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

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,

Homebound

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.”

Joule

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.

A Celtic Calendar

Robert Berthelier’s Pan-Celtic flag from 1950.

Happy Celtic New Year! The Winter Solstice was Tuesday, 2021-12-20 at 16:59 using Central European Time (CET), where I live in Norway. This was already past sunset, because sunset on that day in Vangshylla was at 14:17. Since, sunrise was at 10:05, this gave us only about four hours of daylight. New Year’s Day should have began for me on Wednesday, 2021-12-21 at 14:18 CET.

For those wanting to translate the time to their time zone, the Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) of the Winter Solstice was 15:59.

The Celtic calendar is not always particularly accurate. It is traditional to celebrate the start of the new year at sunset on the 22nd. I understand some people even use midnight as the starting point, with most of the celebration happening on the 23rd. This means that in 2021, everyone is already starting the year off one day late, according to the sun. Since, I publish weblog posts at 12:00 CET, this still allows me two more hours in the day to celebrate. I hope readers in Arizona, British Columbia, California, Michigan, Ontario, New Hampshire and Washington state will forgive me for my lateness in publishing this post.

While one would like to look back to the ancient Druids for the origins of the Celtic calendar, the source is more recent, Edward Davies (1756 -1831). Davies did not understand the context of the Mabinogion, which was a compilation written in Middle Welsh in the 12th and 13th centuries, but derived from earlier oral traditions, and the other documents he was reading and researching. He did not seem to understand that Gwion/ Gwydion was a mythical trickster/ magician/ hero, or that the Battle of the Trees was a mythological conflict, and not a historical event. He did not realize that he was actually inventing the Celtic calendar!

Davies is described by Robert [von Ranke] Graves (1895 – 1985) as “… a brilliant but hopelessly erratic Welsh scholar of the early nineteenth century, first noted in his Celtic Researches (1809), the battle described by Gwion is not a frivolous battle, or a battle physically fought, but a battle fought intellectually in the heads and with the tongues of the learned. Davies also noted that in all Celtic languages trees means letters; that the Druidic colleges were founded in woods or groves; that a great part of the Druidic mysteries was concerned with twigs of different sorts; and that the most ancient Irish alphabet, the Beth-Luis-Nion ( ‘ Birch – Rowan – Ash ‘ ) takes its name from the first three of a series of trees whose initials form the sequence of its letters. Davies was on the right track and though he soon went astray because, not realizing that the poems were pied, he mistranslated them into what he thought was good sense, his observations help us to restore the text of the passage referring to the hastening green things and trees.” (p. 38, in the 1961 edition)

This Celtic calendar uses 13 trees as symbols for the lunar months, along with an Ogham letter. Ogham was used primarily to write the early and old Irish languages from the 4th to 9th centuries. The year begins on December 23 (12-23), the Day of Creation, the day after the winter solstice. Each month contains 28 days, except the last one (Ruis) which only has 24 days, in order for it to fit into a solar year.

Almost all calendars have inconsistencies. In the Celtic calendar presented, it is the conflation of a lunar calendar onto a solar calendar, as shown with the shortening of Ruis. A lunation is the period of time, averaging 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds, elapsing between two successive new moons. Thus, many lunar calendar have alternating months of 29 and 30 days because of this. A lunar year consisting of 12 months is 354 days and some hours, or about 11 or 12 days shorter than a solar year. A lunar year consisting of 13 months is almost 384 days long. The Islamic calendar is a purer version of a lunar calendar. Here, there is no attempt to conflate the lunar months onto a solar year, so that the lunar months cycle through the solar year, and end up at the same relative position in 33 to 34 lunar-year cycles.

The Gregorian calendar is very similar to the Celtic calendar. It too attempts of conflate lunar months onto a solar calendar.

Below is the calendar, with the name of the month = Celtic letter, a horizontal representation of how it was written, the tree or other plant associated with it, and start and end dates, in month followed by date format. Location: ♥ = trees found on Cliff Cottage property; ☼ = trees found within 1 000 m of Cliff Cottage.

