Workshop Tools: Gloves

Take a close look at the following photo, and you will see the hands of an idiot who was not following safety procedures. He was not wearing gloves.  Yes, he can find extenuating circumstances to explain away both incidents. The injuries are minor. That is not the point. Both incidents could have been avoided if gloves had been used.

Unnecessary injuries caused by not wearing gloves.

People who work with sharp tools should wear gloves. It should be part of the kit!

A glove, part of the safety equipment every woodworker should learn to wear.

Unitarianism

I am an active member of the Baha’i Faith, an organization that is currently unable to grow, at least where I live, in Norway. My simplified analysis of the situation, is that becoming a Baha’i is too big a step, for the majority of the population. People need an opportunity to take a smaller step, first. Then, at some point in the future, measured in years or generations, they (or their descendants) will be able to make another smaller step, and become Baha’is.

This is precisely what I had to do. I had grown up in a trinitarian family in the 1950s. It was a time heavily influenced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, which mandated church attendance. Despite hours of Sunday School, I found it impossible to understand many concepts that many Christians find fundamental. The first of these was the trinity. Yes, I can accept that there is a God. Yes, I can accept that a person called Jesus lived, and promoted a better way of life, including treating people in the same way you want to be treated. I regarded him as a prophet.

My second problem is Jesus dying for my sins. I commit my own sins and will have to bear responsibility for them myself. Like the majority, I would prefer forgiveness or grace, but it is not up to me to decide if I am worthy of it. Saying that Jesus dying on the cross, resulting in the forgiveness of others’ mistakes is too easy. It just encourages selfishness, and yet more irresponsible action.

A third problematic area has to do with the relationship between creator (normally referred to as God) and his creation (which includes us humans). I have no problems with people being indirectly created (yes, that is why we have sex!) fully accepting evolution. I have no problems with Big Bang, placing this incarnation of the universe at about 13.8 billion years of age.

One of the real challenges that I have has to do with miracles. If one accepts that there is divine intervention at the micro-level, then humans do not need to do anything about, say, the increased carbonization of the atmosphere, and its effects on climate. God will simply come along one day, and fix it for us. At the same time God could replenish the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, so everyone can continue to drive fossil-fuelers into eternity, while the Saudi Arabians make even more money. A belief in divine intervention has enormous implications for life on this planet.

On the more personal level, a true believer in miracles has no need to change behaviour. One does not have to quit smoking, because God will not allow cellular mutants to cause lung cancer. One does not have to be particularly careful in a workshop, because God will regrow missing limbs.  One does not have to reduce plastic consumption, because God will clean rivers and seas, and make everything perfect again.

Perhaps what I find most astonishing about some tribes of trinitarians, is their ambivalence. They may visit their local doctor, have blood samples taken and checked, and then use science based medications to ameliorate a medical problem. That seems sensible, and I do the same thing. Yet, these same people are unable to visit their local climatologist, have air and other environmental samples taken and checked, and then then use science based corrections to ameliorate a climate problem affecting the entire world.

The interior of the Unitarian Church, Vancouver. (Photo: Rob Atkins 2017 Vancouver Heritage Foundation)

My initial response to these trinitarian problems, was to search for a solution more in keeping with my beliefs and principles. I found Unitarianism to be palatable for me. This was not because of the popularity of Unitarianism. Today, in Canada, there are only 3 804 members, in 46 congregations. To say that 1 in 10 000 Canadians is a Unitarian, is an exaggeration.

Once I became a Unitarian, and accepted Jesus as a prophet, I was then able to accept other prophets, including those of the old testament, and Islam. Thus, when I became introduced to the Baha’i Faith, I could accept it on its own merits. It fit into my accepted pattern.

The Baha’i Faith is almost eight times larger than Unitarianism. The Canadian Encyclopedia writes; “As of 2015, there were an estimated 30,000 Baha’is in Canada, a number that includes French- and English-speaking members of the faith living in 1,200 communities. An estimated 18 per cent of the Baha’i community in Canada are Inuit or First Nations people, while recent immigrants make up 30 per cent.”

 

 

 

Redneck(erchief)

In my own unique way, I am attempting to rehabilitate the term “redneck”. On Tuesday, 2018-04-17, my wife, Patricia, made me a red bandanna. She also made herself a blue headscarf. These do not indicate political differences between us, but rather personal colour preferences.

