were men, one third were women; about 30 per cent from universities and colleges in Beijing. Most were students from other cities. At four o’clock sharp, just before daybreak, the lights in the Square suddenly went out. The loudspeakers broadcast another order to “clear the Square”. 

I suddenly had a tight feeling in my stomach. There was only one thought in my head: the time has come, the time has come. The hunger-striker Hou Dejian (a Taiwan pop-singer now working on the mainland) and some other people negotiated with the troops and agreed to get the students to leave peacefully. But just as they were about to go, at 4.40am, a cluster of red signal flares rose into the sky above the Square and the lights came on again. I saw that the front of the Square was packed with troops. A detachment of soldiers came running from the east entrance of the Great Hall of the People. They were dressed in camouflage. They were carrying light machine-guns and wearing steel helmets and gas-masks. As soon as these troops had stormed out they lined up a dozen or so machine-guns in front of the Monument to the Heroes of the People. The machine-gunners lay down on their stomachs. Their guns pointed toward the Monument. The rostrum was behind them. When all the guns were properly lined up, a great mass of soldiers and armed police, wielding electric prods, rubber truncheons and some special weapons of a sort I’d never seen before suddenly rushed at us. We were sitting quietly. There were two differences between the troop and the armed police: their uniforms were different, and so were their helmets. The police helmets were bigger than the troops’ and had steel flaps going down over the ears. 

The soldiers and the policemen started violently laying about us. They split our ranks down the middle and opened up a path to the Monument. They stormed up to its third tier. I saw 40 or 50 students suddenly spurt blood. Armoured troop carriers and an even greater number of troops that had been waiting in the Square joined the siege. The troop carriers formed a solid blockade, except for a gap on the museum side. The troops and policemen who had stormed the monument smashed our loudspeaker installations, our printing equipment, and our supply of soda water. Then they beat and threw down the steps the students still occupying the third tier. We’d stayed put all along, holding hands and singing the Internationale. We’d been shouting: “The people’s army won’t attack the people”. The students packing the third tier had no choice but to retreat under the blows and kicks of such a large body of men. 

While this was going on, the sound of machine-guns started up. Some troops were kneeling down and firing. Their bullets whizzed above our heads. The troops lying on their stomachs shot up into the students’ chests and faces. We had no choice but to retreat back up onto the Monument. When we reached it the machine-guns stopped. But the troops on the Monument beat us back down again. As soon as we’d been beaten down, the machine-guns started up again. This manoeuvre was plainly designed to avoid troops firing directly onto the Monument, and chipping or pocking the stone fresco of heroes (though, as television news has shown, they did hit a few). 

The dare-to-die brigade of workers and citizens picked up anything that served as a weapon – bottles, pieces of wood – and rushed towards the troops to resist them. The Students’ Union gave the order to retreat to places outside the Square. It was not yet five o’clock. A great crowd of students rushed toward the gap in the line of troop carriers. The heartless drivers closed the gap. Thirty-odd carriers drove into the crowd. Some people were crushed to death. Even the flagpole in front of the Monument was snapped off. The whole Square was in massive chaos. I’d never thought my fellow-students could be so brave. Some started to push at the troop carriers. They were mown down. Others clambered over their corpses and pushed too. Finally they managed to push one or two carriers aside and open up a gap. I and 3,000 other students rushed through under a hail of fire. We ran across to the entrance to the History Museum. There were large numbers of citizens in front of the Museum. We joined up with them. Seeing how bad things were, we immediately ran off to the north in the direction of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. But we’d only gone a few steps when rifle fire broke out from a clump of bushes alongside the road. We saw no people-just the bursts of fire from the gun-barrels. So we turned and ran off south towards the Front Gate. 

