Railroads and Accidents

Walter L. Bell Ph.D.

While listening to the news of a passenger train derailment, I remembered a conversation with an engineer for one of the major railroads in which we discussed why passenger trains had difficulty on tracks built for freight trains.  This conversation occurred about fifteen years ago, but what surprised me were the changes that had been made in the length of sections of the rails.  He told me that the length of the rails much longer than they had been in the years when both kinds of trains were common until after World War II, and when the railroads owned both passenger and freight trains.  The freight trains traveled as did passenger trains on short sections of rails in order to accommodate the higher speeds of the passenger trains.  

Once passenger trains were phased out in the 1960’s, the railroads slowly lengthened the sections of rail because the freight trains carried much greater loads at much slower speeds.  Also, as the temperature changed from cold to warm from winter to summer, the longer sections of rails expanded greatly because there were less spaces in the longer sections of rails for expansion.  This did not affect the freight trains because of their slower speeds and greater weight.  The passenger trains tended to derail due to this expansion because they were lighter and traveled at much higher speeds.  The passenger trains tended to derail during the warmer months when the expansion of the rails were the greatest.

We were parked by each other in our RV’s so we had time to discuss this problem in detail,  plus there had been some passenger trains that had derailed along one of the railroads in a Southern State.  I wondered at the time if Amtrak was aware of the problem, because the only passenger trains were operated by Amtrak.  Also, the engineer told me that with the longer rails there were no longer the click and clack sound of the train rails while traveling over the shorter rails.  Since I last rode on a passenger train once in 1958 and on an Amtrak train in 1987,  I liked the sound over the short rails especially at night because the sound tended to lull me to sleep.  I doubt that very many passengers on the trains east of the Mississippi know about the changes in the rails that affect the safety of its passengers.  Since Amtrak discontinued its rail service from Portland to Salt Lake years ago, the length of the rails is no longer a concern for this rail system.  At present, one has to travel to San Francisco and then take the train east over the mountain pass through Nevada to reach Salt Lake, so the Amtrak system in the Western States is greatly compromised thanks to our Congress which will spend money on anything except infrastructure.

I would like to have two dedicated high speed rail systems built from the Mississippi River to the West Coast.  One rail system would end in Portland, Oregon and the other in San Francisco or Los Angeles.  We could then build the third dedicated high speed rail system from Los Angeles to Vancouver, B.C.  This would provide the vast Western States with an alternative means of transportation. The definition of a dedicated rail system means that the railroad is enclosed with an Australian fence which will keep out large animals and people, since these trains travel at very high speeds.

Voting For Governor Kitzhaber Of Oregon

Walter L.Bell, Ph.D.

I received a letter from Governor Kitzhaber recently asking if I would vote for him in the upcoming election.  I am reluctant to vote for him because he cut the formula for the Public Employee Retirement System due to several very highly paid employees from the University of Oregon and possibly other places in the employment as PERS members who were allowed to include money which was not part of their regular salary.  Instead of requiring an investigation and a reversal of the persons illegal calculation of their retirement compensation,  Kitzhaber allowed the matter to stand and decided to change the compensation of retired persons with his Republican buddies so that my retirement and thousands of other retirees are paying for the retirement of the former Athletic Director and Dean of the Law School at the University of Oregon.  What should have been addressed is how PERS could have allowed this to happen and why it took a Law Suite by the Oregonian to disclose this information.  I am highly disgusted with both PERS and the present and former Governors who allowed this to happen.  The one PERS meeting I attended this year had five members who did not represent the present or former members of PERS.  In fact, there was no allowance for questions from the audience regarding the meeting or the policies being discussed.  My question is what happened to the open meeting law wherein the people attending have a right to ask questions regarding procedures and policies under discussion by the PERS Board.

I have read about both Governor Kitzhaber and the Republican candidate for Governor,  and I will have to hold my nose and vote for the present governor. The report on the Republican candidate for Governor is that he is a far worse choice than Governor Kitzhaber because of his ethical values and reputation.

