I’m not entirely sure it works this way

When Boston public schools introduced a new standard map of the world this week, some young students’ felt their jaws drop. In an instant, their view of the world had changed.

The USA was small. Europe too had suddenly shrunk. Africa and South America appeared narrower but also much larger than usual. And what had happened to Alaska?

In an age of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, city authorities are confident their new map offers something closer to the geographical truth than that of traditional school maps, and hope it can serve an example to schools across the nation and even the world.

The Mercator projection “works” and works beautifully for maritime navigation up to 70 0 N or S. The Peters projection is very much better for showing land areas, entirely so. As perhaps we’re more interested in the latter than the former these days then why not?

The result goes a long way to rewriting the historical and socio-political message of the Mercator map, which exaggerates the size of imperialist powers.

“This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools,” said Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for Boston public schools.

The district has 125 schools and 57,000 students, 86% of whom are non-white, with the largest groups being Latino and black. After changing the maps, Rose said, educators plan to look at other subjects and shift away from presenting white history as the dominant perspective.

Well, I’m not entirely sure to be honest:

“The Mercator projection showed the spread and power of Christianity and is standard,” she said. “But it is not the real world at all. What the Boston public schools are doing is extremely important and should be adopted across the whole of the US and beyond.”

Elliott, who is still teaching at 83, said she was booked to give lectures in Michigan, Iowa, Missouri and Texas this week, and would be hailing Boston’s move.

“This is going to change how kids see the world much for the better,” she said.

Because one way to look at the Peters map is to go, wow, Europe is really teeny, isn’t it? But they did still go out and kill or conquer damn near everybody. Those Dead White European Males must have had something, right?

I’ve never really believed this and not sure why

Well after the Industrial Revolution, many people in Britain still swore by the health benefits of a ‘first sleep’ and ‘second sleep’.

For centuries, according to a sleep historian, they would use the time when they woke up at night to do household chores, visit friends – or make love to their spouse.
Sleeping through the night is by comparison a ‘modern invention’, according to Professor Roger Ekirch of Virginia Polytechnic and State University.
Speaking yesterday at the Royal Society of Medicine, he said: ‘Middle of the night insomnia was a rare problem before the late 1800s. As early as in the 16th century it was utterly normal, unworthy of comment.’
Bedtime was historically around 10pm, after which, he added: ‘Most individuals awakened shortly past midnight to an hour or so of consciousness, in which they meditated, they conversed and made love – not necessarily in that order.

I have a feeling that this is like that 80 days holiday for medieval peasants thing, a confusion between holiday and holy day there.

What makes me suspicious of the two sleep story is the cost of light. OK, so you don’t need the candle on for a shag but you do to do chores etc. And candles were expensive.

We also, at least so far as I know, don’t see such behaviour in people living at that same standard of living today, the $3 to $5 a day peeps out there.

But just because I don’t quite believe it doesn’t mean it’s not true. What would bolster my disbelief would be working out what is it that is being confused here, as with holy and holi days.

Perhaps someone knows more Indian political history than I do

So, the Gandhis, very important in Indian politics. Congress Party is still pretty much the private fiefdom of the current two, Rahul and Priyanka. Certainly Rahul’s not VP of the party on skill and intelligence grounds.

How much of this depends upon the name, Gandhi?

And how much of that is the name, not the source?

For there’s no connection at all to Gandhi the freedom activist and Mahatma etc. Indira was the daughter of Nehru, and she married a bloke who just happened to be called Gandhi, no relation.

It’s entirely obvious that the Gandhi name is important. But how much of it is just the coincidence (or even Indira selecting the man for the name). Alternatively, how many Indians think there is a connection to Mahatma in the current generation?

Yes, obviously, the well informed will know. But what about that rural mass where they weigh, not count, the votes for Congress?

Fun currency

The scudo (plural scudi) is the official currency of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and was the currency of Malta during the rule of the Order over Malta, which ended in 1798. It is subdivided into 12 tarì, each of 20 grani with 6 piccioli to the grano. It is pegged to the euro (at a rate of 1 scudo : €0.24)

So there’s 17,280 piccioli to the scudo. Or, each piccioli is worth 0.0000013889 of a euro.