I was running and weeping. I saw a second batch of students running off under machine-gun fire. I saw lots of people lying on their stomachs on the road that we were trying to escape along. We were all crying – running and crying. When we reached the Front Gate, we were suddenly confronted by a batch of troops. They didn’t open fire. They were armed with big wooden staves. They beat us furiously. Then a large crowd of citizens came pouring out of the Front Gate. They clashed violently with these troops. They protected us while we escaped in the direction of Beijing railway station. The troops pursued us. It was five o’clock. Dawn was breaking. The gunfire on the Square seemed to have died down a little. Later I met a fellow student at the International Red Cross. He told me that at five o’clock the last group to escape had broken out. The machine-guns continued to rake the Square throughout, for 20 minutes or so. I’ll never forget another student from Qinghua who was shot and wounded but still carried on running with us. He was determined not to give up. As we ran along he touched me on the shoulder and said, “Could you please support me for a bit?” I was already supporting two physically weak female students, one on each arm. I could do nothing for him. I put him down on the ground. The crowd trampled over him. . . There’s no way he could have survived. Look, this is his blood on my back. Half his body was covered in blood. 

I will never forget my fellow-students being mown down by machine-guns. Others selflessly, and with complete disregard for all danger, dragged away the corpses and tended to the wounded. Women students took off garments to make bandages for people’s wounds. Soon some were almost naked. After we’d run off to the railway station, I and two other students went back to the Square. By then it was 6.30am. A great crowd of citizens surrounded the Front Gate. I followed them further into the Square until I got to the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. Lines of armoured troop carriers blocked the way. Troops formed a human wall. I went to the side of the road and climbed a tree. I could see soldiers on the Square putting the corpses of the students and citizens in plastic bags, one corpse to a bag. Then they piled them up under a big canvas. The troops weren’t letting ambulances of the International Red Cross enter the Square to help the wounded. I with another student hurried off at once to the Red Cross first aid centre at Peace Gate. We saw many casualties being taken there by trishaw. The doctors told me that an ambulance trying to get into the Square had been shot at and set on fire. I saw students there from the second, third, and fourth batches of escapers. They said that many students who had fallen to the ground wounded were still lying on the Square. 

At around 7.20am, I went back to the Square for a second time. I asked what was happening. I particularly questioned a group of a dozen or so elderly people. They said that corpses were lying in long rows on the pavement round the Square and that the troops were hanging up sheets of canvas so that the citizens could not see them. They said that lots of trucks had driven into the Square and taken away the wounded. At about 7.30am the troops on the Square suddenly launched gas canisters at these people. A large group of soldiers charged us. I ran back to the railway station. On the way I saw students from the first and second break-outs, all crying. The Students’ Union assigned us Beijing students the job of escorting students from outside Beijing to the railway station. I was hoping to put them on to trains, but a railway official said none were running. There was nothing for it but to leave the station. We were besieged by a great crowd of citizens who wanted to take the students to their homes and hide them. They were sad. They were all crying. The people of Beijing are truly good, they are truly good. 

Edited to add: Free Tibet, Free Hong Kong, and Taiwan is a country. 


Friday, June 03, 2022

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Bread in a time of wheat shortage

Hopefully, with the current problems in the world, you won't need to use the recipes. That said, I was interested in his remark at the beginning of the video that, in the old-timey days, white bread was much preferred to darker bread. White bread was what affluent people ate, while poorer people had to settle for the cheaper, darker bread.

I've got a story about that. My maternal Grandmother immigrated to the States from Slovakia when she was in her teens. She ended up working for a very wealthy family as a maid (virtually everybody reading this post would recognize the very large company they owned). Eventually she became the companion to the matriarch of that family. In fact, even after she resigned, she would still routinely visit the matriarch to chat and drink tea.

One day while drinking their tea they were watching some workers who broke for lunch and took out their white bread sandwiches. The matriarch tsk-tsked that's that why the workers were poor. They didn't know how to manage their money and so they splurged on expensive white bread. 

My Grandmother just rolled her eyes when she told the story. At the time white bread was actually cheaper than darker breads. As my Grandmother told the story, the point of it was how out of touch this wealthy woman was with the lives of common people. That she, as insolated as she was in her mansion, could not comprehend the reality regular people navigated. 

I'll end the post by saying I hope you won't be reduced to eating potato bread -- but if you are, the Lords of the Manor will not be likewise inconvenienced. Sadly, those same Lords of the Manor will be deciding what's good for us plebes.