In reading about Governor Kitzhaber handling of the Cover Oregon website, he had several alternatives to Oracle in the development of a website.  Since Oracle had two working websites in California and Washington, he could have asked Oracle to build a site similar to these two states. Also, he could have contacted the Computer Science Departments of Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and Portland State University to have them develop a website.  The development of a website is not like sending a spaceship to the moon which was done with computers which did not have the capabilities of the one I am using for this post.  I developed three websites using wordpress.org and Bluehost as a host.  The cost was minimal and my problems were minor, but I had offers to build a website for $5,000.   Governor Kitzhaber by contrast has spent millions of dollars and is involved with Oracle for using proprietary code developed by Oracle with his new contractor.  Oracle has filed a counter lawsuit against the State of Oregon for the use of its proprietary code by the new contractor.  I doubt the Republican candidate for Governor of Oregon can fix this debacle so I will vote for Kitzhaber for his 4th and last term.

Vladimer Putin–The Newest Russian Thug

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

Russia has had a long and troubled history with some of the most cruel and vile leadership of any nation.  Its most enlightened monarch was Peter the Great who tried to modernise the nation against great odds because the ruling oligarchy opposed him at every turn.  He wanted to Russia to join with the nations of Europe because Russia was basically isolated and backward in comparison.  Unfortunately he was unable to accomplish all of his goals, but he is remembered for trying to loosen the hold of the oligarchy over Russia.

The next leader to try to loosen the hold of the Communist Party over Russia was Mikhail Gorbachev  who tried to introduce  economic reforms to move industries from  state ownership to semiprivate owner ship.  One of the persons Gorbachev  recruited was Boris Yeltsin to help clean up the corruption in the Communist Party in 1985.  As a reformer Yeltsin proved to be too ambitious for his mentor Gorbachev, but when Gorbachev resigned, Yeltsin took his place and helped to move Russia closer to a civilized nation instead of a nation which imprisoned and killed more of its own citizens than had been lost in World War II.  It is estimated that under Stalin’s notorious leadership more than 20 million people were killed in his purges.  When the Soveit tanks were gathered in Moscow, Yeltsin climbed on top of one of the tanks and dared the Russian Army to fire upon its own people.  Unfortunately, Yeltsin’s economic policies caused a deep economic depression in Russia which lasted several years.  Before Yeltsin resigned he freed many of  parts of the Soviet Union such as the Ukraine, Georgia, and many of the states that had large populations of Muslim citizens such as Uzbekistan and many others.  At the time about one quarter of the Soviet Union were of the Muslim faith. Even though Yeltsin’s policies were eventually beneficial  to Russia, his great mistake was appointing Vladamer Putin to take his place.

Putin was originally a member of the KGB, the notorious version of our CIA and FBI combined.  The KGB was responsible for the death of many of the Soviet citizens during the reign of Joseph Stalin who sent millions of his own people to prisons in Siberia or had them killed outright at his own whim.  Putin the same mind set as Stalin and if left unchecked will leave his own cruel policies on his own citizens.  His goal is to put Russia back together again as the Soviet Socialist Republic so as to make Russia an international bully and threat to former states such as the Ukraine and the Balkin States.

About the only thing I agree with Senator McCain of Arizona is his statement that “if you look into Putin’s eyes you see reflected KGB,” because once a spy and bully he will always be a bully and thug.

I am reminded of the history Professor from whom I took many courses, that it is difficult to discuss Russian history because like the history of China with its more than 6,000 years of history there is too much history.

The One Trillion Dollar Farm Bill To Provide Money for Wealthy Corporate Farmers

The Republican Congress, both the House and the Senate have been crying “Wolf” over the Trillions of dollars in deficit, but when there is money to be distributed to their wealthy constituents, the response is radically different.  If one looks back over the last 60 years or more, the only people who have benefited from farm bills have been wealthy farmers and large corporate farms.  The number of people engaged in farming has fallen from more than 30% during the depression of the 1930’s to less than 3% at present.  Even large family owned farms have become incorporated, because the cost of machinery to operate a farm has become extremely expensive, so that the  one farm, one family owned farms have become almost extinct.

