Sunday, April 16, 2017

Books Currently On My Nightstand -- April 16, 2017

Age of Entanglement
American Bloomsbury
Beowulf - Tolkien
Birds - Beston
Birds, Raptors
Carthage Must Be Destroyed
Dante's Inferno
Ancestor's Tale - Dawkins
Discovery of Modern Earth
Dorian Gray  - Wilder
Duveen - biography
Edge of the World - Pye
Edmund Wilson - biography
Great Gatsby
Helen of Troy - Bettany Hughes
Ivory Vikings Chess
Going to the Lighthouse - Woolf
Memoirs of Hecate County
New History of Life
Ordinary Geniuses -- biography of Max Delbruck and George Gamow
Outermost House
Privileged Planet
Secondhand Time
Sex in the Sea
Spain in Our Hearts
Supreme City
The Paris Wife
This Side of Paradise
Travels - memoir - Gellhorn
Vital Question - Nick Lane
Witches - Schiff

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Cell: A Visual Tour Of The Building Block Of Life, Jack Challoner, c.2015

This is pretty cool; classification of living organisms has really changed since my college days. In addition, different biologists use different classifications, and in much of the literature, the terminology is used interchangeable.

There are six kingdoms or domains:
  • animal
  • fungi
  • plant
  • protists (crosses over into each)
  • archaea
  • bacteria
The first four are eukaryocytes:
  • animal
  • fungi
  • plant
  • protists
The latter two are prokaryoctyes (old term, containing both Monera):
  • archaea: more closely related to animals than to bacteria
  • bacteria
Kingdom Protista is all eukaryocytes that cannot be placed in animal, fungi, or plants.
  • Animal, plant, and fungi are multicellular
  • Archaea and bacteria are unicellular
  • Protista cross the seam: unicellular and multicellular.
One still sees the Kingdom Monera as recently as 2012. Monera is an archaic term for prokaryocytes; Monera has now been divided into Bacteria and Archaea.

What is the difference between protists and protozoa.

According to this 2012 site, which still uses the term "Monera," the Kingdom Protista is again grouped into three subgroups: protozoa (animal-like); protophyta (plant-like); and, slime moulds. So there you have it. Remember: if you have an organism that is a eukaryocyte (nucleus), you want to try to make it animal, plant, or fungi. If unable to definitely call it plant, animal, or fungi, then call is what is most looks like ( -- animal; -- plant; -- fungi). If the eukaryocyte (nucleus) looks animal list, then the protist is protozoa; if plantlike, then protophyta; if fungi-line, then a slime mold.

Protozoa are mostly aquatic. "Famous protozoa" are the parasitic protozoa: malaria, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, leishmaniasis (considered the world's second-deadliest parasite) -- all are apicomplexia (contain spear-like organelle to pierce other eukaryotic cells).

Protozoa are divided into four phyla based on methods of movement and not based on phylogenetic.
  • flagellates (or Mastigophora),
  • amoeboids (or Sarcodina)
  • sporozoans (or Sporozoa, Apicomplexa) -- the deadly parasites (malaria, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, leishmaniasis)
  • ciliates (or Ciliophora)
How do sporozoans move? Sporozoa, being parasitic, lack locomotor appendages and as a result move by minute contractions of small contractile fibrils. This motion was previously accredited to the organisms sliding on a mucus secretion.

Parasites: sporozoans (apicomplexa) can live in almost any animal (including human beings); they can even live inside other apicomplexa. 

Most protists cannot move

So, where do algae fit? Algae = seaweed. Alga is Latin for seaweed

Huge disagreement. No definition universally accepted. Polyphyletic: no common ancestor. Photosynthetic (so they have organelles) and so eukaryocytes. But can be unicellular or multicellular. Having said that, apparently the cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) -- prokaryotes -- photosynthesize, and are considered algae by some (hence the name). My hunch: over time: blue-green algae, being prokaryotes will be placed among the Monera (bacteria or archaea) but due to history will retain the common name, blue-green algae for a long time; only when cyanobacteria becomes standard/common usage (and that may never happen) will  blue-green algae be understodd by all to be bacteria (cyanocbacteria).

But this is the problem with trying to classify algae/cyanobacteria with Bacteria: Algae have photosynthetic machinery ultimately derived from cyanobacteria that produce oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis, unlike other photosynthetic bacteria such as purple and green sulfur bacteria.

