WARP DRIVES AND TACHYON WAVES

Garry and I binge watched the entire “Star Trek: Next Generation.” On Netflix. We had missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were busy years full of work, moving houses, digging into careers. Getting married. Moving again. Watching TV wasn’t a priority back then.

BBC America showed the series last year, but not in order. When Netflix gave us the opportunity to catch up, we did, viewing two, three, four episodes each night.

star trek next gen cast

There’s a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side of tachyon particles. I understand their science as well as I understand anything. Which is to say, not at all. I understand the engines on the Enterprise as well as I understand my toaster oven.

Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

enterprise next gen

Effectively, life and everything in it is a giant mystery to me, yet I feel as if I understand it. When they talk about it, I nod because I get it. I’ve been listening to this mumbo jumbo for so many years, it has achieved a pseudo-reality. Because when I look closely, there’s nothing there. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st.

How many of you know how the stuff you use works? Some of you do, but most of us know how to use our devices and gadgets, but have no idea why or how it works. I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same.

Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.

MEASURING THE DAMP AND THE DEHUMIDIFIER

It all started with a notice from National Grid about dehumidifiers. We have one. It’s pretty old, but we need it because otherwise, the basement gets soggy. And smells damp. I hate that smell.

A few years ago, we had to replace all the window air conditioners because they were old, heavy, and grimy … and they weren’t really cooling the place like they should. This year, it’s time to take on the dehumidifier. Not nearly as bad as replacing five or six window air conditioners, but not free, either.

I needed something that would fly lower under the electrical radar.

We have recently become “that family” to which all other neighbors are compared, with the lowest electricity bill in our neighborhood. No one was more shocked than me when they sent me that same message two months in a row. But those days are about to end because as the outside temperature heats up, the window A/C units get installed … and whoopee, those electric bills fly up and away.

Meanwhile, getting the damp smell out of the basement is looming large. A new unit? Okay. But … how big?

None of the units I found myself staring at seemed ready to offer me information about how big an area they could handle. I needed numbers. How big a dehumidifier to dry up a damp basement? The size of a unit is measured by how many pints of water it can suck out of the air. The smallest for an average-sized basement would be 30 pints, the biggest probably 70 pints. If your basement is just a little bit damp, you might get away with a little one. If you have small pools of water on the floor, bigger is better.

I typed my question into Google.

I love Google. You can type anything into it and the answer comes up before you finish the question. Where was this marvel when I was researching papers for school? Come to think of it, I doubt it would have helped me much comparing the writing of Thomas Wolfe to Lawrence Durrell. I don’t think you find that on Google. Yet. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, I found a couple of sites and eventually, rating our basement of 1350 feet (and only half of it is damp … the other half is bone dry), calculating it as “damp, but not really wet” — which would be discounting drenching rains, hurricanes, or run-off from snow plus a spring rain — I went for the 50 pint. The 70 seemed to be overkill. More would not hurt the basement, but it would use more electricity.

The prices were pretty much standard. Between $170 and $250 for 50 pint model. Frigidaire had the top rating, no matter where I looked. The difference in price was minimal and I have learned to not buy the cheapest appliances. When I do, I wind up buying them again and you don’t save anything when you have to buy the unit twice.

Price: $200 plus tax. Including free shipping.

It took me a surprisingly long time to coördinate the size of the basement — which I know from all the times I’ve refinanced the house — with the “damp level” of the area. This process chewed up my morning. I didn’t even look at Serendipity until I realized the WordPress daily prompt was “measure.” Nothing could be more measured than my morning.

All of which reminded me of why I was so good at technical documentation. When I’m thinking measurements and numbers, my brain locks down.

So, to reiterate, if you have a soggy basement — and so many of us do — maybe you need a newer dehumidifier. If the basement is damp, but you don’t see actual wet spots on the floor — and your basement is in the 1000 to 1600 square foot size, you probably need a 50-pint unit. Especially if you hate that damp basement smell wafting up the stairs. Save yourself the extra effort. Get one of the Frigidaire units. I’m told the wheels work well too, so you can roll it reasonably easily from room to room.  Good to know!

ELECTRONIC MEMORIES

THE OLD DAYS


After contemplating operating systems at length, I started rethinking the whole thing and I began to wonder if operating systems will be relevant a couple of years from now. Because everything is changing.