The latest version of the farm bill cut food stamps which provide people with low incomes with affordable sources of food.  My question is why we provide wealthy farm corporations with  the equivalent of corporate food stamps and deny our needy, underemployed, and unemployed citizens the food they need to live?  Another issue which was not addressed by the Farm Bill was the potential problem of genetically modified foods.  Currently, a snip of DNA can be attached to plant DNA which alters the basic structure of the plant.  For example, a snip of DNA can be attached to a given plant which provides the equivalent of Roundup which we use to kill weeds in our yards and gardens and fields.  Spraying  Roundup around a plant does not alter the genetics of the plant, but attaching a snip of DNA to plant so that it kills weeds that grow around the plant,  means that we may be eating Roundup when we eat a carrot, corn, lettuce, etc.  For example, I was exposed to Agent Orange when working for an irrigation district for two years.  We had Agent Orange on our hands, in our face, and when we ate our lunch because we were spraying willows and other plants which grew in the irrigations canals and inhibited the flow of water in the canals.  I became very allergic to all kinds of foods and would break out with watery blisters on my hands and with severe sinus infections.  This went on until my late thirties.

Agent Orange is 245t and 23d combined and is a growth hormone which causes the plants to grow themselves to death.  I used Agent Orange when I was 18 and 19 which was long before it was used in Vietnam to clear the jungles.  It took the Department of Defense years before Agent Orange victims were compensated for the problems it caused the soldiers who were exposed in Vietnam.  About four years ago, I called the Oregon Department of Agriculture and told them about my exposure.  The official who answered the telephone asked me if I wanted sue the State of Oregon.  I told him not at this late date which was 5o or more years later.  I do know it causes prostate cancer which I developed in my late 60’s.  The children born to women in Vietnam were often born with birth defects due to the exposure of the parents to Agent Orange.  If one looks up Agent Orange, you will also find Agent Blue, Agent Green, and so on depending upon the combinations of chemicals which have been combined.

At present, there are no double blind tests given to animals and people when a plant is genetically modified.  Monsanto, for example can genetically alter a plant without any oversight.  If a drug is developed it has to go through at least three different stages of double blind tests to determine the possible effects of the drug on humans. Genetically modified foods should be subjected to the same kind of tests before they they are sold to the public.  The Farm Bill had no such restrictions  and it will cost the taxpayers more than one trillion dollars with support by the party of no–The Republican Party.

VA Hospitals

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

There is nothing new about the problems with Veteran Administration Hospitals.  The current problems have existed for years, so to put the blame on General Senseki is doing him a great disservice.  We will have months of more useless hearings without any solution to the problem.  The State of Oregon closed one VA  Hospital near Medford, Oregon years ago and has one in Portland which is part of the Oregon Health Sciences University which has a great staff and resources available to Veterans.  Our Grand Daughter spent part of her time when working on her MD from OHSU where she is now employed.  She enjoyed working in that part of OSHU and working with veterans.  My choice would be to attach all the Veterans Hospitals to up-to-date hospitals which have all the most recent tests, equipment and other facilities available to Veterans as well as other patients.