The study of marine and freshwater algae is called either phycology or algology. Phycology comes from Greek fukos or phykos which is associated with paint or dye. Ancient Egyptians used cosmetic eye-shadow derived from seaweed (any color: black, red, green).

Algae are further divided into three separate supergoups; another grouping is based on

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spain In Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 - 1939; Adam Hochschild

Spain In Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 - 1939
Adam Hochschild
April, 2016

Mid-1936 to early 1939 -- how the press can "build a story"
NYT -- more headlines than:
  • FDR
  • Great Depression
  • rise of Nazi Germany

The Americans

p. 3 - 4: Robert Merriman, west coast, Californian moved to Nevada
  • straight-shooter; athlete
  • ROTC, UC Berkeley economy major
  • Marion Stone, in Russia, reading Pravda, p. 46
p. 13: Louis Fischer --Philadelphia slums
  • journalist, crossed over to activist
  • wrote for The Nation
p. 19: Milly Bennett -- San Francisco
  • teams up with the Merrimans (Robert and Marion Stone)
  • journalist
p. 41: Lois (19 y/o) and Charles Orr -- Kentucky
  • Orr - university economics professor
  • studying global economy
  • Europe; planned next to go to India
  • while in Germany / France intrigued with Spain
Importance of names

The Republic: democratically elected government but Popular Front wins parliament
  • Republicans: liberals, socialists, communists
  • but "Republicans" because elected to "Republic" -- a democratic govt
Military rebels: self-named the Nationalist
  • military generals -- concerned that the Popular Front is the Spanish version (or will become the Spanish version) of the Russian revolution
  • far-right fascists -- much strong connotations than generally used in English (I have to re-read that; I don't understand that note now)
The other problem: Nationalists -- military generals -- extreme atrocities.


The reason the Spanish Civil war is so hard to understand:
1) I did not understand European situation in the 1930s
2) the names of the adversaries were confusing
The author got it exactly right, p. 41: "The conflict in Spain, remarkably, was at the same time, both a right-wing military coup and a left-wing social revolution."

p. 47: Stalin / Russia -- anxiety, concern about helping the Republic. The Spanish Civil War was probably confusing to Stalin / Russia, also.

p. 48 - 49: The Non-Intervention Committee in London, a sham

England pre-occupied with shocking romance between King Edward VIII and svelt American socialite Wallis Simpson

Franco: lower-ranking general
  • great planner
  • opportuniistic
  • when higher ranking generals killed, he took lead -- waited until he saw whether revolution would have chance to succeed
No country willing to help Republic except Stalin/Russia.

Franco: Hitler / Mussolini competed to provide most support
  • Mussolini: took Ethiopia -- wanted to enlarge circle of influence
p. 47: quick, nice summary of Stalin's concerns, anxiety (see above.

Hitler: saw advantages
  • training for war
  • U-boat base on Atlantic Coast
  • Spain: crucial source of raw materials -- copper, iron ore, sulfur, etc.
Stalin saw all of this; he waited in vain for Britain or France to aid the Republic; never happended -- p. 49

Finally Russia sends aid


1931: unrest forced the king to flee elected government. Monarchy ends and strong military ends.

February, 1936: Popular Front wins election.
  • liberals, Socialists, communists
  • Army generals displaced
  • many Army generals move to Morocco; known as the Nationalists

July 17, 1936: revolution begins; Army officers in Spanish Moroccoa -- Melilla --

Chapter 4

The revolution started in Spanish Morocco -- quickly spread to south and west Spain.

Three areas where Republic held -- the three large cities:
  • Barcelona -- Catalonia
  • Madrid
  • Valencia

Fischer: already in Spain covering the war for The Nation

Sept 15, 1936: the Orrs -- enter the most revolutionary part of Spain -- Barcelona / Catalonia -- p. 50

NANA: North American Newspaper Alliance


Starts with John Gates and George Watts 
  • swimming in the Ebro
  • survive
Among the 2,800 Americans
  • picked up by two war correspondents
  • Herbert L. Matthews, NYT
  • Ernest Hemingway, NANA
750 died / 2,800 volunteered
highest death rate for US soldiers in any 20th century war

Mid-1936 to early 1939 -- how the press can "build a story"
NYT -- more headlines than:
  • FDR
  • Great Depression
  • rise of Nazi Germany
American volunteers: informally called Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Hemingway's FWTBT -- published the year after Franco's victory.

