The Lost Art of Ice Harvesting

Posted by ted @ 8:00 am, March 18th, 2014

When ever I hear about a dying industry being bailed out to “preserve a way of life” I always think of the massive ice harvesting industry that disappeared  almost overnight once modern refrigeration became common. I imagine that poor teenager apprentice trained and ready to take over the family business, when suddenly it all goes away.

Gizmodo has an longish excellent article, with  many pictures, on the the lost art of the ice harvest itself as practiced at the annual ice cutting event in South Bristol, Maine.

In 1805, a twenty-three year-old Bostonian named Frederic Tudor launched a new industry: the international frozen-water trade. Over the next fifty years, he and the men he worked with developed specialized ice-harvesting tools, a global network of thermally engineered ice houses, and a business model that cleverly leveraged ballast-less ships, off-season farmers, and overheated Englishmen abroad. By the turn of the century, the industry employed 90,000 people and was worth $220 million in today’s terms.

By 1930, it had disappeared, almost without trace, replaced by an artificial cryosphere of cold storage warehouses and domestic refrigerators.

They also point out how the industry fell into a strange loop-hole in government classifications:

Funnily enough, despite being a thriving industry, it barely figures in official statistics: as Gavin Weightman explains, “since it could be classified as neither mining nor farming, it was not subject to any taxes that would have given federal or state governments an interest in it.”

Follow the link and see how it was done:

Learning the Lost Art of Ice Harvesting in Maine


And here are some crazy young men in Latvia cutting ice again, this time for some wake boarding!

Project Black Ice at Marupe Wake Park


Kiddo the Airship Cat

Posted by ted @ 12:30 pm, October 8th, 2011

Kiddo the Airship Cat

In 1910 airman Walter Wellman and five companions attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the airship America. He was also accompanied by his cat Kiddo. Unfortunately once they were underway Kiddo decided he was not so fond of flying and started causing trouble by meowing, crying and running around ‘like a squirrel in a cage.’ The airship America was the first aircraft to be carry radio equipment and the first engineer, Melvin Vaniman, was so annoyed by the antics of Kiddo that he was moved to make the first in-flight radio transmission to a secretary back on land.

The historic first message read:, “Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”

A plan was formed to lower the cat in a canvas bag to motorboat beneath the airship. An attempt was made, but failed because the seas were too rough for the boat to catch the bag, so it was pulled back up again and Kiddo was forced to continue the journey. Luckily Kiddo became more comfortable and settled down to become an excellent flying companion. Navigator Murray Simon wrote that he was ‘more useful than any barometer.’ And that ‘You must never cross the Atlantic in an airship without a cat.’ He slept comfortably in a lifeboat and seemed to only become agitated when he sensed there was weather trouble ahead.

Unfortunately the weather and other problems forced the crew to give up on the crossing before it was complete. They were forced to ditch the airship and all take to the lifeboat. The crew, including Kiddo, were later rescued by the steamship RMS Trent. Simon reminded the crew that it had been a good idea to bring a cat, as they have nine lives!

Upon their return to New York Kiddo achieved celebrity status in a display in Gimbels Department store in a guilded cage with soft cushions.

The airship America, although failing to complete the Atlantic crossing, had set several new records by staying aloft for almost 72 hours and traveling over 1000 miles.

Kiddo retired from aviation to live with Walter Wellman’s daughter.

I found this story along with a lot other entertaining information on famous cats at Purr-n-Fur UK

1959 Polymorphic Computing Video

Posted by ted @ 9:02 am, October 18th, 2010

This is a beautiful 1959 video explaining some basic distributed computing concepts which we take for granted today, but were a new idea then. Ramo is the R in TRW.
I love the pre-powerpoint presentation style.

Simon Ramo’s concept of “polymorphic” computing is laid out in stop-motion animation, accompanied by acoustic guitar.
The film anticipates parallel, distributed processing and the architecture of ARPANET and the Internet.