Change is hardly new to the world of computers and technology. Change is what drives the industry. Change is how come you need to buy new software, new hardware, new operating systems. Change can make things work better, but it’s not unusual to discover that your “upgrade” is a downgrade because what used to work no longer does. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

I grew to adulthood in a pre-computer society. I started working before cable TV, when encyclopedias were huge heavy sets of books and a computer was gigantic and needed a whole building for itself. It ran on punch cards and used special languages — COBOL and FORTRAN. Even decades later, personal computers were one step removed from a doorstop. Floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and flopped.

Those early machines (personal units, not mainframes) — I hesitate to call them computers — didn’t do much. They didn’t have hard drives. There was no software and no user-friendly interface. I don’t think the concept existed. No WYSIWYG. What you saw was a black screen with lurid green letters that made you feel like you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then … everything changed.

APPLE, WINDOWS, ANDROID AND SO MUCH MORE


First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but soon enough, it got better. And then better again.

There were different players and more operating systems in the beginning. Wang and DEC plus a crazy quilt of dedicated word processors and computers made by Commodore, Atari and many others. For a while, I had an Amstrad, a European machine that was almost a computer, kind an intelligent typewriter with a screen that spit out paper.

This was the Amstrad!

Then, everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. It was magic!

I worked on this machine in Israel using the first word processing tool, WordStar.

For a while, it seemed like everything changed every day. One day, there was a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to access it. Once connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around and see what there was to see.

You could send electronic mail — email — if you had a friends with computers. You sent them messages over old copper telephone wires and everything happened in slow motion.

My first personal computer.

To get on the Internet , you turned on the computer and the modem. Went to the kitchen. Prepared dinner. Cooked dinner. Served dinner. Ate dinner. Cleaned up. By the time you got back, you might have managed to connect. Or not.

My first PC. I think everyone had one of these at some point!

Then suddenly AOL popped up and I got a really fast modem, a whopping 2400 BPS! Imagine that. I worked in California from my home office in Boston. Cool! Telecommuting was the cat’s pajamas.

By the time my granddaughter was born in 1996, everybody had a computer or two. In her world, computers have always been fast and the Internet has always been the world’s biggest shopping mall.

My old 486 ran for 10 years. It wasn’t fast, but it was durable.

At age three, she could run basic applications. Computers are to her as electricity is to me. It isn’t something you think about. It has always been there. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it — or WiFi, cable, and electronic cameras. Even for me, it’s not easy to remember. My brain gets stuck in the early 1980s when I realized that computers were definitely going to be my thing. I would never go back.

Memories of days of yore … but not halcyon I fear,

During the 1990s, the rate of change slowed for a while. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a few years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it immediately.  Nonetheless, everything kept getting faster. Soon, no one could remember getting on the Internet using an old, copper telephone line. If you did remember it, it made your brain hurt.

Commodore 64 – the most popular computer ever produced.  More than 30 million of them sold.  I had one of these, too. Everybody had one, if they were “into” computers.

AND NOW


Every couple of years, there is a new generation of processors. Bigger, faster hard drives. Amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off. Just when you think your socks have been knocked as far off as socks can go, there’s another “fix” and your super fast computer is a slow-poke compared to the latest and greatest. I should know. I’m using one of them.

Meanwhile, the highway of information devolved into a chat room with ranting … and a universal shopping mall. The Internet is a world.

I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast. Computers aren’t only computers, either. We have them everywhere. They are part of our cameras, our bed, our toaster oven. Our television. The car. Smartphones. GPS units. Kindles and tablets. The little computers probably make “things” run better, but when they stop working? They are exorbitantly expensive to fix.

Sometimes, you can’t get in or out of your car because everything is locked tight. That little computer blew again.

ABOUT THE CLOUD


Same old Internet, but “cloud” is the “new” word for stuff stored on external servers.

We’re going back to where we began, to using stripped down computers with no hard drives. Instead, everything is stored on someone else’s computer — out there. In the “cloud.” Our data might be anywhere. We have no way of knowing where it lives. Am I the only one who finds this unnerving?

I can see advantages. When you eliminate memory sucking operating systems and cumbersome installed applications, your computer will run faster. Start-up is instant. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade expensive applications and volumes of data. You don’t need ever bigger hard drives, more memory, and video RAM. You wind up with faster computers that are less expensive and easier to maintain. It’s a win-win, right? Or is it?

