Dave's Journal, April 2017

Stuff You Want to Know

"Flush It" ..... said Queen Victoria, and the rest is History

jpg At the London World's Fair of 1880, high tech toiletry took a step into everyone's home. Eight years before that, a Scotch-Irish tradesman named Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet in his rural home in
Ballachuish, Highland, Scotland, and he was at the Fair to show it to the world.

As it played out, not many people took his invention seriously; they were quite used to, and comfortable with their "outhouses" and "water closets".

Until the Queen took notice.

A household advisor to the Queen, one Heather Burns-Benley, mentioned the Crapper display and the Queen was curious, so a long line of attendants accompanied Her to Crapper's display.

"Flush it", was all She said. "Yes, Your Majesty", said Mr. Crapper, and so he reached up to the chain and pulled down on it.
♪♫♩♬♪ ...fffflushhhhhh... ♪♫♩♬♪ the sound was almost musical.
The Queen smiled, "Thank you Mr.....?". "Crapper, your Majesty, Thomas Crapper".

jpg By the end of that year, Kensington Palace had three "Crappers" installed, and the subsequent demand made Crapper a wealthy man.

In the early 1900's, "I'm going to the crapper" became a common term among the working classes in the UK.

In 1903, Thomas Crapper made an unsuccessful run for Parliament; in 1911 he died, and is buried in Rosemarkie, Highland alongside his 3rd wife Molly Perth and their 4 children, one of whom (son Beathen) became a legendary "stone thrower" at the annual Dune-Heath games against Ireland.

Last year (March 2016), Rolling Stone magazine revealed that Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries, is a great grand-daughter of Thomas Crapper. In fact, there is a picture of him on the wall behind her in the video Ode to My Family.

A Milk Bottle


(Is that Crapper story an April Fool's joke?)

I added a few paragraphs to the implant page: Six Weeks After.

jpg Radiation

We normally don't think about radiation when thinking about camera lenses, but back in the day, there were some lenses that used thorium glass. The stuff is (mildy) radioactive. I have two Pentax Takumar lenses with thorium glass elements. Over the years, the glass can turn slightly yellow-ish, which makes your pictures look "warmer". Maybe you like this, maybe you don't. I do a manual white balance in the camera to "correct" this effect.

The radiation level, using the lens for an hour, is like getting 3 chest X-rays.

The lenses are extremely well made and handle nicely (you must focus manually).

Here is a plant sitting under the parlor window (no computer tweaking at all).


The pictures generally have a nice "look and feel".

Zombies on a Train
(real title = "Train to Busan")

Zombie movies have been done to death (there's a pun there) but this one stands out. In fact it stands out not just as a zombie movie, but as a very nice piece of movie making. It's not just zombies, but the relations of the several lead characters as the movie progresses. It's also a rare instance of the movie being better than the trailer.

Seriously, the ending is pretty emotional.


Well, I finally got to have lunch at Stephanie's outdoor cafe in Boston. Our first walk-around of 2017 (yesterday); perfect day; walked along the river then over to Commonwealth, Boylston & Newbury streets. Fought off Deb's inclination to go (yet again!) to Joe's American Grille and crossed the street to Stephanie's, which is often overpacked with office bees. Greek salad and Chardonnay - can you top that for lunch?

Then we cut through the Public Garden - a month too early for flowers, etc, but lots of people (it was 850F and sunny!

Water Pipes

Up here, the homeowner owns the water line from the street to the house. Typically it's 3'-4' below ground level. Over time (our house is 77 years old) the iron pipes rust from inside and out, and eventally break or jam with rust so bad the flow of water into the house is ridiculously low. Measuring the water pressure inside the house (60psi is typical street line pressure) is a cruel hoax. That reading is simply the static pressure in the water. It would read the street pressure, no matter how badly the line is jammed with rust, as long as there is some small area for flow. If there is a leak under ground, you probably will see a low pressure reading, but a rust-choked pipe will read street pressure.

Anyway .... the flow of water into our house is very bad and getting worse, and we need to replace the underground water line, and this is not covered by our home insurance policy.

We have water line insurance (a separate policy). But ..... it only covers a broken pipe. Not a rust-jammed pipe. They tell me that if the pipe is broken, they will cover it, but I don't know that until we get an excavator in here and dig up the yard. As we say hereabouts..... "Water is the enemy".

First quick trip this year to the wildlife sanctuary. Not much going on there, but it was good to "commune with nature" for a short while. My new ears heard lots of birds, but they were flittering inside the brush and didn't see very many.

That large flat area was once a marshland, created by beaver dams. Legend has it that the marshland wildlife was quite incredible back then. There were many large heron nests up in the treetops back then. But, the beaver dams were abandoned and fell apart, the marshland dried up and the wildlife scattered to other places.


This DPW guy sat on the tailgate of his truck (just outside our porch) , watching rusty water flow out of that hydrant for slightly under 3 hours today. Near the end of his assigned task, two other trucks joined him and they fiddled with wrenches and caps for another 30 minutes. Then they went downstreet to the next hydrant and started over again. (The water is still rusty.)







Water is the Enemy

Either you have too much of it (leaks, floods) or too little (rusted old inlet water lines); we have too little coming in. So ..... next week we are getting a new water line from the street. Insurance doesn't pay because the line is rusted closed, not broken, so technically we are not covered.


Note from Mike

Mike sent this picture from someone's classroom, and it resonated with me, thinking back on my working years and teaching.


It explains why our engineering design reviews were so brutal.

When you're designing airplanes, bridges, submarines, cars, virtually any machine or structure that carries people, you can't make mistakes. If you make a mistake and no one catches it before production, planes fall out of the sky, submarines don't resurface, bridges collapse, people often die. Sometimes lots of people die. (If a sub goes down because of your mistakes, not only did you kill 125 Navy men, but also whoever else on the surface needed that sub in combat. They are now dead as well.)

That was always in the back of my head (everyone's head), and we all had our secret ways of adding our own personal "safety factors" on top of what we were telling the design review team. Because of real-world business pressures, there is always the pressure to cut manufacturing and life-cycle operating expenses, reducing safety factors to uncomfortable levels.

I always lied about my assumptions and my calculations enough to add an extra 10% - 20% margin to failure, so I could sleep at night.

Sometimes my stress calculations raised a few eyebrows because everyone knows stress. But my heat transfer calculations were always taken as I dished them out because (1) there were only like 2 people in GE who really understoodd what I did and (2) I could see by their eyes that those two guys were on my side. And sometimes I even caught them before the meeting and let them in on my little secrets, which almost always will win a person over to your thinking.

Many times I thought that I should have stayed in Brooklyn and opened a pizza parlor or a bicycle repair shop - no stress.


Thinking that "you can never have too many candles", today we trek'd to Yankee Candle out in western Mass. The store takes up about an acre and has more fragrances than all the perfumes in France. Mind boggling flagrances with punchy overly-thought-up names (like "Desert Moonbeam Yucca Blossom").
The basement now smells like ..... yep .... desert moonbeam yucca blossoms.

A day in Boston today. First the MFA, which was very crowded but not too exciting ("Art in Bloom" was not so great.). Then we Green-lined it to Haymarket, stumbled into a small-ish exotic car exhibit at Government Center, and had lunch at The Black Rose. Came home sleepy sleepy.


I always loved Jaguar interiors. Can't do sexier than walnut dashboards and glove leather seats.

Note the toggle switch cover on the XJS dashboard - prevents you from hitting a switch accidentally.



At the Black Rose.....