Useful then.

Yes, I’d worry about this too

It can happen here: But has it? The 1933 scenario is no longer hypothetical
None of us could stop Donald Trump, and comparisons to 1933 no longer seem ludicrous. What do we do now?

Agreed, the big question now is whether The Donald will fuck it up as badly as FDR did.

We have crossed the river of history into a new country, and there’s no way back. Now we are stumbling around, amid the gathering darkness, and trying to figure out whether anything in this alien landscape is recognizable. Will the presidency of Donald Trump — an eventuality unforeseen by anyone, including Trump himself — resemble things that have happened before? Or is it a trip to an unknown planet, where all the things we thought we understood about reality and democracy and the nature of America no longer apply?

Karl Marx’s famous maxim that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce, has itself been repeated too often, both in contexts where it fits and ones where it doesn’t. This time around, we damn well better hope it’s true. Farce, failure and incompetence are among the better possible outcomes of a Trump administration. The worse outcomes — which come more clearly into focus with every noxious new appointment, and every new report of a hate crime that the president-elect hasn’t heard about or blandly disavows — are almost too much to think about.

It’s time to think about them. Those worst-case scenarios have been nestled in their eggs feeding on ignorance and hatred for a long time, like the face-huggers of “Alien.” Now they’re hatching, and they’re hungry.

He really didn’t like FDR, did he?

An interesting demand

PM May should ‘beg forgiveness’ for UK’s colonial sins: Indian MP

That’s from Press TV.

How interesting that the Iranian state broadcaster should be concentrating upon the British colonial experience there and not the one immediately preceding, the heavily Persian influenced Mughal Empire.

Historical question of the day

His parents, Frank and Rosa, were immigrants from Europe. His hard-working Slovenian-born father had prospected for gold in Alaska before setting up a meatpacking business in Seattle. Sutter’s no-nonsense approach was shaped by a household of good-natured teasing and a simple European lifestyle — his mother, who had been born in Austria-Hungary,

To what, important, extent were Slovenia and Austria-Hungary different places pre-WWI?

No, this isn’t my godmother’s husband but….

There’s a great deal of similarity in the stories.

The remarkable story of a Czech pilot who fought for Britain in between fleeing fascism and then communism in his homeland has emerged after 70 years.
Jiri Hartman became a Spitfire hero after he sought sanctuary in England following the Nazi invasion of his homeland in 1938.
The immigrant airman defended London by engaging in dog-fights over the English Channel and provided air cover for the disastrous Dieppe raid, the D-Day landings and the Battle of Arnhem.
He also protected bombers during raids on German airfields, ports and trains.
In all he flew on 168 sorties and shot down or damaged numerous enemy aircraft, which won him the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war he was given the honour of leading 54 Spitfires of the Czech Air Force back home to Prague.
He married an Englishwoman who he took to Czechoslovakia but following the Soviet-backed communist putsch of his country in 1948 he had to flee a second time.
Czech airmen who served with the Western Allies in the Second World War were arrested and subjected to ‘political torture’.
He managed to stage a dramatic escape across the mountains to Germany while being pursued by border guards.

The only real difference in the story is that Mr. Desmond didn’t flee over the border, he and some mates stole a Czech plane and flew it over. And he settled in Bath, not Portsmouth. Ecstatically happy with the rest of life as a newsagent. What with having escaped from the Lubyanka and walked home to Moravia before the war as well he’d had quite enough excitement for one pass through this world. Serving up The Times and 20 Bensons was a very pleasant way to spend life after that.

I’ve always sorta wondered whether the tale grew in the telling to be honest, but that others did much the same makes me think perhaps not.

British colonial history

So, piece complaining that kids aren’t taught history properly in school. Fair enough. But which contains this line:

Aged 11, my son learned in a geography class that one of the many reasons Ghana (the Gold Coast to its 19th-century British rulers) was economically less developed was because of its colonial past. It had been stripped of its wealth by the British. Just one bland sentence.

Well, yes, that’s very Marx and Lenin on imperialism. But it’s not actually true, is it?

