Shortages or not, be thankful for your toilet paper!

If you’re running low on TP, be thankful you still have some, and don’t have to use an old sailor’s method.  The always interesting Old Salt Blog reports: Sailors in the Age of Sail used tow-rags. What is a tow-rag? As can be seen in the video below, close to the ship’s head — the toilets in the bow or “head” of the ship — there was a long rope ending in a short rag that hung over the side into the water. After using the head, the sailor could then clean his backside with the wet rag then drop the

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“Such high temperatures would completely melt an automobile in less than a minute”

That statement is from a report analyzing the destruction of Abu Hureyra, an early agricultural settlement in Syria, some 12,800 years ago. Abu Hureyra, it turns out, has another story to tell. Found among the cereals and grains and splashed on early building material and animal bones was meltglass, some features of which suggest it was formed at extremely high temperatures—far higher than what humans could achieve at the time—or that could be attributed to fire, lighting or volcanism. “To help with perspective, such high temperatures would completely melt an automobile in less than a minute,” said James Kennett, a UC Santa Barbara

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Another interesting Russian aviation video

Yesterday we had a look at the “blended wing body” Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber.  This morning, here’s a Russian Mikoyan MiG-31 interceptor training with an Ilyushin Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft.  They’re flying over the Kamchatka Peninsula, which has some spectacular scenery. Sadly for Russia, her Air Force is reliant on far too many old designs.  The Il-38 first flew in the 1960’s, and the MiG-31 in the 1970’s.  Their systems have been modernized since then, but their basic design is well and truly outdated.  Russia currently can’t afford to replace them, either.  (That’s no grounds to sneer, of course:  the USAF has the same problem.  In 2015,

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A close-up look at a blended wing body

Here’s some interesting footage of a Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber refueling in flight from an Ilyushin Il-78 tanker.  Note the so-called “blended wing body” of the Tu-160, where the wings blend seamlessly into the fuselage in an unbroken lifting surface. Although the design bureau would almost certainly deny it, the physical resemblance between the Tu-160 and the US Rockwell B-1 bomber is striking, almost certainly because the Soviet Union copied the early B-1 blended wing body design.  Here’s a B-1 bomber refueling in mid-air, to give you a similar perspective;  note the similarities in design. Peter

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COVID-19: An update, with links

For those of you tired of the hype in the news media, and wanting the “straight dope” on what’s actually happening around the world, here are some reports that give us the facts and don’t exaggerate. First, health news.  COVID-19 continues to spread with alarming speed.  You might want to bookmark the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, and refer back to it from time to time.  It provides detailed, up-to-date statistics on what’s going on.  Among its other information, it shows the following graphic representation of the current spread, and number of cases per region: Keep going back there to track what’s

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Bowie knives – what’s the best low-cost, high-value version?

I’ve had an interesting e-mail exchange with a friend over the past few days.  He wants to buy a Bowie-style knife, but he’s budget-limited, and furthermore isn’t a knife expert or aficionado in any way.  He wanted advice;  but I’m not an expert in the field, so I was limited in what I could suggest. We tossed ideas back and forth for a while, and came up with two sets of criteria.  The first is for the best budget Bowie knife;  low-cost, but high value-for-money in terms of quality, functionality, etc.  We set an arbitrary limit of fifty dollars as a maximum price. 

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No, it doesn’t figure

The BBC points out that the so-called “gambler’s fallacy” has never worked, and never will.  It’s a mathematical calculation that many don’t understand. … a reasoning flaw called the “gambler’s fallacy” [is] a worryingly common error that can derail many of our professional decisions, from a goalkeeper’s responses to penalty shootouts in football to stock market investments and even judicial rulings on new asylum cases. To find out if you fall for the gambler’s fallacy, imagine you are tossing a (fair) coin and you get the following sequence: Heads, Heads, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails. What’s the

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A lovely toy for well-heeled shooters

I’ve always liked double-barreled side-by-side shotguns.  I recently came across this early-19th-century muzzle-loading example at Down East Trading Co. in Canada.  (Click the images for a larger view.) It comes in a lovely baize-lined case, complete with all original accessories. The shotgun is made of Damascus steel.  These close-ups show part of the patterning.  (Of course, it’s only safe to use with blackpowder loads.)   The company describes the shotgun as follows: We are pleased to offer an exceptional example of the work of Durs Egg who was one of the most famous London gunmakers of the early nineteenth century.  The piece is a

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He’s got a point . .

After President Trump pardoned several individuals a few days ago, reaction from the Democratic Party and the news media was very negative.  However, as Donald Trump Jr. tweeted yesterday: It’s kinda hard to argue with those numbers, isn’t it? Peter

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Coronavirus: preparing for the economic impact

I had an interesting discussion yesterday with a friend who’s a senior buyer for a national hardware store chain (a big one).  He told me frankly he doesn’t know whether he’ll have a job in six months’ time, because the impact of the coronavirus epidemic in China may scupper his company.  It sources a very large proportion of its products from that country, but its suppliers there – factories and exporters – are closed, and have been for weeks.  No-one knows when they’ll be open again.  The company is finding it very difficult to line up alternative suppliers fast enough

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