Otl Aicher (1922 – 1991)

Otl Aicher designed Waldi, the first official Olympic Games mascot, who featured prominently in Munich in 1972,

Today, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Otto “Otl” Aicher, born in Ulm, Germany 1922-05-22 and who died 1991-09-01, in Rotis, Germany. In this weblog post, a chronology of events is presented, but with a focus on the 1972 Olympic Games in München = Munich.

Aicher opposed the Nazi movement, and refused to join the Hitler Youth. For this, he was arrested in 1937. This also resulted in his failing the abitur = college entrance examination in 1941, after which he was drafted into the German army. He deserted the army in 1945.

Following the end of World War II, he studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, in Munich, in 1946 – 1947. In 1948 he opened a graphic design practice in Ulm. This was moved to Munich in 1967, then to Rotis in the Allgäu, in 1972, where he continued working until his death.

In 1952, he married Inge Scholl (1917 – 1998). She was a peace activist most of her adult life. Along with other members of her family, she was active in Weiße Rose = White Rose, a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany. Her younger brother, Hans (1918 – 1943 ) and sister, Sophie ( 1921-1943) were both executed for their activities in the group, and her father, Robert Scholl (1891 – 1973) was imprisoned twice for his anti-Nazi activities. Her family also provided shelter to Aicher after he deserted from the German army. Among other books, she wrote, Students Against Tyranny: The Resistance of the White Rose, Munich, 1942–1943.

Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (HfG) = Ulm School of Design, was founded in 1953, by Aicher, Inge Scholl and Max Bill ( 1908 – 1994), a Swiss architect, painter, typeface designer, industrial designer, graphic designer, and the school’s first director. These three also developed the theoretical underpinnings of the school’s curriculum, which was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus. In 1958 Aicher was a visiting professor at Yale. In 1959 he held a similar position in Rio de Janeiro. In 1968, funding ceased for the HfG in Ulm and it had to close.

Otl Aicher collaborated with Dieter Rams (1932 – ) and Hans Gugelot (1920-1965) product designers at Braun, on product branding as well as on designing radios and record players, where all three were actively involved in developing Braun’s signature design aesthetic.

In 1969, Aicher worked with Lufthansa, developing the company’s corporate identity, including a redesign of its logo, a crane (Grus grus) originally designed by Otto Firle (1889-1966) in 1918 for Deutsche Luft-Reederei, another airline. Aicher wanted to replace the crane, but this was such an ingrained part of the Lufthansa identity that its Board of Directors would not allow it. The Lufthansa wordmark used a san-serif Helvetica typeface, developed by Max Miedinger (1910 – 1980) and Eduard Hoffmann (1892 – 1980) in 1957.

Lufthansa logo, logotype
Otl Aicher’s redesign of the Lufthansa crane logo with Helvetica wordmark from 1969.

In 1967, Aicher was in charge of visual design for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, that complemented Günther Behnisch’s (1922 – 2010) architectural design for the Olympic stadium. Aicher consulted with Masaru Katsumie (1909 – 1983), who was responsible for design at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. While Katsumie was entrenched in Japanese design, he promoted Western/ Modernist design, through the 1954 Gropius and the Bauhaus exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo; his 1957 translation of Herbert Read’s (1893 – 1968) Art & Industry (1934), and by writing Guddo Dezain = Good Design (1957).

Otl Aicher in 1972

The Munich Olympic Games logo, Strahlenkranz = Halo, uses a garland to represent the sun as well as the five Olympic rings, merged in a spiral. Coordt von Mannstein (1937 – ) used mathematical calculations to rework Aicher’s design and to unify the garland and spiral elements in the final design.

Olimpiadi Monaco - Otl Aicher
The Munich Olympic Games halo logo, Strahlenkranz, designed by Otl Aicher.

Aicher designed the pictograms for the different sports, which are used worldwide today. Pictograms are important because they provide a visual interpretation of a sport, that is independent of language, so that athletes/ visitors to an Olympic village/ stadium could navigate the venues. Aicher’s pictograms use a series of grid systems and a specific bright colour palette, based on colours representative of the Alps. Mountains are represented in blue and white, while other elements use green, orange and silver. Red and black were not used. Colours identified services such as media, technical services, celebrity hospitality and public functions. Uniforms were colour-coordinated to these themes, so that Olympic staff of a particular department could be identified by their uniform colour. Otl Aicher’s pictograms can be found here.

For the Olympic designs, Aicher used Univers, a sans-serif typeface family designed by Adrian Frutiger (1928 – 2015) and released in 1957. Twenty-one sports posters were designed to advertise the sports at the games. These featured official design colours, the logo and “München 1972”. Posterization for the graphics on the posters involved separating the various tonal qualities from the images in a manual process and using the official Munich colours. The first of these posters was a poster of the Olympic stadium which became the official poster for these games.

For the first time in Olympic history, an official Olympic mascot was designed. This was Waldi, a dachschund.

Vancouver designers, Ben Hulse and Greg Durrell, are creating a comprehensive resource on Olympic Design, and have been engaged by the International Olympic Committee to create an Olympic Heritage Collection. Durrell notes that Munich is regarded as the best designed Games, with a really beautiful abstract logo. Elegance and simplicity have all but disappeared from Olympic logo design. More specifically, he states:”[I]t became very clear in the ’90s that as soon as [designers] get a computer, things just go crazy. There’s more colour, more texture, more elaborate shapes, more effects … I think we’re slowly starting to come off that a little bit, but it’s everywhere.”

Otl Aicher also developed the corporate image of media institutions, including ZDF, a German television channel, banks and reinsurers, including Westdeutsche Landesbank, Dresdner Bank, Sparkasse, Raiffeisenbank, and Bayerische Rück = reinsurance.

In 1972 Otl Aicher moved to Rotis in the Allgäu, where he founded the Rotis Institut für analoge Studien = The Rotis Institute for Analogue Studies, in 1984. Here, in 1988, he developed the Rotis typographical family. I find it interesting that before a rebranding in 2015, Scandinavian Airlines uses Rotis as the logotype, written in silver letters on aircraft bodies. Seattle’s Sound Transit, also uses it. Rotis was his last major design activity, before he was killed in an accident involving a motorbike, that fatally injured him while he was mowing his lawn.

The Rotis typeface, Otl Aicher’s last design activity, in 1988.

World Goth Day #14

On the left, Philip Burne-Jones’s (1861 – 1926) painting, The Vampire (1897), that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s (1865 – 1936) poem, The Vampire (1897), on the right. The painting and the poem were exhibited side by side at tenth summer exhibition at the New Gallery, London in 1897-04. Rudyard Kipling and Philip Burne-Jones were cousins. The poem was also published in the Daily Mail on 1897-04-17, and in the New York Tribune 1897-05-09. Bram Stoker’s (1847 – 1912) Dracula, with numerous vampires, including Dracula himself, was published on 1897-05-26. The original painting was in monochrome. Despite the text (shown above), the painter is Philip, not Kipling’s Uncle Ned, Philip’s father Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898). All works are now in the public domain.

This is the third consecutive year that a weblog post has been published for World Goth Day, potentially celebrated by tens of people, throughout the world! This year it arrives one day early 2022-05-21, with a focus on fashion. The two other weblog posts were: World Goth Day #12 which looked at some of the origins of the day, and #13 with a focus on music. Future efforts: #15 is planned to look at Gothic architecture from the mid-12th century to the 16th century; #16 will look at the historic origins of the Goths in Scandinavia and their dispersal southwords; #17 will examine will look at their relationship with Rome.

Goths as outsiders

More than seventy years of living, and years as a teacher, has taught me that people do not choose to become outsiders. Rather, social forces – outside of their control – largely determine it. They become victims, and the victim is left to deal with the consequences of their victimhood. One way of coping with their situation, is for these victims to visibly display their outsider status. This display takes many forms, but one prominent way is in terms of clothing.

A fashion statement cannot be made alone, it takes place inside a context. That context may be temporal, geographical or cultural, but often involves all three elements.

A. Insider

Haute Couture

Charles Fredrick Worth (1825 – 1895), from Bourne, Lincolnshire, England and his partner Otto Gustaf Bobergh (1821 – 1882), from Bernshammars bruk, Västmanlands county, Sweden, established Worth & Bobergh, in Paris, in 1858. This company is regarded as the first haute couture establishment, with Worth the first fashion designer, and Bobergh the business manager. Some of its innovations included transforming the salon into a meeting point when clients came for consultations and fittings; advanced client selection of colors, fabrics, and other details; replacement of fashion dolls with live models; sewing branded labels into clothes. By the end of Worth’s career, Worth & Bobergh employed 1 200 people and its impact on fashion taste was far-reaching.

Haute couture has a legally protected status, defined by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris, an organization started in 1868. Rigorous rules were implemented in 1945, which required: made-to-order design for private clients, including at least one fitting; a workshop (atelier) located in Paris, employing at least fifteen full-time staff members; at least twenty full-time technical people, in at least one workshop (atelier); and the presentation of a collection of at least 50 original designs to the public in January and July of each year, with both day and evening garments.

For those wanting to read more, Wikipedia provides an extensive number of links to both existing and former haute couture fashion houses: Balenciaga, Callot Soeurs, Pierre Cardin, Chanel, André Courrèges, Christian Dior, Mariano Fortuny, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Jeanne Lanvin, Ted Lapidus, Mainbocher, Hanae Mori, Thierry Mugler, Patou, Paul Poiret, Yves Saint Laurent, Maison Schiaparelli, Emanuel Ungaro and Madeleine Vionnet.

Traditional Crafts

Being an insider is not synonymous with being urban and rich. Sometimes, it can be associated with traditional values in a rural environment. In Norway, the first handicraft schools were established in 1870, becoming mechanisms for promoting Norwegian cultural values.

The Norwegian crafts association = Norges Husflidslag, was founded in 1910. Its purpose was, and still is, to strengthen Norwegian crafts. In 2017, the organization had 24,000 members, 360 local groups, 36 shops that are wholly or partly owned by county/ local groups. It is a member of the Norwegian Cultural Conservation Association. In 2014, the organization was accredited by UNESCO as the third Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with expertise in intangible cultural heritage. As a member of the Study Association for Culture and Tradition, it joins other organizations that work with popular cultural expressions, including folk dance, theater, cultural heritage (including the preservation of the maritime environment) and local history.

After the end of World War II, crafts (and schools to teach them) came into focus as a means of increasing women’s contribution to farm income. The Ministry of Agriculture appointed a committee in 1946 to look more closely at craft training. This resulted in a proposal, to establish (mostly) publicly run handicraft schools in all counties. Courses were adapted to the needs and interests of young women, especially, and the schools offered both half-year and full-year programs of study. In 1955, the handicraft schools were transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Church and Education. In 1966, the Oslo Industrial School for Women = Den Kvindelige Industriskole i Kristiania, established in 1875, became a vocational teacher’s college, and changed its name to the State Teaching College for Crafts = Statens lærerskole i forming . Two other colleges for crafts were also established. These were essential for recruiting teachers for the handicraft schools.

By 1976, the teaching of handicrafts and aesthetics was now incorporated into the upper secondary school system. An introductory course with a focus on drawing, and aesthetics more generally, formed the basis for advanced courses in weaving, sewing and wood and metalworking. A third year course trained people to become activity therapists. While students used to be older, the schools gradually adapted to teaching younger people, most between 16 and 19 years of age.