Ghana did rather well under the Empire. It was Nkrumah and successors who screwed the pooch.

As it happens I’ve got Angus Maddison’s spreadsheet open for something else. Ghana, in 1950, had GDP per capita of $1,122 (these are international dollars, so adjusted for inflation over time and price differences across geography). In 1984 it was $933.

Significantly worse than Gabon (French colony) and about the same as Liberia at the start (not colonised). Better than Kenya (British colony).

And there’s the other side to it as well. If the British knicked all the money then why didn’t it make Britain rich? Because the colonies didn’t, did they?

Is this really how it went?

I’ve obviously missed a bit of my historical education:

In the days of the British Raj, when Britain’s economy depended on commodities such as cotton, Indian cotton growers were forced on pain of imprisonment to sell their cotton yields to Britain at prices determined by the buyer. The raw cotton was sent back here, to our “satanic mills”, and Indians – who had been weaving cotton for centuries – were then prohibited from weaving their own and forced to buy woven cotton back at prices determined by Britain. That wouldn’t happen today – would it?

Doesn’t sound all that likely to me but here it is again:

The Lancashire textile boom could never have taken hold without the protection of high tariff walls against the world’s great textile workshop in India. Indian hand weavers, whose quality was high and wages low, had been the centre of world production for centuries. But British protectionism, in combination with the extension of imperial power through the East India Company (an early example of a ‘public-private’ partnership), changed the rules of the game. British policy transformed India from an exporter of textiles to a supplier of raw cotton for Lancashire factories. The tactics were brutal. They included smashing the hands and cutting off the thumbs of Indian weavers, while implementing a system of usurious taxes favouring cotton production – sometimes provoking famine in the process. When Gandhi led the movement against imported British textiles and in favour of Indian handlooms, Winston Churchill caught the temper of British attitudes, famously denouncing Gandhi as ‘half naked… a seditious Middle Temple lawyer.’

17th century saw the East India Company importing masses of Indian made cotton fabrics into Europe. Then the mills started up. And a century later British cotton fabrics were exported to India and the hand weavers didn’t do so well. Then the Indian industry mechanised around 1850. Gandhi’s bit wasn’t about no British imports, it was about no mechanisation, no?

That’s what I recall. But what I don’t recall is either the raw cotton exports to UK from India, nor the forced growing of raw cotton and certainly not the suppression of local hand weavers.

So, is it me just not being taught right? Or is this leftist interpretation of history missing a bit?

This is more how I remember it:

Finally, in 1721, Indian cotton imports were banned by parliament. Ironically, soon after, cotton cultivation exploded in the American colonies and the “threat” of Indian cotton was muted by a major shift in cotton production. Where Indian cottons had long been grown and manufactured in India by farmers working with merchant houses, then exported to East Asia, Africa, and Europe, the cotton industry in the southern colonies of British North America came quickly to rely on slave labor. In turn, the climate of the southern colonies proved ideal for cotton production and, by the middle of the eighteenth century, British-controlled cotton production and manufacturing had emerged as a serious rival to the Indian industry.

There was no flood of unprocessed Indian cotton to the UK mills – it came from the slave states of the US.

A day late but very good

As the two battle fleets made stately progression towards each other in the gentle morning breeze, Admiral Villeneuve made a signal. Having read the flags the midshipman on duty rushed to Lord Nelson and said “I don’t understand the flags sir – With water, it is time.”
Nelson decided to check the signal. Having considered the signal Nelson turned to the snotty and replied “No, you need to read the signal in the original French – A l’eau, c’est l’heure.”

Aberfan

The worst bit about it, so I’ve heard, was that people around the world were shocked by what had happened. No, that’s not bad. So they tried to show that they cared and no, that’s not bad. So they sent toys.

And there were no children left.

Ahem

the Suffolk Punch has been described as having “the face of an angel and the backside of a farmer’s daughter”.

Strangely, still rather useful in forestry. If managing mixed woodland one or two horses are much easier to use to get just the one tree out rather than some vast machine. No help at all with clear cuts and all that of course.

This is rather old fashioned isn’t it?