Another innovation would to make Veterans part of the Affordable Care Act so that they could get the kind of specialized care needed for injuries in any hospital in the nation.  For example, currently Vietnam veterans are treated differently depending upon whether they were actually present on Vietnam soil.  I have one son-in-law who can get VA assistance because he helped to load the bombs on Air Force planes on Vietnam soil, but the other son-in-law who served two tours on an Aircraft Carrier off the coast of Vietnam is not because he did not actually go on land in  Vietnam.  He could well be suffering from the effects of Agent Orange from having been on board a ship because, given the amount Agent Orange sprayed on the jungles in Vietnam, much of it could have drifted on board the ships where he was stationed.  For example, I am considered a Korean War veteran even though I served state side, but I was exposed to Agent Orange while a member of the National Guard in Oregon.  I was employed in two different counties in Oregon where we used Agent Orange to kill willows and weeds along ditch banks and fields.  I did this over a two year period in Malheur and Union Counties in Oregon.  No one told us it was Agent Orange until I found out about it years later when I called the State of Oregon and talked to an official in the Agricultural Department.  I told him about my experience, and he asked me if I would like to sue the State of Oregon.  Agent Orange was so named because the barrel of the chemicals delivered to Vietnam were labeled with  an Orange stripe, Agent Blue, and so on because of the kind of chemicals contained in the barrels.  Agent Orange is made up of 245t and 24d which are plant growth hormones which cause the plants to grow themselves to death.  Both may father and I developed sever blistering on our hands, and I suffered for years from such outbreaks including constant sinus infections and other respiratory problems including asthma.   I also had prostate cancer in my early sixties which I was told by my doctor was known to cause prostate cancer.  I am certain that I would not be covered by VA insurance even though I served in both the National Guard and the U.S. Army on US soil during the time I was exposed to Agent Orange which was on our hands when we ate our lunch and blew back in our faces as we sprayed.  Agent Orange was also used by the US Forest Service to kill unwanted vegetation when planting trees on areas which had been clear cut where a portion of the forest is completely cleared and then replanted with new trees in Northwest Forests primarily in Oregon and

So my suggestions would be to dramatically alter the Veterans Administration and make Veterans Health Care part of the Affordable Care Act so that a Veteran could go to any hospital which is set up to provide the kind of specialized care needed to provide treatment for any ailment which occurred during a Veterans term of service and quit using war zone designations as an excuse to deny treatment for our Veterans.





Does the United States Have Feudalism?

By Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

Of all the questions posed upon this website, this is one of the most important because given our current Supreme Court which has no checks and balances, unlike the Presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, we are well on our way to becoming a feudalistic society where our wealthy citizens control this nation in the way that nations operated before the French Revolution.

During the era of feudalism, the noblemen controlled vast areas of land all over the world.  The serfs lived on the vast areas of land and performed all the labor to keep the nobleman’s land profitable.  They had no personal rights and were at the mercy of nobleman’s sense of right and wrong concerning their welfare.  A woman was expected to submit to the sexual desires of the nobleman.  She had no choice and could only resist at her own peril.  Men also had little choice except in the skills as carpenters, farmers, and whatever other skills were needed to keep the lands profitable.  In short, the only free peoples were the nobility, which at present, in the United States, include only the very wealthy.  When the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United ruling declared that there were no limits on the amount of money an individual could spend upon the election of Senator or Representative, the buying of a lackey who would vote as the wealthy patron just to get elected, has turned this nation into politicians who are willing to be bribed in order to get elected. The only solution to this decision is to try to appoint liberal judges to the Supreme Court, but in order to do this we have to have a majority of democrats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, plus have a Democratic President.  Also, we have to have a Republican Justice of the Supreme Court resign during the time we have a Democratic majority in all three branches of government.  We did very well during the first part of President Obama’s term in office when we had a majority in the House of Representative when we were able to pass the Affordable Care Act.  But in off term elections the Democrats go to sleep and do not turn out to vote.  This voting pattern has allowed  the Republican Party to load the Supreme Court with their own conservative candidates when a Republican President is in Power.  The Bush Presidents are responsible for most to the Conservative Justices on the Supreme Court.  Clarence Thomas is a glaring example of a black candidate who was not liked by the Black Voters.  The loss of Justice Thurgood Marshal, the civil rights hero who became the first African American Supreme Court Justice, to be replaced by Justice Clarence Thomas, during the first Bush Presidency, along with Justice Scalia, Justice Alito, Justice Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts have ensured that our Democracy is in Peril.  The rich now rule the United States much as the Robber Barons did during the 1800’s and the early 1900’s, so we now have a choice either get out and vote for candidates who will not be purchased by the wealthy, or accept the present stupidity of the current Supreme Court of the United States who do not believe in voting rights or fair elections.  We are now entering the New Age of feudalism in the United States.