Many survivors continued to protest US government later
civil rights

Many Abe Lincoln "soldiers": communists
author tries to explain it -- unsuccessfully -- page xix

A "memoir" of sorts -- of Americans involved in the war plus three Englishmen

Prologue ends with "the banks of the Ebro River."

Importance of Ebro River: last battles -- Republicans slaughtered / lost the war.

HEMINGWAY was at that important battle. Practically drains the entire Iberian peninsula; runs northwest to southeast, into the Mediterranean.
From wiki: The Battle of the Ebro (Spanish: Batalla del Ebro, Catalan: Batalla de l'Ebre) was the longest and largest battle of the Spanish Civil War. It took place between July and November 1938, with fighting mainly concentrated in two areas on the lower course of the Ebro River, the Terra Alta comarca of Catalonia, and the Auts area close to Fayón (Faió) in the lower Matarranya, Eastern Lower Aragon. These sparsely populated areas saw the largest array of armies in the war. The results of the battle were disastrous for the Second Spanish Republic, with tens of thousands of dead and wounded and little effect on the advance of the Nationalists. 
Chapter 1: The Roots / Merrimans to Moscow

Story starts -- continued elsewhere.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cistercian Abbeys: History And Architecture, Henri Gaud And Jean-Francois Leroux-Dhuys

Cistercian Abbeys: History and Architecture
Photography by Henri Gaud
Text by Jean-Francois Leroux-Dhuys
c. 1998 for the English edition

One of my most treasured books; a coffee-table book.

If anyone wonders from whence the great cathedrals sprang, look no further than the Cistercian abbeys. These were built "several decades" before the great catherdrals were built.

I was fortunate to have visited the ruins of several abbeys in England between 1986 and 1989 and then again between 2002 and 2004.

  • 1000 AD: true fear that the world would end at the end of the millenium
  • 1050 AD: the fear that the world would end dissipated; Christian West came into its own; feudalism was establishing itself on the ruins of the Carolingian era; strengthened by the Gregorian reform that was to prove to be the most characteristic feature of the eleventh century, the Church demanded independence and purity, encouraging the development of the monastic orders
  • broad brush
  • Benedictine Robert of Molesme, in his search for ever greater perfection after a number of previous experiments, founded the new monastery of Citeaux in 1098
  • his successors Alberic and, in particular, Stephen Harding created, the conditions necessary for the development of the Cistercian Order
  • this was a rigorous Order that demanded renunciation of the world and an asceticism that attracted the chivalrous nobility; for these men, this was an adventure comparable to setting out on a Crusade
  • under Bernard of Clairvaux: until the 1150s, the White Monks set up a network of communities over the entire face of Europe, created in the image of the heavenly Jerusalem;
  • this initial stimulus lasted for a century
  • 12th century: the high point of medieval monasticism
  • founding Rule of St Benedict; their role in economic growth contributed to the development of towns in the 13th century
  • the "Desert Fathers" (early Christian hermits) were replaced by new Orders, Dominicans and Fransciscans, whose growth coincided with that of the towns
Part I
Nine Centuries Ago