Because the red cotton material is heavy, and identical to that used on my labcoat, it was difficult to knot. Thus, rather than tying it, I  constructed a Turk’s Head woggle that was ready on Saturday, 2018-04-21. It is made out of 4mm white parachute cord.

Redneck(erchief) with Turk’s Head woggle aka slide.

Redneck History

One of the earliest recorded uses of Redneck dates from the 1890’s. It refers to “poorer inhabitants of the rural districts…men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin burned red by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks”.

In 1921, the term became synonymous with armed insurrection against the state, as members of the United Mine Workers of America tied red bandannas around their necks during the Battle of Blair Mountain, a two week long armed multi-racial labor uprising in the coalfields of West Virginia. This has been noted in an earlier blog post.

​From the mid-1950s, and forward to today, the term has become increasingly demeaning. This is one way in which an economic elite can “divide and conquer”. They not only dehumanize the working class poor, they try to create ethnic and racial divides. “Redneck” is part of a trilogy of degrading names to describe rural poor, the others being  “white trash” and “hillbilly”.

In much the same way that the term “queer” was rehabilitated by homosexuals, “redneck” is meeting its own renaissance. Redneck Revolt was founded in 2016 as an armed, anti-racist, anti-fascist community. Personally, I won’t be joining this revolt, if only for two reasons. First, the term “anti-” creates unnecessary divisions; second, my commitment to pacifism means that I won’t be carrying a weapon.

 

Seeds: Localized Design

How should an environmental product, in this case a hydroponic vertical “farm” housed in a 15 square meter geodesic greenhouse, be “packaged” so that its design can be localized elsewhere? While the initial product design is intended to be used in Inderøy, Norway, there are many other places in the world where this product might be useful. Thus, this is an exercise in designing “localization” into the initial product, rather than adding it later.

The Inderøy Friends of the Earth group is considering making a prototype of a hydroponic vertical “farm” housed and geodesic greenhouse during the autumn of 2018. One of the designs being looking at is by Paul Langdon. It is shown below.

Paul Langdon may have provided drawings for his Vertical Hydroponic Farm. In much of the world they would be worthless, since all of the dimensions are in non-metric units. The terms gallon and GPH = gallons per hour, cause additional problems, because one is not sure if these are referring to American or Imperial gallons. The referenced website that could provide clarification, is no longer operative. The only hint is an American date, month, day followed by year. https://www.hackster.io/bltrobotics/vertical-hydroponic-farm-44fef9

As can be seen all of the dimensions in the Langdon design are in non-metric units. This means that anyone using this design, will have to translate those dimensions into metric units, then source equivalent metric components or find alternatives.

Theodor Levitt (1925-2006) Harvard Business School professor, editor of the Harvard Business Review, popularizer of the term globalization, definer of corporate purpose, “Rather than merely making money, it is to create and keep a customer.” The Marketing Imagination, (1983) New York: Free Press.

Yes, this is a globalized world, but despite the efforts of Apple, Ford and Macdonalds the world is surprisingly culturally diverse. In the early 1980s Levitt decided that with lessened cultural differences standard products could be provided throughout the world.

John Heskett in Design: A Short Introduction (2005) Oxford: Oxford UP provides the counter-example of Electrolux, convinced that Europe should be a single market for refrigerator/freezer units, like the USA. “[T]he divergent cultures of Europe intransigently failed to follow the American pattern. In Northern Europe, for example, people shop weekly and need equal freezer and refrigerator space. Southern Europeans still tend to shop daily in small local markets and need smaller units. The British eat more frozen vegetables than elsewhere in the world and need 60 per cent freezer space. Some want the freezer on top, some on the bottom. Electrolux attempted to streamline operations but seven years later the company still produced 120 basic designs with 1,500 variants and had found it necessary to launch new refrigerators designed to appeal to specific market niches.” (p. 32)

While gardeners in Inderøy are accustomed to the local climate, as well as weather variations, it is not possible for anyone to have an overview of the climatic situation for everywhere else in the world. Unlike Levitt, we have to assume that other locations will have other needs. Thus, any localized product outside of the bounds of Scandinavia, will undoubtedly need some form of redesign.