Life With A Papillon

When our dog Kalu died my wife was without her faithful companion, so she decided that life without a dog was not for her. She had watched a dog show where a Papillon had won “BEST OF SHOW”  and was placed in the winners bowl. The Papillon fit into the bowl and literally preened as if to say, “I am beautiful”. So my wife looked up the available breeders of Papillons. She drove about 50 miles to meet the owners of the Papillon puppies. She had her choice of two male puppies and chose the one we now have which we named Nieko. He has several other nicknames depending upon his behavior. The one comment the woman made, who sold us Nieko, as she was driving away was, “Papillon’s do shed a lot”. That comment was the understatement of the century. Each day we have to use a dust mop to get all the dog hair off the floor or use a roller to get it off our clothes. My sweaters look like I am a hairy dog so I try not to get near Nieko if I am expected to look presentable. In fact, any clothing which has a slick finish is hair magnet, so I wear black jeans which have washed enough times to be Nieko proofed.

Another Nieko characteristic, which can be totally annoying when we are watching TV, is his barking whenever an animal appears on the screen. Since my wife has spent a lot of time in bed to severe back pain, Nieko loves to spend his time watching TV on the bed with her. Before the actual picture of an animal appears on the screen he knows the lead in and will sit up ready to bark. Watching Animal Planet is a forbidden choice if he is awake and not in his kennel for the night. A psychologist wrote a book claiming that animals do not possess a memory. I do not know what he was smoking, but he did not have a clue about animals. He probably could not tell the difference between stuffed animals and real live animals.

Nieko knows the sound of a UPS or Fedex truck when it comes by our house and alerts us immediately. It doesn’t help that the drivers ring the doorbell and give him dog cookies. He also barks at people who walk down the sidewalk or kids who are playing nearby. We do have a home alarm system with Nieko as a back up in case it fails.

When Nieko was a puppy, he had a coat to wear when it was cold or rainy outside, but once he grew a full coat of hair he would run if we tried to put on his old coat.  He also loves a bath and will get in the shower when we get out the two towels we use to dry him. Kalu our dog previous to Nieko hated to take baths. Our dog Zach, who was supposedly a Minature Snauser, but weighed 29 pounds, also loved his bath, so it isapparent that to bathe or not to bathe depends upon the breed of the dog.

The most interesting characteristic about Nieko is that he howls like a wolf with his head raised and pointed at the ceiling. He did this spontaneously one day and now he will do so with prompting and has gotten so much attention that we, members of the family, can get him to howl by howling with him. My grandson took a picture of him howling with his iphone, and we were able to save it to my computer for others to see. Unfortunately, it is lost somewhere on my computer so I cannot find it to include on this post.

Finally, if you are not a dog lover, I can understand because I am not a cat lover, although I tolerate them because my stepdaughter and son-in-law are both dog and cat lovers. The cats and their dog live on the upper floor, so our combined household lives in animal harmony.

I should tell you that papillons come in black and white and brown and white with varying sizes and weights with ours being a little taller and heavier than others in the neighborhood. On October 1, 2012 Nieko jumped off the bed and ruptured a vertebrae in his back which left him paralysed. Luckily there is an animal hospital nearby where his disc was repaired, and he has been on a long recovery period. He can no longer run up or down stairs or jump on or off the bed. We keep a leash on him whenever he is on the bed attached our arm so that he cannot jump off the bed. We keep him away from large dogs because they could rupture a disc just by putting a paw on top of his spine. The surgery is the same as the surgeon performed on my wife’s spine about three years ago. When she told her surgeon recently about Nieko’s surgery, he was surprised because he did not know that veternary surgeon skills were as advanced as his own.

I published this post in January, but for some reason only  the title was printed.