In an interesting turn of events, a 19-year-old villager named Himalaya Mohanty from Odisha hacked into a Hyderabad-based company, causing a loss of Rs 60 lakh.

According to a report by The Times of India, a native of Shibapura village in Balasore district managed to hack the EPABX toll-free number of Lloyd Electricals and Engineering Ltd using his 3-inch mobile phone, and later, uploaded the code along with the toll-free number of Lloyd on a website. This hack allowed him to make free calls via toll-free number.

Wasn’t that the origin of hacking itself, that 30 or 40 years ago? Hacking the telephone exchanges to get free calls?

A fun story about Frank Whittle

Yet the genius of Sir Frank Whittle, the man who invented the jet engine, will go almost entirely unheralded when the 75th anniversary of his achievement falls next weekend.

His son, Ian, has accused successive governments of “marginalising” his father because Whitehall was slow to realise the importance of his invention, enabling the Germans to seize the initiative in jet development during the war.

He said his father’s place in history had been allowed to fade because of a reluctance to draw attention to the “mistakes” made by Whitehall in the past.

May 15, 1941 was the day Whittle’s revolutionary engine took to the skies for the first time, powering a Gloster E.28/39, the ancestor of every jet aircraft flying today.

These stories tend to grow with the telling so I’ll tell it as I’ve been told it. The important part is this:

Whittle, who honed his engineering skills in his father’s workshop as a boy, joined the RAF as an apprentice mechanic in 1923, where his superiors quickly marked him out as something of a genius.

Back then pilots were officers. And officers were gentlemen. As in the Army and Navy of the day. And, of course rude mechanics were not gentlemen. Good grief, they actually did things with their hands!

At which point someone thought, hang on a minute, we’re going to need officers of those mechanics and they’d better know about mechanics. So, umm…..they picked 8 rude mechanics to go off and train as officers. One of whom was grandpa, Bill Worstall. They would become pilots too, as well as rude mechanics, because pilots were officers and therefore officers were pilots, see? Definitely made a difference to Bill’s life, son of the head printer at the Yorkshire Press becoming an officer? This was a big deal back then: as were the elocution lessons. This was bounding across the class barriers.

As father has pointed out we’re both rather glad that Bill survived the 8 crashes that he had before he got married. One such crash even made The Times, which is more than his marriage did I think….

Frank Whittle didn’t make the grade: he was number nine on the list. Then the lad who was number 8 broke his leg on a cross country run/race and Whittle was bumped up.

As far as I know it’s true.

And two that I do know are true: No one ignored that jet engine for the war. Rather, they took an executive decision. We can build reasonably large numbers of things which are good enough (Hurricanes, Spitfires, and here on my desk I have the souvenir/memorial ashtray of Bill having worked on the program including landing the things on carriers) and diverting our limited resources away to this newer, better, but riskier, technology might be a bad idea. As, say, the German idea of building things like King Tigers and so on: they sucked up huge resources but there were never enough of them. Vast numbers of T34s and Shermans were the way to go, lower tech but numbers more than made up. They didn’t ignore the possibility, they decided against it, rightly or wrongly.

And Whittle had a fun meeting with a Ministry man. Showed the design (this was when everyone had indeed woken up, war imminent) and he said, hmm, yes, you’re going to need tungsten for that. From Portugal. Which all added to the fun that was had here. Out in the Beira at that time good quality tungsten ore could just be picked up in the fields. Wolframite. Wanted for anti-tank shells, armour plating and those jet engines. Thus all sorts of SOE shenanigans as mule trains collecting for the Germans were hijacked by Brits, mule trains collecting for the Brits vice versa and so on. Excellent novel, Robert Goddard Wilson, “Small Death In Lisbon” based on the events. What really made that one fun for me is that it’s set in modern day Cascais, with the underlying plot all coming from those WWII days, and I was thinking about wolframite at the time and living in Cascais…..

Well, not so much actually

This morning Ken Livingstone said “Hitler was supporting Zionism… Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel”.

Just reading Timothy Snyder’s book about this and no, it wasn’t Israel.

It was “anywhere other than Europe” really, with Madagascar and Siberia both talked about. It was the Poles who were arguing that it should be Israel.