Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Frigate USS Constitution "Old Ironsides"

Sketch, U S Constitution "Old Ironsides" Vallejo CA, 1933 by E A Burbank
From the Collection of the USS Constitution Museum, Boston, with permission

I suppose that my fascination with Tall Ships began when we had the opportunity to see OP SAIL '76 in New York Harbor on July 4, 1976 on the Bicentennial of our nation's birth.  We had an impressive view of the Hudson River high atop a 30 story building above the Palisades on the New Jersey side of the river about a mile below the George Washington Bridge.  Given this blog's home page banner image of the Tall Ships that I took just off the coast of Tofino B.C. , Canada, I couldn't resist posting an entry on the USS Constitution, the grandmother of all the Tall Ships. 

She is the oldest commissioned military vessel in the world still floating. She was built in 1797 in Boston and is now permanently located in Boston Harbor and is used primarily as part of the USS Constitution Museum.  She has had a long and glorious history which I am sure you can read all about on many sites on the Internet.

My fascination with her started when I had the opportunity to purchase a fully rigged model. I couldn't get over how detailed the rigging was and how many thousands of hours it took someone to build it. I constructed a beautiful display case of mahogany and glass worthy enough to display her. She is 38" long from stem to stern and 27" high.

Then, by some luck I stumbled onto a genuine US Constitution relic that was made from the timbers and metal removed from the ship during its reconstruction during the 1920s. On the box lid there is a large bronze medal showing the US Constitution under sail with the inscription "OLD IRONSIDES Launched 1797 1804 Tripoli 1812 Guerriere Java 1815 Cyane Levant U.S. Frigate Constitution". 

Relic wood box 7.25" x 4" x 2.5" , from my personal collection. 
Attached to front of box is bronze plaque with the inscription "This Material Was Taken From The Original Hull Of The U.S. Frigate Constitution Keel Laid 1794 Rebuilding 1927".

Subsequently, I found a lithograph of the ship at the Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, Vallejo, CA dated 1855. Unfortunately, it was not of Old Ironsides, but rather of the frigate Independence which was built a few years after Constitution.

As best as I can tell, Constitution never made it to San Francisco Bay during her active career.  She did, however, visit the Bay during her so-called “National Cruise,” or "Three Coast Tour" in the 1930s.  She was there 24 March to 12 April 1933 and again from  31 August to 15 September 1933.  Thousands of visitors walked her deck during that period.  The USS Constitution Museum recently acquired a pencil drawing of the ship by E.A. Burbank showing her alongside the pier at Vallejo, CA in April 1933 (see the image at the top) it gives you a good idea of what the ship looked like when she was there. 

I found an interesting CDV of the USS Constitution from 1861 while she was located in Newport, RI.  It appears that the rigging has changed considerably. 
USS Constitution anchored off Goat Island, Newport, RI, c. 1861

This is one of the earliest known photographs of her that exists. Here is another one:

Old Ironsides, Philadelphia, PA, 1876

last modified 10/30/2015

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Empire of Water by David Soll

Empire of Water, An Environmental and Political History of The New York City Water Supply by David Soll was just published in April of 2013 by Cornell University Press. Below is the publishers description of the book.  The book covers the Jervis Croton Aqueduct development, the first municipal water supply system for New York City:

Supplying water to millions is not simply an engineering and logistical challenge. As David Soll shows in his finely observed history of the nation's largest municipal water system, the task of providing water to New Yorkers transformed the natural and built environment of the city, its suburbs, and distant rural watersheds. Almost as soon as New York City completed its first municipal water system in 1842, it began to expand the network, eventually reaching far into the Catskill Mountains, more than one hundred miles from the city.  Empire of Water explores the history of New York City's water system from the nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, focusing on the geographical, environmental, and political repercussions of the city’s search for more water.
Soll vividly recounts the profound environmental implications for both city and countryside. Some of the region’s most prominent landmarks, such as the High Bridge across the Harlem River, Central Park’s Great Lawn, and the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County, have their origins in the city’s water system. By tracing the evolution of the city’s water conservation efforts and watershed management regime, Soll reveals the tremendous shifts in environmental practices and consciousness that occurred during the twentieth century. Few episodes better capture the long-standing upstate-downstate divide in New York than the story of how mountain water came to flow from spigots in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Soll concludes by focusing on the landmark watershed protection agreement signed in 1997 between the city, watershed residents, environmental organizations, and the state and federal governments. After decades of rancor between the city and Catskill residents, the two sides set aside their differences to forge a new model of environmental stewardship. His account of this unlikely environmental success story offers a behind the scenes perspective on the nation’s most ambitious and wide-ranging watershed protection program.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and the Discovery of California