Detroit Michigan–The Demise Of A Great Industrial City

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

I have never visited Detroit, but, after viewing Anthony Bourdain’s account of the city, I was saddened that American Companies had abandoned this city in order to find cheap labor in other parts of the world. This city was responsible for manufacturing our war machines when the Allied Forces were on the brink of collapse during World War II. It would have been unpatriotic and dishonorable to have abandoned this city at that time because the workforce was not only one of the most highly skilled in the United States, but that workforce was highly paid, unionized, and had pensions to support them when they retired. Now that Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, the promises of retirement with dignity has become a source for bailing out years of mismanagement of the city and the lack of patriotism by the companies for relocating the operations where slave labor and sweatshop conditions abound.

During several administrations, both Republican and Democratic, the nation entered into NAFTA, WTO, GATT, IMF, FTAA, MAI alliances with countries all over the world to accomplish two things: 1) Allow corporations to avoid taxation in the United States, and 2) provide corporations with the world’s cheapest labor so that these same corporations could then import those goods back into the United States duty free. President Clinton was one of the most ardent supporters of NAFTA and the other list of Treaties and the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which separated Banking and Investing institutions that had led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. In 2008 we entered a period of meltdown with the combined Bank/Investment debacle where we had Banks and Insurance Companies such as AIG which were too big to allow to fail. To make matters worse, when TARP monies were transferred from the Treasury to the Banking/Investment firms, huge bonuses were awarded to the same executives who gambled away the monies entrusted to them in the stock market and in derivatives, a new form of gambling in the stock market. Even our Congress was involved by using insider information to invest in the stock market which could get a private citizen sent to prison. Congress passed a law to prevent the use of insider information to make them wealthy, but I have read that the law has been quietly rescinded.

The move to use monies from pension funds to bail out state and municipal treasuries continues. The Governor of Oregon has lowered the States’ commitment for the funding of pensions in order to use the money to balance the budget. We have individuals in highly paid positions who used outside sources of money to pad their pensions, such as the former Athletic Director of the University of Oregon, which has impacted the State of Oregon Budget. The Governor and his buddies in the Legislature passed this resolution, that has now been challenged and referred to the State Supreme Court.

In almost every instance, it has been the lack of appreciation for highly paid, skilled, and union workers which has led to the demise of our industries in the United States. Even within the United States, the move to avoid union labor has been to move industries from highly unionized states to the South where there are no unions. Most of the foreign car companies who manufacture cars in the United States are located in the South. Boeing, which has its home office in Seattle, when building the Dreamliner had to call in its contracts for parts which were scattered all over the world, because they had no quality control over those parts. This problem led to cost overruns because of the lack of quality control, so they had to use their union labor in Seattle, who were highly skilled and also highly paid to build the Dreamliner. It seems to have escaped their attention that in the long run, highly skilled and highly paid workers, are worth more than unskilled workers, because they are planning to relocate some of the manufacturing to non-union workers in North Carolina where they had poor quality control along with unqualified foreign contracts in the early stages of manufacturing the Dreamliner.

Finally, we need stringent laws to protect the pensions of those retired workers who spent the life in industry and other occupations. We need to have workers who are skilled and loyal, and who can look forward to good pay. Corporations like Walmart do not allow their workers to join unions, but yet Waltmart has asked their own workers to give some of their money for the support of their own employees who cannot make a living wage. Walmart, Inc. needs to be renamed WALSCROOGE, INC. WE need a new form of patriotism and commitment by the National, State, and Local governments to provide for the education and support of workers both union and non-union, so that the ordinary citizens can have a chance at the American Dream where we all succeed together through shared commitment and sacrifice.

The Affordable Care Act and Its Website

The amount of news the press and all the members of our government have been giving to the website for signing up for health care is amazing considering that we have powerful computer systems and very adept programers, who, when called upon, can do amazing work. For example whenever a new computer system or an update to computer program is needed both Apple Computer and Microsoft can hire the talent needed to get a system running without much problem. I am certain that if Apple and Microsoft had been asked they could have been successful in building an interactive page in which people could sign up for a health care program of their choice. WordPress.org is an example of an organization which brings out updates of the program which enables me to type this post without giving much thought to whether or not my readers will have problems with signing on and reading the post. This version I am using now is Version 3.7 which I downloaded yesterday. It will work on any computer system as far as I know. I use it on three different Apple Power PC models dating from the year 2000 to 2009, and a 2012 Mac Mini which uses an Intel Processor.