  • Molesme: 1075 -- marks the beginning of the Cistercian adventure
  • Citeaux: 1098
  • western civilization had reached a low point; moral chaos
  • Christianity drew the "red line" beyond which civilization would not fall
  • for two centuries, 1050 - 1250, Christianity experienced a period of expansion; Cistercians played a major role
Chapter 1: The Origins of Christianity
  • Constantine the Great, 272 - 337: converted at age 40; created the unexpected alliance between Christianity and the Roman Empire; Council of Nicaea, 325 -- the Trinity
  • first Roman emperor to stop Christian persecutions; legalized Christianity along with other religions and cults
  • established an eastern capital at Byzantium
  • first to third centuries: a specifically Christian monasticism developed
  • as religious peace became established, the first monks appeared; when religious persecution came to an end, martyrdom was no longer the sole route to sainthood
  • most interesting: "official recognition of Christianity had brought about a relaxation in morality. New witnesses were needed and these were the monks, who offered their lives of self-mortification to God 
  • Pax Romana: assimilated Celtic culture and the new Christian religion; this became the inheritance received by the West afer the Roman and Byzantine empires went their separate ways
  • walled towns::cathedral enclosures; these cathedrals prefigured the enclosed space of the monasteries
  • invaders occupied Rome (476) but people remained Roman and Christian (for the most part)
  • Benedict of Nursia (northeast of Rome) founds the abbey of Mont Cassino (529); draws up "the Rule"
  • Charlemagne takes control of the Empire and the Church: 817; without equal on earth
  • Benedict of Aniane ("the second Benedictine") brings together all monasteries under the one Benedictine Rule (also, 817); 
  • 910: foundation of the Benedictine Order
Chapter II: Christianity in the Late Eleventh Century
  • 1000: western Europe depression; superstitious about fin de siecle, end of the world
  • 1050: things began to settle down
  • Otto, 962: reestablished the Germanic Holy Roman Empire -- but only possible with help of bishops (why bishops are next to king/queen in chess)
  • from wiki: chess reached Western Europe and Russia by at least three routes, the earliest being in the 9th century; by the year 1000 it had spread across Europe; originally "an elephant", the modern bishop first appeared shortly after 1200 in Courier chess; the term "bishop" did not enter into the English language until the 16th century; Icelandic 12th-century Lewis Chessmen portray the bishop as an unambiguously ecclesiastical figure
  • bellatores (warriors); laboratores (workers); and, oratores (men of prayer)
  • the situation of monasticism (page 19): fascinated feudal lords
  • from 910, due to the directives of Benedict of Aniane, the spirit of Cluny (central-east France Saone-et-Loire), the Cluniac Order revived; biggest church in the world at the time; controlled 1200 priories across Europe (theoretically) but growing more autonomous
  • a return to the spirit of the hermit, the Desert Fathers (page 20)
Chapter III: From Molesme to Citeaux, 1075 - 1119
  • Molesme: 1075 - 1090; directly north of Cluny, southeast of Paris, southwest of Luxembourg
  • founder of Molesme: Robert
  • reverted to becoming a hermit; gathered his friends, founded a new abbey at Molesme
  • Benedictine monastery for 15 years; rigorous asceticism; monks rediscovered the virtue of manual work
  • Molesme became wealthy through feudal donations; mother abbey of a Benedictine congregation of 35 priories; an identity crisis
  • Citeaux (1090 - 1098)
  • Alberic and Stephen Harding: at Molesme; wanted things even more strict
  • they leave Molesme and found an abbey at Citeaux; in the same general region of eastern France
  • feud between Robert (Molseme) and Alberic (New Monastery, Citeaux)
  • Alberic's goal: make the New Monastery an exemplary Benedictine abbey, with strict observance of the Benedictine Rule
  • first mention of the "Cistercian monks who came from Molesme" -- Cistercium is the Latinname of Citeaux, near Dijon in France
  • 1100: the pope places the New Monastery under personal protection; the new monastery much stricter than Robert's Molesme
  • Odo 1, the duke of Burgundy (who will feature in the Normandy invasion of England) donated land to the Cistercians
  • Stephen Harding and the Carta Caritatis (1109 - 1119); two important events marked the beginning of the abbacy of Stephen Harding: a) okay to accept donations and farmlands; and, b) shaped the spiritual and political future of the Cistercian world through the arrival of a novice, 1113 -- Bernard of Fontaine; Bernard's group invigorated the new Cistercian order
  • Harding, all of a sudden, had a huge population to manage, and was concerned about the Bernard "clan"
  • the first four daughters: La Ferte; Pontigny; Clairvaux (assigned to Bernard), and Morimond
  • Stephen Harding: to ensure a return to strict rule of Benedict -- the Carta Caritatis -- the Charter of Divine Love
  • December 23, 1119 -- the Charter given to the Pope who accepted it and the term "New Monastery" no longer used; new name, the Order of Citeaux has been born -- the Cistercians -- very strict Benedictines
  • the constitution, page 28: set rules for monasteries; a model of organization
  • federal (central) vs state (independence)
  • what was ahead of its time was the Order's supra-nationality
  • the widespread renown of Bernard of Clairvaux of major importance -- the Bernard "clan"
  • copying books -- illuminated manuscripts -- of major importance