Above is a bronze medallion honoring the exploration of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.
It says that in 1542 in service to Spain, he was the first to explore the coast of California from Nativity Island to the North of San Francisco.  Cabrillo died during this exploration in early 1543 while returning home from his discoveries.
Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo (JOÃO RODRIGUES CABRILHO, ca. March 13, 1499 -- January 3, 1543) was a Portugese navigator sailing for the Spanish crown.  He is most noted for having been the forst European to sail along the California coast.  He sailed as far North as the Russian River, which is located in Sonoma County California, North of San Francisco.  He did not discover San Francisco Bay. That discovery would not occur for another 200 years. I have included below almost verbatim, from the Wikipedia entry about him.

Little is know of Cabrillo's early life.  He accompanied Francisco de Orozco to subdue the indigenous Mixtec people at what would eventually become the city ofOaxaca, in Mexico. 

In 1539, Francisco de Ulloa, who had been commissioned by Hernán Cortés, discovered the Gulf of California and reached nearly as far north as the 30th parallel. Cabrillo was then commissioned by the new Viceroy of New Spain,Antonio de Mendoza, to lead an expedition up the Pacific coast in search of trade opportunities, perhaps to find a way to China (for the full extent of the northern Pacific was unknown) or to find the mythical Strait of Anián (or Northwest Passage) connecting the Pacific Ocean with Hudson Bay. Cabrillo built and owned the flagship of his venture (two or three ships), and stood to profit from any trade or treasure.

Cabrillo shipped for Havana as a young man and joined forces with Hernán Cortés in Mexico (then called New Spain). Later, his success in mining gold in Guatemala made him one of the richest of the conquistadores in Mexico. According to his biographer Harry Kelsey, he took an indigenous woman as his common-law wife and sired several children, including at least three daughters. Later he married Beatriz Sanchez de Ortega in Seville during a hiatus in Spain. She returned to Guatemala with him and bore him two sons.

In 1540 the fleet sailed from Acajutla, El Salvador, and reached Navidad, Mexico, on Christmas Day. While he was in Mexico, Pedro de Alvarado went to the assistance of the town of Jalisco, which was under siege by hostile Indians, and was killed when his horse fell on him, crushing his chest. Following Alvarado's death the viceroy of Mexico took possession of Alvarado's fleet. Part of the fleet was sent off to the Philippine Islands under Ruy Lopez de Villalobos and two of the ships were sent north under the command of Cabrillo. 
Cabrillo's expedition recorded the names of numerous Chumashan villages on the California coast and adjacent islands in October 1542 — then located in the two warring provinces of Xexo (ruled by an "old woman", now Santa Barbara County, California) and Xucu (now Ventura County, California).On 27 June 1542, Cabrillo set out from Navidad (in Jalisco) in New Spain with three ships: the 200-ton galleon and flagship San Salvador, the ship La Victoria (c. 100 tons), and the lateen-rigged, twenty-six oared "fragata" or "bergantin" San Miguel. On 1 August Cabrillo anchored within sight of Cedros Island. Before the end of the month they had passed Baja Point (named "Cabo del Engaño" by de Ulloa in 1539) and entered "uncharted waters, where no Spanish ships had been before". On 28 September, he landed in what is now San Diego Bay and named it "San Miguel". A little over a week later he reached Santa Catalina Island (7 October), which he named "San Salvador", after his flagship. On sending a boat to the island "a great crowd of armed Indians appeared" — whom, however, they later "befriended". Nearby San Clemente was named "Victoria", in honor of the third ship of the fleet. The next morning, October 8, Cabrillo came to San Pedro Bay, which was named "Baya de los Fumos" (English: Smoke Bay), after the burning chaparral that raised thick clouds of smoke. The following day they anchored overnight in Santa Monica Bay. Going up the coast Cabrillo saw Anacapa Island, which they learned from the Indians was uninhabited. On 18 October the expedition saw Point Conception, which they named "Cabo de Galera". The fleet spent the next week in the northern islands, mostly anchored in Cuyler Harbor, a bay on the northeastern coast of San Miguel Island.
On 13 November, they sighted and named "Cabo de Pinos" (Point Reyes), but missed the entrance to San Francisco Bay, a lapse that mariners would repeat for the next two centuries and more. The expedition reached as far north as theRussian River before autumn storms forced them to turn back. Coming back down the coast, Cabrillo entered Monterey Bay, naming it "Bahia de los Pinos".
On 23 November 1542, the little fleet arrived back in "San Salvador" (Santa Catalina Island) to overwinter and make repairs. There, around Christmas Eve, Cabrillo stepped out of his boat and splintered his shin when he stumbled onto a jagged rock while trying to rescue some of his men from Chumash attack. The injury became infected and developedgangrene, and he died on 3 January 1543 and was buried. A possible headstone was later found on San Miguel Island. His second-in-command brought the remainder of the party back to Navidad, where they arrived 14 April 1543.
A notary's official report of Cabrillo's inconclusive expedition was lost; all that survives is a summary of it made by another investigator, Andrés de Urdaneta, who also had access to ships' logs and charts. No printed account of Cabrillo's voyage appeared before historian Antonio de Herrera's account early in the 17th century.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Dysfunctional US Constitution

