Saturday, March 23, 2019

We need to believe science

Fact: We have a tremendous problem in the world (especially America) these days with people who disbelieve or distrust proven science.

Some people don't believe in vaccinations. And thus we have an outbreak of about 100 cases of the mumps in the Philadelphia area, centered around Temple University. And a measles outbreak keeping hundreds of kids out of school in Washington state. And brave kids going behind their anti-vax parents' backs to get vaccinated. The terrifying list of examples is long...

And some people don't believe in the overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change or the role that we humans have played in contributing to that change. They don't accept, even as we are bludgeoned by catastrophic weather events (southeastern Africa and the American Midwest most recently) and rising seas, that we must, in the words of the LNP Editorial Board, "change our consumption habits, pivot toward renewable energy and be willing to make inconvenient adjustments to our fossil-fueled lifestyles."

Heck, some people don't even believe that the world is round. I'm looking at you, Kyrie Irving and Mike Hughes.

But is all this disbelief, denial and distrust new? Sadly, no. I was recently browsing through Science Year, The World Book Science Annual for 1971 (Doesn't everyone do that for fun?) when I came across an article titled "The Rejection of Science," by Harvard professor I. Bernard Cohen.

It starts off with a dig at astrology, but then turns its attention other related anti-science matters and also the lack of federal funding for scientific research. Here are some excerpts from this article, which is now nearly a half-century old:

  • "A paradox of our times, and a dismaying one to any scientist, is the dual way in which people look at the planet and stars. We live in an astonishing era when man has made his first celestial voyages, employing all of his scientific and technical genius to send instruments, and even himself, to discover the physical realities of the heavens, Yet, at the same time, there has sprung up a new preoccupation with the stars as supposed messengers of men's fate, charted to guide his present and forecast his future."
  • "The trend toward anti-science, and to some extent anti-rationalism, is surely anomalous in an age characterized by many great scientific advances, and so many new technological and medical applications."
  • "Is this apparent turning away from science, at the moment of its greatest potential, a national, or a worldwide phenomenon? Is it related to increased pseudoscience and mysticism? Has it ever happened before? It often seems that those critics who express the most serious concern about our age assume that things used to be better. But were they? Has our era rejected science more than any other era? I believe that a careful study shows that it has now."
  • "It would seem to me inescapable, therefore, that a real self education in science, its nature and its nurture, and its role in producing effects upon society through the medium of technology, is the first step for anyone who is seriously determined to contribute to a better world."

1. Speaking of one particular denier of man-made climate change, as I write this on the morning of March 23, 2019, The Washington Post reports that:
"Attorney General William P. Barr is expected to make public as early as today the principal conclusions of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election, giving the public its first glimpse into the findings of the 22-month probe.

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein were at the Justice Department Saturday morning, where they were reviewing Mueller’s report and working on a summary of conclusions to provide to lawmakers."
So that's happening...

Friday, March 22, 2019

Postcard of good old Harry Truman

No, not the U.S. president. This is a postcard of Harry R. Truman (1896-1980). His life was long and fascinating, but his probable end was sad. I'll start with the caption on the back of the postcard:
MOUNT ST. HELENS. Harry Truman, crusty, salty speaking 84 year "Old Man of the Mountain", perished rather than leave his fifty-year home, friendly raccoons, sixteen cats, assorted antiques, and his beloved mountain. The owner of MOUNT ST. HELEN'S LODGE, near Spirit Lake, Truman spent the day before the eruption visiting with raccoon friends, watering his lawn, getting ready for summer visitors, and spouting his rambling reminiscences and "blue language" quotes. His memorial is the colorful legend he's left behind.
Mount St. Helens (aka Lawetlat'la or Loowit or Louwala-Clough) is a volcano in southwest Washington that erupted on May 18, 1980, killing at least 57 people.1
Wikipedia adds that Truman owned a pink 1957 Cadillac and hated Republicans, hippies, young children, and especially old people. Of his death, it states: "Truman was alone at his lodge with his 16 cats, and is presumed to have died in the eruption on May 18. The largest landslide in recorded history and a pyroclastic flow traveling atop the landslide engulfed the Spirit Lake area almost simultaneously, destroying the lake and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet of volcanic landslide debris. Authorities never found Truman's remains. Truman's cats are presumed to have died with him."

I wouldn't have worried about my own well being, either. But I think, unlike Truman, I would have evacuated the area for the sake of the cats. (Though I understand how hard that would have been, given he had no other place to call home.)

I would have tried to take the raccoons, too.

My preferred alternate ending to Truman's tale is that the raccoons had a magic portal and spirited Truman and the cats away to some peaceful land, where they lived out their days. Given no firm evidence to the contrary, I'm claiming this to be the true story.