The expectation that Kathleen Sebelius, the current Secretary of Health and Human Services, should be fired because the website for signing up for Health Care is not working properly is stupid and demeaning. I have worked with computers for years, but when I set up this website I had difficulties for about two years. Most of the problem
was my own inexperience with websites. I called Bluehost techincal staff numerous
times for help. I simply did not follow directions because I either forgot or I did not know they were important. My primary problem was not disabling the plugins which allow this blog to function as I want it to function so it would crash and I would have to go looking for my posts on the internet. I would then have to reformat each post so that it would be visible to my readers. I am finding that I still have many things to learn, but at present I take one task at a time and work on it until things work as I expect them to work. I talked recently with a friend of mine, who is a very bright person, who told me that he had never become computer literate. He spent is career teaching and coaching as a High School teacher, but I would not condemn him because he never became computer literate. So let us give Kathleen Sebelius a break, because I am certain the the bugs in the program to sigh up for Health Care will be successful very soon.

If you are unable to sign up for The Affordable Care Act, you can always visit your local Social Security Office and ask for help. Also, you can go to a state exchange, it does not have to be your state, and sign in on that exchange. California has very good exchange and has signed up millions of people. So, if you are currently without health insurance so there is no need to panic. I learned this information by listening to a TV program and not from the House of Representative or Senate critics.

A Historical Innovation

New innovations are usually stimulated by a problem that is important to an industry. The development of the computer came about during the nineteenth century as the result of the need for accurate star charts and maps as England developed into a world power. It was relatively easy for a ship to navigate from north to south because north of the equator the North Star provide a reference point. South of the equator the ships could navigate using the Southern Cross. The early Vikings stayed relatively close to shore so they were able to explore much of the known world including China where Viking artifacts have been found. The Vikings also explored the coastline of North America and possibly South America. When ships started to explore by sailing east to west they could easily get lost because the star and planetary charts were not dependable. Great Britain responded by creating a governmental entity called the Board of Longitude in 1714 which existed until 1828. A loss of several ships a few years before 1714 was the primary reason for the creation of a Board of Longitude.

About 1819, three elite graduates of the University of Cambridge were hired to work on charts and maps which required tedious calculations by hand. John Hershel, George Peabody, and Charles Babbage were hired to do this work but found it so tedious that they hired a mathematical savant whose primary talent was to do mathematical calculations in his head. Babbage was so vexed by the monotony of the work that he exclaimed, “It is too bad we do not have a machine to do the calculations for us.” He started on a lifelong quest to develop a mechanical computer to do such calculations.

He was advised by his friends to write up the idea and let others work out the details.
He was determined to proceed on his own and set up a workshop where he hired skilled machinists to develop a mechanical computer. His first machine was Difference No.1, followed by Difference No.2, which to my knowledge was never actually built, and finally the Analytical Engine which was completed by his son after Babbage died.