It can be debated where localization should start. For a hydroponic greenhouse, it may actually start with a product description on a website, followed by an assembly, operation and maintenance instruction manual wiki. At a slightly different level, it may have to be implemented in the user interface of the hydroponic control unit.

The localization process starts with language, with the goal of making and keeping customers, or equivalent.  Providing a text translated by Google, will only torment consumers. Jargon, idioms and slang have to be understood so that they can be used or avoided assiduously. Local practices have to be recognized, respected, and reflected. Colours impart cultural nuances. In Scandinavia, yellow text on a blue background, may not have a positive impact everywhere in the region! With four prominent languages in Scandinavia, it is important that packaging messages be consistent. Most Finns can read some Swedish, so that equivalent messages have be conveyed in each language. It not, there will be a breach of trust.

If a product is to have a reach beyond the local or regional, informational materials (if not the product itself) must be designed to target locally.  The initial design must allow for flexible and dynamic layout.

Language verbosity means that information must allow text expansion and contraction in different languages. How much to allow is subject to discussion. Here are comments about this topic in one blog: ” … a Spanish document will be 25%-30% longer than the English source …” (Susana Galilea); “… in Finnish the text will become about 30 % shorter, but the number of characters may grow a bit. When translating from German into Finnish the character count decreases by 10 % and word count by 40 %.” (Heinrich Pesch); “… contrary to popular belief, translations are generally longer than the originals, independently of the language pair.” (Óscar Canales). https://www.proz.com/forum/linguistics/17596-document_lenght_difference_between_english_and_other_languages.html

Information design should be flexible, so that design elements can be fitted in appropriately. Fixed sizes may lead to text or other design elements appearing cropped or lost in an excessive empty space. They should be positioned relative to each other but without fixed placements or sizes in order to allow them to realign as required for every language.

The choice of font can impact layout, and in turn, readability. Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text. It covers most of the world’s writing systems, with 136,755 characters and 139 scripts. It is specified in ISO/IEC 10646, which includes code charts for visual reference, an encoding method and set of standard character encodings, reference data files, character properties, rules for normalization, decomposition, collation, rendering, and bidirectional display order.

Google Noto Fonts provide 64 000 of the 136 755 characters defined in Unicode 10.0 which can be used for web as well as desktop applications. Even though 72 755 characters are missing, Noto supports most common languages in the world. Fonts can be downloaded here: https://www.google.com/get/noto/

Since font size varies from language to language, a size that is readable in one language may be difficult to read in another. There is no ideal multilingual font size. Allowing for variable font size is the most appropriate way to provide a give a good user experience across languages and devices. One approach is to use separate language-specific style sheets and define specific styles for each language.

Right to Left languages such as Hebrew or Arabic create their own challenges. Designing packaging so that text can be flipped will accommodate these languages. Yet not everything can be flipped. Challenges arise with: Images, graphs (x– and y–axes are the same in all languages), music notation, clocks, video controls and timeline indicators.

Numerical data, such as calendar-related (startday of week, week numbers, date conventions), clock-related (24 hour vs 12 hour time) are handled differently not just from language to language, but culture to culture. On a website it is particularly important that nominal values are converted into local values. This contributes to a positive user experience.

Languages have their own sorting rules. For example, an alphabetical list of menu items, may not appear in the same order in different languages. Often, it is more appropriate to sort by function.

Texts that are embedded within images, create their own challenges, so these should be avoided. If they have to be used, SVG files support text that can be easily localized.

Icons may mean different things in different cultures. To avoid offensive icons it may be appropriate to use icons that are universally understood and accepted, but these don’t always exist. Unfortunately, images carry cultural baggage.

The Inderøy hydroponic vertical “farm” project, will undoubtedly be open source, with source information provided in a multi-language wiki. If nothing else, English and Norwegian. Many Swedes, as an example, would probably find it easier to translate from English into Swedish, than from Norwegian (especially New Norwegian) into Swedish. In Norway, English is understood by many, and many might consider it unnecessary to localize information into Norwegian. The English Proficiency Index (EPI) puts Norway in fourth place, behind the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden for non-native English proficiency. In 2017, Norway was one of only eight countries to receive the ‘very high’ proficiency rank. Throughout Europe, and the rest of the world, women are more proficient than men in English. The exception is Norway.