And now I have to go feed my cats...

Postcard info
  • Published by Coral-Lee, P.O. Box 314, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
  • Mike Roberts Color Productions, Emeryville CA 94608
  • SC17280-Colorphoto: © Jim Pomerenk
  • May 1980

1. Another who died was photographer Robert Emerson Landsburg. Wikipedia tells his story: "In the weeks leading up to the eruption, Landsburg visited the area many times in order to photographically document the changing volcano. On the morning of May 18, he was within a few miles of the summit. When the mountain erupted, Landsburg took photos of the rapidly approaching ash cloud. Knowing he was going to die from the nearly supersonic pyroclastic flow about to overtake him, he rewound the film back into its case, put his camera in his backpack, and then laid himself on top of the backpack in an attempt to protect its contents. Seventeen days later, Landsburg's body was found buried in the ash with his backpack underneath. The film was developed and has provided geologists with valuable documentation of the historic eruption."

Thursday, March 21, 2019

1954 U.S. newspaper mention
of "Gojira" (looking skinny)

This might have been the first moment when some Pennsylvanians learned about the Gojira/Godzilla phenomenon. It's a standalone wire photograph from Page 31 of the October 19, 1954, edition of The Plain Speaker of Hazleton.

The caption states:
H-BOMB MONSTER — This huge balloon monster is being moored over Tokyo, Japan. It was made to advertise a movie called "Gojira," which means half gorilla and half whale. The creature supposedly came into being after the U.S. H-bomb tests at Bikini. It then swam into Tokyo Bay, clambered ashore, destroying several large buildings including the Diet.
Toho's Gojira made its silver-screen debut in Japan in late October 1954. Most Americans didn't get to see it, though, until the heavily edited American version (adding Raymond Burr and removing anti-nuclear overtones) called Godzilla, King of the Monsters! hit theaters in spring 1956. That version, and many sillier sequels, were staples of weekend TV in the 1960s and 1970s. Later, there came the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the Matthew Broderick travesty and now Millie Bobby Brown hanging out with the atomic lizard and his famous kaijū pals this spring.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

My great-grandfather's nostalgia road trips, Part 3

Following Part 1 and Part 2, here's another batch of snapshots from a road trip some of my family members — specifically my great-grandfather and my grandmother — took in February 1965. They were checking out sites in Delaware connected to the younger days of my great-grandfather, Howard Horsey “Ted” Adams (1892-1985).

Caption on back: "Alfred Adams House (reconstructed)
near Laurel, Delaware."
Alfred Adams (1816-1899) is Howard Horsey Adams' grandfather, on his father's side. Thus Alfred is one of my great-great-great-grandfathers. He is buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Laurel, Delaware.

"Chipmans Mill — Broad Creek"
According to Delaware AHGP (American History and Geneaology Project) and History of Delaware, 1609-1888, by J. Thomas Scharf, Chipman's Mills is two miles from Laurel and was built by John Chipman around 1800. It had a saw-mill, grist-mill and carding-machine. I'm not sure if the structure pictured is part of one of those mills.

"Trussums Pond — 3 miles from Laurel, Delaware"

It appears the correct name is Trussum Pond. I have no idea how it fits into the family history. According to Bivy:
"Trussum Pond is located just 6 miles from Laurel, in Sussex County. It is a spectacular destination for paddling and has a great fishing population as well. Delaware has some of the northernmost Bald Cypress trees in the nation and Trussum Pond is the best place to see these stately trees. You will paddle through a maze of gorgeous Bald Cypress trees which grow right out of the water. It is a very unique and beautiful location."

"Alfred House (N. Side) Arrow indicates original kitchen before rebuilt"
I assume this again refers to Alfred Adams. While Alfred died in 1899, my great-grandfather (and Alfred's grandson), born in 1892, clearly had some memories/knowledge of this house in 1965.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Staged shelfie just for the halibut 4

These lands were made for you and me ... and everyone.

Monday, March 18, 2019

"Reptiles, mince pices, and artificial teeth," plus a familiar lament

Here are some interesting excerpts from a 140-year-old newspaper article about the state of the fledgling postal system in the United Kingdom. Specifically, this is from the August 22, 1879, issue of The Standard of London, England.