SO — YOU HAVE FAITH IN YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER?


If your cable company has a bad day or the servers on which you store your critical data go down — even for a short while — you have nothing. As long as everything works like it’s supposed to, it’s hunky dory, but Murphy hasn’t left the building yet.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG, STILL GOES WRONG


Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I control. That I own.

The idea of entrusting everything —  from my photographs to the manuscript of my book — to an unknown server somewhere in the world scares me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? You have no way of knowing what country your data is in, how stable its government is, or how good an infrastructure it maintains. You financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

Is there a compromise possible? Because when I think about entrusting everything to a cloud, I twitch. How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are out? What if you need a critical piece of data from a server when it’s offline?

My bank was hacked. BOA had to send me a new bank card. Land’s End and Adobe have been hacked. More than once. I’ve had to redo several accounts because they’d been compromised. Lots of other places over the years, places that were supposedly “unhackable” have gone down.

I know I am hackable. Luckily, I don’t have anything worth hacking.

If your ISP is down, you’re out of business. If you think your cable company has you by the throat now, how much worse will it be if everything you need to run your life and business is dependent on their services? If that doesn’t give you the cold sweats, nothing will. If you put too many eggs in the basket and the basket falls — and it will — eggs break. In which case you don’t have an omelet, just a sloppy mess of busted eggs and slimy shells.

You can’t totally avoid the cloud these days. I keep my audiobooks and eBooks on Amazon, and my email on Gmail because there’s no way on earth I could store all of that, even on this big computer. But my personal stuff? Pictures, documents, and other important material? It lives here, at home. On personal, external hard drives.

I learned the hard way to perform regular backups. I don’t do them as often as I should, but I do them regularly. If you don’t, think about it. It’s a little late when you’ve already lost all your stuff.

WHEN YOU COULD LOOK IT UP IN A BOOK

Last night, someone I actually know and who should know better, complained the camera company from whom he bought his camera should fire the tech writer. Because there was no manual.

I felt obliged to point out the reason there is no manual is they never hired a tech writer in the first place. If they had technical writers, there would be a manual. You wouldn’t spend a thousand dollars on a camera and get a three-page leaflet. You’d get a book with an index and a table of contents. Screen shots. Explanations not only of where to find a function, but what the function means, so when you get there, you know what to choose.

Once upon a time, that was my world. I thought it was important, at least to the people who bought products about which I wrote.

Years went by during which the work I did was my life. I got up, got dressed, scraped the ice off the car, went to work (stopping for coffee along the way) and went through my day. Between having done the same kind of work for a long time and perpetually racing against a deadline, life was busy. I knew, no matter what the ad said when I took a job, my work wasn’t permanent. I would work until the book was finished, then I’d move on. It was the way it was.

The industry in which I worked ultimately decided the work I did was no longer necessary. Who needs a manual to tell them how to use equipment that costs a gazillion dollars and controls the operation of a steel mill? Or a missile tracking system? Or a satellite grabber for use out in space? They can always call the help desk — especially in space where you can easily find a signal for your phone.

I was the one who organized the chaotic information into a book with a table of contents, index, chapters, and diagrams so you would not always have to call someone. Considering the state of tech support these days, you can see where this failure to supply reasonable documentation has landed us. That’s why the phones are always busy and why the quality of support is so awful.

The help desk people don’t have a book, either.

Regardless, I was obsolete. You need developers and a boss because someone has to say why you are all gathered here this morning. Also, the boss makes sure there’s coffee. But a writer? They only hired me when they were at the end of a production cycle, realized the contract required they deliver documentation with the product. Sometimes, I got as little as three weeks to learn a product and produce a book that looked professional. At that point, no one cared what was in the book or whether the information would be of any use to anyone. It just had to be big, thick, nicely designed, and weigh enough to use as a doorstop.

My days were numbered. Eventually, I was gone.

To substitute for professional writers, they produce “automatic documentation.” Which is raw data generated by a program using “comments” left by developers, many of whom speak English as a second or third language and in any case, do not understand how regular people work and the kind of information they need to navigate a complex product. It turns out, people were still willing to spend oodles of money for an undocumented product. So I guess they were right. No one cares until they get an expensive product that includes nothing. The good news? You can find entire books — the kind I used to write — on Amazon. Buy them and find out how the product works. It’s just like the books people like me wrote. Cool, huh?

