Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Opportunity lost

This isn't a post about missed chances, it is a video of the end of NASA's Martian rover Opportunity. It is the final of a seven-part video series about the rover. Built to last 90 days, it more than exceeded expectations by functioning for over 14 years before finally failing after a bad Martian sandstorm.


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Old forts

Click and image to enlarge

A fort is a spot occupied permanently, or at least for a long time, by military forces. So, a modern military base, even if only surrounded by a chain link fence, is by definition a fort. However, in our imaginations when we think of forts, we think of forts from the past. We picture palisades, cannons by the ready and troops lining the walls. Here are some paintings and drawings of those older style of forts both as they were or in ruins.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Riding coasters

Above is a front seat ride aboard the Twister at Noebels, Pennsylvania. It is a nice old wooden roller coaster. From there were head to Switzerland for two rides. The first is the Pradaschier Mountain Coaster in Churwalden which is a long ride down the side of a mountain. We then get off the rails to take a summer toboggan ride at Fräkigaudi on the Fräkmüntegg. Enjoy (if you don't get motion sickness from watching the videos). 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Advertising magic

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These are posters of old-timey magicians and psychics. Today magicians are understood to be slight-of-hand artists and to use props. They don't, with the exception of spoon bending frauds like Uri Geller, promote themselves to be anything else. However, as can be seen from these promotional posters, back in the day they presented themselves as possessing all manner of ancient Egyptian and Oriental arcane knowledge. I have no idea how seriously people took their claims, but it was common in their marketing. They managed to craft some wonderfully goofy personas in the process.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Space food

As demonstrated by Homer Simpson in the above clip, eating in zero gravity is a problem. You don't want food particles floating about creating a mess, so since the start of manned flight ways have been created to provide food and drink to spacefarers in a controlled manner.

In the video below we go to the NASA's Space Food Systems Laboratory where they expain the development, and some of the issues of space food packaging. That's followed by a video of a rather chipper young lady taste testing old-timey Soviet space food. The final video is about Japanese space food. It ends with a segment about some Japanese high schoolers making canned mackerel in soy sauce which they eventually send to the ISS. The jokes about American teenagers TikTokking themselves into terminal stupidity write themselves, so I'll just leave it at that.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Erika Stearly's interiors

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Erika Stearly is a Pennsylvania based contemporary artist. Painting in acrylic and watercolor, she specializes in painting home interiors. I quite like her wild use of color and shapes to render the settings. As well as selling her paintings, she also sells reasonably priced matted prints of her works.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

The Mandate of Heaven

It is a little odd for me to do back-to-back posts, but the current flooding in China is horrific. A couple of typhoons hit northeast China. The flooding was already bad, but then Peking, including the Forbidden City, started to flood as well. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) couldn't have that, so they opened flood gates and completely swamped the surrounding cities and villages. This obliterated a lot of their homes, businesses, farmlands and the current crops.

The officials haven't done much of anything but film propaganda videos supposedly showing their amazing rescue efforts. Meanwhile, food and goods that have been donated for the people in need have been taken and locked up in warehouses where they'll no doubt turn a tidy profit for corrupt officials. Needless to say, the people are not happy at all.

It's all quite horrible. It brings to mind the Mandate of Heaven, the Confucian version of the Divine Right to Tule, and how it can be revoked. These are ideas that still have some purchase among the Chinese.  

Mencius pointed out that "Heaven does not create people for the sake of the sovereign. Heaven made the sovereign for the sake of the people". The ruler must, therefore, at all times be guided by the principle of benevolence or jen. He is both the mother and father of the people. Further, if there were suitable omens such as floods and droughts and the ruler was proving less capable of fulfilling his mandate than he ought to have been, then Mencius considered it legitimate for the people, if not actually to overthrow their ruler and find a new one, then at least to show their disapproval through rebellion and protest. World History Encyclopedia.


Walking in sunny Nuuk, Greenland

This is a walk in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. He claims it is on a nice sunny day, but all the snow and what-not lying about makes it look like a frigid hellhole to me. The walk starts on a boardwalk on the seashore. The houses lining it look nice. 