Starting on 1980-08-20, Patricia, my wife, studied one year of weaving followed by one year of sewing, at such a school in Molde, while I took a half year introductory course, starting in 1981-01 followed by a year of wood and metal working. At the same time, we learned Norwegian. The school had 120 students, some in their late teens, many in their early twenties, but with some older people. I was one of two male students at the school. Attending this school gave me insights into traditional Norwegian cultural values, but also labeled me as an outsider.

This was not my first excursion into textiles, in 1978 Patricia and I both took a spinning course at the Deer Lake Art Centre, in Burnaby, adjacent to New Westminster, British Columbia. Later, I purchased one of the first electric spinning wheels made by Kevin Hansen on a visit to Port Townsend, Washington. Apart from a few minutes of experimentation, it remains unused.

This tuque, along with some mittens no longer in existence, were knit by me while taking the introductory course at the Husflidsskole in Molde, Norway, in 1981. Yes, I had to learn to knit in order to make it. Later in my teaching career, I would knit more complex garments during breaks both at a conventional secondary school, as well as a prison school. Most male teachers were expected to have at least some proficiency in knitting, if only because pregnant teachers often received a baby blanket consisting of squares knit by their colleagues.


To gain insights into modest fashions, I started to read Hafsa Lodi (ca. 1988 – ), Modesty: A Fashion Paradox (2020), further described as a work that uncovers the causes, controversies and key players behind the global trend to conceal rather than reveal. Despite my attempt to suspend disbelief, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834) advised, and to read the work as the author intended, I found it difficult to understand the author’s perspective.

Her primary consideration is that garments conceal, although the extent of concealment varies. The minimal amount varies “by culture, class, ethnicity and generation” (p. 17) but usually means that the garment(s) cover the knees and shoulders. Some want to extend these to covering ankles, elbows to wrists. So far, so good.

However, the fashion she was advocating was not modest in my interpretation of the word, which would include characteristics such as sustainable, durable, comfortable and moderately priced. Instead, the garments she promotes are prized for their designer label and extravagance. She even uses the term luxury modest wear. They may have concealed some skin, but revealed a pretentious origin in haute couture.

Within her world, these garments may be modest. Dubai, and other countries in the Middle East, have the least economic equality of anywhere in the world. Thus, there are some people who can enjoy a luxurious life, because they subject others to a life of servitude and drudgery. It is also the area of the world where patriarchy excels.

Admittedly, having matured in the 1960s, my sense of modesty is tempered by that eras fashion trends. There are modest, and not so modest, mini-garments. In the debate about the inventor of the miniskirt, I am inclined to accept the judgement of Marit Allen (1941 – 2007), half-Norwegian fashion journalist and costume designer, who credits John Bates = Jean Varon (1938 – ) with its conception, and execution in 1965 in outfits for Diana Rigg (1938 – 2020) for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers. His work included not just skirts and dresses, but Op-Art mini-coats. I have discussed Rigg and Bates in a previous weblog post. I find most of these garments modest! Both André Courrèges (1923 – 2016) and Mary Quant (1930 – ) have been designated the inventor of the miniskirt, by others. I will acknowledge Courrèges role in promoting/ introducing jeans for women.

While there is an attempt to create a gender divide, especially with respect to the use of trousers, there has been fluidity in the use of garments throughout the millennia. An introduction to insights into this topic, can be found in one Wikipedia article on Trousers as Women’s Clothing. Divided skirts were used in the late-nineteenth century for horse- and bicycle-riding. These were rebranded as culottes in the mid-20th century. These have increasingly replaced skirts in many situations. One of the first being that skirts worn by female medical personnel were incompatible with the wake produced by helicopters.

B. Outsider

In Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style (2015), Cintra Wilson (1967 – ) advises: Your closet is a laboratory in which you may invent astonishingly powerful voodoo. It may be used as a tool to direct yourself toward your own ideal destiny. It’s geomancy—portable feng-shui, right on your body. Style is one of the most remarkably fast, proactive, and gratifying ways to change your mind, change your mood and—as a surprising result—change your circumstances. It is one of the most direct ways of exploiting the Socratic adage “Be as you wish to seem,” or, more slangily, “Fake it till you Make it.”

Most outsiders lack the resources to purchase bespoke/ haute couture clothing, or to make their own traditional clothing. Many are a product of a cycle of poverty, forcing them into unskilled jobs at an early age. Many have also suffered various types of abuse, making participation at school or in the labour market difficult.


In 1913, Yva Richard, transformed himself from Paris photographer, to the proprietor of a lingerie boutique, run either by himself or, more likely, his wife Nativa Richard. Their unique creations became increasingly daring/ avant-garde/ erotic, and by the late 1920s, they had develop a successful international mail-order business, based on a catalogue of photographs taken by Yva, frequently modelled by Nativa. It lasted until 1939. Léon Vidal, a tailor and owner a chain of erotic bookshops, was encouraged by the success of Yva Richards, to open a competing boutique, Diana Slip. It, too, lasted until the start of World War 2. Numerous not safe for work (NSFW) and some more socially acceptable photographs of their creations can be found using a search engine.


If there is one element that unites the young goths that I have met at secondary schools and in prison, it is their fascination with vampires. The vamp(ire) has become a symbol of an extreme outsider. The first poems with a vampire in English, was Robert Southey’s (1774 – 1443), Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). This was followed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834), Christabel (written 1797 – 1801, published 1816). There are shorter references to this theme in George Gordon Byron (1788 – 1824) in The Giaour (1813). The first modern vampire prose work in English was John William Polidori’s (1795 – 1821), The Vampyre (1819). At this point, the representation of vampires in literature explodes.

The height of vampiremania is reached in 1897. Philip Burne-Jones’s (1861 – 1926) paints, The Vampire (1897). This inspires Rudyard Kipling’s (1865 – 1936) to write his poem, The Vampire (1897). Then Bram Stoker’s (1847 – 1912) Dracula (1897) appears, and the world has never been the same again.

Fast forward to the present and vampires are still with us. On Goodreads, I encountered a list with 1 669 (at the time of writing) best vampire books! At the top of the list is Stephen King’s (1947 – ) second published novel, Salem’s Lot (1975). This work is expected to reappear soon as a film with the same name, directed by Gary Dauberman (ca. 1977 – ). Of course, there are numerous other films and television series that have vampires as an essential plot element.


As a sign of their outsider status, people often opt to dress provocatively. Karl Spracklen and Beverley Spracklen, The Evolution of Goth Culture: The Origins and Deeds of the New Goths (2018) describe this provocation, and fundamental characteristic of Goth fashions in one word – black (Chapter 11: Goth as Fashion Choice). Many of the Goths I met teaching were consumers of Gothic Beauty, from 2000, and/ or Dark Beauty Fashion Magazine, which appeared from about 2010 to 2020. These offered a slightly broader colour pallet.

According to Cintra Wilson in an article You just can’t kill it (2008), this blackness has its origins in the Victorian cult of mourning. Thus Steampunk and related fashions with origins from this time period are embodied into the dress code.

Beyond this darkness there was a fascination with hair, typically dyed. The mohawk represents one of the most admired, if less frequently used, hair styles. It involves a narrow, central strip of upright hair running from the forehead to the nape, with the sides of the head bald. Variations include: the nohawk, a shaved strip from the forehead to the nape of the neck, with hair on either side of that strip; the Eurohawk, where the sides are not shaved, but with shorter hair than on the central strip; and, the fauxhawk, a hairpiece in the form of a mohawk.


Yet, as a sign of their outsider status, some people often opt to dress protectively. Perhaps, the best display of this is characterized by Doc Martens boots, made at Wollaston in Northamptonshire, England. These boots originated with Klaus Märtens, a doctor in the German army who had injured his ankle towards the end of World War II. Standard-issue army boots were too uncomfortable, so he designed improved boots, using soft leather and air-padded soles made from tires. In partnership with Herbert Funckt in 1947, footwear based on these improvements were made at a German factory, and sold primarily (80%) to older (40+) women. In 1959, British shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group bought patent rights to manufacture the shoes in Britain. Here they the name to Dr. Martens, slightly re-shaped the heel, added yellow stitching, and trademarked the soles as AirWair. It took until the late 1970s for the brand to become synonymous with youth subcultures, including Goths.


In a house filled with books, my estimate is that about 100 of them are related to textiles, in some form or other. Topics include: spinning, weaving, fashion design, pattern making, sewing, knitting and other forms of manipulating yarn. Then there are binders and boxes filled with patterns. Some of these works are older than the residents in the house. One was purchased a week before this comment was written.

I have tried to go through these to find one suitable book that will provide sufficient insight for beginners to learn to sew clothing. This book is by Alison Smith, The Sewing Book: Over 300 Step-By-Step Techniques (2018). It costs about US$ 21 in hardback. This can be followed by her Sew Your Own Wardrobe (2021). It costs about US$30 in hardback. Once basic skills are developed, additional insights can be developed, for example, using Claire Shaeffer, Couture Sewing Techniques (revised edition, 2011). It is about 250 pages in length, shows the history of couture fashion, and is available in both paperback and digital versions for about US$ 17. All prices are at the time of writing.

An electric sewing machine is a necessity for any normal person wanting to make garments. There is no need to purchase the most expensive models. They offer a lot of features that will probably go unused. The most important characteristic is that it has capabilities for making button holes. Our household has a Janome Decor Computer 3050, which costs about US$ 700.

Goth Day

This weblog post was published on 2021-05-21, one day prior to World Goth Day #14.

Donna Summer (1948 – 2012)

Possibly the most common photograph of Donna Summer used to promote her 1977 recording of I feel love. This photograph, without this text, but with track listings, participating musicians and other recording details, originally occupied the reverse of the I Remember Yesterday album sleeve. It has repeatedly been used in other contexts.

This post is being published just prior to the 10th anniversary of the death of Donna Summer, born LaDonna Gaines on 1948-12-31 in Boston, Massachusetts, and who died 2012-05-17 in Naples, Florida. It focuses on one track, I feel love (1977), but attempts to put this track into context. It was written by Summer, Giorgio Moroder (1940 – ) and Pete Bellotte (1943 – ). These two men produced much of Summer’s work throughout the 1970s at their recording studio, Musicland, in Munich, Germany.

At that time, disco, formerly discothèque, music was in vogue. Discothèques emerged in World War II Paris, as the playing of phonograph records at dance halls substituted for live musicians, increasingly unavailable due to the war. By the 1970s, this music had become formulaic, relying on a four-on-the-floor beat = a uniform 4/4 time, where a bass drum is struck on every beat, and a syncopated = off the main beat, baseline. In contrast with other popular genres, there was less emphasis on a lead guitar, and more emphasis on electronic keyboards, horns and strings. Musicland was particularly noted for its early use of synthesizers.

Starting in the 1950s, popular recorded music often involved a band of, typically, four musicians of which one was a lead singer, potentially the same person as the lead guitarist, and a single audio/ sound/ recording engineer working at a mixing console with the result fed into a multi-track tape recorder.