I have concluded that after 225 years since the ratification of the Constitution of the United States it has become dysfunctional in it's current state.  While the founding fathers envisioned the need to tweak the supreme law of the land from time to time with the establishment of the ability to amend the document through Article 5, no such modification sufficient to cure the current situation appears to be a viable option.

Technology has now allowed us to consider a more direct form of democracy, instead of the more practical form of representative democracy that has been the law of the land since inception.

I have decided herein to propose an Amendment to the US Constitution which could solve many of these problems.

1.  Establishment of a national ID.  Each individual that is a current citizen or resident should be issued a unique identification number, and then when new persons are born or immigrate to the US they should be issued such an identification number.  This number must be implemented in such a way as to distinguish between citizens and residents, including age and zip code of residency.  There should be an official mechanism developed to allow for the modification of the information associated with these ID numbers for when the factual information changes.  Further, the ID should be developed in such a way that it may be used as a certain identifier on computer systems such that we will have certainty that an individual's communications are identified and verified.

2. Reduction in the powers of the legislative branch of the United States.  Subsequent to the implementation of the national ID, the legislative branch of the United States, including both the House of Representatives and the Senate will be changed in the following manner:
a. While Senators and Congressmen will continue to be elected in the manner they were elected in the past, they will not have the authority to enact legislation unless two thirds of each body ratifies the proposed legislation.
b. Legislatures may propose legislation so long as 40% of a given house is in accordance.  The filibuster rule will be abolished.
c. If both houses of Congress pass a proposed bill for legislation, then the matter will go before the public for an electronic vote immediately.  If, after two weeks, more than 50% of the respondents vote in favor of the legislation, then that legislation will then pass to the president of the United States for ratification or veto.
d.  If the President vetoes a legislative act that has been passed by the public, then they may override that veto if two thirds of the public vote for such an override.
e. A public petition to put forth legislation will permitted if 100,000 citizens approve of the petition.  In this case the the matter will be handled as though both houses of Congress had proposed the matter and will go before the public for ratification in the usual manner.

Comments, criticism, modifications would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Data Security in the Internet Era

There has been quite an uproar about the revelations this last week that the government has been snooping around our telephone and internet email communications, not to exclude our Tweets, Facebook postings, etc.  I, quite frankly, don't understand what the discomfort is all about.  Did people really think that existence and contents of their internet interactions were private like the letters we send via the US Postal Service?

I hardly store anything on my computer anymore.  I use Google for all my documents and spreadsheets, I use Gmail for storing my emails, and a host of other cloud company services to store anything else I might want to keep.  Hell, I even use PayTrust to store my bills -- I don't even have paper back up of them.  Usually, when I get a paper document that I do want to save, I scan it and file it on one of the services that is most appropriate for the document or image.  For example, in the rare event that I should actually receive a tangible bill for something, like for a delivery of compost for my garden that I paid for with cash, I mail the bill to PayTrust and file it there without paying it again.

Having served as an expert witness in matters involving computers for a number of decades, I have found that the typical non-computer person thinks that once they put something into their computer they think that it is no longer visible to others. Or worse, they think that if they destroy it once it was in their computer, that it is completely gone.  Where do these ideas come from?  This is not the old days where you could stash your old love letters in the attic and know, with a high degree of certainty, that unless someone was rifling around up there in your attic, NO ONE would know neither that they exist nor what they say.

If the government wants to legally get any information that I have had possession of, all they have to do is get a court order to have it produced by one of the firms that is holding my information.  They certainly don't have to rely on me to get the information.  They know that. I know that.  That is why I subconsciously know that any information I put into a tangible form can and will be available should the government ever want to avail itself of that information.

So, given this reality, I ask, why would I memorialize anything that could come back to haunt me?
--not that I have anything to hide that I should be haunted about.

The answer is that unless I am involved in some terrible illegal activity, or that I am trying to hide information about my personal behavior that I do not want others to know, that there is NO reason.