As this 2016 map below indicates, not all countries are equally proficient in English, and why localization is necessary.

 

Ranked Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Thank you, Alexis Petridis. You have saved me thousands of hours of listening to Rock & Roll and presented me (and everyone) with a ranked list of musicians. The real thing can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/apr/19/what-no-whitney-the-biggest-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-snubs-ever-ranked

Kraftwerk (Photo: Shinko Music)

Since the quantity of music I listen to can be measured in minutes per year, it could take many months for me to hear all of these 20 (or 27) musicians. A few months ago, I actually binge listened to a YouTube collection of 1960s popular music. Never again. It took close to two weeks for my tinnitus to recover.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland. Rather than wasting time finding out more about it, you would be better off learning something about Ahmet Ertegun, and why he was a pivotal figure in American music. Yes, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will be tied in. Here is a good place to start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmet_Ertegun

20. Björk

19. Lee “Scratch” Perry

18. Suicide

17. Larry Williams

16. Black Flag (Also mentioned: Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys)

15. Derrick May

14. Roberta Flack

13. Love

12. Depeche Mode (Also mentioned: The Cure)

11. Eric Be & Rakim

10. Whitney Houston

9. The New York Dolls

8. Kate Bush

7. Captain Beefheart

6. Iron Maiden (Also mentioned: Judas Priest)

5. Johnny Burnette

4. Gil Scott-Heron

3. Gram Parsons

2. Kraftwerk (Also mentioned: Can, Neu! Trans-Europe Express)

1. Chic

Full disclosure: Cleveland shares the same lake, Erie, with notable other locations, including Essex County, Ontario. Cleveland has a soft spot in my heart. I visited it from Christmas 1967 to New Year’s day 1968, attending a convention of the Student Christian Movement. Ohio was the second US state I ever visited. (Washington was the first, located less than half-an hour driving from my childhood house.) For those interested in the minutiae of my life in the subsequent fifty years I have visited two additional US states, Oregon, also in 1968 and California, in 2015.

Confession: I am aware of listening to the following on the list: Björk, Black Flag, Roberta Flack, Depeche Mode, Whitney Houston, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! and Trans-Europe Express. Neither Roberta Flack nor Whitney Houston have made in onto my personal Top 1 000 list of favourite musicians.

Weblog

A tidy desk reflects a tidy mind.

In the beginning there was a blog. Its first post was published on Saturday, 13 June 2009 at 22:22, brockmclellan.wordpress.com eventually morphed into Brock at Cliff Cottage. On Thursday, 12 May 2016 at 19:49, it was supplemented with the first post from unitwon.wordpress.com, Unit One, originally used an assortment of personas to write about various topics, before its focus changed to workshop operations.

These personas explored different topics. Jade Marmot looked at video production; Qwerty Asdf specialized in screenwriting;  Proton Bletchley investigated science and technology; Alexa Qvam wrote (children’s) fiction, while Billi Sodd addressed art. There were also minor personas: Precious Dollar wrote about the economy, Brigand Brewer about history, Liberty & Modesty Patience about ethics.

In order to write more about industrial design, I usurped my daughter’s blog designeeds.wordpress.com stylized as Needs, Seeds and Weeds, on Sunday, 29 October 2017, publishing my first post at 04:37. She had originally started it Thursday, 19 July 2012 at 13:33. After writing five posts, it was not used after Wednesday, 24 October 2012 at 09:44. It had been dormant for over five years, before I started using it.

These three blogs still exist at WordPress.com. They are currently hibernating, and will continue to do so until their replacement (brock.mclellan.no)  is mature enough to survive on its own. Yes, as noted in another post, all three of these have been merged, because it became impossible to distinguish the one site from another.

Despite having written more blogposts than tweets, by more than an order of magnitude, I am still a novice when it comes to blog writing. Writing a blog for me, serves much the same purpose as writing a diary does for others. It also replaces Facebook.

In much the same way that the prefaces Needs, Seeds and Weeds indicate that a post is concerned with (industrial) design, Ethan & Ethel posts are for young woodworkers, Charm relates to travel and photography. Now, Weblog will alert readers that a post relates to the technical, aesthetic and social aspects of blogging. In the future you can expect new prefaces to indicate special topics.