One significant step beyond this emerged in 1964, when Phil Spector (1939 – 2021) developed a wall of sound, which involved the use of multiple instruments to provide a richer sound, on the recordings. This was then edited down into a monophonic track. Yes, many musicians of the 1960s, were opposed to stereophonic recordings, claiming that it transferred too much audio control to the listener! In live performances, a wall of Marshall stacks, cabinets containing tube amplifiers and 4 x 300 mm speakers, became its own wall of rich sounds. Admittedly, these stacks in many cases violated norms/ laws/ regulations about noise, and may have contributed to the later hearing loss of people attending.

In the 1970s, disco intensified this layered approach, making separate recordings of the elements that would make up the final track. There were more musicians, and more recording staff involved in the process. It was often seen as a reaction to rock music which, in the 1960s, had risen to a dominating position.

I feel love, is the final track of Summer’s fifth album, I Remember Yesterday (1977), that provides 35m19s of music. That is, in most areas where the album was released. Some sources state that there were exceptions. The first track, the same as the album title, was intended to represent dance music from the 1940s. The second, Love’s Unkind, was inspired by the 1950s. The third, Back in Love, Again, mirrored the sound of the 1960s. The fourth track was a repeat of the first. On the reverse side, there were two disco songs, representing the 1970s, then a ballad. The album ends with a futuristic, I Feel Love.

Many people have argued that for Moroder and Bellotte, a song and a sound from tomorrow meant synthesizers and rhythm machines. Yet, that might be a simplification. There were many other workers on the track included: Robbie Wedel, with a background in electronics and composer Eberhard Schoener (1938 – ), both operated a Moog synth. At the time these were physically large, and fitted with large numbers of patch cables, that connected oscillators, voltage control units, triggers and an arpeggiator = sound generator.

A common approach to writing a song, is to perform it first on a keyboard with the composer also singing the lyrics, possibly just inside her/ his head. From that a more elaborate studio arrangement could be developed: in rock music using the band itself; in disco using studio musicians.

I Feel Love followed a different approach. Moroder and Bellotte worked initially on the song’s bassline. Wedel and engineer Jürgen Koppers (1941 – 2006) lay down a reference pulse put on track 16, of a 16-track tape recorder, that was used to synchronize the tracks as they were developed. This produced an exact timing reference. Only after this was done was the melody developed, resulting in the song sung by Donna Summer. She developed lyrics, and a melody that would complement the existing work on the track. I Feel Love is generally regarded as a difficult song to sing. This approach to developing music was later adopted by others working in the disco, EDM = electronic dance music, and techno genres.

One further notable characteristic of the song is the effective use of signal delays. The original bassline signal proceeds through the left speaker channel on time, but is almost imperceptibly delayed going through the right speaker. This required stereophonic sound, and listeners reacted positively to this.

Another innovation by Wedel was to make sound clips on the Moog, that create sounds resembling/ imitating a hi-hat or a snare drum. Unfortunately, not all the percussion effects could be produced by the Moog. It was difficult to produce the sound of a kick drum. Thus, a human, Keith Forsey (1948 – ), known for his precise timekeeping, was used to produce much of the percussion sounds. It was anything but a drum solo. Rather, each drum in the kit was recorded separately to produce a totally clean sound, preventing the bleeding of sounds that could potentially corrupt other sounds. Forsey has commented that this is an unnatural, counter-intuitive, frustrating way of playing: “Your body has to dance if you want the people to dance.”

I will end by stating that the original version of I Feel Love is not my favourite. I am more attracted to assorted other remixes. Patrick Cowley (1950 – 1982) has produced several remixes. Here is one that is 15 minutes long. Cowley is also notable for his Hi-NRG dance music compositions. These days, I am more attracted to the version of Belgian Moreno J(urgen), this one. In both cases the voice of Donna Summer still dominates.

For further insights into I Feel Love, people may want to begin with this article in Wikipedia.

Note: Upcoming weblog posts: on Saturday, 2022-05-21 there will be a post about World Goth Day #14, appearing one day before the event. Then, on Sunday, 2022-05-22 there will be a post about Otl Aicher (1922 – 2012), on the centenary of his birth. Both at 12:00 CEST (Central European Summer Time) = 10:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, successor to Greenwich Mean Time).

Blade Runner

Poster for Blade Runner, the Director’s Cut (2007) depicting Los Angeles, after a nuclear attack in 2019. Here Deckard (protrayed by Harrison Ford) and Rachel (portrayed by Sean Young) are shown.

Part 1: For living humans

One of my fictional heroes is Angus MacGyver, portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson (1950 – ). I appreciate his non-violent problem solving that saturates the television series, that originally ran from 1985 to 1992, with specials beyond that. I have not watched any episodes of the 2016 restart. That appreciation, and my pacifist stance more generally, is undoubtedly related to viewing World War II, as the last major hot war, with the ideological aftermath resulting in a cold war. However, like many people, my values are being challenged with the Ukrainian reality of a Russian invasion.

In 1998, I attended a three-day seminar about violence in film. Each day, two separate movies were introduced, and we were asked to watch, reflect on and discuss these. Thus, in total, we examined six different films. None of these resembled anything like MacGyver, a fact I found disappointing. Rather, there was a focus on gratuitous violence, brutal acts lacking discernable literary, artistic, political or scientific value, according to one definition. While films from several different genres were presented, the organizers of the seminar were obviously very keen about science fiction.

I am not particularly interested in reading fantasy or science fiction. The outer edge of my comfort zone is found in magic realism. Part of the reason is that I have little interest in visiting other planets, or other times, when I have explored so little of this beautiful planet, in this modern, accessible age. However, there are some few science fiction films that attract me.

This weblog post builds on one of the films shown at this seminar. Three of the other ones were: A Clockwork Orange (1971), directed by Stanley Kubrick (1928 – 1999); Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), directed by James Cameron (1954 – ); and, The Eel (うなぎ, Unagi, 1997) directed by Shōhei Imamura (1926 – 2006). The other two films are forgotten. One of the main presenters at the seminar was Norwegian novelist, children’s book writer, screenwriter and film critic, Erlend Loe (1969 – ).

Twenty-four years after this seminar, Putin’s War is raging in Europe. Violence is no longer of theoretical interest. Many wonder how people can use art and other pastimes to address their concerns about war. One could ask which artistic genres are more/ most effective at suppressing violence, at the same time that they stop dictators from usurping the rights of others. Among the more popular of these flavours are: film, music, painting, theatre and writing fiction. Not everyone has elevated gaming into an art form, but it is also included, as have physical representations in the form of 3D models and costumes.

People approach culture in different ways. In this weblog post, variations on a single work will be used as an example. That work is Philip Kindred Dick’s (1928 – 1982) novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), set in San Francisco in 1992 or, in later editions of the book, 2021. It takes place after a nuclear war. Dick’s inspiration for writing this novel was Fear (1940), a psychological thriller/ horror short story, written by L. Ron Hubbard (1911 – 1986).

A. Written materials

The first cultural flavour looked at here involves written materials. The advantage of reading a novel or short story is that it invites readers to co-create using their imagination. One disadvantage, is that this co-creation involves abstract thinking. Another is that many people have dyslexia, and related conditions, that prevent their enjoyment of this approach.

Rather than just reading, a more productive approach is to reflect on the work in question, and to produce a new work based on it. This could be another novel or short story, but it could, just as easily, be a filmscript, a theatrical play, or a poem.

B. Audio

There are many people who prefer to listen to audio books/ podcasts, instead of reading. Hearing disabilities can also prevent people from using this approach. Searching for information about relevant versions of the novel on the internet, the first link I came across was a free audiobook. One advantage of an audio format, is that it allows both sound effects as well as music to be part of a product. Once again, it is possible for the average person to create their own audio products, if only for family and friends.

C. Film

Ridley Scott’s (1937 – ) dystopian, science fiction film, Blade Runner (1982) is the work being focused on in this weblog post. It was also one of the films focused on at the seminar on violence in film, in 1998. For me, it is especially appreciated for its inability to depict Los Angeles in 2019. In the film, flying cars (spinners) co-exist with pay phones. Even Chester Gould (1900 – 1985) was able to equip Dick Tracy with a personal device, the wrist radio, an icon that dates from 1946-01-13.

Seven different versions of Blade Runner have been released, many massaged primitively by Warner Bros, who were concerned about the film’s viability, when the initial release resulted in low attendance, and confused audiences. The Director’s Cut (2007) is regarded as the definitive edition.

The protagonist, Rick Deckard, portrayed by Harrison Ford (1942 – ), is a bounty hunter/ blade runner, adapt at killing escaped androids/ replicants. Deckard’s life, still portrayed by Ford, continues in the film sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve (1967 – ). The events of the original film and its sequel involve two different time periods separated by 30 fictional years and 35 real years. It is uncertain if Deckard is human, or a variant of something that he is hunting. Dick, Ford and Villeneuve say human, Scott says replicant. Villeneuve also adds, that the question is more important than the answer.

Rachael (Tyrell) was a Nexus-7 replicant, portrayed by Sean Young (1959 – ) in the original Blade Runner. In Blade Runner 2049, she was portrayed by body double Loren Peta (? – ) with Sean Young’s facial features de-aged and overlaid using computer graphics.

Today, everyone can be a film maker using an ever present cell phone to record audio and video, there are many free and open source apps that can be used to edit content, and there are many mechanisms that can be used to deliver such productions to a waiting audience, including Odysee, PeerTube and YouTube. I almost wrote a reminder to people to film in landscape format, but then wondered if that was just yet another indication that I was raised in a different millennium. Younger people might also prefer to view films on their cell phones, and appreciate a portrait format.

D. Theatre

Theatrical presentations can be developed from scratch, from novels and other written works including screenplays. They can also be inspired by almost anything. Street theatre involves a dramatic performance in some form of outdoor public space. Typically, the audience is unaware of the event, before it erupts before them.

E. Games

Westwood Studios was started by Brett Sperry (ca. 1960 – ) and Louis Castle (ca. 1960 – ) in 1985 in Los Vegas, Nevada. Their 1997 point and click game of Blade Runner, is a sidequel = side sequel. Many gamers prefer to use the Japanese term, gaiden (外伝, = outside legends). In both cases it refers to an original story running parallel to an established plot in a film or novel, sometimes interacting with it.

Computer games are regarded as the most profitable of the various entertainment industries. While estimates of revenue vary, assorted source provide the following values, in billions of dollars in 2020: games: $ 180, film $ 100, professional sports $ 75, music $ 23.

F. Physical representations

One very satisfying moment in my teaching career occurred when an entire class of metalworking students told me they had taken over a 3D printer, and were going to use it for the next week to make the components of a 3D model of a 4 cylinder internal combustion engine. When it was completed and assembled even the least mentally endowed of the students understood, in detail, how an engine worked.

I have encouraged many of my fashion obsessed female students to make their own clothing. Some few have even followed that advice.

In terms of Blade Runner, the design and construction of vehicle (spinner) models would undoubtedly appeal to many young males. Yet, I suspect that the design and construction of clothing appropriate for Los Angeles in 2049, would have greater appeal to many young females.

Getting rather conventional clothing items, such as T-shirts, with artwork featuring Saint Javelin, a female icon carrying a modern shoulder anti-tank weapon.

G. Painting

There are many derivative works of art that can be found that are based on Blade Runner. Any search engine will provide a list of them.