In fact, if I were to own a gun and didn't communicate or document the fact that I owned it, the government would have no way of knowing that I owned it.

Do you think that the government is sitting there with nothing to do on its hands but rifle through the gigabytes of information that I have created looking for juicy tidbits to tell the world about me?
If you do think that, you are very wrong.

In fact, the only thing I can think of that an ordinary citizen might produce that could be of interest to a repressive government would be some subversive political views which are threatening to the government.  For those who think that that is what our government is up to I have only two words to say: You're paranoid.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Monetize Plagiarism

There was an OP-ED opinion, 'How to Monetize Plagiarism' in the New York Times by Joe Nocera that appeared on June 8, 2013.  Upon reading the title, I thought, I would find an interesting OP-ED piece about the flagrant theft of internet original content by plagiarizers, which is rampant on the internet. I thought that Nocera was going to propose a solution for internet plagiarism something like what Apple did for the music industry.  I wanted to comment on this OP-ED piece, but found out that Joe had closed comments on the piece real quickly, as most of the comments were very unfavorable.  So, here goes my response here instead.

Just think what we could do.  We could set up a system whereby anybody could register their content as original, then the system would troll the internet looking for scoffers.  Then, the system would assess a small fee (or any fee that the content owner wanted to collect for his or her original content) on the scoffer. Some of the fee would be used to pay the owner of the content a royalty for its use, and the remainder would be used to support the system and also to pay for the costly litigation to enforce the payment of the fees by the scoffers, or, they would have to face the consequences in a judicial forum.

I'm not sure what the outcome would be. It might result in a lot less plagiarism on the internet. Or, it might result that people would be enticed to use some choice plagiarized content if the fee is not too exorbitant.  Sort of like subcontracting the building of a story or whatever.

I'm not saying that my idea goes without problems that have to be worked out.  What happens if someone, for example, plagiarizes content that was plagiarized from yet another individual?  Who gets the royalty?  Who gets to decide the rules for plagiarizing? Is it plagiarized if proper citation is included, in which case, should the fee be imposed or not, or should it be at a reduced rate?  I'm sure that there are many other problems with my proposal. If you want to chime in with a comment here, be my guest.

However, Nocera chose to use his valuable column to haunt two people who probably have been shamed enough for their crimes against humanity. The two journalists who were caught either fabricating facts or plagiarizing other peoples content in their work.  I am not going to propagate their names or squander my reader's time by repeating their acts or their names.  By the way, I don't even know if fabricating facts is technically considered plagiarism.  I thought that that was called fiction.  If the claim is that it was supposed to be fact, and turned out to be knowingly fiction, then that must have some other term, like lying, or libel, or something like that.

 Joe Nocera need not be told, "People in glass houses should not throw stones." Oh, is that a plagiarized quote? Please get real Joe.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Going the way of the Slide Rule

I suppose that I have known since the early '60s that the engineer's slide rule was iconic. It was the most well identified tool of the engineer.  Slide rules were the Siamese twin of the the engineer "connected at the hip" with their engineering brethren, so to speak, quite literally since they were oftentimes strapped to the belt loop of their owner right at the hip. I even remember way back then that engineers sometimes wore tie clips that were miniature slide rules. How emblematic can you get.

But lately, I have noticed that the slide rule has been raised to the status of an icon outside the field of engineering.  It is now considered the standard to which things are measured as a gauge of their obsolescence by people who probably wouldn't even know how to use one. So, for example, while it is perfectly straightforward nowadays to say that the rotary dialing telephone "has gone the way of the slide rule,"  the speaker of such a comment is probably old enough to remember that slide rules used to be used by engineers and aren't anymore.  Most younger people do not even know what a slide rule is, no less than the fact that they are obsolete.

Obviously, before the early '70s the term had no meaning at all since the slide rule was not obsolete.
So, it would be inappropriate to say,  "the clipper ship has gone the way of the slide rule", since the clipper ship  became obsolete well before the slide rule did.  I suppose that is why I use the tall ship as the lead image on this blog. It predates the obsolescence of the slide rule which I write about so often. It is an anachronism when seen in the context of the high tech world. A counterpoint!

The use of the term, however, is most frequently posed in the form of a question.  Pundits may ponder, "Is the newspaper going the way of the slide rule?" Or, "Is cursive writing going the way of the slide rule?"

Just what was the previous icon for obsolescence used before the slide rule took that title?  And when did that happen?