Operating a blog outside of WordPress or Blogger, is a very different proposition to operating one inside. Like a transition to adulthood, there is more freedom, along with greater responsibility. Thus, it has becoming necessary to learn new blogging skills, which will be reported on here using the Weblog preface.

Social Media revisited

‘If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.’ Theresa May, 2016

Unlike Facebook, I am not “stockpiling and mining user information”. As far as I am aware, neither Cambridge Analytics, nor their lackey, AggregateIQ, are scraping posts. Yet, this blog is another incarnation of social media with an agenda (of attempting) to influence reader opinion.

Bill Blunden notes, “Social media is a form of mass surveillance and a tool of elite control. Buy product X, vote for candidate Y, support regime change movement Z. Pay no attention to the CEO behind the curtain.”

Dear reader, rest assured, I am not a member of any elite group. This includes Elite Singles, from whom I regularly receive invitations to join.

Yet, Blunden is correct when he states that messaging reinforces existing beliefs, and is part of a “divide and conquer strategy which the power elite have traditionally wielded to hobble the proles.” In fact, I see wisdom in his conclusion that “Readers should be wary of social media bubbles, safe spaces, and the like. …instituting societal change means reaching out to other folks. Some of whom may have different ways of viewing the world. Resist the temptation to write them off and have the humility to accept the limits of your own understanding.”

Currently, this blog only reaches a very narrow market. An optimist  would be exaggerating by saying that it was somewhere between ten and twenty people, limited to family members and a few real friends. Its sphere of influence could be expanded to perhaps a hundred people –  a few more (former) friends, Facebook acquaintances as well as others who have currently escaped Facebook attention, mainly Somewherians who lived in New Westminster in my formative years.

The market could be expanded more, if I chose to focus exclusively on an educational mission, ignoring family history and my blatant political, philosophical and other biases. Unfortunately, that isn’t me.

Blunden writes, “Take personal responsibility for your own social life. Go back to engaging flesh and blood people without tech companies serving as an intermediary. Eschew the narcissistic impulse to broadcast the excruciating minutiae of your life to the world. Refuse to accept the mandate that you must participate in social media in order to participate in society. Reclaim your autonomy.”

Birdhouses and beyond

The Inderøy birdhouse, a workshop project with a social and environmental profile.

One of the purposes of Hastighet (= Velocity) techno-garage, a local maker-space start-up, is to encourage the development of real-world Somewherian relationships with others from Inderøy. It is in the workshop world that people can make manifest their social and environmental ideals.

On Saturday, 2018-04-14, at E@ Internet Cafe, Inderøy, anyone could build themselves a birdhouse. Their only cost was an investment of time, during which they transformed 6 pre-cut, pre-drilled boards, 14 screws and a length of wire into a functioning house for a homeless member of the Paridae (tit) family, of which seven species live in Norway.

Almost 60 building sets were made, including one prototype. In the end, 14 bird houses were assembled and given away to specific people, for their contribution to the environmental movement in Inderøy. Currently, there are 17 kits left over. That means that more than 25 kits were assembled, or taken home for later assembly, by people attending the event.

Common birds, especially farmland birds, are in sharp decline in Europe.

As the graph above shows, common birds, especially farmland birds, are in sharp decline in Europe. Giving a child their own personal birdhouse, can foster an interest in the environment that may last a lifetime. With Workshop activism a focus for some members, the Inderøy Friends of the Earth is considering inviting all pupils of a particular grade, yet to be determined, to the Hastighet workshop in 2019 to build yet more bird houses. The real purpose is not to teach woodworking, but environmentalism. However, before this is done, a plan has to be made so that all school children are given regular opportunities to experience practical environmentalism, through woodworking. Additional plans also include a Repair Cafe, which would focus on rehabilitating rather than discarding products. It should also be noted that while some people were making birdhouses, others were working at the annual clothing exchange, making sure that inappropriately sized clothing received new owners.