In my opinion, the one painting that best depicts the horrors of war is Pablo Picasso’s (1881 – 1973) Guernica (1937). It commemorates the 1937-04-26 bombing of the town of that name by the Nazi German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Fascist Italian Aviazione Legionaria, destroying the town and killing a disputed number of people, possibly up to 1 650.

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937)

H. Other activities

I would like to end this section by referring to Keri Smith (? – ), a Canadian conceptual artist. I know her best through one work, The Guerrilla Art Kit (2007). She has previously worked at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, in Vancouver. She is now on the advisory board of the Center for Artistic Activism, in New York city. Her main focus is on open works, a term invented by Umberto Eco (1932 – 2016), to describe pieces of art designed to be completed by the user. At 144 pages, The Guerrilla Art Kit, is sufficiently long. There is a section on etiquette, and another on tools. Much of it consists of 32 exercises, mostly fun yet provocative. Guerrilla gardening is one of my favourites, as is the portable idea dispenser.

Keri Smith, The Guerilla Art Kit (2007)

Part 2: For synthesizer fanchildren

One could argue, possibly even convincingly, that Part 2 is actually just flavour I. That is how it began, although flavours A to H were missing at the time. Re-reading the completed text, it was obvious that this section would appeal to about 1% of the intended audience, which would round off to about 0 readers. In addition, when written, it was based on the premise that a major manufacturer of synthesizers would make an inexpensive clone of the Yamaha CS-80. So far, this has not happened, and I have ended up buying an entirely different synthesizer.

Vangelis (born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, 1943 – 2022) composed the film score for the original Blade Runner film, largely using a Yamaha CS-80 analogue synthesizer. The Icelandic composer Jóhann Gunnar Jóhannsson (1969 – 2018) was hired to make the music for the sequel. To my ears it sounds similar to the original, but it was removed from the project by Villeneuve. Here is a sample of Jóhannsson’s theme for the film. He was replaced by Benjamin Wallfische (1979 – ) and Hans Zimmer (1959 – ). Here is a sample of a theme by Wallfische and Zimmer.

The Yamaha CS-80 analog synthesizer was made from 1977 to 1980. Initially, it cost US$ 6 900. Today, a used one can cost over US$ 100 000. It supported true 8-voice polyphony, meaning that it could play multiple independent melody lines simultaneously. It came with two independent synthesizer layers per voice, each with its own set of front panel controls, in addition to a number of hardwired preset voice settings and four parametric settings stores based on banks of sub-miniature potentiometers. This contrasted with one of its main competitors, the Sequential Prophet 5, that used programmable digital presets, to achieve equivalent results.

The CS-80 excelled in live performance. Its layered keyboard was both velocity-sensitive (like a piano’s) and pressure-sensitive (known as after-touch) but unlike most modern keyboards the aftertouch could be applied to individual voices rather than in common, and a ribbon controller allowing for polyphonic pitch-bends and glissandos. This can be heard on the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, as well as the composer’s soundtrack for the film Chariots of Fire, and the bassline of Peter Howell’s interpretation of the 1980 theme tune to the BBC science fiction show Doctor Who.

Almost forty years ago, in a 1984 interview Vangelis described the CS-80 as: “The most important synthesizer in my career — and for me the best analogue synthesizer design there has ever been.”

The CS-80 is one of three instruments most frequently described as the pre-eminent polyphonic analog synthesizer. The other two are the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, and Oberheim OB-X.

There are two plug-in instrument software emulations of the CS-80 for usage in digital audio workstation, music sequencer, and other software which supports the plug-in formats that these instruments were implemented and released in: the Arturia CS-80 V, released in 2003, and the Memorymoon ME80 released in 2009.

As previously noted, when this post was first being prepared, it was expected that Behringer would announce the production of an equivalent clone, the DS-80. It all began with a tweet on 2019-04-30. However, no product has appeared, yet. Indeed, there are comments that chip shortages are causing production delays and cancellations. This is especially affecting low-cost synths.

For those who prefer hardware synths, Studio Electronics announced their new Boomstar SE80 synthesizer in 2014, which includes a cloned filter section of the CS-80.

Since 2018, Deckard’s Dream Mk2 (DDRM2), an analogue polyphonic synthesizer clone of the CS-80, has been available in two versions, a standard build or as a kit from Black Corporation in Japan. Yes, the name, Deckard’s Dream, is taken from the protagonist in the Blade Runner films!

At the time of writing 2021-12-29, the price of the built version is US$ 3 749 including worldwide shipping. This is a rackmount synthesizer with CS-80 inspired architecture and features that supports polyphonic aftertouch using compatible third-party external keyboards.

A Black Corporation Deckard’s Dream Mk2 synthesizer suitable for installation in a rack. Photo: Black Corporation.

Black corporation informs potential buyers that the DDRM2 offers eight voices, each with two identical layered parts consisting of a 100% analog voltage controlled oscillator made with discrete waveshapers, analog lowpass and highpass filter (each with their own cutoff and resonance settings,) noise generator, unique multi-segment filter envelope, and VCA + ADSR envelope. Each layer also features its own independent programming section for musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) polyphonic expression (MPE) based velocity and polyphonic aftertouch control of its filter cutoff and amplifier settings.

DDRM2’s perfomance section features global pitch control with coarse & fine-tuning sliders, layer 2 detune slider, independent keyboard range control for each layer, mix balancing between layer 1 and layer 2, global filter cutoff and resonance offsets, and a global low frequency oscillator (LFO) to control both layers’ filter/pitch/amplifiers simultaneously.

DDRM2 also has a programming sections for global MPE-based control over LFO parameters + pitchbend, as well as global key tracking control over the filter and amplifier settings of both layers. There is a global portamento/glissando slider that operates on both layers simultaneously. As expected, DDRM2 has MIDI control, with an ability to store 128 presets per bank, across 10 banks.

If one is interested in impressing neighbours, then there is no substitute for the original Yamaha. The price of a used model is beyond the means of most mortals. If one is interested in making music, then there are numerous choices. One of these is a Yamaha Reface CS, a 37 key mini synth, based on the CS-80, launched in 2019. It costs about US$ 450. This is considerably cheaper than a DDRM2, which is also too expensive in relation to its value. Perhaps the cheapest hardware solution is an Arturia Microfreak connected to an outboard effects = FX unit like Bluesky. This can recreate all of the DDRM2 and CS sounds, for about US$ 300.

Other fanchildren will remind you that there is no need for a hardware synth, when a software synth will be able to provide the same level of utility.

Update: This post was updated 2022-05-19 at 21:30 to note the death of Vangelis, today.

Cadillac Desert Interpreted

Newer Oak Ridge National Laboratory United States Hydropower maps are available, but they lack the labeling of meridians of longitude, so that for the context of this post the 2014 edition is preferred.

This short weblog post was written in response to someone who found it difficult to understand Mark Reisner’s (1948 – 2000) Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disapearing Water (1986, revised 1993).

Rather than struggling to read Cadillac Desert, readers are encouraged to examine a hydrological map of The United States of America. The country can be divided into a wet eastern half, and a dry western half. Admittedly, there is also a strip of wetness along the Pacific coast that extends almost as far south as San Francisco Bay. The east-west dividing line is not particularly neat, and doesn’t follow state boundaries consistently. So people resort to meridians of latitude. Both 100 W and 110 W have been used as the dividing line, but often go through the middle of more states. Thus some prefer to use 95 W.

What makes this book difficult for non-Americans to read is its failure to provide context. The book is largely a history of the Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, both American federal government agencies, that were more concerned with settlement policies in the western half of the United States, than they were with the area’s geographical realities. It assumes that readers are sufficiently acquainted with the geography of the west that they understand these water realities, as well as how federal institutions function.

The map also shows the numerous dams that have been build on the various Western rivers. The Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River created Lake Roosevelt. This dam is especially destructive for assorted species of Pacific salmon. Further south, there are also many extensive dams on the Colorado River and its tributaries. The Hoover Dam created Lake Mead, close to Los Vegas, in Nevada. Further north, the Glen Canyon Dam created Lake Powell located in Utah and Arizona.

The four major deserts in the United States are the Mojave Desert, 124 000 km2 in Nevada, Arizona and California; the Sonoran Desert, 260 000 km2 from Mexico through Arizona and into southern California; the Chihuahuan Desert 360 000 km2 from Mexico through Texas, Arizona and New Mexico; the Great Basin Desert, 490 000 km2, in Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon and Idaho. The Great Basin Desert is often divided up into several different desert ecoregions (3 – 8) shown in the map below.

Cold Desert ecoregions: 1. Thompson-Okanagan Plateau; 2. Columbia Basin; 3. Northern Basin and Range; 4. Wyoming Basin; 5. Central Basin and Range; 6. Colorado Plateaus; 7. Arizona/New Mexico Plateau; 8. Snake River Plain. Hot desert ecoregions: 9. Mojave Basin and Range; 10. Sonoran Desert; 11. Baja Californian Desert; 12. Chihuahuan Desert.

The title Cadillac Desert is not the name of a specific desert. Rather it refers to a very expensive desert, in contrast to, say, a cheaper Chevrolet Desert. Should I have written a book about the same topic, my choice of title would have been Gold-plated Desert. That is, a very thin but expensive coating that hides a base material underneath.

The book, Cadillac Desert, fails to interpret and describe water realities in terms of settlement and geography, with its focus on institutional history. There are other books that discuss the lack of water in the west. Perhaps the most enjoyable of these is, The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow (2015) by B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam.

This book is documents the American West’s climate over twenty thousand years, with some explanations about past droughts and floods. It also looks forward, and predicts future climate impacts regarding water resources. One central question is what is a normal climate in the West, especially if the current relatively benign climate of the past century will continue. It also provides insights into paleoclimate research. This research shows that the area is subject to substantial climatic swings. Modern human environments are essentially artificial. Civilization is un/ ill-prepared for future climate changes. They end with a warning that residents must face the realities of the past, and prepare for a future where access to fresh water may be less reliable.


Homebound was sent as an entry in Bella Caledonia’s Scotland 2042 competition that describes Scotland in twenty years time, in 2042. In my letter accompanying the work, I asked it to be considered in the human category. This was because the organizers had wanted to distinguish three categories of writers: men, women and under 25 years of age. There was also a size limit of 1000 words. The submitted document’s word count was 998 words, 6 179 characters including spaces, 5 187 characters without spaces. That left two words to spare!

Bella Caledonia has existed an online magazine publishing social, political and cultural commentary since 2007-10, at the Radical Book Fair in Edinburgh. It was launched by Mike Small and Kevin Williamson (1961 – ). It also existed as a 24-page print magazine, at one time as a supplement to the Scottish pro-Independence newspaper, The National. This print version ended in 2017. It was named after Bella Baxter, a character in Alasdair Gray’s (1934 – 2019) novel Poor Things (1992). Gray later provided the site with a new version of his artwork.

The origins of Homebound date back to 1974. Working as a student archaeologist, I lived at one of the notorious Canadian residential schools, in Port Alberni, British Columbia. However, this school was not regarded as one of the worst! Other schools subjected First Nations children to inhumane treatment, that resulted in genocide. The Alberni Indian Residential School, as it was officially called, opened in 1890 under the Presbyterian Church. It burned down in 1917 and was closed for three years. In 1920 it was re-opened under the United Church. It officially closed in 1973. Many of the workers at the archaeological site had attended this school.