How many items can you name that fit the definition of "having gone the way of the slide rule"?
I have complied the following list:

the telephone with a cord
a rotary dialing telephone
operating a Dictaphone
taking shorthand
45 rpm records
8 track tapes,
mini cassettes,
the chalkboard
the typewriter
logarithmic tables
silver emulsion film

Here is my list of the items that might be added to the above list in the near future, or, "is the item going the way of the slide rule?":

the printed book
the PC
cursive writing
our signature
the newspaper
spelling skills
the timepiece
a walk in the suburbs
the milk carton (waxy paper kind)
diaper service
defined benefit pension plans
the analog clock
the university lecture
shoelaces and tying bows
being able to make change without a cash register
recess and physical education in grammar school

I have found only one case where the negative form has been stated: "Social media is not going the way of the slide rule."  I find this a very odd statement.  Had someone predicted that social media would go the way of the slide rule?

If you have any good additions to any of my lists here I would really appreciate your commenting upon this post.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Virtual Slide Rule

I don't usually get all excited about virtual slide rules, but this one really got my attention. Worth a visit to see it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

John B Jervis

John Bloomfield Jervis

While I was posting on the  redevelopment of the High Bridge last week, I thought it might be appropriate to do a post on John B. Jervis, the chief engineer for the Croton Aqueduct.  I started poking around on material that I could readily find on him and found two good sources.  The first was at the Rome NY library, which not only houses his archives, but also was bequeathed to the City of Rome along with an endowment by John B. himself. The following biographical information is presented from the Rome Library website with permission:

John B. Jervis (1795-1885) was America's leading consulting engineer of the antebellum era (1820 - 1860). Jervis was a pioneer in the development of canals and railroads for the expanding United States. He designed and supervised the construction of five of America's earliest railroads, was chief engineer of three major canal projects, designed the first locomotive to run in America, designed and built the forty-one mile Croton Aqueduct (New York City's water supply for fifty years: 1842 - 1891), and the Boston Aqueduct. Jervis authored a book on economics, The Question of Labor and Capital (1877); helped found a local industry, the Rome Iron Mills; and, of course, is the founder of Rome's public library.
Jervis House, Rome, NY, post 1925Jervis bequeathed his home and personal library to the city of Rome, New York, to be used as a public library. His personal library is kept intact as a memorial and for research purposes. The papers of John Jervis number in the thousands, and include memoirs, manuscripts of books he authored, scrapbooks, folios and quartos, nearly 600 engineering plans and drawings (some in watercolor), maps, public documents, and countless letters and reports. His library also includes 1,800 monograph volumes on general topics as well as a concentration on applied sciences and civil engineering. Copyrights and dates of publication range from the 1670's through the 1880's.
Jervis began his career in Rome as an Axeman for an Erie Canal survey party in 1817. By 1823 he was superintendent of a fifty-mile section of the Erie Canal. In 1827 he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Delaware and Hudson Canal project. It was John Jervis who suggested that a railroad be incorporated into this project. At this time there were no railroads in America, but Jervis won approval of his idea and even designed the railroad's locomotive, the Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to run in America. In honor of his work on the Delaware and Hudson, Port Jervis, N.Y., is named for him.
First experimental engine to use boogy wheelsIn 1830, as Chief Engineer of the Mohawk & Hudson Railway (the first section of what was later to be the N.Y. Central R. R.), Jervis designed "The Experiment." This was the first locomotive in the world to have a free-swinging, four-wheel front truck, which gave the vehicle greater maneuverability and enabled it to travel at an unprecedented speed of eighty miles per hour. The Jervis design became the standard American design.
The monumental task of building New York City's forty-one mile water-supply system (The Croton Aqueduct) was given to Jervis in 1836. The system included the Croton Dam, the Ossining Bridge, the Harlem River Bridge, the Receiving, Equalizing, and Distributing Reservoirs on Manhattan, as well as the magnificent embankments, tunnels, and arches employed throughout the aqueduct system. (Original illustrations and engravings of these structures are preserved in the Smithsonian Institution and in the Library of Congress). The six-year project employed over 4,000 workers, and when completed, carried seventy-five million gallons daily to New York City.
Plan of centering and abutment Sing-Sing-Kill Bridge (detail)Jervis's other notable contributions include the design and construction of the following: the ninety-eight mile Chenango Canal (1833), the enlargement of the eastern division of the Erie Canal (1834), the Boston water supply project (1846), the Hudson River R. R. (1847-1850), the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana R.R., the Chicago & Rock Island R.R. (1850 - 1858), and he was general Superintendent of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway (1861-64). Again, we must stress that these undertakings were "pioneering" ventures. Jervis's projects were filled with "first" and "untried" engineering principles, and as such, were "schools" for a generation of American civil engineers.
Jervis House, Rome, NY, pre 1925Jervis returned home to Rome in 1864. In 1869 he organized the Merchants Iron Mill, which survives today as the Rome Iron Mill. He spent the remainder of his life writing and in 1877 published a book on economics, The Question of Labor and Capital. Upon his death he bequeathed a large portion of his estate to the city of Rome for a library. His personal library remains as a special collection in Rome's Jervis Library. A Library of Congress representative noted that it is one of the most complete sets of early railroad and canal reports and maps in existence.