  • The serious illness of Sir Rowland Hill, the founder of the penny postage system, imparts and unusual degree of interest to the Annual Report of the POSTMASTER GENERAL, which was issued yesterday. The Report bears witness to the ever-increasing commercial activity of the United Kingdom.
  • England must be a very different place now from what it was a century and a half ago, when the post ran only three times a week between Edinburgh and London, and the mail-bag from the Metropolis on one occasion contained only a single letter. It is barely forty years since the penny post came into operation, and in the last year of the higher rate the number of letters delivered in the United Kingdom was eighty-three millions, including nearly seven millions of franks.
  • A single firm in London is known to received three thousand letters daily.
  • Men are pursued from morning to night by letters and telegrams, and the work of the day may be upset by a message received in the evening. The strain is never taken off, the arrangements never seem final. Formerly there was a clear interval between post and post, a period of calm which could not be interrupted. Now it is only during a few hours in the night that there is immunity from some startling telegram. ... Life subject to these influences is apt to be hurried and overstrained. A sea voyage is perhaps the surest way of escape.
  • Let a man allow himself to be entangled in this net and he exposes himself to the risk of being talked at from all points of the compass.
  • There are other strange things in respect to the postal service, odd matters in transitu, such as "wild animals," reptiles, mince pies, and artificial teeth. Letters without any address amount in one year to more than twenty thousand, and letters with very odd addresses continue to abound.
  • There were more than five milllions of undelivered letters last year, while the undelivered post-cards, book packets, and newspapers exceeded four millions. Half a million letters could neither be delivered nor returned to the senders.
  • In the United Kingdom the Post Office has developed into a vast institution, employing 46,000 persons, of whom one-fourth are engaged exclusively on Telegraph work.
  • In the United Kingdom there are now nearly 26,000 receptacles for letters, London alone having nearly 2000.
  • The British postal system is one of which the Kingdom may be proud. ... A single penny — or even a half-penny — sets the machine in motion, and the postman is the servant of everybody.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Trash blowing in the wind

In the midst of my grumpy Sunday of errand-running, I found myself at one point walking through a swirl of sidewalk trash at the West Manchester Town Center. So I stopped and started picking it up, stuffing it all into a plastic bag (grrrr) that was also part of the wind-blown refuse.

Sometimes I imagine I'll just start walking the Earth, like Caine in Kung Fu or David Banner in The Incredible Hulk, only I'll be picking up roadside trash the whole way. Or maybe it's more realistic if that's just something I do on weekends, given that I have no martial arts or gamma radiation powers. And also that I still need a paycheck.

Anyway, one of the pieces of trash I picked up was this colorful shopping list. I decided to stuff it into my back pocket rather than into the trash bag, because my ephemera archaeologist/sociologist instincts outweighed my immediate desire to throw it in the trash.

We see that someone used multiple pen colors to document their need for, among other things, hot dogs, cleaning supplies, granola bars, Fritos, conditioner, Honeycomb cereal (which I didn't even think was still sold) and tea tree oil.

And now that it's been properly documented, it can go into the trash. And then off to the landfill or incinerator, alongside all those things we used to recycle. Sigh.

Grumpy Sunday thoughts
on the plague of cars

This infographic (by Pictograph Corporation) appears within 1943's An Introduction to Sociology and Social Problems (second edition) by Deborah MacLurg Jensen, and it serves as a good ephemeral jumping off point for a post about cars and walkable communities. It shows the ways that automobiles changed life in the United States. Ostensibly, it's supposed to be a pro-automobile illustration but, especially with hindsight, it makes it clear how cars pushed our communities, neighborhoods, schools and public services apart, making cars fully mandatory for existence within society.

I'm crankier than usual about cars today for a couple reasons. First, I had to leave the house on three separate occasions within seven hours to run automobile errands, which is horribly inefficient and no help for our climate. Second, I came across this Atlas Obscura post on Facebook this morning:

To which my response was essentially:
WHY?!?! Cities weren't even built for cars until the last 100 years and they probably never should have been in the first place. There should be no entitlement to roads going everywhere and cars parking everywhere. What's wrong with a few car-free neighborhoods? Or at least off-site parking?
Longtime reader(s) know that walkable communities are not a new theme or dream here on Papergreat. If you want to dive further into this topic and don't have a James Howard Kunstler book handy, here are some past posts:

Also, as CGI Princess Leia might say, there was hope that I stumbled into on another front this morning. Specifically, I discovered a Curbed article titled "Could a car-free, Dutch-style city work in Colorado?" It was written by Megan Barber and published last month. Here's an excerpt:
"[There would be] no traditional city grid. Instead the plan uses Dutch easement and platting standards as a model, envisioning an 80-person-per acre average density that will feel far lower thanks to parks, public squares, and short distances to the countryside outside of town. Each street will prioritize cycling and pedestrians while parking lots will only be built at the edge of the city."
You should read the full article for more groovy details. Clearly, this project will cost a ton of money. And I have serious upfront concerns that this kind of community wouldn't be available to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Still, I think it should be encouraged. We can learn things from each experiment like this and hopefully build a future world where we're much less dependent on cars. (Assuming we have a planet left for that future.)