For all of you who believe that crappy documentation is because tech writers are lazy? No, we aren’t lazy. What we are is fired.

PORN POWER – TOM CURLEY

There was an interesting article in the news concerning a porn site called xhamster.com I don’t know why it’s called that and I really don’t want to know. They’re in the news because they closed off their website to anybody living in the state of North Carolina. Why? Because of the harsh, horrible anti-LGBT law they passed. If you log onto their website from anywhere in that state, you get a blank screen.

blank screen

Blank screen for you!

The tone of all the news reports and nightly talk shows was that this was a funny but useless protest. There are thousands of other porn sites where North Carolinians can … well you know. But, as usual, the main stream media and the nightly talk shows missed the real story. I am not offering an opinion on the virtues or evils of porn. However, there is a larger truth which is widely known but rarely talked about regarding the porn industry. Porn has been a major driver, financial backer, and early adopter of technological innovation since the beginning. Since forever.

When mankind started drawing on cave walls, I guarantee you some of the first things depicted were people getting some Neanderthal Nookie.

thestar.com.my

thestar.com.my

Porn was very popular in the Middle Ages. Moreover, it utilized some of the earliest encryption technologies. I saw an exhibit in a museum once that showcased one of them. The exhibit consisted of huge tapestries painted with very strange distorted images. You couldn’t tell what they were.

What were they? Porn. The artist would draw the original naughty painting on a regular canvas. He would then look at the painting’s reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The image in the mirror would be all distorted. He would then paint that distorted image onto the tapestry. If you looked at the tapestry the painting made no sense.

anamorphic art

arthit.ru

But. If you looked at the tapestry’s reflection in the same cylindrical  mirror the artist used, the image would be reconstructed back to its original form. (“Naughty Knights 5”)

When photography was first invented in the 1800’s one of the earliest subjects was, of course, naked women. Having sex. When the telegraph was invented, telegraph operators were known to spend their off hours “telegraph sexting”.

I didn’t believe it either.

blog.kaspersky.com

blog.kaspersky.com

OPERATOR ONE: Who you talking to?

OPERATOR TWO: I don’t know, but she sure can dit my dot!

The VCR became popular because porn producers started switching to videotape, abandoning film. Finally, you didn’t have to go to a movie theater for porn. You could “bring it home.” VHS beat out Betamax because the porn industry chose VHS. Really. No kidding. That’s the way it happened.

alf.image.com

alf.image.com

Porn money propelled other technologies, too. Online payments, DVDs, streaming video, and two-way internet chat rooms. Virtual Reality headsets have only been available for a few months and there’s already Virtual Reality Porn.

truvisionvr.com

truvisionvr.com

(I wouldn’t know this personally, but I read a lot).

So here’s the real story that everybody has missed.  One porn site blocked off an entire state. It has been viewed as a symbolic, but mostly useless protest.

What if they all did it?  What if all the porn sites got together and said to North Carolina: “NO PORN FOR YOU!”

no porn for you

I’ll bet you that anti-LGBT law would be overturned in about an hour and a half! Maybe less. Then, the porn industry would realize it’s true power! Imagine, Lysistrata on a national, even a global, scale!

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

“You won’t do what we want? NO PORN FOR YOU!” All the porn industry needs to do is come together. Organize.

Organize into a cartel.
A conglomerate
 A Ring.
lotr.wiki.com

lotr.wiki.com

“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them.

One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.”

Pray they use their power for good.

FROM SLAVES TO SPINNING: INDUSTRY ON THE BLACKSTONE

Born Bankrupt

America was born bankrupt. We won the revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy was dependent on Great Britain. We produced raw material, but Great Britain turned those materials into goods for the world’s markets.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, British shipping, and British trade routes.

Everything has a price and we had no money. We had hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a less intransigent monarch on the throne at the time, we might have been able to do so. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” who were hellbent for battle, most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.

We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. Nor was the yearning to breathe free burning in every heart. What the colonists of North America wanted were the rights of free Englishmen. We wanted seats in Parliament. We wanted to vote on taxes and other policies that affected colonial life. A deal could have been reached, but George III was not that kind of king.

The result? A war, the staggering loss to England of its wealthiest colony, and the birth of a new nation.