  • Biethe ( ᚁ ) = Birch/ Betula species (ssp.) 12-24 to 01-20 ♥
  • Luis ( ᚂ ) = Rowan/ Sorbus ssp. 01-21 to 02-17 ♥
  • Nion ( ᚅ ) = Ash/ Fraxinus ssp. 02-18 to 03-17 ♥
  • Fearn ( ᚃ ) = Alder/ Alnus ssp. 03-18 to 04-14 ♥
  • Saille ( ᚄ ) = Willow/ Salix ssp. 04-15 to 05-12 ♥
  • Uath ( ᚆ ) = Hawthorn/ Crataegus ssp. 05-13 to 06-09
  • Duir ( ᚇ ) = Oak/ Quercus ssp. 06-10 to 07-07 ☼
  • Tinne ( ᚈ ) = Holly/ Ilex ssp. 07-08 to 08-04
  • Coll ( ᚉ ) = Hazel/ Corylus ssp. 08-05 to 09-01 ☼
  • Muin ( ᚋ ) = Vine/ Vitis ssp. 09-02 to 09-29
  • Gort ( ᚌ ) = Ivy/ Hedera ssp. 09-30 to 10-27
  • Ngetal ( ᚍ ) = Reed/ wetland members of the order Poales 10-28 to 11-24
  • Ruis ( ᚏ ) = Elder/ Aegopodium ssp. 11-25 to 12-22 ♥

How much this calendar was used in ancient times is subject to speculation. In modern times, variations of the Celtic calendar were used by the Insular Celts, of which six Celtic languages are extant (in all cases, they can be written and spoken) in two distinct language groups: Brythonic: Breton, Cornish and Welsh; and Goidelic: Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic.

These people split years into two halves: the dark half and the light half. La Bealtaine, was the beginning the light half of the year. It is derived from the Old Irish bel taine = bright fire. This was held at the beginning of May. It is often informally translated as Mayday. Samhain was the beginning of the dark half of the year, at about the beginning of November. It is often informally translated as Halloween.

  • Quert ( ᚊ ) = Apple/ Malus ssp. = the light half of the year – Bealtaine to Samhain.
  • Straif ( ᚎ ) = Blackthorn/ Prunus spinosa = the dark half of the year – Samhain to Bealtaine.

Just as the day was seen as beginning at sunset, so the year was seen as beginning with the arrival of the darkness, at Calan Gaeaf / Samhain. This explanation seems in conflict with that initially proposed, where the year begins with the winter solstice. However, there can be different years for different purposes. For example, a school year typically begins towards the end of summer. The financial year at the beginning of January.

Solstices and Equinoxes.

  • Ailm ( ᚐ ) = Scots Pine, Baltic Pine/ Pinus sylvestris = 12-22, the winter solstice at the start of the year. ♥
  • Onn ( ᚑ ) = Gorse/ Ulex ssp. = 03-21, the spring equinox
  • Ur ( ᚒ ) = Heather/ Calluna ssp. = 06-21, the summer solstice ♥
  • Eadha ( ᚓ ) = Aspen/ Populus tremula – 09-21, the autumn equinox ♥
  • Ioho ( ᚔ ) = Yew/ Taxus baccata – 12-21, the winter solstice at the end of the year. The shortest day.

A Celtic Flag

Any ethnic group with respect for itself has not just a calendar, but also a flag. Robert Berthelier (? – ?), from Brittany, designed the flag at the top of this post in 1950. Its green field is charged with two yellow interlaced triskelions, a geometric shape showing triple rotational symmetry. One symbolizes the Gaelic countries of Alba = Scotland, Mannin or Mann = Man and Éire = Ireland. The other represents the Brittonic countries of Cymru = Wales, Kernow = Cornwall and Breizh = Brittany. Each of the six nations is therefore symbolized by a branch of a triskelion. The triskelion has been used since about 3 200 BC, during the Neolithic period.

The triskelions are inscribed in a yellow circle. The circle has been used by the pan-Celtic movement as a symbol of unity. Both green and yellow have been used since the start of the Celtic movements as colours, with green representing the sea linking the Celtic countries. In addition, purple is used, as the colour of heather, which has been the official emblem plant of the Celts since 1901-08-23, at the Celtic congress in Dublin.