In preparation for this submission, I checked the current fertility rate in Scotland, and elsewhere. Without children, there is no future for humanity, but fertility has to be kept within bounds. In 2020, the latest date for which I could get figures (mainly from CIA produced, World Factbook), it was 1.29. The fertility rate for some other countries with name, rank and fertility-rate: Ireland, 124th, 1.94; United States, 141st, 1.84; Norway, 142nd, 1.84; China, 184th 1.60; Russia, 185th, 1.60; Canada, 193rd, 1.57; Ukraine, 194th, 1.56; Japan, 214th, 1.43; Taiwan, 226th, 1.14; and Singapore, 228th and last, 0.87. Total fertility rate (TFR) is the total number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and give birth to children in alignment with the prevailing age-specific fertility rates. A TFR of 2.1 is regarded as a replacement rate. Thus, none of the countries mentioned here seem capable of replacing their populations. In Japan, many regard automation as the answer, in other places, it is immigration.

This submission focused on race relations, especially the negative impact of British colonization on First Nations people. Racism has also impacted many others, notably Chinese and East Asians (including British subjects from India, whose denial of entry into Canada was illegal, but supported by Canadian and British Columbia governments). With the word count limiting one’s freedom of expression, I opted to focus on First Nations. In a future post, I intend to discuss how colonial racism impacted the Chinese community.

One notable opponent to Asian immigration, from New Westminster, was former Premier, Richard McBride. He had many places named after him including a village, a mountain, a park, two schools and a boulevard. One of the schools, Richard McBride Elementary School in New Westminster was built in 1912 as a replacement for the Sapperton School. After it burned down, it was rebuilt, a task completed in 1929. In 2018, provincial funding allowed this school to be replaced.

There was, however, discussion about the name for the school. In a letter dated 2020-06-22, the Richard McBride Elementary School Parent Advisory Council writes:
During his time as premier (1903 to 1915), McBride advocated for “a white B.C.” and sought to shut out the “Asiatic hordes.” He worked hard to prevent “cheap” Japanese labour from competing in the fisheries and in “everything the white man has been used to call his own.”

McBride led the legislature in passing numerous anti-Asian measures, such as taxes on companies that hired Chinese labourers and legislation denying the vote to Asians and Indigenous people.

After the Conservatives formed the federal government in 1911, McBride urged Prime Minister Robert Borden to honour a promise to legislate against immigration from Asia.

McBride was premier at the time of the Komagata Maru incident, when the Japanese steamship carrying hundreds of Sikh passengers was prevented from docking and most of its passengers were barred from entering B.C. McBride was quoted as saying: “To admit Orientals in large numbers would mean the end, the extinction of the white people.”

As premier, McBride pursued a policy of making way for economic development and the expansion of cities by dispossessing Indigenous nations of their reserve lands.

McBride was also well-known as a leading anti-suffrage politician at a time when white women were gaining the vote across Canada. He believed extending the franchise to women would take away too much power from men.

See: https://www.newwestrecord.ca/local-news/new-west-district-gets-set-to-rename-richard-mcbride-school-3125606

Richard McBride Elementary School no longer exists. Long live, Skwo:wech Elementary School, opened at the beginning of the school year in 2021-09. The name means sturgeon in Halq’emeylem (the upriver dialect), a language understood by the local Qayqayt First Nation, but not actually in hǝn̓q̓ǝmin̓ǝm̓ (the downriver dialect). The school serves over 400 Kindergarten to Grade 5 students from the Sapperton neighbourhood in New Westminster. In promotional materials, it is stated that the school offers “diverse programs that support the social, emotional and academic enrichment of students. We feature both Montessori and regular programs, and host the StrongStart Early Learning Centre. Our Goal at Skwo:wech is to work together to foster a positive school community of socially and emotionally connected learners.

The name connects people with Sto:la = Sturgeon River = the Fraser River, central in New Westminster’s history. Sturgeon represented a primary food source for Indigenous communities, before commercial fishing in the early 1900’s overfished them for their caviar. It is a slow moving, but long-lived fish, there is a sense of resilience. The name itself also reflects a value necessary for reconciliation, with a name that honours local Indigenous practices, culture and contributions. Sturgeons are also an integral part of Coast Salish myth. Some have also pointed out similarities between schools of fish and schools of learners.

New Westminster in 1892

The above map of New Westminster, is oriented as many of its citizens perceive their city, with the west on the left and the east to the right, with the north at the top, and the south at the bottom. Streets run south to north, avenues from east to west. Even numbered addresses are on the southern and western sides, odd numbered on the northern and eastern sides. Unfortunately, even these basic facts aren’t actually true. The compass near the bottom of the map helps explain it. Most streets run from the south-east to the north-west; most avenues from the north-east to the south-west. The exception is Sapperton, on the right of the map, where streets run in their true north-south and east-west orientation.

New Westminster was founded by the Royal Engineers, led by Colonel Richard Moody (1813 – 1887), to be the capital of the Colony of British Columbia in 1858, and continued in that role until the colony’s merger with the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1866. New Westminster was the largest city on the mainland, from that year until it was passed in population by Vancouver during the first decade of the 20th century.

The most prominent street on the map of New Westminster is Fifth Street, where my sister lives. The architecture is attractive. Some patriots might even call it majestic with traffic divided by a boulevard. This was to be lined with foreign embassies, but by 1871, when British Columbia entered Canada, this dream came to an end. Victoria had become the capital of the united colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

This is the background image on all of my computers, showing Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley to the right of the Salish Sea, with Vancouver Island on the left.

This weblog post ends with the submitted story,


On board the sky blue C-5M Galaxy transport plane on its daily flight, scheduled to arrive at GLA, Glasgow Airport, at 10 in the morning, were Eileen Erskine, 97, her son Jack, 65, her grandson Nathan, 40, and his wife Ivy, also 40, and their daughter, Freya, 8. They were five of yet another 200 Canadian refugees being ferried in that day, this time the weekly flight from Vancouver, part of the four million that Scotland had agreed to repatriate. Each of them had their allotted 100 kg of baggage.

During the first two years of the flights only young, fully trained construction professionals arrived. They were the fore-troop, building out the housing and infrastructure for those to come later. Eileen had been born in Glasgow towards the end of the Second World War. Her parents had immigrated with her to Vancouver, where she had grown up. As housing prices escalated, she had been forced into the interior of British Columbia. Today, housing anywhere in Canada was worth nothing. The various First Nations own everything, the result of a Canadian Supreme Court ruling.

Refugee flights also arrived from Toronto and Halifax. Most of the passengers had been living in refugee camps in Canada since the beginning of 2040. The Erskines were allowed in now because Eileen had been born in Scotland.

When Britain gave reciprocal British citizenship to Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, the First Nations of Canada, renamed the Canadian Nation, saw their opportunity to depopulate their sovereign country.

Deciding where all of the refugees should go was complex. People could apply for a particular country and location, but it was an algorithm that decided. Many of the refugees destined for Scotland, had one ancestor from there, often a result of highland clearances. Most were ethnically mixed, commonly with English, Irish or even Welsh, but often involving more exotic combinations. Many Scots-Irish were assigned to Scotland, despite arriving in Canada from Ulster. Everyone had to be moved by 2050. At its current rate only sixty thousand people made it to Scotland, in a year. That rate would have to ramp up to six hundred thousand a year, ten flights a day, to meet the timeline.

With all of these new immigrants, Scotland finally took action against the lairds. No corporation, family or individual could own more than one hectare; houses could not exceed 500 square meters. Excess lands and buildings had to be sold to local authorities, who could then either sell them onwards, or rent them out.

Similar flights were being made to the other British republics: Cornwall, England, Mann, Northumbria and Wales. European Canadians from France, Germany and most of the other countries still in the United States of Europe (USE), were not being treated this way. USE was skilled at getting its own way, but to its disadvantage. They, too, needed new immigrants because of the fertility crisis.

In Scotland, developing a green economy and repopulating the Highlands and Islands were priorities. Silicon Glen would extend into Silicon Highlands and assorted island offshoots. People with proven connections to the Lowlands, such as Eileen and her family, moved there. Greenness involved building wooden houses out of plantation woods such as Douglas-fir and Sitka Spruce, then rewilding Scotland with native species. It also involved growing several iterations of crops a year using hydroponics, and fish using aquaponics.

Bureaucrats loved the opportunity to create exceptions. Refugees thought to have connections to the Hudson Bay Company, were sent to the Orkneys, which was prime recruitment territory for the fur trading company. Of course, not all of these descendants were required to leave Canada. Those with First Nations heritage were allowed to stay in Canada, something a DNA test could prove.

Fur traders were not the worst of immigrants to Canada, if only because of their dependency on native trappers. Gold miners were often only interested in get-rich-quick schemes. When these failed, as they most often did, the former miners took to homesteading, taking the lands already occupied by the First Nations people, and often giving them European diseases that killed them off.

The Canadian Nation dealt more harshly with Scottish descendants, in part because the first prime minister of Canada, born John Alexander McDonald in Glasgow, infuriated past and present indigenous people, because federal policies he enacted, encourage their genocide, from gold miners, settlers and the residential school system.

With the Canadian Nation owning all of the land in Canada now, it was payback time, and the descendants of British settlers suffered the most. Except it wasn’t suffering at all. Scotland needed young workers!

Immigration reinforced English. Scots and Canadians spoke the same language, although with different dialects and vocabularies. At the Canadian refugee camps they were educated in green skills that could be put to immediate use on their arrival in Scotland. They also received a social education that gave them an understanding of Scottish history, but also a history of the European exploitation of Canada, and how this negatively impacted the First Nations peoples.

One of the many concerns was how long it would take the new citizens to drive comfortably on the left side of the road. Native born Scots wondered how many lives would be lost before the new immigrants consciously looked right, first, before crossing roads. Some worried that an upcoming plebiscite would change the country to driving on the right. The new citizens were restricted to autonomous vehicles. An agreement with Stellantis, and a reconstructed Linwood auto factory resulted in a new, electric and autonomous MPV, the Hillman Husky: a brand name that united the past with the future, a model name that appealed to most Canadian refugees, and a product that looked after most transportation needs.

Eileen soon arrived at her new home, an assisted living centre, in Laurieston. The tenements she had grown up with had disappeared, as had the towers that replaced them. “Absolute luxury,” she declared, as she ate her dinner of haggis, neeps and tatties, “Its good to come home, finally.”

Earth Day 2022

Blue Marble by NASA/Apollo 17 crew, either Harrison Schmitt (1935 – ) or Ron Evans (1933 – 1990), 1972-12-07.

The first Earth Day was held fifty-two years ago, on 1970-04-22. Officially, it includes events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org. Unofficially, anybody can do whatever they like. This year’s event happens on Friday, 2022-04-22, with an official theme: Invest In Our Planet. This weblog post is being published almost a week in advance, so that people will have some time to reflect on what they want to do.