The Future is Not What It Used To Be

Posted by ted @ 12:15 pm, September 10th, 2008

Not long ago I wrote about an interesting way to apply math to predicting the future. Now I have come across an interesting article called Welcome to the Future by writer Gavin Edwards on his site Rule Forty Two which summarizes nine future predicting authors, and how well they have stood up to the test of time. It is quite thorough and covers a lot, and he evens ends with some predictions of his own. Be sure to get down to the part about David Goodman Croly (1829-1889), “the greatest prophet you’ve never heard of” with an accuracy rate of 75%

Most of the futurists I read focused on the rise and fall of governments, and especially, the progress of technology and the sciences. The future of art and literature got short shrift, as did sex and religion. At first, I thought this was because too many of the predictors considered their readership to be drawn from the business community. But that didn’t wash: an accurate prediction of fashion trends, or societal attitudes towards sex, would be immensely valuable to any savvy investor or corporate type. Would-be prophets avoid arts and entertainment because they seem too difficult to pin down, too trend-driven. Science provides the illusion that progress occurs in an orderly fashion…

As I immersed myself in futurism, I waded through promise after promise of electric cars, unified world government, and videophones. (For decades, certain favorite predictions have been coming along Real Soon Now.) But before I burned out on days of future past, I resolved to grade leniently. If a prediction seemed to be mostly correct, even if it mangled some details, I gave the futurist credit. If they correctly described the effects of a technology but misunderstood the mechanism of it, that was accurate enough for me.

Welcome to the Future


One often overlooked future prediction comes from rock star and writer Pete Townshend. His failed and then reborn 1970’s rock opera project Lifehouse featured people living in a world where pollution is so bad they are forced to stay in Lifesuits and obtain all their experiences and social interaction by plugging in to “The Grid”, a huge global computer network not so unlike today’s internet and social networking sites.

Commenter Bobbie Dawn adds a reference to writer Orson Scott Card and asserts his prediction of blogging in Enders Game makes him particularly relevant to bloggers. I looked him up and, admittitly not having read Enders Game, could not find information on his predictions. I instead found him described as a right wing Bush war supporter and homophobe, not that that invalidates his writing, but it does make me less likely to want to read his work.

History of SOS

Posted by ted @ 7:07 pm, June 13th, 2008

Today BBC News online had an interesting article on the history of the use of SOS as a call for help.
Early ships had no radio communication options and relied on flags, flares or signal lights to communicate with other ships. In a disaster situation ships were usually had to fend for themselves. When the radio was invented it was a great help, allowing communication over the horizon to other ships or land, and could be used to call for help in disasters. The early radio system could not modulate a voice signal and instead just produced a steady carrier wave than could only switched on or off, so morse code was used in a similar way to land based telegraph systems. In fact most ship radio operators came straight from land telegraph systems. The letters “CQ” were used to first call for attention when beginning a transmission. (as is still the case with HAM radio operators using morse code). In cases of emergency operators added a D and used “CQD”, which did not mean “come quick disaster” as some imagined, just “attention, disaster”. The problem was that in all the noise the D could easily be missed, and as “CQ” calls were so common many CQD calls were just missed. In 1906 the international telegraphy community got together to try to solve the problem in some way that was both internationaly acceptable, and impossible to mistake. The Germans suggested “SOE” (dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot) which was considered, but it was feared the single dot for the E could be too easily missed. Eventually the conference agreed upon “SOS” (dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot) which is hard to mistake for anything else. Interestingly enough, since the pattern was repeated without a pause it can just as easily be read as IJS, SMB, or VTB. SOS became the official call for assistance on July 1, 1908. Apparently the expressions “Save our Souls” or “Save Our Ship” are really just “backronyms” constructed later.
“It is believed the first ship to have sent out an SOS signal was the American steamer Arapahoe in 1909. When the Titanic was sinking in 1912, its operator first sent out CQD and then SOS, alternating. CQD persisted, particularly among British operators, for many years.”


TV Lamps

Posted by ted @ 4:29 pm, July 20th, 2007

Today while browsing the very fun and informative retro pop culture site Duck Soup Retro I discovered the world of TV Lamps. Apparently when TV’s started getting popular in homes in the 50’s there was concern that watching TV in a dark room would cause eye damage, so the TV lamp was born. These decorative lamps were made to sit on top of the TV to provide some ambient light in the room (long before the Phillips Ambilight TV) and came in a wide variety of styles. These were probably purchased for their decorative value as much as for health concerns. The cool one at Duck Soup includes a painted mountain scene behind what appears to be a small fish tank. Upon some further searching I found which includes more historical information and many photographs of a wide variety of TV lamps.

Interesting Tidbits about Niagara falls

Posted by ted @ 10:26 am, June 20th, 2006

I recently learned some fun facts about Niagara falls that I had not known. First of all, as amazing as it appears now, apparently the current flow of water over the falls is a mere fraction of what was witnessed by the first europeans to discover the falls. Between 50% and 75% of the flow is now diverted through huge tunnels to hyrdoelectric plants. Second, the falls are slowing moving upriver due to erosion. They used to recede an average of 3 ft per year until the major diversion was done in the 1950’s to produce electricity. They now recede around 1 ft per ten years. Learn more at Wikipedia.