The pan-Celtic movement started indirectly with the work of George Buchanan = Seòras Bochanan (1506 – 1582). He theorized that if the Gauls were Celtae (as described in Roman sources) then so were Britons. He concluded that the Britons and Irish Gaels once spoke one Celtic language which later diverged. The Breton scholar Paul-Yves Pezron (1639 – 1706) furthered this work in Antiquité de la Nation et de la langue celtes autrement appelez Gaulois (1703), as did the Welsh scholar Edward Lhuyd (1660 – 1709) in Archaeologia Britannica: An Account of the Languages, Histories and Customs of the Original Inhabitants of Great Britain (1707).

The pan-Celtic movement was almost mainstream from 1838 until 1939, but then went into decline. The Celtic League, an accredited non-government organization (NGO) was founded in 1961, and has since then become the prominent face of political pan-Celticism.

The Insular Celtic nations: Scotland (blue), Ireland (green), Man (brown), Wales (red), Cornwall (yellow), Breton (black).

This post was written under the assumption that there can never be enough calendars, so that people have yet another excuse for missing appointments, as in … “Oh, I thought you gave me that date according to the [select calendar of choice, or just one randomly] calendar! This Celtic calendar is undoubtedly impractical to use on a daily basis especially in this digital age, but I am attracted to it because of the trees. Impractical? Yes, because the use of a calendar depends on a community of users agreeing on a date system. If nothing else, one can also use the Celtic calender to (select one) impress/ depress/ oppress friends, or to increase one’s weirdness coefficient. Normal people in North America and Europe (and many other parts of the world) will continue to use the Gregorian calendar.

D. B. Cooper

Tickle The WireFBI Accepts New Evidence in Cold Case of ...
Sketches of “D. B. Cooper” with and without sunglasses, from 1972. Images: FBI, in the public domain.

Fifty years ago today, 1971-11-24, a man identified as D. B. Cooper highjacked a Boeing 727-100. Sometime that day he disappeared.

A middle-aged man stood at Northwest Orient Airlines’ flight counter at Portland International Airport, identified himself as Dan Cooper and purchased a one-way ticket in cash for a 30-minute trip north to Seattle. After boarding the aircraft he, in all likelihood, sat in seat 18C.

Flight 305, with 36 passengers and a crew of six, departed Portland on schedule at 14:50 PST. Shortly after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to flight attendant Florence Schaffner. Although she initially put it in her purse, Cooper asked her to read it. It mentioned a bomb and directed her to sit beside him, which she did. Cooper showed her the bomb, then demanded $200 000 in “negotiable American currency”, four parachutes (two primary and two reserve), and a fuel truck to stand by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. Schaffner conveyed Cooper’s instructions to the pilots in the cockpit, then returned.

William A. Scott (1920–2001), the captain, contacted Seattle–Tacoma Airport air traffic control, which informed local and federal authorities. The passengers were told that their arrival in Seattle would be delayed because of a minor mechanical difficulty. Northwest Orient’s president, Donald Nyrop, authorized payment of the ransom, and ordered all employees to cooperate fully with the hijacker’s demands. The aircraft circled Puget Sound for about two hours while the parachutes and ransom money were assembled, and emergency personnel mobilized.

FBI agents assembled the ransom money, 10 000 unmarked 20-dollar bills and microfilmed each of them. Cooper rejected military parachutes, and obtained civilian parachutes with manual ripcords.

At 17:39, the aircraft landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The aircraft taxied to an isolated, but brightly lit section of the apron. All window shades in the cabin were closed. Northwest Orient’s Seattle operations manager, Al Lee, delivered a cash-filled knapsack and parachutes to flight attendant Tina Mucklow on the aft stairs. Once on board, Cooper allowed all passengers, Schaffner, and senior flight attendant Alice Hancock to leave the plane.

Cooper’s flight plan involved a southeast course toward Mexico City at the minimum airspeed possible without stalling the aircraft—approximately 100 knots = 185 km/h at a maximum 3 000 m = 10 000-foot altitude, with landing gear remaining in the takeoff/landing position, and wing flaps set at 15 degrees, and the cabin unpressurized. This meant that a second refuelling would be necessary. Cooper and the crew discussed options and agreed on Reno, Nevada, as the refuelling stop.