When I visited the Earth Day website, to gain an understanding of what this year’s theme really means, I was underwhelmed. One section read: “The fashion industry is responsible for over 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions.  Sustainable Fashion refers to a clothing supply chain that is ecologically and socially responsible. Now is the opportunity to shift the industry and consumers away from the fast fashion model and toward sustainable practices in sourcing, production, distribution, marketing, and consumption.” Sadly, there is not much helpful detail. I am left wondering who, if anyone, is going to implement these sustainable practices? Who is going to do anything?

I am not impressed with the new European Union eco-labels for fabrics. From 2023 all clothes and shoes sold in the EU will include colour-coded labels informing customers about the products’ environmental impact. But the Make the Label Count campaign says the system of measurement developed in 2013 is misleading, outdated and not in line with the EU’s climate goals. Fossil fuel-derived fibres, such as polyester, will be certified as more environmentally friendly than natural fibres, such as wool and cotton. These will score red. Microplastic pollution, biodegradability and renewability are excluded from the assessment criteria. Thus, I will not pay attention to any of these labels.

Most of my clothing is made of natural materials, wool and cotton especially. I wear them for many years. For example, my spring and summer jacket was purchased in 2008. It should last the rest of my life. I wear my chinos until they wear out, and even then, they are transformed (through the miracle of a personal relationship with a textile craftsperson) into shorts. My shirts and underwear are cotton. Most of my shoes (4 pairs) are Allbirds, made of wool but with Sweetfoam soles made from sugarcane. This was the most ecological brand of shoes that I could find, that fit my feet, even if I would prefer them to offer a slightly wider variant.

75 Gigajoules

A Stanford University study has shown that the good life in terms of happiness involves the consumption of about 75 GJ of energy per person annually. Quoting from the abstract: “We analyze the maximum global performance of nine health, economic, and environmental metrics by country, determining which metrics increase with per capita energy use and which show thresholds or plateaus in maximum performance. Across the dataset, eight of nine metrics, including life expectancy, infant mortality, happiness, food supply, and access to basic sanitation services, improve steeply and then plateau at levels of average primary annual energy consumption between 10 and 75 GJ person−1 computed nationally (five metrics plateau between 10 and 30 GJ person−1). One notable exception is air quality (energy threshold of 125 GJ person−1 across 133 countries). Averaged across metrics, the 10 countries (with at least seven metrics) showing the best performance given their per capita primary energy use are Malta, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Albania, Iceland, Finland, Bangladesh, Norway, Morocco, and Denmark. If distributed equitably, today’s average global energy consumption of 79 GJ person−1 could, in principle, allow everyone on Earth to realize 95% or more of maximum performance across all metrics (and assuming no other limiting factors). Dozens of countries have average per capita energy use below this 79 GJ energy sufficiency threshold, highlighting the need to combat energy poverty.”

Personal efforts

In part because Earth Day begins and ends in words, I won’t be doing anything officially to support it, but here is a short list of my current personal priority issues for saving planet Earth from a 1.5 (or more likely 2.0) degree C increase in temperature, and a lower carbon footprint in the future.


I am fortunate to live in a house that I own together with Patricia, and to have the ability to undertake improvements. Not everyone is in full control of their housing. Some people rent rather than own, others live in condominiums = self-owned apartments. Thus, many individuals and families are at the mercy of others, including home-owner associations. However, we do live in a cold climate, that requires heating. With the construction season started, this year’s highest priority task is to increase the thickness of insulation in the ceiling. We discovered shortly after moving into the house in 1989, that it was essentially uninsulated in the walls, but was insulated in the ceiling.

All of the walls have been upgraded to a minimum of 100 mm of insulation. Two of the four walls that meet the worst of arctic winds, have been upgraded further, so that most of the length of these walls now has 250 mm of insulation, although there are a few meters that have only 200 mm. This year the focus is on increasing ceiling insulation from 200 to 400 mm. Throughout the pandemic there has been a construction boom in Norway, resulting in product and labour shortages and increased prices. Fortunately, most of the material needed for this year’s improvements were purchased before 2020, and have waited patiently to be used.

The other task is to install a balanced ventilation/ heating/ cooling system that will recycle heat, but not air, and will be connected to an air-to-air heat pump that should reduce energy consumption further.

Transportation and Travel

This year could be the year that we transition from an internal compustion engined (ICE) vehicle to an electric vehicle (EV). But transportation involves much more than just owning a car. In terms of driving, I am thinking that we should not drive more than once a week to our municipal centre, Straumen (26 km, round trip) for grocery shopping. About once a month we could allow ourselves a trip to Steinkjer that offers a wider selection of products (an additional 40 km, round trip). There would be an annual visit to Trondheim (240 km, round trip). Some social visits could come in addition. Norwegian Friends of the Earth has been particularly concerned about the use of tires, and their contribution of plastics to the environment.

In terms of air travel, we would like to prioritize one more trip to British Columbia to celebrate Patricia’s sister’s 80th birthday, and one more trip to California, to visit our daughter. We have decided that we can visit much of the rest of the world through documentaries. However, it must be admitted that excursions into warmer parts of Europe during the winter, are appealing. However, trains can be used to get there!


We continue to buy much of our dairy products and eggs from local farmers. This involves walking to the farms. While not vegetarians, we try to eat less meat. We also avoid almost all restaurant food, if only because of their excessive salt content.


In many weblog posts in 2021, and even now in 2022, music has been a major theme. Here, I would like to address the carbon footprint of the music industry, assisted – in part – by a recent Guardian article, that stated that on Earth Day about 100 international, intergenerational and eclectic musicians will release material exclusively via Bandcamp (with the platform waiving its fees) and with the income generated being distributed among causes working at the frontlines of the climate emergency.

On EarthPercent’s website, a somewhat different story is told. They state that for every track sold, a minimum of £1.30/$1.30 goes to our grantmaking programme, after deducting only third-party platform fees and applicable taxes from the purchase price. No EarthPercent operating costs are deducted.

The two sources also disagree about how much philanthropic funding is directed towards the climate crisis. The Guardian states less than 3%, EarthPercent states less than 2%. Regardless, EarthPercent encourages all participants in the music industry to divert a small percentage of their income, to the most impactful climate causes/ projects/ charities selected by an independent expert advisory panel, with the financial goal of raising $100m by 2030.

I do not support the music industry, with the exception of including YouTube links to specific songs in weblog posts. At a personal level, my musical content was converted to audio files from CDs, at a time when it was legal to do so. This is what I play. I do not stream anything. I do not attend concerts. I do not buy new CDs. I do not buy vinyl. I am attempting to go one step further, making my own music, but this is a long and arduous process.

The industrial approach to music is easy for listeners. Pay a regular sum of money (or listen to some ads) and you will be able to listen to (some) music using a streaming service. Pay somewhat more, and you will be able to download it, more still and it will be provided on a CD or vinyl record. Pay something outrageous, and you will be able to attend a concert.

The focus of the music industry is on the promotion of specific groups and individuals, who may be no better or worse than many others. Industry players then attempt to control this music to maximize their return on investment from the production of: CDs, vinyl records, streamed content, concerts. At the same time, they promote the excessive, luxurious lifestyle, enjoyed by a few performers, which only creates more disparity in the world. This disparity leads to an overheating of the world, in part because it prevents the less privileged from making improvements to their lives, such as an ability to replace the burning of fossil fuels with greener substitutes.

Environmentally, music concerts are particularly bad. They not only involve the movement of a band, its roadies and its equipment, but up to tens of thousands of fans (as in enthusiastic people, not mechanical devices that blow air). All this movement creates a serious carbon footprint.

Personally, I am not convinced that kinetic dancefloors, that harness crowd energy, or travel advice apps, will cut carbon emissions significantly. Instead, if people need live entertainment, they should enjoy locally produced music, produced by local musicians, in local venues. Even better, if a person is interested in music, they can make it themselves!

There are many different approaches to music. Here in Inderøy, which is a microcosm of what is happening in Norway and developed countries more generally, there are many different choirs: some are just for men, or women, or children; some are mixed for all genders of adults; some focus on just part of the municipality, while others are for all of it.

There are marching bands with woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments, that will be playing at a wide variety of venues on two upcoming holidays, Labour day (2022-05-01) and Constitution day (2022-05-17). Some of these bands march, some don’t.

Traditional music, often involves the Hardingfele (Norwegian) or Hardanger fiddle (English), often considered Norway’s national musical instrument. It is similar to a violin, typically with eight strings (in contrast to four on a standard violin) and thinner wood. Four of the strings are strung and played like a violin, the remaining understrings, simply resonate. Traditional, and not-so traditional dance bands play music at local events for people who like to dance.

There are also a wide variety of smaller bands that practice together, playing mainly for themselves, or at a few local festivals or other events. Increasingly, they place their music on YouTube.

Yet, the most important group involves solo musicians, who sing or play for their own personal enjoyment. There is some form of music for almost everybody, and the carbon footprint of playing that music does not have to be very high!


A Synclavier II was introduced in 1980. Many claim its fame is due to its cost, which was originally between $200 000 – $300 000. The largest system built and sold by New England Digital Corporation cost $500 000

Dartmouth College deserves praise for its role in starting advanced technological companies in rural environments. One of the first of these was New England Digital Corporation (NED). The company began life in Hanover, New Hampshire (NH), population 9 119, in the 1980 census, then moved to Norwich, Vermont (VT), with a population then of 2 398, located 2.4 km north-east of Hanover, and later to White River Junction, VT, with a current population of 2 286, located 9 km south of Hanover.

A location with a small population can become world famous for its products, but those products have to be carefully selected. In addition, product design will probably need some input from external experts, rather than relying on the efforts of a single entrepreneur, working alone, in a remote area.

On almost every corporate website, and many others, there is a section titled, Our Story or About. The wording is interesting, because it is usually not called Our History, for that would imply some truthiness. With Our Story or About there is more wiggle room for wishful thinking, and self-aggrandizement, and less need for objective facts. On the Synclavier website, the role of external experts needed to make the Synclavier successful has been reduced/ wiggled away. Here, the focus will be on some of the experts that made Synclavier the success it was.

As a university, Dartmouth College, in Hanover, NH is notable for several reasons. It is a rural university, without urban distractions. In the 2021 US News university ranking, Dartmouth College is #13 nationally, and #226 in the world. In 2016, Thayer became the first US national research university with a graduating class of engineers that was over 50% female. In the 1960s, Dartmouth was world famous for its invention of the Basic programming language, released 1964-05-01. In 1978, it became world famous for its founding of the Thayer School of Engineering’s entrepreneurship program, at the Cook Engineering Design Center. At Cook, they solicit industry-sponsored projects for degree candidates to work on. Prior to this, in 1975, one of the first such project resulted in the Synclavier.

Without the support of Dartmouth’s faculty members, it is unlikely that the Synclavier would have existed. The Synclavier has its origins with Jon Appleton (1939 – 2022), a professor of digital electronics, and Frederick Johnson Hooven (1905 – 1985), a part-time professor of engineering. They worked with Dartmouth Thayer School of Engineering research professor Sydney Alonso (1936 – ) and Cameron Warner Jones (ca. 1955 – ), at the time an undergraduate student. These last two apparently met in the university computing centre. They discovered a common interest, that resulted in the Synclavier.