Chapter IV: Bernard of Clairvaux, 1120 - 1153 
  • 1119, Carta Caritatis -- ten monasteries; by the time Bernard of Clairvaux died in 1153, some thirty years later, it embraced 351 abbeys of which half were outside France and 169 attached to Clairvaux alone
  • Cistercians: their political power was immense; principally through Bernard of Clairvaux; he even eclipsed the mother-ship, the abbot of Citreaux
  • Bernard:
  • personal charisma
  • defense of the poor
  • the cult of the Virgin Mary: took a page out of the troubadours' book; placed love at the heart of his mystical theology; sublimated it into devotion to the Virgin, queen of Heaven
  • the schism of Anacletus, between 1130 and 1137 mobilized Bernard of Clairvaux
  • kings and princes gave the abbot of Clairvaux the task of naming the legitimate pope
  • Bernard chose Innocent II over Anacletus II
  • Second Crusade: 1146 - 1151
Chapter V: Monastic Architecture According to Bernard of Clairvaux
  • in truth, Cistercian architecture owes everything to him
  • St Bernard canonized 1174; took a long time; occurred one year later than canonization of Thomas a Becket in 1173
  • amazing expansion of the Cistercian Order expressed itself in the appearance of hundreds of building sites
  • the Order's first great building campaing was opened by Bernard of Clairvaux, in 1135; Clairvaux II; even Citeaux had to wait until 1140 -- forty years after its foundation, before work started on its abbey church
  • the Ur-Cistercian churches: Fontenay in Burgundy; Poblet in Catalonia; Maulbronn in Germany; and, Fountains in England
  • Cistercian builders: 750 abbeys, and much more
  • the difference between asceticism and poverty (page 39)
  • the Cistercian architecture (page 39)
  • no sculptures; no paintings except on crosses, which must be of wood
And this is where I will end. This is an incredible book. This takes me only through page 39 and there are almost 400 pages in this book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Hero Of The Empire, Winston Churchill, Candice Millard, c. 2016

The Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill
Candice Millard
c. 2016

One can pretty much get the overview of the book by reading the captions of the pictures in the middle of the book. To wit:

  • Born in Blenheim Palace, a lavish Oxfordshire manor built in the early 18th century for John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough; the latter Winston’s inspiration for success.
  • Born into the highest ranks of British aristocracy …
  • Churchill’s American mother, born Jennie Jerome …
  • Churchill’s mother becomes a widow at age 45; marries a young aristocrat only two years older than Winston….
  • On his trip as a journalist to South Africa, he carried a pencil sketch of Pamela Plowden, the first great love of his life …
  • October 9, 1899, Paul Kruger, president of the Transvaal, told the Brits to leave; the Brits did not; Kruger knew war would break out …
  • Soon after war was declared, Sir Redvers Buller was named commander in chief of Her Majesty’s army in South Africa; nicknamed the Steamroller; Brits thought he would end/win the war quickly …
  • Boers’ Louis Bother, youngest Boer commander, left the Brits reeling …
  • Boers well known for harsh treatment of native Africans and Indians; among the most effective advocates for these people were Solomon Plaatje who would become the first secretary of the African National Congress; and, Mohandas Gandhi, who led a team of stretcher-bearers on some of the most blood-soaked battlefields of the war …
  • Churchill arrives in South Africa just two days after war was declared; a journalist; wanted to be involved — this would be 1899 … [July 8, 1918 — Ernest Hemingway injured in Italy as a reporter in WWI] …
  • Close friend Aylmer Haldane invited him along on an armored train on a reconnaissance mission .. one of the most dangerous missions in the war ….
  • November 15, 1899, just a month after Churchill arrived in South Africa, Botha led a devastating attack on the armored train; Haldane and Churchill on board; train derailed; sixty Brits, including Churchill, captured …