Winning the war was remarkable. We had no army or navy. We were sparsely populated. Existing militias were untrained, undisciplined, little better than rabble. That George Washington could turn this into an army was no small feat. No wonder they wanted him to be the first President.

And then, there were the French whose military support enabled us to beat the British. It was a loan, not a gift. We agreed to pay it back. The French revolution was an unexpected but gratifying development. It was like having the bank that holds your mortgage disappear taking your mortgage with it. It vastly improved our debt to income ratio. When Napoleon came to power and suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What debt?”

Our shipping industry was in its infancy. We had very few ships or sailors and minimal access to world trade. The British ruled the seas and being soreheads, refused to share it with us. It would take years before we could challenge their ascendancy on the seas.

What Did We Have?

Slaves and land. Sugar and rum.

If you who think slavery was an entirely southern institution, you’re wrong. Although slaves lived mostly in the southern colonies, they were brought to these shores by New England sea captains, held in New York, Boston, and other northern cities, sold to slavers at markets in the north, then sent south to be sold again to individual owners. The entire economy of the nascent country was based on slaves and their labor. The institution of slavery could not have persisted had it not been supported by business interests in the north.

The new-born United States had, for all practical purposes, no economy. We were pre-industrial when European countries were well into the modern industrial period. We had no factories. We had no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws or central government. Our only thriving industry were slaves.

Although there was an abolitionist movement, it was tiny, more sentimental than real.

North and south, slaves made people rich. Not the slaves, of course, but other people. North and south, fortunes were made selling human beings, then profiting from their labor. When it came time to write the Constitution, to turn a bunch of individual colonies into one country, the Devil’s compromise was needed. Abolishing slavery would doom any attempt to pass the constitution … so slavery became law and the groundwork was laid for the bloodiest war America would ever fight.

It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. Its legacy remains with us today and probably always will.

Why Didn’t We Find a Better Way?

Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?

Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in civil war. In other words, they did knew it would bite us in the ass. They could keep slavery and form a strong nation — or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.

Was it the lesser evil? Hard to say and a bit late to second guess it. It was clear from the get-go there was no way we were going to form a nation if slavery was illegal. From private writings by members of the continental congress, it’s clear they knew the issue of slavery would be resolved by war. They hoped they’d be dead by then. Long before 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies.

“The Great Compromise” was put into place. The Constitution was approved. Ninety years later, the war without end was fought. More than 630,000 lives was the butcher’s bill. An ocean of blood would be the cost of ending America’s traffic in human lives. Many more years would pass before this country’s non-white population would see anything resembling justice, much less equality. When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

Was it worth it? I used to be sure I knew the answer. Now, I’m not so sure.

Mills

Slaves, rum, and sugar — the triangle of trade that kept America’s economy alive — was profitable for plantation owners, sea captains, and other slave traders, but it didn’t generate a whole lot of entry-level job opportunities for average working people. A lot of people needed work, even more needed trade goods. Dependable sources of income were slow in coming and the U.S. stayed in the preindustrial world 100 years longer than England.

Most people didn’t own ships. If they did, they might be disinclined to take up slaving. Regarded as an economic necessity by many, it was never anyone’s idea of a good way to make a living. Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but the actual process of buying and selling human beings was more than they could stomach.

Slaterville Mill -- oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

As great political and legal minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft the document to build a nation, other great minds were seeking ways to make money. That’s the American way.

In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution was born on the Blackstone River.

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how.

Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed people, especially people with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcome. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

The Blackstone Canal

On the Blackstone, mill owners urgently sought a better way to move their goods.

The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. The only other choice — horse-drawn wagons — was slow and expensive. The trip took between 2 and 3 days over dirt roads from Worcester to Providence. In heavy snow, it was impossible.

All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

What Does This Have To Do With Slavery?

Mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a top dog on the international scene.

Building the Canal

The Blackstone Canal took 4 years to build, from 1824 to 1828. The main canal runs alongside the Blackstone. In some places, the canal and the river are one. There is an extensive network of small canals, many on tributary rivers like the Mumford. The main canal was designed to handle large barges. It travels in a relatively straight line from Worcester to Providence. Smaller canals, built between the river and the big canal, could move cargo in towns and between mill.

Big barges were faster and cheaper than horse-drawn wagons. A single barge could haul as much as 35 tons of cargo and only needed two horses going downstream.

The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges have become walking paths. The barges are gone, but small boats can enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.