At about 19:40 the aircraft took off with only Cooper, Scott, Mucklow, first officer William J. Rataczak and flight engineer Harold E. Anderson on board. Two F-106 fighters shadowed the airliner, one above and one below, along with a Lockheed T-33 trainer, for part of the trip.

After takeoff, Cooper asked Mucklow to show him how to open the door to the aft staircase. He then ordered her to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door closed. At about 20:00, a warning light indicated that the aft airstair had been lowered. At 20:13, the aircraft’s tail moved upward movement, requiring trim to level it. The plane landed at 22:15, at Reno Airport. Cooper was no longer on board.

From my perspective, the most interesting aspect of the case has to do with investigators describing the highjacker as D. B. Cooper, rather than the name he used on his ticket, Dan Cooper. Agents theorized that Cooper took his alias from a popular Belgian comics series of the 1970s featuring the fictional hero Dan Cooper, a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot in a Belgian comic book/ graphic novel series, who participants in numerous heroic adventures, including parachuting. These comics were never translated into English, nor imported to the U.S. Thus, there are suggestions that Cooper was Canadian. In particular, the phrase “negotiable American currency”, aroused attention, because it would seldom be used by Americans.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c7/DanCooper_270.jpg
Dan Cooper is a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot appearing in Les Aventures de Dan Cooper, illustrated and written by
Albert Weinberg (1922 – 2011) and published in 41 albums from 1957 to 1992.

On 1980-02-10, Brian Ingram (ca. 1972 – ) uncovered $5 800 of the ransom from the Columbia River bank at Tina/ Tena Bar, about 14 km downstream from Vancouver, Washington. This is the only money from the highjacking that has ever been recovered.

There have been any number of suspects. Only one will be mentioned. In an article by Jake Rossen, writing in Mental Floss, in 2016, he suggests that D. B. Cooper may have been Barbara Dayton (1926 – 2002), who, before gender-reassignment surgery in 1969, was born Bobby. For the high-jacking she had disguised herself as a man. Pat and Ron Formans’ book, The Legend of D. B. Cooper (2008) gives a more detailed version.

There are any number of sources of information about D. B. Coooper, including a Wikipedia article that has provided much of the information here.

Intel 4004

An Intel C4004 microprocessor with gray traces. (Photo: Thomas Nguyen)

Today (2021-11-15) is the 50th anniversary of the Intel 4004 microprocessor. This featured a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU). It was the first microprocessor to be sold as an electronic component. At the time of its development, Intel considered itself a memory chip manufacturer. At about the same time, three other CPU designs were being developed, but for specific projects. These were: Four-Phase Systems AL1, (1969); American Microsystems MP944 (1970); and Texas Instruments TMS-0100 (1971).

The Intel 4004 project began in 1969, when Japanese adding machine manufacturer Busicom, approached Intel to manufacture a chip it had designed. Intel was a start-up, so small that they didn’t have the staff to design the logic required. Thus, they came with a counter proposal, to build a general purpose computer-on-a-chip and to emulate the calculator architecture using a read-only memory (ROM) byte-code interpreter.

Frederico Faggin (1941 – ) was assigned responsibility for the project. He was able to design a customer-programmable microprocessor. The work included logic design, circuit design, chip layout, tester design and test program development. His initials F.F. were incorporated into the chip design. Assisting in the development process was Masotoshi Shima (1943 – ), a Busicom software and logic designer, but without any chip design experience. The chip was first used in the Busicom 141-PF adding machine.

Faggin is known for several microprocessor inventions. These include the buried contact, and the bootstrap load. He also created the basic methodology for random logic design using silicon gate technology. He was particularly vocal inside Intel in advocating the 4004 as a general purpose microprocessor, with a huge market potential. He subsequently led the design of the 4040, 8008 and 8080 processors.

Faggin was presented with the engineering prototype of their calculator with the first 4004. This was subsequently donated to the Computer History Museum.