Thus, my considered reply to Blunden is that I do take personal responsibility for my own social life. I am engaging with flesh and blood people, but I am also engaging with people who are geographically more distant, but emotionally closer. These are typically Nowherians living in places as diverse as Bergen, Prince Rupert and San Francisco. It is to keep in close contact with these that I have now turned to my blog. I dream of using Diaspora, but no critical mass has emerged there. I have applied to have an account with hello.com when it becomes available in Norway. It is a social networking service founded by Orkut Büyükkökten, the creator of Orkut.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out of Social Media

Plenty

Plenty is a vertical farming investment company. Here are a couple of links to articles that describe it:

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/11/8/16611710/vertical-farms

https://www.fastcompany.com/40420610/has-this-silicon-valley-startup-finally-nailed-the-indoor-farming-model

The first is more optimistic (as seen from Plenty’s perspective) than the second.

Here is what I’ve learned.

Upstart (or is it startup?) Plenty is a knowledge based enterprise.
Artificial intelligence is its most fundamental tool.
Hiring people is not a high priority.
Plenty has USD 200 million in owner equity.
Investment target, every city with a population over 1 million. (500 farms)
One key technology is LED lighting.
Primary farming method is hydroponics.
Primary investment object is a 10 000 m2 vertical farm.
Each farm will produce 2 000 tons of food, annually.
Each farm will be 350 times more efficient than land based farms, for some products.
Water consumption is 1% of land based farms per kg prodused.
Major savings coming from reduced transportation costs.
It takes 30 days from construction start, until a farm is ready to produce.

For further insights read the articles.

Rednecks

Rednecks (Sébastien Thibault, 2018, appearing in The Guardian, 2018-04-14)

I have just added a new item to the shopping list, a clean, but second-hand, red bandanna, after reading an article in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/14/redneck-pride-west-virginia-protests-strikes

I am unaware of any family links to West Virginia, genetic or adoptive, but I do have family links to coal mining, and occupational links to union membership, being a retired member in good standing of “norsk lektorlag”, sometimes translated as the Norwegian union of master teachers.

My paternal grandfather was secretary of the Nanaimo Local of the United Mine Workers Union of America. Here, coal miners were independent, tough, and proud and became among the most radical and militant labourers in an extremely polarized province. They were the core of the socialist movement; their strikes were frequent, long and bitter. John Hinde (2011). When Coal Was King: Ladysmith and the Coal-Mining Industry on Vancouver Island. UBC Press. p. 4.

The most violent labour clash in B.C. took place in the coalfields of Vancouver Island, 1912–13. The initial cause of the 1912 strike was a gas explosion that killed 32. When two miners reported gas in another mine, they were dismissed. Fellow workers demanded that they be reinstated. The company retaliated by locking out the miners. Miners all over the island downed their tools in solidarity. Management resorted to tactics they had used in the past to break the strike. In Cumberland, Chinese miners were threatened with eviction and even deportation if they didn’t return to work. In that bitter environment, riots, gun battles, burnings, and clashes between strikers and scabs escalated. The government sent in special constables and the 72nd Regiment to aid the company. Over 250 were arrested, including Labour MLAs and the leader of the newly established British Columbia Federation of Labour. The  strike continued for over two years . Eventually the United Mine Workers of America, after providing $16,000 a week to a total of more than one million dollars, ran out of money. The workers, faced with this reality, called off the strike. The settlement guaranteed improvements, but the employers reneged on the agreement.

The labour movement in B.C. is famous in Canada for its militant and socialist roots. British Columbia by the 1880s had the highest proportion of unionist to general population. In company mining towns where class differences were easily observable, unsafe working conditions, low wages, easy communication, and the necessity of solidarity led to a labour history that at times verged on class war. Division between workers based on race, industrial unions or craft unions, socialist vs. non-socialist, often divided workers and weakened their common objectives. Nevertheless, many of the great demands of labour were eventually met: eight- hour day, safety conditions, old-age pensions, universal suffrage, minimum wage, and an end to child labour.

Back to the Guardian. In West Virginia, the term “redneck” dates back to the early 1900s. In 1921, black, white and immigrant mineworkers took up arms to battle the coal companies that controlled and exploited every aspect of their lives. United, they wore red bandannas to identify each other in battle. They called themselves the “Redneck Army”.