  • POW Churchill arrives in Pretoria, the Boer capital …he had great respect for his enemy on the battlefield, but glaring disrespect for average Boer coming out to look at him …
  • Churchill was imprisoned with about a 100 British officers in the Staats Model School …
  • Churchill turned for help to Louis de Souza, the Transvaal secretary of state for war. Souza could not give Churchill freedom, though he befriended him in other ways …
  • He escapes, leaving behind a maddeningly arrogant note, addressed directly to Souza …
  • After striking out on his own, attempting to cross hundreds of miles of enemy territory without a map, a compass, weapon or food, Churchill stumbled upon the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Colliery; taking a wild chance that he might find help, he forced himself to come out of hiding, …
  • By an incredible stroke of luck, Churchill knocked on the door of John Howard, the mine’s manager and one of the few Englishmen who had been allowed to remain in the Transvaal during the war; when Howard agreed to help him, Churchill would later write, “I felt like a drowning man pulled out of the water.”
  • After hiding Churchill in a rat-infested coal mine shaft, Howard finally found a way to secret him out of the country — burrowed deep inside the wool trucks of the mine’s storekeeper, Charles Burnham. Burnham not only agreed to let Churchill hid in his trucks, he rode with him all the way to Portuguese East Africa, bribing guards and inspectors along the way …
  • When Churchill finally arrived in Lorenco, Marques, the capital of Portuguese East Africa, he quickly made his way to the British consulate. Everyone was looking for him; the consulate did not recognize him; told him to go away…
  • As soon has escape was known, he became a national hero, greeted in Durban, the largest city in British-held Natal, by cheering throngs;
  • After delivering his speech in Durban, he returned to the exact location where the train had been attacked, derailed, and he escaped .. he spent Christmas Eve in a tent on the same railway cutting where he had been forced to surrender …
  • He saw the reward poster — upset that the “Dead or Alive” award was so low …
  • After he was free, he convinced Buller to give him a commission in the South African Light Horse, though it was against Brit rules for a journalist to become a soldier and vice versa; he was allowed both; paid by the newspaper but not paid by the military; he took part in several pivotal battles before returning to Pretoria, where he and his cousin, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, freed the jubilant men who had so recently been Churchill’s fellow prisoners…
  • Just six months after his escape, Churchill ran for Parliament for the second time. This time, to no one’s surprise, least of all his own, he won; owed it all to the South African War.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dante's Inferno; Robert Hollander And Jean Hollander, c. 2000

The Inferno
Translated by Jean Hollander; comments and editing by Robert Hollander & Jean Hollander's 
c. 2000
DDS: 851.1 DAN

The Princeton Dante Project.

From the introduction, page xvii, Robert Hollander & Jean Hollander's verse translation of Dante's The Inferno, c. 2000, DDS 851.1 DAN:

Dante seems completely aware of the radical newness of a lady loaded with such lofty theological meaning in the tradition of vernacular poetry of love
From wiki:
In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (possibly derived from Greek αἰνή meaning "praised") was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Venus (Aphrodite)
His father was a first cousin of King Priam of Troy (both being grandsons of Ilus, founder of Troy), making Aeneas a second cousin to Priam's children (such as Hector and Paris).
He is a character in Greek mythology and is mentioned in Homer's Iliad.
Aeneas receives full treatment in Roman mythology, most extensively in Virgil's Aeneid where he is an ancestor of Romulus and Remus. He became the first true hero of Rome

17 pages; very, very good; lays out the story, background, etc
I will come back to this again

Inferno I
begins his story, "midway in the journey of our life" -- he found himself in a dark wood; he was lost. The nature of the wood has terrified him. He is so terrified, death is not much worse.
Does not know how he got to this state.
But then looked up a hill; saw a light; and, no longer afraid.
Turned to look back; noted no mortal being yet alive in the pass he had just traversed.

As he was climbing, met in succession, a leopard, a lion, and then a she-wolf.

In response, he turned and fled to a lower place.

Runs into a stranger, who says his parents were from Lombardy; Mantua was their homeland. Manuta is the capital of Lombardy, a province in the far north - central area of Italy (the Alps?).

He, the stranger, says he was born sub Julio (I assume under Julius Caesar), though late in his time; lived in Rome, under "good" Augustus, in an age of false and lying gods.

Augustus founded the Roman Empire; he was the adopted son of Julius Caesar.

The stranger says he was a poet. As a poet, he told (sung) the story of Anchises (father of Aeneas and a member of the royal family of Troy).

The stranger asks Dante why he is fleeing to a lower place, from the peak that gives delight, origin and the cause of every joy.

Aha! Dante asks the stranger, "Are you Virgil?" Wow!

Virgil: 70 - 19 BC. (Dante Aligheri: late Middle Ages, 1300 AD).

Dante tells Virgil that Virgil is his only teacher, only author.

Virgil tells Dante he must take a different path. The leopard, lion, she-wolf (may have been one, changelings) -- no one can defeat it except a hound that will come later. The hound will be the salvation of low-lying Italy, for which maiden Camilla, Euryalus, Turnus, and Nisus died of their wounds. -- line 106 - 108.