Faggin and Ralph Ungermann (1942 – 2015) left Intel in 1974 to start Zilog. Intel’s reaction was to disown Faggin, and to rewrite company history. In particular, it credited more loyal, but less competent, employees, with the 4004 design.

Donald Lewes Hings (1907 – 2004)

Don Hings (1942-03-09)

Donald Lewes Hings (1907-11-06 – 2004–02-24) was born in Leicester, England, but moved to western Canada with his parents when he was three. He grew up in Rossland, in the Kootenays, halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, and 10 km north of the Canada/ United States border.

He was a pioneer in the field of telecommunications, and best known for his invention of the Walkie-Talkie. Previously, mobile radios were mounted on vehicles and transmitted in Morse code. Hings’ model, developed in 1937 while working at Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (CM&S) now, Cominco) in Trail, British Columbia, was portable and could transmit the human voice over long distances. He called his invention the packset.

During the Second World War (1940-1945) Hings worked for the National Research Council, on loan from CM&S, working with the Signal Corps to develop military communications, including the military walkie-talkie. From 1946-1985, he worked for Electronic Laboratories of Canada as President & Chief Engineer. The company was started 1942-11-02 as a subsidiary of Electronic Laboratories, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. It was dissolved 1998-09-21.

Between 1975 and 1993, he devoted his time to developing instrumentation for measurements of the causes and effects of long-range air pollution vectors.

In 1946 he was awarded the Member of the British Empire by King George VI. In 2001 he was presented with the Order of Canada by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In 2006 he was inducted into the Telecommunications Hall of Fame because “his modifications of the two-way radio … which he evolved into the world’s first functional and operational walkie-talkie, saved the lives of thousands of British, Canadian and American troops during the Second World War and helped to usher modern telecommunications technologies into the military”.

Despite being a lifetime member of the Professional Engineers Associations of British Columbia and Ontario, the American Geophysical Union and the Canadian Signal Corps, his professional education was self-taught. He had no university education.

His life work includes a wide-range of antenna, radio technologies and geophysical exploration techniques using electromagnetic instrumentation that he developed. He has more than 55 patents to his name in both Canada and the US.

On 2000-02-13 Roger Chaisson, Bruce Waugh and David Billings were awarded the People’s Choice Award at the Ottawa Winterlude Festival for their 4 m tall ice sculpture dedicated to Don Hings. It depicted a Red Cross soldier in the Second World War, speaking into a C-48 walkie-talkie.

Hings was adept at Morse code, and was an amateur radio operator, with call sign VE7BH. His obituary notes that he talked to “HAM boys” well into his 90s.

Hings lived in Burnaby, a municipality immediately east of Vancouver, at the summit of the 203 m high Capitol Hill, a neighbourhood north of Hastings Street, east of Willingdon Avenue, and west of Fell Avenue, known for its Italian, Portuguese and Croatian immigrant communities. He first saw Capitol Hill on a Scout outing in 1918, and decided then and there that he wanted to live there. He bought ca. 2.5 city blocks of the area, built his house there in the late 1940s. This is where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.

He located his business on a compound at this site. Seven of the staff members that worked for him in Ottawa, relocated to Capitol Hill when the company was established. Ultimately, he sold building lots to a staff of 15 at the same price he had paid for them, so they could live close by their place of work.

In addition to other patents, he has one for an electric piano. It consists of tuned steel bars that set up a moving magnetic field that creates pure tones, minus the harmonics, It is small, compact and never needs to be tuned. In addition it is equipped with a speaker and volume control.

Much of the information for the Weblog post is sourced from the D. L. Hings website.

The C-58 Walkie Talkie is less portable than today’s hand-held devices.


The Mother of All Demos

The Mother of All Mice. Wooden and with two wheels, first demonstrated publicly 1968-12-08. Image: SRI International.

Fifty-three years ago today, 1968-12-09, is one of several dates that can be regarded as the start of the personal computer age, when a computer demonstration, A research center for augmenting human intellect, retrospectively called The Mother of All Demos, was presented by Douglas Engelbart (1925 – 2013) in the Civic Auditorium, San Francisco. The technical aspects of the presentation were managed by Bill English (1928 – 2020). About one thousand computer professionals attended the event there.