From 1957 to 1961 Appleton was a student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. During the 1962–1963 school year, he was a music teacher in Sedona, Arizona. From 1963–1966 he was a graduate student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. During 1966–1968 he was hired by Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, to establish an electronic music studio. When the university officials reneged on their promise to develop this studio, Appleton resigned and accepted a position at Thayer school of engineering, at Dartmouth College. He took a leave of absence from Thayer in the mid-1970s to become the head of Elektronmusikstudion (EMS) = Centre for Swedish electroacoustic music and sound-art, established in 1964. It is run as an independent part of Musikverket = Swedish Performing Arts Agency. It is located in Stockholm, Sweden.

Hooven held thirty-eight U.S. patents and devised numerous other inventions that were not patented. His engineering career started before he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1927. In 1925, at DayFan Radio, he designed improved radio receivers. After graduation he worked for General Motors (GM) where he designed a brake shoe system used on all GM vehicles for twenty-five years.

From 1930 to 1931, Hooven designed automobile suspension systems at Dayton Rubber Company. During 1931 and 1932, he designed a blind aircraft landing system for the American Loth Company. In 1932 he independently produced the first successful high-fidelity crystal phonograph pickup. He worked as vice-president and chief engineer for Bendix’s Radio Products Division from 1935 to 1937, where he developed the first automatic steering system for unmanned flight. From 1937 to 1957, he was self-employed working on product research and development.

In 1957 Fred Hooven went to work for the Ford Motor Company where he supervised the design and development of assorted automobiles. When he left Ford in 1967 he once again become a consultant, but also an adjunct professor of engineering at Thayer, becoming a part-time professor in 1975. He remained in that capacity until his death in 1985.

Civilian inventions include the first radio compass (1936); an automobile ignition system (1948); the first heart-lung machine (1952); the Harris intertype digital electronic phototypesetter (1955); and a front-end drive system for automobiles (1962).

The Synclavier I was released at the end of 1977. It used FM synthesis, re-licensed from Yamaha, and was sold mostly to universities. The initial models used a computer with synthesis modules, later enhancements added a (musical) keyboard and a control panel.

The Synclavier II was released in 1980. Once again, external help was needed. Synthesist and music producer Denny Jaeger suggested that FM synthesis be extended to allow four simultaneous channels to be triggered with one key depression to allow a fuller synthesized sound. This became a key selling point of the model.

Alonso and Jones made significant contributions to the design. Alonso was awarded US Patent 4108035 for a musical note oscillator, in 1978; US Patent 4178822 for musical synthesis envelope control techniques, in 1979; US Patent 4279185 for Electronic music sampling techniques, in 1981; US Patent 4680479 for a method of and apparatus for providing pulse trains whose frequency is variable in small increments and whose period, at each frequency, is substantially constant from pulse to pulse, in 1987; and, US Patent 4726067 for a method of and apparatus for extending the useful dynamic range of digital-audio systems, in 1988. Jointly, they were awarded US Patent 4345500 for their high resolution musical note oscillator, in 1982; and, US Patent 4554855 for their partial timbre sound synthesis method, in 1985.

The original keyboard, referred to as the ORK, was nothing more than an on-off switch. A weighted velocity and pressure-sensitive keyboard, the VPK was licensed from Sequential Circuits. It was identical to that used on their Prophet-T8 synthesizer.

The main contribution made by Synclavier was the development of hardware cards that could be fitted into computers. This included cards for a real-time CPU, input and output, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion (ADC/ DAC), as well as memory. All of these needed to be programmed to function.

As newer models emerged, Synclavier became less dependent on external consultants, Synclavier music workstations/ digital synthesizers/ polyphonic digital samplers were made from the late 1977 to 1993. Wikipedia provides an overview of these. In 1993 Synclavier went bankrupt, its intellectual property was taken over by a bank, then sold to a Canadian company, Airworks, which itself then foreclosed. This gave Jones the opportunity he needed to buy back critical assets and to restart Synclavier.

Jones pursued other interests than building synthesizers. His bachelor thesis is about an XPL Language Compiler, a simple, small, efficient dialect of the computing language PL/1. PL/1 had been developed by IBM in 1964 to replace Algol, Cobol and Fortran. A variant, Scientific XPL, was used on New England Digital’s ABLE series computers, for laboratory automation and computer networking, as well as controlling music synthesis hardware.

Between 1982 and 1984, Jones studied the double bass with Stuart Sankey at Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music, and was active with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra.

His DSP (Digital Signal Processing) engine allowed C Code to run on Windows and MacOS. Moreover, side-by-side testing was carried out with original equipment to ensure the systems sounded identical. Arturia’s Synclavier V was released in its own right to widespread critical acclaim in May 2016. He also brought Synclavier V software synth to Arturia to be included in their V Collection plug-in suite.

In 2019, Jones released Synclavier Go!, an iOS version of the synthesizer, repurposing much of the original DSP engine so that it runs on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. It provided over 1 000 preset timbres, 19 preset libraries and over 100 lossless-quality samples/ sound files. It supports portamento, arpeggiate, mono/poly triggering, and other keyboard modes.

Sources: Jon Appleton; Fred Hooven; Synclavier; Play Synthesizer.


1: Of the readers receiving notifications of weblog posts, only one lives in New Hampshire, at Keene, located about 100 km south of the other NH and VT locations mentioned here. Before I was adopted as an infant, my original first name was Richard. I have good reason to believe that I was named after him. Hello, Dick!

2: My niece, Cally, is currently a student at Oakland University, the Michigan university that had originally hired Jon Appleton to start an electronic music studio. Hello, Cally!

3: On 2022-04-01, I acquired a new toy/ learning machine, a Behringer MS-1 monophonic analogue synth. At a price of NOK 3600/ US$ 400, it is only 0.2% of the cost of the cheapest original Synclaver!

Mother of Biology

Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis of the silkworm, from Studienbuch (Book of Studies).

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-04-02 – 1717-01-13) was born in Frankfurt am Main, she is notable as an entomologist and scientific illustrator. She spent much of her life living in what is now Germany and the Netherlands, where she died, but also two years in the Dutch colony of Surinam, in South America. Today, it is 375 years since she was born.

After her father, Matthäus Merian der Ältere (1593 – 1650), a Swiss-born engraver/ publisher, died when she was three, her widowed mother, Johanna Sybilla Heim(ius), remarried Jabob Marrel (1613/4 – 1681), a still-life painter, in 1651. Merian received her artistic training from Marrel.

Many Dutch dissenters also moved to Frankfurt, seeking refuge from persecution in the Netherlands. They turned their attention to silkworm breeding and the silk trade towards the end of the 16th century. Maria Sibylla Merian’s earliest nature studies had their origins in this context. She started to collect insects as an adolescent. At 13, she raised silkworms.

In 1665, Merian married Johann Andreas Graff, an apprentice of Marrel. In 1668, her first child, Johanna, was born. The family moved to Nuremberg in 1670. In addition to painting and other artistic activities she gave drawing lessons to unmarried daughters of wealthy families, which helped her family financially, and gave her with access to private gardens, where she could collect and document insects.

She published her first book of natural illustrations in 1675. In 1678 a second daughter, Dorothea Maria, was born, and the family moved back to Frankfurt am Main. In 1679 she published the first volume of a two-volume series on caterpillars, opening with a presentation of the silkworm’s life-cycle.

Merian’s marriage was unhappy, and she moved in with her mother after her stepfather died in 1681. The second volume on caterpillars appearing in 1683. Each volume contained 50 plates that she engraved and etched. These documented the process of insect metamorphosis, and recorded the plant hosts of 186 European insect species. She also included descriptions of insect life cycles.

In 1683, Merian travelled to Gottorp, in Schleswig-Holstein, where she became attracted to the Labadist community, founded by Jean de Labadie (1610–1674). He originally came from the Bordeaux region of France. Later, the community moved to Walta Castle, at Wieuwerd in Friesland.

In 1685, Merian moved with her mother, husband, and children to Friesland. The Labadist community generated income from farming, milling and craftsmenship. Children were tutored communally. Women had traditional roles. A printing press was set up, to disseminate writings by Labadie and others, including Anna van Schurman, (1607 – 1678) painter/ engraver/ poet/ scholar and defender of female education. Another member, Hendrik van Deventer (1651 – 1724),[skilled in chemistry and medicine, set up a laboratory and was regarded as a pioneering obstetrician.

Here, Merian studied natural history and Latin, used as a scientific language. On Friesland’s moors she observed frog development, collecting and dissecting them. Merian’s mother died in 1690, and Merian moved, with her daughters, to Amsterdam in 1691. In 1692, her husband divorced her, and her daughter Johanna married Jakob Hendrik Herolt, a successful merchant in the Surinam trade.

In 1699, Merian and her younger daughter, Dorothea Maria Graff (1678–1743), travelled to Surinam to study and record the tropical insects native to the region. This was financed by selling 255 paintings. For two years she travelling throughout the colony, sketching local animals and plants, recording local/ native names and describing local uses.

Merian criticised the colonial merchants for their obsession with sugar. She took a broader interest in local agriculture, especially the vegetables and fruits that could be grown in Suriname, such as the pineapple. She also condemned their treatment of slaves. One such enslaved person assisted her in her research, and allowed her to interact with other Amerindian and African slaves.

In 1705, she published Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Merian’s Metamorphosis has been credited with influencing a range of naturalist illustrators. In Metamorphosis, she writes: “I have been concerned with the study of insects since my youth. I started with silkworms in my native Frankfurt. Later I realized that other caterpillars developed into much more beautiful diurnal and nocturnal butterflies.”

Because of her documented observations of butterfly metamorphosis, she is often considered to be the founder, and a significant contributor, to the field of entomology. Through her studies, Merian discovered many facts about insect life, earning her the title of mother of biology.

Maria Sibylla Merian from 1679, possibly by Jacob Marrel

More information about the life and work of Merian can be found in an article by Tanya Latty.


Logo for the Système International d’Unités created by the Bureau international des poids et mesures.

This post presents general material about SI ( Système International [d’Unités]), created by the Bureau international des poids et mesures. It started out as a presentation of the joule in particular. In addition, a number of personal prejudices about units of measurement are freely presented.

What appeals to me about SI is that fact that it is a system, not an arbitrary collection of units. Its units are the only ones with official metric status since 1960.

There are seven base units: the second (symbol s, the unit of time), metre (m, length), kilogram (kg, mass), ampere (A, electric current), kelvin (K, thermodynamic temperature), mole (mol, amount of substance), and candela (cd, luminous intensity). The system allows for an unlimited number of coherent derived units, which can always be represented as products of powers of the base units. Twenty-two coherent derived units have special names and symbols. It may not be perfect, but it is consistent, which makes it easy to use.

Since 2019, the magnitudes of all SI units have used seven defining constants to express their values. These are: the speed of light in vacuum c, the hyperfine transition frequency of caesium ΔνCs, the Planck constant h, the elementary charge e, the Boltzmann constant k, the Avogadro constant NA, and the luminous efficacy Kcd.

For most of my life, I have been trying to forget the number of feet or yards in a mile. I can’t. Yet, I cannot easily express a mile in inches. I would have to take one of those numbers I am struggling to forget, and multiply it by either 12 or 36, respectively. In contrast, there is no problem converting metric units. 1 km = 1 000 m = 1 000 000 mm.