The West Virginia mine wars were the bloodiest labor conflict in American history. It was 10 000 mine workers against a private army of more than 2,000 mercenaries and multiple airplanes equipped to drop bombs on workers, American federal troops armed with gas and more planes. See: https://www.redneckrevolt.org/single-post/2016/07/24/BATTLE-OF-BLAIR-MOUNTAIN

By the 1910s, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) was fighting for pay equality, and requiring an oath from every member not to discriminate against any fellow member by “creed, or color, or nationality”. Its first paid organizer in West Virginia was a black man, and an early planning committee consisted of three officers: one white person born in West Virginia, one Italian immigrant and one black person. See, James Green (2015) The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom, Atlantic Monthly Press.

Other struggles featuring West Virginia:

In 1774, Point Pleasant. The first battle of the revolutionary war.

In 1863, Western Virginians formed their own state government in Wheeling. It rejected slavery and defended the Union.

Mine wars continued until the 1930s when the laws finally changed, union ranks swelled and mine protections improved.

Today, West Virginia is in the midst of another revolutionary moment. Since 2016, Volunteer-led resistance groups have arisen: RiseUp (Charleston), Mountaineers for Progress (Morgantown), and Huddles and Indivisibles (both State wide) across the state.

In March 2018, teachers in every one of West Virginia’s 55 counties went on strike, at the same time dozens of volunteer feeding and childcare programs cropped up. A citizen-led strike fund raised and distributed US$ 332 000. Thousands of teachers, janitors and bus drivers won 5% raises for all public employees. Then, a week later, West Virginia communications workers went on strike and won their own fight for job security. Now, teachers’ strikes are spreading nationwide.

The Guardian article concludes with, “These hills were once home to one of the most powerful and diverse working-class movements in American history. That legacy lives on.”

Quiet Sunday

Spring is in the air. I could tell because the common gulls, Laurus canus (L. 1758) were making a lot of noise on their return from Portugal.

The common gull Larus canus, in Stavern (Photo: Arnstein Rønning, 2010)

While noisy, they were unable to compete with a motorcyclist exercizing his right to pollute the landscape with noise as well as fossil fuels, and leaving in his wake unnecessary carbon dioxide, that upcoming generations will have to deal with. I estimate I could hear this one motorcyclist for four minutes as he approached then drove across Skarnsund Bridge, then continued his meaningless journey almost to Mosvik village, where he became inaudible. I dream of a day when fossil-fueled motorcycles will be replaced by silent electrified variants, autonomously driven – for good measure.

Having made yet another unnecessary trip to our own municipal centre yesterday, with a fossil fueled vehicle, I can be perceived as the hypocrite I am. It is at times like these that a quote from the Bible comes in handy, and is so easy. No need to actually read or own a Bible because Google can find anything: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/John%208%3A7 (Here, 59 different versions of the Bible are provided, so it is just to find the first and the best that suit your needs.)

We are living in stressful times, and it is necessary for everyone to take back control. I may be so addicted to digital media and Duolingo points, that I am unable to keep my hands off a keyboard one day a week. However, I can reduce, if not eliminate, the noise I produce on Sundays.

The choice of Sunday has already been made for me, since I live in a nominally Christian society.

The Unit One workshop is a major source of noise. Rather than just turning off power to the entire shop, I have decided to re-enact my own first industrial job, working cleanup on Saturdays at the Brownlee sawmill in North Surrey, I will use Sundays for workshop cleanup.

Brownlee specialized in making red alder (Alnus rubra) products. These have a unique but attractive odor. It “… comprises 60 percent of the total hardwood volume in the Pacific Northwest, and is by far the most valuable hardwood in term of diversity of products, commercial value, and manufacturing employment.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alnus_rubra

Temperate rainforest with Picea sitchensis (tall trees), Alnus rubra and Salix spp., Kitlope, British Columbia. (Photo: Sam Beebe-John, 2009)

Rather than taking my breaks with the stationary engineer providing steam to the mill’s drying kilns, I could take my breaks with my long-suffering wife, Trish, who might have a few milliseconds to spare from baking.

Once the workshop has been cleaned, there are other areas that could benefit from attention. In particular, I think of my desk, that uses magnetic forces to attract clutter.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I will be able to put these principles into practice. It will be a low-key affair, without brass bands or ribbon cutting ceremonies. Hopefully, nobody will even notice the changes.