Railroads

Ultimately, railroads were the game-changer. As soon as rails from Worcester to Boston, and Worcester to Providence were built, the canals were abandoned. Business boomed. The Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories at the end of the 1800s. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.

By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was grossly polluted. Fortunately for the river, though not necessarily for the valley’s residents, this was also the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast.

As of 1923, the majority of nation’s cotton was grown, spun and woven down south. Without its mills and factories, the valley’s population began to shrink.

Pollution

In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. It was time to clean up the mess.

We’re still cleaning up. Although not as polluted as it was, the watershed has a long way to go. The river’s tributaries are less polluted than the Blackstone itself because against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from a sewage treatment plant in Millbury. It’s hard to fathom what reasoning, if any, those who favor pouring sewage into our river are using. The fight never ends.

Good news? The birds and fish are back. American eagles nest in the woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows. Fishing is legal and in some places, even swimming is allowed. The river is alive despite man’s best efforts to kill it.

WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG … OR MAYBE NOT

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I was in Israel for nearly 9 years, from the very beginning of 1979 through the end of 1987. I sort of missed the 1980s and from everything I’ve been hearing about it, I didn’t miss much. A few TV shows, but with all the reruns available everywhere these days, I’m catching up on them.

72-lr-technology-remotes-10062016_04

More interesting is that I came from a high-tech world in Israel and returned to a high-tech world here. It wasn’t quite high-tech when I left, but it was considering it. There were many new ideas that would morph into even more new ideas.

Video discs, which, I think, eventually became DVDs. Other parts of the same thing became the life-force of “computer-generated” creations we now see everywhere. I left at the beginning of this mad rush to technology and came back in the middle of it, a hardened veteran of the high-tech wars. I went directly from what I’d been doing in Israel — documenting software — to documenting software. Here. I’m pretty sure that some of it was the same stuff I’d worked on in Israel.

Yet, for all my high-tech-ness, there are things from which I will never recover.

IT’S NOT WORKING! WHAT’LL I DO?

You’d think this would only happen if a major piece of equipment punks out.

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You’d be right, most of the time. Except — I don’t know how many times I reinstalled operating systems for machinery that had a loose plug. I just needed to … plug it in. To the machine. Sometimes, to the wall.

OH NO! MY CAMERA IS DEAD!

I panic when I turn on my camera and I can’t see anything.

“Oh NO! My camera just died.”

Total panic. Full hysteria. Something is terribly wrong and I … Oh. Never mind. My camera didn’t die. I forgot to take the lens cap off. What a ninny.

CALLING FOR HELP

Despite my frenzy of panic, I have never called tech support because I forgot to remove the lens cap … or because I needed to push the plug back in the wall. This isn’t because I’m too smart for that. I’m plenty dumb enough, thank you. It’s that I don’t like having to call customer service for any reason.

It’s my last port of call, when all else has failed. Most of the time, I’m grateful. And, in the end, most things “fix themselves.” Unplug it, count to ten, and plug it back in. Fixed.

You will never find out what was wrong anyway. If rebooting doesn’t work, sometimes making a sandwich, eating it, and coming back to the desk will take care of it. Like, 90% of the time.

customer-service-f1-for-help

I had a boss who commented there really is a reason for everything that happens. The problem is, the amount of time and effort it would take to discover exactly what went wrong can take weeks. At which point you’ll discover it didn’t matter anyway.

You have to make decisions about what matters. First, reboot.

THE SPIDER ON THE CEILING IS IN THE BED

Yesterday morning, there was a spider in my bed. This is a bad thing. Not merely do I not like spiders (okay, I’m terrified of spiders), but a spider in my bed can cause me to stay up all night and refuse to leave the sofa in the living room. Yesterday, it was there. In my bed. And Garry was in the shower. By the time I could extract him from the shower, who knows what that spider might be doing.

But it wasn't quite this large

But it wasn’t quite this large

I solved the problem. I got paper towels and screamed hysterically while I removed the spider from the bed. Garry can’t hear me when I scream (no hearing aids in the shower), so I just screamed. A lot.

Having removed the spider. I (later) asked Garry how there could be a spider in the bed? Practical man, he said probably one of the packages I’d brought in from outside had a spider on it.

“Oh,” I said. “That makes sense.” Because until that moment, I was ready to tear the entire room to pieces to find that lair of spiders.

Just saying.