The demo featured a computer system called NLS, oN-Line System. The 90-minute presentation essentially demonstrated almost all the fundamental elements of modern personal computing: collaborative real-time editing, command input, dynamic file linking, graphics, hypertext, a mouse, navigation, revision control, video conferencing, windows and word processing – all in a single system.

The San Francisco terminal was linked to an Eidophor large-format video projection system loaned by the NASA Ames Research Center, so attendees could watch what was happening on the NLS on a 6.7 metres high screen. The terminal was also connected to an SDS 940 computer (designed specifically for time-sharing among multiple users) located at the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) headquarters, 48 km away in Menlo Park using a pair of 1 200 baud-modems. There, a second (but smaller) group of attendees could experience the demo as it was live-streamed.

Engelbart was best known for founding the field of human – computer interaction. He also made notes describing a computer mouse. These were made into a functioning prototype by Bill English in 1963. Thus, both of these two people can be said to have jointly invented the computer mouse.

The demonstration was highly influential, most especially the development of Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) that flourished in the 1970s.

The original demo is available as a video on YouTube. Note: Modern viewers may be disappointed by its low fidelity. New Atlas has an article that provides additional insights, and photographs.

Empty Planet

This post looks at the basic premise of Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson’s Empty Planet (2019), that the human population, now at 7.5 billion, will peak at 9 billion, before declining rapidly, later in the 21st century. The question addressed is how different nations/ regions will cope with a collapsing population.

All advanced and many emerging market economies, to use International Monetary Fund slang, have fertility levels below replacement, considered to be 2.1 offspring per woman. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in Norway in 2018 was 1.56, the lowest on record. In her New Year’s address in 2019, the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, encouraged Norwegian women to have more children. The PM has had 2.0 children, while the two other women party leaders in her government have not had any children. Being generous, these three have a combined TFR of 0.7.

Is Canada the world’s first post-national country? Despite my Canadian heritage as well as Bricker and Ibbitson’s suggestion that this is the case, I would have to answer, not yet. Yes, Canada features individualism, combined with urbanism, low TFR and high immigration. Twenty percent of the population are immigrants. That is higher than any other country, including the United States of America. Yes, this contrasts with the stereotypical image of Canada as the vast, unpopulated, ice-encrusted North. But these characteristics are not sufficient to make a country post-national.

For a country to be post-national, it has to be multi-cultural. This means that it cannot display preferences for one culture to the detriment of another. Canada does this, by continuing to have a British monarch of German heritage, as head of state. The fact that it uses a first-past-the-post electoral system also puts limits on representation in parliament. Amazingly, the Liberal Party currently in government as of this writing in 2019, first promised a more democratic voting system, then reneged on this promise. Currently, cultural minorities have to find their place within a three party system. Rather than having a group of people from an assortment of political persuasions representing citizens over a larger area, one person from a specific political party represents everyone in the riding, including those who did not vote for that person.

Despite the book’s Canadian chauvinism, it offers important insights. In urban societies, women become better educated, have better knowledge about contraception, this results in fewer children and leads women to better jobs, which makes women more financially autonomous. Ties to family, clan and religion deteriorate. The ties that are left are cultural.

Immigrants to Canada generally teach their children their original language, so that these children can continue to be entrenched in two cultures – Canada and something else. My daughter, who took her secondary education in Canada, had Norwegian as her second language. My old elementary school, named after gold prospector, journalist, some time New Westminster resident and former British Columbia Premier John Robson, has been demolished. It has been replaced with Ecole Qayqayt Early Education Centre. It is named after the Qayqayt First Nation, who originally lived in New Westminster, and offers French immersion classes.

While most of the world is at or below replacement fertility, 2.1 children per woman, the one major exception is Africa. The 2019 African Economic Outlook reports economic prospects and projections for Africa and for each of its 54 countries. It offers short and medium term forecasts for the main socio-economic factors, noting challenges and progress.

The report states, “Africa’s economic growth continues to strengthen, reaching an estimated 3.5 percent in 2018, about the same as in 2017 and up 1.4 percentage points from the 2.1 percent in 2016.”