The following are some of the outcomes of Babbage’s efforts to build a mechanical computer:
1. Machine tools with fine tolerances because if multiplications and additions were to be done by mechanical means the gears had to be machined to fine tolerances.
2. Mechanical drawings which previously did not exist were developed and are still used in all kinds of industries. Mechanical drawings are now done on computers using sophisticated programs.
3. Punch cards to carry out mechanical calculations with a high degree of accuracy. Metal punch cards were already in use by the weaving industry which Babbage found when he toured England and Europe to learn the latest techniques in manufacturing. A company now known as IBM used punch cards for the 1890 census in the United States.
4. Babbage hired very skilled workman to carry out his work. One was named Enfield who became wealthy because he introduced spiral grooves in rifles and other munitions. The Enfield rifle was famed for its accuracy because it spun the bullet while in the barrel of the gun and greatly increased its accuracy. I recently learned that the Enfield rifle was used by the Confederate Army during the seige of Vicksburg. When the Southern soldiers surrendered to Grant’s Army they stacked their rifles as they left Vicksburg. Among those rifles were the newest Enfield rifles which the Northern Armies had never seen. Grant was happy to use these for the first time because they were breech loaded, more accurate, and safer than tamping black powder and lead bullets down a barrel.
5. Mechanical computers were still used in university labs during World War II.
6. The first semi-electronic computers used old style radio tubes to power the computers, but they were slow, generated great amounts of heat, and needed a great amount space.
7. The addition of a video screen such as I am now using to type this post was used by Xerox in their Palo Alto research Laboratory. Steve Jobs visited this laboratory and incorporated it into his first computer. He also visited the University of California who were using a computer language developed jointly with ATT&T called Unix. He adopted the Unix system which put it at odds with MS-DOS computers used by Microsoft which became the dominant computer system.
8. When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple he started his own computer company called NEXT which Apple purchased when Jobs was rehired as CEO of Apple. The NEXT computer used Unix as its operating system with one difference–it used Intel processors instead of the computer Power PC processors developed by IBM, Motorola, and Apple. When IBM failed to provide Apple with the most advanced computer processors, because it sold most of them to Sony and Microsoft, Jobs stopped using the Power PC processors and purchased Intel’s processors and ported over the Unix operating system to the computers using Intel chips. By doing this innovative switch, he was able to run both Apples’ operating system and MS DOS, the operating system used by Microsoft. A program called Parallels is a software program which allows both Apple software and Microsoft to operate on an Apple computer using Intel processors without rebooting the computer. I now have an Apple MacMini computer which has an Intel processor so I could use both Microsoft and Apple software on the same computer. At present, I still have four Power PC Mac computers which are still very usable, but the software written for these computers is slowly becoming obsolete because the market for them is very small.
9. The process of innovation continued with printers and the internet which allowed paper copies and high speed communication which now spans every country. Internet speeds have increased dramatically from the early telephone to coaxial cable which I use. Typewriters have basically become extinct with the use of the word processor which is part of every computer program. Electronic mail in the form of emails and faxes have replaced the teletypes which were used for many years. Many newspapers and magazines are now available in digital forms so that the print media has given way to reporters who work for blogs such as the Huffington Post. Blogs such as this one allow me to communicate with anyone who cares to subscribe. The social media has allowed groups of people to communicate with one another. I have one in which many of my family members subscribe.
10. The last innovation I read about in the latest Popular Science Magazine describes the use of three dimensional printers which allow the production of human body parts which in the future can be made to order for a particular person since one size does not fit all. This is still in the development stage as far as I know.
11. I recently received a Kindle Paper White so I can now read digital books in low light, no light or bright sunlight. There are applications so that one can also read the books on the computer, but I like reading in bed and my Kindle is small enough, about 6 inches by 4 inches and can be read horizontally or vertically. Some of the novels are 99 cents, others like the Lewis and Clark expedition funded by my relative, President Thomas Jefferson, are more expensive.
12. I was once asked where I got my information for my blog. Most of it is out of my own head, but I also use the internet to look up information on the articles I write. For this post I referred back to the dissertation I wrote for my Ph.D. My dissertation was entitled Charles Babbage, Philosopher, Reformer, Inventor: A History of His Contributions to Science, by Walter Lyle Bell(1975). This took me about 4 years to complete because I had to get some of my materials from the British Museum. I had to wait almost 9 months to receive materials from Great Britain because the postal workers went on strike for the first time in British history. I also had to use interlibrary loans through the library at Oregon State University, which also took extra time. My Major Professor went to Denmark on a leave of absence while I was writing the first, second or third drafts, so that took extra time. Also, the dissertation is 393 pages so the length alone was time consuming.