I note here that while it is not clear from the material above, John B. Jervis was a self educated man. He did not attend any institution of higher education. According to Lori Chien of the Rome Library,

"He apprenticed with Benjamin Wright on the Erie Canal and learned on the job, and also read widely on his own.  You may be interested in reading these two books about his life:  "The Reminiscences of John B. Jervis, Engineer of the Old  Croton," and "John B. Jervis:  An American Engineering Pioneer" by F. Daniel Larkin. ... Please note that the Jervis papers are open to qualified researchers by appointment only, which needs to be made at least two weeks in advance."

Like many other Enlightened individual of that era like Joseph Priestley, whom I have written about extensively, John Jervis demonstrated that a formal education was not necessarily a requirement for significant scientific and technological contributions. I think that these individuals can teach us much about the human mind and how profound understanding of knowledge can be acquired.

I also note that while Jervis was clearly on the leading edge of Civil Engineering for his day, I find no evidence that he and Edwin Thacher had ever communicated with each other.

I once had the occasion to travel to Ossining NY to buy some specialized paint from a manufacturing facility right across the street from the SingSing Prison (Ossining Correctional Facility).  While there I decided to explore the prison since it was so famous and so many movies made reference to it. I went to the gate and asked the guard if there were tours.  He told me to get lost, but that if I was interested in the prison there was always the Ossining Museum, which had an exhibit on the prison.   I went to the museum and was delighted with the exhibit on the prison and also the exhibit on the Old Croton Aqueduct and John B Jervis. I highly recommend a visit there if you are in the area for both of the exhibits.

Also, since the High Bridge Aqueduct is now being reconstructed, you might find this site of interest:

Monday, January 14, 2013

The High Bridge and Tower in New York City

File:High Bridge jeh.JPG

On January 11, 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg broke ground for the $61 Million redevelopment project on the High Bridge,  New York's oldest bridge spanning the Harlem River onto Manhattan island.  The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.  The High Bridge was part of the Croton Aquaduct System which I wrote about a few days ago.

The High Bridge is now a steel arch bridge, with a height of almost 140 feet over the Harlem River. The eastern end is located in The Bronx, and the western end is located at Highbridge Park, in a section of Manhattan island called Washington Heights.
Although High Bridge has been closed to all traffic since the 1970s, it remains the oldest surviving bridge in New York City although, in fact, most of the current bridge dates from only 1928.

Interior staircase of the High Bridge Water Tower
Originally designed as a stone arch bridge, the High Bridge had the appearance of a Roman aqueduct. Construction on the bridge was started in 1837, and completed in 1848 as part of the Croton Aqueduct, which carried water from the Croton River to supply the  city of New York some 10 miles to the south.  High Bridge has a length of well over 2,000 feet. It was designed by the aqueduct's engineering team, led by John B. Jervis

File:Hudson River High Bridge 1890 view.jpg
High Bridge with Original Pillars (as seen in 1890) viewed from the Bronx toward Manhattan.
The High Bridge Tower can be made out in the distance near the terminus point of the bridge.
The Croton Aqueduct had to cross the Harlem River at some point, and the method was a major design decision. A tunnel under the river was considered, but tunneling technology was in its infancy at the time, and the uncertainty of pursuing this option led to its rejection. Don't forget the problems with building the casons for the Brooklyn Bridge decades later further south on the East River.   A low High Bridge  would have been simpler, faster, and cheaper to construct. When concerns were raised to the New York Legislature that a low bridge would obstruct passage along the Harlem River to the Hudson River, a high bridge was ultimately chosen.
In 1928, in order to improve navigation in the Harlem River, all of the masonry arches of the central part of the bridge that spanned the river were demolished and replaced with a single steel arch of about 450 feet. Of the masonry arches of the original 1848 bridge, only one survives on the Manhattan side, while ten survive on the Bronx side.
Officials were thinking of closing the bridge in the mid 1960s due to disrepair, then in 1970 a pedestrian threw a rock from the bridge onto a tour boat, and the bridge was closed.  On January 11, 2013 the mayor's office announced the bridge would reopen for pedestrian traffic by 2014. 