Eventually he enters the city and the first thing I notice is a group of picnic tables outside of what I assume is a restaurant. There is a group of diners, in parkas, sitting at them and presumably enjoying their lunches. I think to myself, "wait -- these lunatics are trying to eat outside in the midst of a polar vortex???"

As we walk further into the city, we come across a public beach. To my amazement there is a group of people, again in parkas, frolicking about on the water's edge. I begin to entertain the possibility that prolonged exposure to cold causes brain damage. I am thankful that I escaped to Florida before I lost too many IQ points.

He then climbs a hill above a scenic church which gives him a good view of the city. A walk into the city's business district shows it to be a very pleasant, modern and well maintained. It looks, aside from the freezing cold, to be a nice place.


Sunday, August 06, 2023

Rasputin's daughter

Maria Rasputin with a picture of her father
(click any image to enlarge)

Grigori Rasputin, the infamous Mad Monk of Tsar Nicholas II's court, started as a preacher in Siberia. He gained a reputation as a holy man and eventually made his way to St Petersburg where he caught the eye of the Tsarina Alexandra. Because she believed that Rasputin had healed her sickly son Alexei, he became a favorite of hers and soon moved into the court. Rasputin had a wife, two daughters and a son. They moved into the court as well, and the children were tutored in social graces and became friends with the Tsar's children.

By 1915 things were not going well for the Russians in WWI. Rasputin, who was a drunkard and a womanizer along with being a charlatan, was unpopular and blamed for discrediting the royal family. In 1916 a group of conspirators shot and killed Rasputin (the stories that he was also poisoned and tossed still alive into an icy river are almost certainly embellishments). 

His family continued to live in the court until the October Revolution of 1916. At that point the Tsarina gave them some money and suggested that they flee from Russia. Only Maria, the eldest daughter, escaped to Europe. Her mother and brother disappeared into Russian labor camps and her sister died of mysterious circumstances in St. Petersburg.

Maria first returned to her home in Siberia where she married Boris Soloviev. The two of them led a fugitive existence in Russia until they fled to Europe where they travelled from city to city as refugees. They finally settled in Paris where Boris worked in a soap factory, as a night porter, and as a car washer. They had two daughters.   

In 1926 Boris died and Maria was left alone with her two daughters. She made ends meet by working as a maid and a companion to a wealthy fellow Russian expat woman. She then, because of her father's notorious name, got an offer to be a cabaret dancer in Bucharest. I think her act may have involved dramatizing her father's lunatic reputation, which could not have been pleasant for her. Still, she spent several years dancing in Europe. She also published her first book, The Real Rasputin, about her father.

She then moved on to, of all things, being an animal trainer in a travelling circus. She published a second book at this time. In 1935 while working with Ringling Bothers Circus she went to the United States. She was a successful draw. From Atlas Obscuras post The Many Lives of Maria Rasputin, Daughter of the 'Mad Monk':

Americans were unsurprisingly fascinated by Maria, and papers across the country carried pictures of her with captions like, “European wild animal trainer and self-declared daughter of Russia’s ‘mad monk’ tries to hypnotize a circus elephant in Philadelphia.” She was also featured along with other Ringling Brothers stars on the back of a Wheaties box, extolling the cereal as “the breakfast of champions.”

Maria formally immigrated to the U.S. in 1937. After being mauled by a bear she quit the circus, got married and settled in Los Angeles. The marriage did not last. To support herself she became a machinist in a shipyard, becoming one of America's wartime Rosie the Riveters. 

When she retired from the shipyards, she supported herself with Social Security and the occasional babysitting jobs and interviews. She also published her final book Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth. She died in 1977.

Altogether a remarkable life: from a Siberian village to the Russian imperial palace, on the run from the red army, cabaret dancing in Europe's capitals, animal training acts in circuses, a machinist in the U.S., and an eventual peaceful retirement. She certainly didn't lead a dull life.  

Friday, August 04, 2023

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

CH-47 Chinook heavy cargo transporter

Above is a good explanation of how a Chinock's rotors and blade pitch is controlled to maneuver the helicopter. Below we one take off, go through some maneuvers, and then land.