Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Monday, September 18, 2017

History Stix


Like Pixie Stix - only different. More historical.
Instead of Kool-aid powder and sugar, they were filled with dust swept from the back corners of library shelves. Silverfish leavings included.
And sugar!
Still, they never caught on.

 
Silliness aside.
The sticks mentioned are pictured above, leaning against the cabinet my Sweetie bought at a garage sale and which precipitated this whole waste of your time and mine.
We'll dive in and arrive there in due time.
From the left: My old warhorse that anyone who's bought a big knife from me has seen already in a photo.
It's four feet long and advertises the services of "The Farmer's Union Oil Company" of Coffee Creek, Montana. "For Greater Measure" Could va die?
Actually I've seen one other of these four foot "greater measure" sticks from another outfit so...

Next in the lineup are the two red ones.
I had another partial one of these that I shitcanned and until now, I'd never looked up W. J. McCready Lumber Co.
According to Wiki, he started in Forest Grove and after that... I don't know what.
I think we can reasonably assume that he used red trucks - and that they delivered.
He also gave away a lot of yardsticks - and likely had several outlets hence the lack of address/phone# on my examples.
These two and - and remnant - that I had - we're being used as shims behind some wallboard in a house I remodeled fifteen years ago.
Interesting joint. It'd started as a turkey shed in the thirties, was made into a kinda-house sometime later but then - circa 1949/50 - it was remodeled by a guy, with a toddler, who was on the loose while Dad was working. Don't know from Mom but whoever the younger set consisted of, he/she, delighted in dropping change through the knot holes in in the fir sheathing exposed by Dad's work.
I found almost a buck's worth of change in the stud bays. Almost all pennies, one wartime zinc one, some nickels and one or two dimes. All dated to the late forties.
Pictured next: the wallpaper that had been covering the wallboard shimmed out by those red yardsticks - in the kitchen. There were other more hideous wall coverings but we don't have room for them
Yes. I have a piece of seventy-year old wallpaper. What of it?
Okay.
Next in the lineup is the shortie. He's lost an inch or two in the wars and aside from that I don;t know him from Adam.
He just happened to be on the porch when I walked by. I suspicion that the Mommy had put it out there to guide children in the selection of appropriately sized firewood.
It was a giveaway of the Seattle Trust & Savings Bank, Des Moines branch.
The institution itself went away in the '80's and I'm not sure what it means in the chronology but the phone number is listed as: TAylor-2481.

Last and the inciting item for this foolishness is the one on the far right.
This dates from an unusual time in American history, a time when we actually had a thoughtful decent man - and a scientist - as president. A time when we thought that maybe, possibly, finally and at long fucking last - America could jump ahead to the 19th century and adopt the metric system. The way of doing things that every single other country that weighs and/or measures things has been using (And quite happily) since... as I said the 19th century.
It was a brave new world and one that our own Joe Romania Chevrolet (Still in the same location) was happy to further by giving away this 39 1/2-ish" stick as a gesture of solidarity with the rational people of the world.
Yeah I get it. It's a meter stick.
To get a poignant hit regarding placement in time, see the flip/metric side:
"1977 CHEVYS - NOW THA'T'S MORE LIKE IT"
If only.

Monday, September 04, 2017

How I Spent Labor Day Weekend

Pigging out.
But I hardly ate anything because it was so hot. Let me back up a bit:
Thursday afternoon I e-mailed the company I'd ordered brass from a week prior. They'd confirmed my order but never wrote that it had shipped. Turns out - oops. Thought we had those yellow brass ingots but...
A full-on "brass-tastrophe" which caused me to wake up Friday in full-panic mode.


Pictured above: The end of my panic and the beginning of misery. I might be overstating it. "Misery" consists of just standing around in hundred degree heat next to a propane furnace.
One payoff was the nice atmospherics caused by the world currently burning down around us. That's the origin of that nice, sunsetty, trump glow (I've decided that the new synonym for "orange" - the color not the fruit - should be the name-that-shall-not-be-uttered. Uncapitalized. Complaints about trying to rhyme with "orange" - not any more. You're welcome).

Whine, whine, whine. Anyway, I woke up all in a lather but a quick trip to the scrap yard ("Metal Recyclers") soon put things right.
"Quick trip" kinda - although the trip itself was quick, both to and fro. Hell, the place is like six miles away.
I got there fifteen minutes after they'd opened but seemingly had to reinvent the wheel. The nice lady the afternoon before had assured me that they do sell scrap brass - kinda - sometimes.
But next morning, I had three people in succession ask me: "You want to buy brass? People come to sell scrap not buy it." or words to that effect.