Three Harlem River bridges: High Bridge (showing the steel arch that replaced the original masonry spans), nearest; Alexander Hamilton Bridge (part of I-95); and the Washington Bridge, farthest. Washington Heights is left and the Bronx on right)

From the Bronx
The High Bridge was part of the first reliable and plentiful water supply system in New York City. As the City was devastated by cholera (1832) and the Great Fire in 1835, the inadequacy of the water system of wells-and-cisterns became apparent. Numerous corrective measures were examined. In the final analysis only the Croton River, located in northern Westchester County was found to be sufficient in quantity and quality to serve the needs of the City. The delivery system was begun in 1837, and was completed in 1848.
The Old Croton Aqueduct was the first of its kind ever constructed in the United States. The innovative system used a gravity feed, dropping 13 inches  per mile and running 41 miles into New York City through an enclosed masonry structure crossing ridges, valleys, and rivers. University Avenue in The Bronx was later built over the southernmost mainland portion of the aqueduct, leading to the bridge. The High Bridge soars 138 feet above the 620-foot wide Harlem River, with a total length of 1,450 feet. The bridge was designed with a pedestrian walkway atop the Aqueduct and was not used for vehicular traffic. Though the carrying capacity was enlarged in 1861-62 with a larger tube, the bridge, obsolete due to opening of the New Croton Aqueduct, ceased to carry water in 1917. In the 1920s the bridge's masonry arches were declared a hazard to ship navigation by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the City considered demolishing the entire structure. Local organizations called to preserve the historic bridge, and in 1927 five of the original arches across the river were replaced by a single steel span, the remaining arches were retained.

Exploring How the Mind Acquires Information

I ran across the following tidbits:

I met George Fuller.  He worked for his father in a
a furniture factory.  George was trying to sell me the
the sofa that was made in their factory.


Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.  The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.  Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Do you have any other examples to show how the mind works a little differntly than you might have originally thought?

If you did not notice in the first paragraph above, please note the repetition of the words at the end of each line and the beginning of the next line. Most people will read this without noticing.

I am dyslexic. I have trouble distinguishing between certain letters. For example, "p" and "b" are very confusing for me, as in "pig" and "big".  Or, between "b" and "d" like in "big" and "dig". It is interesting that I don't confuse "pig" and "dig". I have confused "dog" and "god".  What is surprising to me above with the paragraph about the research at Cambridge University is that I have no trouble reading that paragraph, so why do I have trouble with the words I cited above? I will have to do some research on this point.

Since I am dyslexic, I cannot read very fast.  I think the best I can do is about 100 words a minute.  
I describe it this way.  It takes me a little extra effort to get the information from the page into my brain, but, once I get it in there, I do not have any problem processing it.

I have auditory dyslexia also,  This means that when someone tells me their phone number, I cannot process that information fast enough to get it into my brain. Consequently, I cannot repeat it. It is lost - forever.  Perhaps this is why, when it comes to mathematics, I have no difficulty whatsoever manipulating complex mathematical formulas in my head -- once I have assimilated the formula, that is.

I think that I have a better feel for symmetry than most people. I think it is because of the symmetric dyslexia.  You know "p" and "b" and the like.

I would be very interested to hear from others who suffer from dyslexia. I have not spent much time dwelling on this in my life. I have not discussed it much with others.  The only consequence that has impacted me is that when I was very young I did have difficulty reading and I was left back from 3rd grade to 2nd grade and I didn't perform well when reading any quantity of text was involved.
My way out was through mathematics.  I seemed to have no difficulty with it whatsoever.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Huell Howser - Noted California Explorer

Article Tab: In this March 31, 2005, file photo provided by the Howser production company via KCET, television host Huell Howser poses for a photo at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancster, Calif. Howser, the homespun host of public television's popular California's Gold travelogues, has died at age 67. Howser died at his home Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, from natural causes, said Ayn Allen, corporate communications manager for KCET.
Photo provided by Howser Production Company

It is with great sadness that this blog reports the passing of Huell Howser (October 18, 1945 – January 7, 2013).  Huell, most noted for his explorations and ramblings through California, became famous recording the geography, culture, and history of the Golden State in his PBS TV show "California's Gold" from 1994 through 2012. Huell was a unique character who was a native of Gallatin, Tennessee who thrived in his adopted state of California with his love of everything Californian.

For more information on Huell Howser please see his Wikipedia entry.