The hound will hunt the beast until the beast is sent back to Hell (whence primal envy set her loose).

Virgil says he will be Dante's guide to that other path, which will lead Dante from "here" to an eternal place where you shall hear despairing cries and see those ancient souls in pain as they bewail their second death.

Then you will see the ones who are content to burn because they hope to come among the blessed (think of the Urnfield culture).

Virgil says that at that point he will depart Dante but leave him with another guide, a "her." He, Virgil, can not go to the top of the mountain because Virgil was a rebel to that Emperor. Dante says he wants Virgil (and then the new guide) to take him to Saint Peter's gate. 

They then set out.

Then a 9-page discussion follows.

No more notes here. I will follow this in my private notes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rise Of The Rocket Girls, Nathalia Holt, c. 2016

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled US, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars.
Nathalia Holt
DD: 629.1 HOL

The story of "the human computers" at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA. 

January 1958: Launch Day

Part I: 1940s
The women
  • Barby Canright
  • Macie Roberts
  • Barbara Lewis (later Paulson)
Part II: 1950s
The women
  • Barbara Lewis (later Paulson)  
  • Janez Lawson 
  • Helen Yee Chow (later Ling)
  • Susan Finley
Part III: 1960s
The women
  • Barbara Paulson
  • Helen Ling
  • Susan Finley
  • Sylvia Lundy (later Miller)
Part IV: 1970s - Today
The women
  • Barbara Paulson
  • Helen Ling
  • Susan Finley
  • Sylvia Miller
Epilogue -- the group below traveled to JPL for a "reunion" of sorts
  • Barbara Paulson
  • Joanie Jordan
  • Kathryn Thuleen
  • Georgia Dvornychenko
  • Virginia Anderson
  • Janet Davis
  • Helen Ling
  • taught her son BASIC and FORTRAN
  • Sue Finley
  • still working on DSN
  • NASA's longest-serving woman
  • Sylvia Miller
  • Victoria Wang
  • Margie Brunn
  • Caroline Norman
  • Lydia Shen
  • Linda Lee
  • Marie Crowley
  • Nancy Key
  • Sylvia Lundy (later Miller) 

  • the book is based mostly on first-person interviews conducted by the author, 2011 - 2015
  • where possible, events reported confirmed by archival material
Chapter 1: Launch Day
  • Begins in 1939
  • Suicide Squad: began with three young men. Out of Pasadena; tinkering with homemade rockets, while one or two were students at Caltech. Worked in the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory.
  • Barby, incredibly bright, fitting in classes at Occidental College.
  • 1939: National Academy of Sciences awards a grant to the Suicide Squad, now known as the GALCIT (Guggenhiem Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology).
  • first year: $1,000
  • second year: $10,000
  • US government's first investment in rocket research
  • in deference to Army Air Corps, they changed their name to Air Corps Jet Propulsion Research Project
  • the group approached Richard and Barby Canright about being the mathematicians for the group
  • the group needed a place to work: Arroyo Seco -- a few miles outside Pasadena (1936)
  • avoided the word "rocket"
  • August, 1941
  • JATO: jet-assisted-take-off -- six little rockets on a prop plane
  • four months later a rocket-powered plane would be needed
  • as I read that I had the feeling this was as important as what the Wright Bros did at Kitty Hawk
  • December, 1941
  • Barby: thousands of computations -- thrust-to-weight calculations
  • it took just a year for the JPL rockets to boost the Doublas A-20A bomber into the air
  • Frank and von Karman set up a company: Aerojet
  • started experimenting with torpedoes but could not use that word; only the US Navy allowed to use that word
  • von Karman leaves in 1944 to launch the air force's Scientific Advisory Group
  • Frank took over
  • JATO tests in Muro, CA -- now Edwards AFB
  • the computers: four women and one man; their prized possession -- one Friden calculator
  • up to that time, only the slide ruler
  • rocket science and now they knew they had to concentrate on propellants
  • propellant (not fuel): fuel + oxidizer (an element that is able to accept an electron, like oxygen)
  • because there is no oxygen in space, rockets have to carry their own oxidizer
  • the calculation the engineers and computers most interested in: specific impulse -- the change in force that accumulates as a rocket uses fuel; specific impulse indicates roughly how much momentum builds up as the propellant is thrown out the back of the rocket; this calculation is the simplest way to compare the effectiveness of different propellants
  • Barbie and Macie (page 33)
  • Macie promoted as top computer; because of her, all future computers would be female
  • Pasadena Junior College
Chapter 2: Headed West
  • Helen Yee Ling Chow: Hawaiian teen-ager; Pearl Harbor; full scholarship, Univ of Notre Dame; only female to major in mathematics; her brother worked at JPL; learns about computers, knows that it would be a perfect fit for her sister
  • Barbara Lewis; another girl interested in math; Ohio; her mother goes out to CA at her request; felt at ease when interviewed by Macie
  • Susan Greene (m. Pete Finley), southern Californian; 5 years old in 1941; hired as a computer at Convair; was programming but that word was not used; commute was awful; thought of JPL just five minutes from home; married, pregnant, first baby died at two days of age