Everyone was nice as could be but this apparently caught them flat-footed. After ten minutes or so, the lady who knew things was contacted and she said: "What do you want it for?"
Fair question. "Casting" says I.
"Do you have a license?" Yes. She asked me that. I allowed that I was likely a small enough consumer to sneak under the radar. Next time the answer will be "Of course I have a license! What idiot would melt metal without one?"
She was nice, just a bit officious. Then she'd told me things were cool and the price was three bucks per pound.
My late, never-arriving stuff - with shipping - would have come at in around seven.
She did stand and watch a bit while I sorted through stuff. Apparently I'm a strange beast indeed. "He comes and he buys scrap!"

Ater I'd made my selection, the bucket the gentleman had given me to load into was weighed; Twenty-eight pounds.
Because they seemed to be unused to buying customers and are apparently lacking in internal communication, I was undercharged at two dollars per.
A good man would have pointed out the error but I'd been such a pain in the ass already...
And I scored the bucket pictured above.
The bread pan perched on the edge of same? That contained my entire supply prior to this rodeo. Around two and a half pounds. Sad.

You've lost weight!

Aaaaand the bucket's back. The little brass turds pictured weigh around twenty-one pounds all together. Which means there's seven pounds or so, from my original purchase, that aren't present.
Why?:
A. There was plumbing brass, fittings with springs and seals and the like.
B. The silver-plate "serve ware" you could see in the first bucket had a very high copper content which means it melts at a higher temperature and therefore has more time to oxidize on the way to molten. Also there's lots of surface area. More of that = more oxidation. Oxidation is, of course: your metal running away with that slut, oxygen - and becoming useless - and ugly.
Not fair actually. Aluminum oxide is a kick-ass abrasive, zinc oxide keeps lifeguard's noses from burning away, iron oxide is what makes thermite work and is a pigment. as is titanium oxide.
Copper oxide... I don't fucking know. I skim it off the top and sling it down next to the furnace. You'll see the pile of it to the left of my beautiful pigs.
That gray, ugly shit probably has at least a pound of metal lurking therein and I'll pig it out when the present crucible is on its last legs and I have another one on site. Pigging out slag is hard on them.

Let me conclude that I will welcome scrap brass as trade against a purchase at four dollars a pound.
Reloaders, plumbers...

Monday, July 31, 2017

Courage

Meet Siegfried Loraine Sassoon. Taken circa May, 1915 when he was twenty-eight years old and with all of nine months-ish in the army, much of that time having been spent in the hospital.
We see him above as a newly-minted 2nd Lt. in the Royal Welsh Fusileers headed off to France. Sassoon had all the earmarks of a rich douchebag. He came from money and was well-educated but did little but hunt foxes and write sappy poetry. But when the twentieth century began in August, 1914, Siegfried  joined up - as an enlisted man.
He was on the fast track to becoming just another nameless bullet magnet across the channel until his plan was thwarted by a riding mishap during his training. He recovered just in time for the "Oh shit!" reality of the war to have begun to dawn on folks. 
So here's Sassoon: He fell of a horse as a private but got well as an officer and an infantry platoon leader at that. 
He took to it, seemingly.
He had some sort of manic courage that led his platoon to call him "Mad Jack" and only felt confident when he was with them.
But he could wax random.
He once, under the covering fire of a few rifles, routed  sixty or so German defenders from a trench on the Hindenburg Line with the understanding that when the trench was secure he'd tell the lads to come up.
A tense hour and a half later, his platoon finally crept close only to find Sassoon kicked back in the German trench - reading.
However, another time: On 27 July 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross; the citation read:
"2nd Lt. Siegfried Lorraine [sic] Sassoon, 3rd (attd. 1st) Bn., R. W. Fus.
For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches. He remained for 1½ hours under rifle and bomb fire collecting and bringing in our wounded. Owing to his courage and determination all the killed and wounded were brought in."
To my mind what makes him a hero is what happened a century ago yesterday.
Sassoon wrote his letter, "Finished with the war. A soldier's declaration."
It was published in Bradford Pioneer on July 27 and read to the British House of Commons on July 30, 1917. It was printed in the London Times the following day. 


July, 1917."

"I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of agression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.



I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.



On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practised upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not enough imagination to realize"


This is treading one's Oscar Meyer in a most public and dangerous way.
To prevent his being court-martialed, his buddy, Robert Graves, convinced the powers that Siegfried had simply gone off his nut.
They bought it so he was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh to be treated or "shell shock".
He wasn't crazy but he wasn't well either. He copped to seeing dead members of his platoon crawling across the floor of his room at night and apparently once, while on leave in London, he'd had to step over rotting corpses in Piccadilly Circus.
In the end he voluntarily went back to France to rejoin his men.
Courage
"Suicide in the Trenches"
Siegfried Sassoon

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go. 


Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Katrina Reefers.



That actually sounds like it'd be a good band name. Like Jimmy Buffet only bleaker.
Short version: Al Gore got fat, a hurricane made landfall near New Orleans. Brownie did "a heck-of-a job" Remember the winning?
Finally folks got to go back home - after three months.
But there was a lurking monster in every house, two per household if they were affluent enough to own a freezer.

No need to look at that any further.
That's one that's open and thus is only marginally disgusting.
The real deal were the the ones that had been opened once - if at all - and then sent to live on a farm.
They turned into a sort of folk art as pictured below.
Following that, a few arithmetic facts. 
a

Oh my God. That's a lot of dead reefers. 
Also lots of old-school, ozone-killing, freon refrigerants to deal with in getting rid of them.
I'm sure our government was equal to it. We took care of business.
There weren't that many nasty home-appliances anyway...
150,000...
Allowing a generic 30" x 30" footprint per unit - some will be bigger and some littler. And, in straining our visualization further, we're going to stand the chest freezers on end - just to keep it fair.
Before the mathematical punchline is delivered, please know: All the above biohazard "white goods" were so numerous and each such a stinky, dangerous pain in the ass that they just fucking buried the lot of them.
'Member our numbers? 
30" x 30" ends up being six and a quarter square feet. That means, using my conservative estimate, this extemporaneous landfill covered 21 acres.
Just for fun, let's put all these units in a line; nut-to-butt, asshole-to-bellybutton, so we can walk over... hot lava, for instance.
You'd be able to safely traverse... seventy miles!
Is this a great country or what?

Sunday, June 04, 2017

It's just a Beau going in...

Poetry Break!

First, some context:
 
Pictured: A Bristol Beaufighter.
Originally conceived as a twin engine, two man, heavy fighter, it suffered the fate of all the heavy fighters of WW2 apart from the Lockheed P-38 Lightning  and the DeHaviland Mosquito. Said fate being: Being either pushed aside or pressed into service as night fighters.
In this latter role, their deficiencies in agility could be more than offset by increased capacity for radar and armaments.
















As you can see, she's a good-sized unit.
Notice; Right above the head of the fella on the left are two of the tubes for the four 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon in the nose with a load of 240 rounds per gun. 
Realistically, that's only about thirty second's worth but...
The observer, in the back seat had his own Browning MG, chambered in .303 Brit.
They were a serious item during the Battle of Britain and apparently their occasional demise was visible from shore. Such as by poet, Gavin Ewart who, to my knowledge wrote exactly one war poem. He was a Royal Artillery officer during the war and apparently was deeply affected by it.

When a Beau Goes In.
When a Beau goes in,
Into the drink,
It makes you think,
Because, you see, they always sink
But nobody says "Poor lad"
Or goes about looking sad
Because, you see, it's war,
It's the unalterable law.

Although it's perfectly certain
The pilot's gone for a Burton
And the observer too
It's nothing to do with you
And if they both should go
To a land where falls no rain nor hail nor driven snow —
Here, there, or anywhere,
Do you suppose they care?

You shouldn't cry
Or say a prayer or sigh.
In the cold sea, in the dark
It isn't a lark
But it isn't Original Sin —
It's just a Beau going in.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Decoration Day!

     To the Warmongers 
Written by my hero, Siegfried Lorraine Sassoon:

"I'm back again from hell 
With loathsome thoughts to sell; 
secrets of death to tell;
And horrors from the abyss.

Young faces bleared with blood 
sucked down into the mud, 
You shall hear things like this, 
Till the tormented slain

Crawl round and once again,
With limbs that twist awry
Moan out their brutish pain,
As the fighters pass them by.

For you our battles shine
With triumph half-divine;
And the glory of the dead
Kindles in each proud eye.

But a curse is on my head, 
That shall not be unsaid, 
And the wounds in my heart are red, 
For I have watched them die."



Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mem-day warmup.

Poetry alert!
A poem follows and, lest you miss the meaning.
Cheat sheet: "Scarlet Majors" refers to "Red-tabs". That ought to clear things up.
Above are "red tabs"; collar flashes worn by staff officers, "garritroopers."

The following is by my hero, Siegfried Sassoon See if you can sense a similarity to a certain warmly-pastel-colored "world leader" in the first few lines.

Base Details


If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well.
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war was done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die — in bed.

A hopeful note at the last.
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