Farewell fellow traveller and discoverer. We will miss you.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Developments on the Croton Aqueduct

File:High Bridge, New York City, 1900.jpg
Courtesy Library of Congress
High Bridge Aquaduct circa 1900 as seen from University Ave in the Bronx
looking toward Manhattan and the High Bridge Tower
An engineering marvel of its time, the Old Croton Aqueduct was a water delivery and distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842.  It was a gravity fed system 41 miles in length from the Croton River in Westchester County to the reservoirs and water distribution systems on the island of Manhattan in New York City.  Significant components of this original system are still in place and in use today, approaching 200 years later.
Today, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg on hand, New York City broke ground on a $61 million project for the restoration of the High Bridge, a non functioning aquaduct bridge that spans the Harlem River.  High Bridge is the oldest remaining bridge in New York City and while it stopped carrying water to Manhattan as part of the Croton Aquaduct system in 1917, it was closed for public use around 1970 for pedestrians and cyclists from the Highbridge section of the Bronx to the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.  The new development project, when completed, will reopen the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists and is expected to be completed in 2014.

I lived immediately adjacent to the High Bridge Aquaduct and the accompanying Tower that was used as a vent to allow the water to go down into the water system back in the 1940s.  It was a different era then.

The history of the Croton Aquaduct is very interesting.  An aquaduct was necessitated in the early 19th century because the existing water supply for the city had become polluted and inadequate for the need of the city.   Manhattan had a very limited supply of fresh water available since it is completely surrounded by brackish rivers.  Before the aqueduct was constructed, residents of New York City obtained water from cisterns, wells, natural springs, and other bodies of water. 

The unsanitary conditions that arose before the existence of the aquaduct caused an increase in disease. Epidemics ravaged the city as a result of the polluted aquifer, overcrowded housing, the lack of sewers, public ignorance of basic sanitary conditions, and the existence of polluting industries near wells and residential areas. These conditions contributed to an unprecedented mortality rate of 2.6% in 1830. In addition, the rapid expansion in densely packed wooden buildings, combined with a lack of an adequate water supply, led to many fires, culminating in the 1835 Great Fire of New York, which destroyed large parts of the city.

The need for a new supply of fresh water was crucial and in 1837 construction began on a massive engineering project. supervised by Chief Engineer John B. Jervis, to divert it from sources upstate. The Croton River was dammed, aqueducts were built, tunnels dug, piping laid and reservoirs created. Iron piping encased in brick masonry was laid from the Croton Dam in northern Westchester County to the Harlem River, where it continued over the High Bridge at 173rd Street and down the west side of Manhattan and finally into a Receiving Reservoir located between 79th and86th streets and Sixth and Seventh Avenues that is now the site of the Great Lawn and Turtle pond in Central Park.  The Receiving Reservoir was rectangular tank within fortress-like rusticated retaining walls, 1,826 feet by  836 feet; it held up to 180,000,000 gallons of water. 35,000,000 gallons flowed into it daily from northern Westchester.
From the Receiving Reservoir water flowed down to the Distributing Reservoir, better known simply as the Croton Reservoir, a similar fortification located on Fifth Avenue between 40th Street and 42nd Street, where the main branch of the New York Public Library and Bryant Park are located today. This reservoir was built to resemble ancient Egyptian architecture. 
The Aqueduct opened to public use with great fanfare on October 14, 1842. The day-long celebration culminated in a fountain of water that spouted to a height of fifty feet from the beautifully decorated cast-iron Croton Fountain in City Hall Park. Among those present were then-President of the United States John Tyler, former presidents John Quincy Adams and Martin van Buren, and Governor of New York William H. Seward.  
Water started flowing through the aqueduct on June 22, 1842, taking 22 hours for gravity to take the water the 41 miles to reach Manhattan.  Even though only 6,175 houses had been connected to the system by 1844, the Croton water had already dramatically improved both domestic hygiene and interior design. Baths and running water were being built in the private homes of wealthy New Yorkers and public bathing facilities were created for the masses. The water system had another inadvertent consequence. The decline in the number of residents drawing water from the city's wells resulted in a rise in the water table which flooded many cellars. To address this problem, the city built sewers in many residential streets. By 1852, 148 miles of sewers had already been constructed.
Despite its size, the capacity of the Old Croton Aqueduct could not keep up with the growth of New York City, and construction on a New Croton Aqueduct began in 1885 a few miles east. The new aqueduct, buried much deeper than the old one, went into service in 1890, with three times the capacity of the Old Croton Aqueduct. It currently supplies ten percent of New York City's water. The Croton Receiving Reservoir continued to supply New York City with drinking water until 1940, when Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Robert Moses ordered it drained and filled to create the Great Lawn in Central Park. The old aqueduct remained in service until 1955; in 1987 the most northern portion was re-opened to provide water to Ossining.