But also cautions, “Africa’s labor force is projected to be nearly 40 percent larger by 2030. If current trends continue, only half of new labor force entrants will find employment, and most of the jobs will be in the informal sector. This implies that close to 100 million young people could be without jobs.” African fertility has halved to 4 since 1975 due to better female education and empowerment. However, this is still about twice replacement levels.

While declining population is a benefit, in terms of relieving pressure on the environment, it will also swing economic power from capital to labour, reducing inequality.

There are four approaches that can be taken to the world population challenge. Approaches 1 and 2 both accept a perpetual decrease in population. Approach 1 is to continue relying on humans as before.

Approach 2 is to replace workers with robots. Japan is the poster child for working with this. There are many areas of the economy where robots can be used, especially in the transport sector and manufacturing. Some progress can undoubtedly also be made in terms of construction.

With these first two approaches, there will come a point when having a nation-state will become impractical. There will be so few people living in them, that land could be freed for other groups to use.

The third and fourth approaches allow increased immigration. There are a number of situations that have to be understood, when dealing with immigrants. One term bandied about is integration. Quite often it is understood to be something that someone else has to do. Many people in the host population confuse integration with assimilation, and expect immigrants to assimilate themselves into the wider society. That task is, of course, impossible. So, Approach 3, is a situation in which the host society/ culture envisions itself as superior to anything/ everything on offer from migrants. It also expects them to give up social and cultural values, for something these immigrants may not quite understand.

Approach 4, the last approach here, is to accept that society will ultimately become multicultural. This is the official Canadian approach. Apart from a disdain for radicalism, Canada is willing to accept large numbers of well educated and young immigrants, capable of engaging with other Canadians of divergent backgrounds. At the same time these immigrants are allowed, even encouraged, to preserve their original culture, so they can function as a link between the two societies. Immigrant children to Canada are taught that they have two feet, one planted in Canada, the second in the culture they come from. Both are equal, and both are relevant.

Society changes

If anyone were to enter a time machine, and go fifty years back in time, they would discover a completely different world. With respect to my own situation, it would be a world filled with cheap gasoline, smokers, mini-skirts, vinyl records, beef steaks and corporal punishment. Since then, that culture has become unrecognizable. Like everyone else born before the new millennium, I didn’t grow up with cell phones, and had to learn how to use them – as an adult. Dress codes prevented women from wearing trousers at school and at work. In fact, some women had to quit work if they married. I was strapped for turning around in my desk at school.

Corporal punishment is illegal in Norway today, but listening to Norwegians my age, it seems to have been quite common fifty or sixty years ago. Transitions to a new culture can be difficult and while I don’t approve of people hitting their children, I don’t think jail sentences are the correct response either, in many cases. Suspended sentences are a cost-effective way of expediting behavioural change, both for the individual and society.

Yet, prophecy is a tricky proposition. With hindsight, it is easy to see that pizzas are more than a passing fad. The same cannot be said of fondues.

This weblog post was originally written 2019-03-06, but not published until 2019-07-08. It continues a discussion begun in Workshop Activism (published 2018-02-03), and continued in Lotta Hitschmanova (published 2019-02-14).

Cut/Copy and Paste

The most influential computer ever made, original Xerox Alto featuring bit-mapped black and white display sized 606×808 (the same dimensions as a regular 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper, aligned vertically; 5.8 MHz CPU; 128kB of memory (at the cost of $4000); 2.5MB removable cartridge hard drive; three button mouse; 64-key keyboard and a 5-finger key set. It was on such a machine that Bravo and Gypsy were developed, and cut/copy and paste invented. (Photo: Xerox PARC)

Larry Tesler (1945 – ), invented cut/copy and paste. Between 1973 and 1976, Tesler worked at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), in Palo Alto, California, on the programming language Smalltalk-76, and especially the Gypsy text editor, referred to then as a document preparation system. It was on this project, he implemented a method of capturing text and inserting it elsewhere.

Xerox PARC was initiated by Xerox Chief Scientist Jacob E. “Jack” Goldman (1921 – 2011) who previously worked at Carnegie Tech and directed the Ford Scientific Laboratory, who hired a physicist, George Pake (1924 – 2004) to create it in 1970.