Part II


Barbara Lewis (later Paulson)
Janez Lawson
Helen Yee Chow (later Ling)
Susan Finley

Chapter 3: Rockets Rising

1955: JPL, after 10 years, sending the Corporal missile from JPL area to the White Sands Proving Ground in southern New Mexico, just 60 miles north of Mexican border.

Corporal: project had begun in the lat 1940s; a guided-missile system; unlike anything JPL had attempted; Army wanted this; Barbara's first project at JPL

First Corporal rocket, October, 1945, edge of space; the highest a rocket had ever flown; known as the WAC Corporal; WAC: without altitude control since it had no guidance system, and also for Women's Army Corps since it was smaller than other missiles given military-sounding names

Using very dangerous liquid propellants

Liquid propellants let to engines shaking, exploding, unpredictable

Barbara was 19 years old at the time

Thrust provided by mixture of aniline and nitric acid; Barbara did all the calculations; it took a full day of calculating for one trajectory

These were hypergolic propellants: a combination of fuel and oxidant that would ignite on contact; same propellant class that launched Apollo

The little sister, WAC Corporal was particularly interesting to Barbara because it was being launched as a two-stage rocket; the slim American rocket would sit atop the Nazi V-2; the V-2 could target a city more than 200 miles away

The idea of combining the power of the V-2 with the high-flying WAC Corporal was ingenious; the combination, they called the Bumper WAC

Pencil, paper, slide rule and Friden calculator; the Friden could not calculate logarithms (wow) so she had to manually use a text

While they worked out the little sister, Corporal was launched, spring, 1947; first test of a large missile; considered first all-American; everyone was surprised when it soared to 129,000 feet before reaching its target 60 miles away

A description of the sex-crazed male engineers

A description of the all-women computers hired / led by Macie

January, 1949: needed to find new testing location; missiles falling into Mexico

Cocoa Beach, FL; the range eventually became part of the Space Coast; rural Brevard County

Close to the equator, rockets got a boost from the rotational speed of Earth; more powerful at equator than anywhere else;

January, 1949: little sister -- reached 242 miles above Earth; greatest velocity and highest altitude any man-made object had ever achieved

Page 73: Operation Paperclip mentioned

1955: US deported a Chinese engineer working at JPL; he was one of the founders of JPL; spying never substantiated; became the Father of Chinese Rocketry

Foreshadowing: Frank, founder of JPL will have to watch from afar (not sure what that last paragraph is saying; Barbara Lewis will become a beauty queen

Chapter 4: Miss Guided Missile

JPL's Miss Guided Missile Contest
between 1950 and 1953, JPL budget, from $5 million to $11 million

Macie looking for as many qualified women as she could find

Janez Lawson: chemical engineering, UCLA; most popular girl in her class but also the lone girl in many of her classes (chemistry and math)

Macie's ad: did not require advanced experience or degrees: Janez saw this as code for a position open to women; this would be a secret back door to getting a job as an engineer, at the time closed to women

How interesting: late in the story we learn she was African-American -- a huge obstacle. Her father had been the first African-American city council member of Santa Monica

New contractor to manufacture and test the rockets: Firestone Tire and Rubber Company

Quality control a huge problem

JPL continued to work on Corporal, but now moving on to Sergeant: more sophisticated guidance system

The Sergeant: the solution seems to rest in a forgotten WW II engineering marvel, page 84