If anyone wonders why I use a space as a separator, it is because both a comma (,) and a period/ point (.) are used to indicate the start of decimal fractions. Most of the time I use a period/ point (as is the preference in English speaking countries), while most continental Europeans, including Norwegians, use a comma. Yes, I am capable of using a comma, if required. The keys are right beside each other on my computer keyboard. On paper, the symbol I use deliberately looks like something in between – an elongated period/ point, or a truncated comma.

The so-called Imperial system is not international. In terms of liquid measure the system employs four units: 4 gills = 1 pint; 2 pints = 1 quart; 4 quarts = 1 gallon. In the American system a gallon is 3.785 litres or 231 cublic inches. This American system deviates in several areas from the one Brexiters are wanting to reimpose in England, and the one I grew up with in Canada. Here, a gallon is 4.54609 litres or 277.4194 cubic inches. The Imperial system of units was first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act 1824. It continued to be developed through a series of Weights and Measures Acts and amendments.

Of course, this only applies to liquids. Dry materials have their own system where one starting point is the dry gallon. The US fluid gallon is about 14.1% smaller than the dry gallon, while the Imperial fluid gallon is about 3.2% larger. The system involves: 2 pints = 1 quart; 4 quarts = 1 dry gallon; 2 dry gallons = 1 peck; 4 pecks = 1 bushel; 10 pecks or 2.5 bushels = 1 barrel.

For me, dry units of volume were just something to memorize. It was not until a librarian from Wisconsin described the basket I was using to transport grass clippings from a lawn to a compost heap, as a bushel basket, that I began to understand the size of that unit. Thank you, Jane.

Imperial measurements of length are equally convoluted. Here are some, and their relationship to a foot, a unit that is precisely defined as 0.3048 m. A twip = 1/ 17 280; a thou or mil = 1/ 12 000; a barleycorn = 1/ 36; an inch = 1/ 12; a hand = 1/ 3; a yard = 3; a rod = 16.5; a chain = 66; a furlong = 660; a mile = 5 280.

In surveying, much of the emphasis is in determining area, typically the acre, in the Anglosphere. Here the rod is particularly useful: 4 rods = 1 chain; 40 rods = 10 chains = 1 furlong. Whole number multiples of a rod can be used to determine area in acres. A perfect acre is 40 rods by 4 rods or 160 square rods or 10 square chains. To gain a rough understanding of area in units that I understand, I take the area in acres and divide it by 250. This gives an approximate area in square kilometers. In metric units, a prevalent standard unit of area is the hectare, which is 100 m by 100 m = 10 000 square meters. There are 100 hectares in one square kilometer.

At sea, other measurements are used that are subdivisions of the nautical mile (n.m.) = 1 852 meters. These are fathom = 1/ 1 000 n.m. = 1.852 m = 6.0761 feet (and not 6 feet, as myth would have it, although the British Admiralty allowed – some would say encouraged – this deviation); cable = 100 fathoms = 1/ 10 of a nautical mile = 185.2 m.

In the seamanship and navigation courses I have taken in Norway, a nautical mile is used extensively. In 1 degree (°) of latitude or longitude = 60 minutes (‘). 1′ = 60 seconds (“). While distances vary along parallels of latitude, that run east to west, the distances are constant along meridians of longitude that run north to south: 1’ = 1 n.m. and 1° = 60 n.m.

In an interconnected world, there is a need for a common language of measurements. Take speed, as an example. While your local meteorologist uses m/s, your local Harley-Davidson motorcyclists may be using miles/hour (refusing to use km/h, even in Europe). 1 m/s = 3.6 km/hour, exactly = about 2.237 miles per hour. Most people cannot judge speeds precisely, but rely on instruments – including speedometers – to tell them. Thus, it should be possible to set up some approximations that could help with transitions.

I survived a speed limit transition in Canada, 1977-09-01, when motor vehicle speed limits went from mph to km/h. My (imperfect) recollection of the speeds were: 10 mph = 20 km/h; 20 mph = 30 km/h; 30 mph = 50 km/h; 40 mph = 60 km/h; 50 mph = 80 km/h; 70 mph = 110 km/h. Those with better memories can contact me, and these will be corrected. The highest speed limit in Canada is 120 km/h found on British Columbia’s Coquihalla Highway.

At the time there were complaints that 30 mph was actually only 48.28 km/h. However, it was also pointed out that the average Canadian driver drove at speeds that exceeded the speed limit. It was judged more appropriate to use round numbers. The opposite problem arose with 20 mph = ca. 32.19 km/h while the new speed limit was only 30 km/h.

In terms of accident prevention, speeds in m/s gives relevant information to drivers, who know that they have to react to events within seconds. While a speed of 10 km/h is about 2.78 m/s, it can be regarded as 3 m/s. With this approach, speed limits become: 10 mph = 20 km/h = 6 m/s; 20 mph = 30 km/h = 9 or more likely 10 m/s; 30 mph = 50 km/h = 15 m/s; 40 mph = 60 km/h = 18 or more likely 20 m/s; 50 mph = 80 km/h = probably 25 m/s; 70 mph = 110 km/h = 30 m/s.

The Bureau international des poids et mesures (BIPM) is an intergovernmental organisation, with 63 member-states and 40 associate states/ economies, that sets measurement standards in four areas: chemistry, ionising radiation, physical metrology, and coordinated universal time. It is based in Saint-Cloud, on international territory located in a suburb almost 10 km west of Paris, France. It was founded 1875-05-20. This date continues to be celebrated annually as World Metrology Day.

There have been many proposals for metric base units. The first was developed by Carl Friederich Gauss (1777 – 1855), who proposed using millimetre, milligram and second in 1832. In 1873, a British Association for the Advancement of Science committee that included both James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879) and William Thomson (1824 – 1907) recommended centimetre, gram and second. This became known as the cgs system, and was officially adopted in 1881. In 1881, Rudolf Clausius (1822 – 1888) proposed erg as the official energy unit, from ergon = work/ task in Greek. It was officially adopted in 1882, but lost its official status on 1978-01-01.

Wilhelm Siemens (1823 – 1883) proposed joule as a unit in 1882, to honour James Prescott Joule (1818 – 1889) for his work in thermodynamics. Originally, it was defined in terms of amperes and ohms. This tended to make it an electrical unit. However, in 1946 it was redefined in terms of newtons and meters, to make it a more generalized and acceptable unit of work. In 1948, the joule became the preferred unit of heat, effectively replacing the calorie. It can always be defined in terms of base units: kg⋅m2⋅s−2

The problem with calories. First, there are two different types of calories: large calories or kilocalories = 1 000 small calories or gram calories. These are related to the energy needed to raise either 1 kilogram or 1 gram of water, respectively, 1 Celsius = 1 Kelvin. The small calorie was included in the SI system, but it was replaced by the joule in 1948. 1 small calorie = 4.184 J; 1 large calorie = 1 kilocalorie = 4.184 kJ. These can most easily be expressed as 4 J or 4 kJ, respectively.

Adding to the confusion, there are also watt-hours. The international unit of time is the second. 1 Wh (watt-hour) = 60 x 60 = 3 600 Ws (watt-seconds) = 3.6 kWs, which is just another name for a joule. So, 1 Ws = 1J.

The size of rechargeable batteries is increasingly expressed in terms of electric charge (Ah). I regard this as a marketing ploy to increase the apparent energy capacity of a battery. People want to know how long a battery will last before it has to be recharged. The electric charge in itself is uninteresting, because it has to be multiplied by the voltage used. This varies. I have computers that use 10.8 V, radios that use 13.8 V, electric power tools that use 18 V, a lawnmower that uses 40 V. Most of the time there is a caveat on the battery, stating that this is the maximum voltage.

The 40 V electric lawnmower battery I held in my hand a few seconds ago is rated at 5.0 Ah. It also states that it provides 180 Wh of energy, not the 200 that should be expected by multiplying 5 x 40. Part of the reason for my skepticism about using Ah as a metric, is that it does not take voltage drop into account. Internal resistance, and chemical transformations in the electrolyte are two reasons for this decline in voltage. Regardless, I expect battery manufacturers to provide me with realistic values for the amount of energy I can use, before charging.

For traction batteries used in electric vehicles, kWh is the common unit, in part because many people do not know (or even care about) the battery voltage. On modern vehicles this can vary from 200 to 800 V.

What I hope is that electric battery suppliers will provide energy values in joules. The 180 Wh in the lawnmower battery noted above is 648 MJ. This is about the size of the smallest battery pack used in a scooter. The smallest battery pack for a car is currently about 20 kWh traction battery offers 72 GJ; 40 kWh = 144 GJ; 60 kWh = 216 GJ; 80 kWh = 288 GJ; 100 kWh = 360 GJ. A battery pack for a locomotive might be 2 400 kWh. However, I would appreciate more standardized batteries using preferred numbers, as developed by Charles Renard (1847–1905). If the R5 were implemented it would lead to traction batteries of 630 MJ, 1 GJ, 2.5 GJ, 4.0 GJ, 6.3 GJ, 10 GJ, 16 GJ, 25 GJ, 40 GJ, 63 GJ, 100 GJ, 160 GJ, 250 GJ, 400 GJ, 630 GJ, 1.0 TJ, 1.6 TJ, 2.5 TJ, 4.0 TJ, 6.3 TJ and 10 TJ for assorted vehicle types, covering everything from scooters to locomotives.

Metabolism refers to necessary processes to keep a body functioning. Standard metabolic rate (SMR) is the rate of energy expenditure per unit time by animals at rest. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is a special case of SMR used with endothermic aka warm-blooded animals. In humans, BMR is the amount of energy per unit of time that a person needs to keep the body functioning at rest: breathing, blood circulation, controlling body temperature, cell growth, brain and nerve function, and contracting muscles. BMR accounts for about 60 to 75% of an individual’s energy expenditure. There are suggestions that a mean BMR could be somewhat over 6 MJ per day.

It is often suggested that the average human consumes about 2 000 – 2 500 large calories of food per day, in round numbers. This is somewhere around 8 – 10 MJ per day, in yet more round numbers.

For joules to be understood in kitchens and the heads of people on diets, there will also be a need to internalize values. On one website, a list of 45 common food products was presented, along with the calories of each. One of these was a banana, medium which offered 105 calories. Bananas vary in size, and I am uncertain exactly how big a medium banana is. I am sure that I have eaten small bananas that provide only 80 calories, and larger ones that have 120. Thus, I am going to state that on at least some days, my banana only has 100 calories. Since 1 large calorie has about 4 kJ, this item will provide me with 400 kJ of energy. I do not see using joules, instead of calories, as an insurmountable challenge.

On a personal note: One Norwegian has been director of the Bureau, Ole Jacob Broch (1818 – 1889), from 1883 (some sources say 1879) until his death. At various times he was a mathematician, physicist, economist and government minister. He was born in Fredrikstad, Norway, from where I trace my Norwegian ancestry. The spelling of his surname is precisely how Norwegians want to spell my forename, unless they know better.

Related, future posts. Prolog, provides information about the Prolog programming language. Cooksum, examines metabolism, “the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available.” In particular it looks at the work of Herman Pontzer. The content of these four posts, will be used in Cookbase, a nutritional knowledge base being developed as a kitchen tool. It builds, a database of ingredients and their characteristics, recipes with number of servings, ingredients and quantities, preparation instructions etc.