Xerox PARC was largely responsible for developing laser printing, the Ethernet, the modern personal computer, the graphical user interface (GUI) and desktop paradigm, object-oriented programming, ubiquitous computing, electronic paper, amorphous silicon (a-Si) applications, and advancing very-large-scale integration (VLSI) for semiconductors.

For a more complete story, see: Larry Tesler, A Personal History of Modeless Text Editing and Cut/Copy-Paste (2012)

While most people focus on the cut/copy-paste tool, the concept of modeless software had even greater impact. A mode is a distinct setting within a computer program, in which the same user input will produce different results, because of other settings. Caps lock when pressed puts the user’s typing into a different mode, CAPITAL LETTERS. If it is pressed a second time, the original made will be reactivated, resulting in lower-case letters.

Most interface modes are discouraged because of their potential to induce errors especially when the user is expected to remember the mode state the interface is in. The situation is somewhat better if there is an on-screen state/ mode indicator, such as a change in the colour of an icon, when a mode change is made.

If the user is unaware of an interface mode, there may be an unexpected and undesired response. Mode errors can be disorienting as the user copes with a transgression of user expectations. Not all mode changes are initiated by users,

Mode changes can be initiated by the system, by previous users or by the same user who has disremembered the state change. In such a situation, an operation with the old mode in mind, will disrupt user focus as the user becomes aware of the mode change. This is especially important when a user cannot find how to restore the previous mode.

Prior to Gypsy, Butler Lampson (1943 – ), Charles Simonyi (1948 – ) and others developed Bravo at Xerox PARC in 1974. It was a modal editor where characters typed on the keyboard were usually commands to Bravo, except when in “insert” or “append” mode. Bravo used a mouse to mark text locations and to select text, but not for commands.

Although similar in capabilities to Bravo, the user interface of Gypsy was radically different. In both, a command operated on the current selection. But Bravo had modes and Gypsy didn’t. In Bravo, the effect of pressing a character key depended on the current mode, while in Gypsy, pressing a character key by itself always typed the character.

In the Wikipedia article on Gypsy, the difference between Bravo and Gypsy is illustrated by three examples:

  1. Insert In Bravo’s Command Mode, pressing “I” entered Insert Mode. In that mode, pressing character keys typed characters into a holding area (“buffer”) until the Escape key was pressed, at which time the buffer contents were inserted before the selection and the editor returned to Command Mode.
    In Gypsy, no command or buffer was needed to insert new text. The user simply selected an insertion point with the mouse and typed the new text. Each inserted character went directly into the document at the insertion point, which was automatically repositioned after the new character.
  2. Replace In Bravo, to replace existing text by new text, the user pressed “R” to enter Replace Mode. That mode was just like Insert Mode except that the buffer contents replaced the selection instead of inserting text before it.
    In Gypsy, to replace text, the user simply selected the old text and typed the new text. As soon as the user began to type, Gypsy deleted the old text and selected an insertion point in its stead.
  3. Copy In the then-current version of Bravo, the user selected the destination, pressed “I” or “R” to enter Insert or Replace Mode, selected the source (which highlighted differently from the destination), and pressed Escape to perform the copy and return to Command Mode. While in Insert or Replace Mode, the user could scroll and could select a source, but could not invoke another command, such as opening a different document. To copy text between documents was more complex.
    In Gypsy, the user could select the source text, press the “Copy” function key, select the destination text or insertion point, and press the “Paste” function key. Between Copy and Paste, the system was, as usual, not in a mode. The user could invoke other commands, such as opening a different document.

Fewer modes meant less user confusion about what mode the system was in and therefore what effect a particular key press would have. Gypsy and Bravo both used a three-button mouse, where the second and third buttons were intended for experts.

New users could learn to work with Gypsy in only a few hours. Drag-through selection, double-click and cut-copy-paste were quickly adopted elsewhere, and have become standard on most text editors.

This text was originally written in June 2009 as a draft for a weblog post. It was removed from the weblog, but subsequently revived without the original date and time stamps. New text was added at irregular intervals, including 13 May 2016, 23 April 2018, and 06 May 2019. The publication date of this weblog post celebrates the 10th anniversary of this weblog.