Bit spooky this one is…

There was a massive flare yesterday (July 23) which occurred fortunately on the far side of the sun. Guesses are that it was an X-Class flare but since it was only partially observed and can’t really be measured it’s merely a guess.

Reports are that it will hit Mars but, being on the Sun’s farside, will of course miss the Earth.

It’s a bit spooky that it occurred on the 5th anniversary of the 2012 flare which many scientists think was a large as and potentially as destructive as the Carrington Event. There is a lot of discussion that if the 2012 flare had hit the Earth instead of just missing it we would be 5 years into trying to rebuild the world.

Below is a link to a NASA article about the 2012 flare.

Oh and the sunspot that produced yesterday’s flare will be moving around the sun to face the Earth in the first part of August.

The Librarian


Someone made a comment the other day that at least we could rest easy for a while since the sun is getting more and more quiet as it progresses towards the solar minimum in 2019.

The fact of which he wasn’t aware is that the Carrington event in 1859 took place during a weak cycle.

Below are links to a couple articles on the issue. The first a a recent story and the second an older one that talks about solar activity during weak cycles and minimims.

The takeaway is don’t be complacent.

The Librarian


I got the Corn Category added today. It’s listed as Farming-Corn. I also renamed the Potato… Category as Farming-Potato…. Makes more sense to list closely related Categories together.

It’s similar to the Potato Category in that it’s books about how to grow Corn. Corn is pretty much a staple in large parts of the country so it’s fairly important to be able to grow it using techniques that would be available after a loss of modern technology.

Among the collection are several books apparently published by International Harvester which have detailed illustrations of a wide range of harvesting and planting equipment. In some of them there are even detailed illustrations of the interior and working parts of much of this equipment.

In another book there are detailed drawings and measurements of various harvesters and planters and milling equipment.

Looking at them with a mechanic’s and tinkerer’s eye I’d say there is sufficient information there that a competent mechanic would have a very good chance of being able to build working copies of these machines.

Another set is the 4 volumes of History of Corn Milling which provides a detailed history of corn milling techniques and technology from the stone age up though the 1890s. Useful if one has to build a mill using older technology and even information on the more primitive techniques until you are able to build more advanced mills.

Since native Americans were growing corn/maize long before the Europeans brought mechanical techniques with them corn, like potatoes, is a crop that can be grown pretty much anywhere the climate and soil allows.

Along with potatoes, corn would be a major crop for folks rebuilding an agricultural infrastructure.

The Librarian


Happened across a new link to the 2010 FEMA study of the impact of a Carrington level event on the U.S.

Upon rereading it one part that I had really sort of glossed over the previous times I read it sort of jumped out at me.

FEMA says that if the government funds a dedicated communications line (and possibly even with existing infrastructure) the good news is that there is a realistic chance that all or most of the FEMA office can continue to communicate with each other.

No they can’t actually help anyone.

No they can’t actually do anything that would lower the death toll.

No they can’t do anything to fix anything afterwards.

But hey… they will still be able to communicate with each other. So while you are running out of food and water, trying to stay warm if it’s winter, trying to keep what little you have from those who want to take it you can console yourself that the folks at FEMA will still be bale to distribute memos to one another, inform field offices of awards to employees for their outstanding work and promote those who have shown outstanding leadership qualities and possibly even commission a study of the aftermath of a Carrington level event on the U.S.

Just makes you feel all warm and proud doesn’t it?

There’s a link to the report up top. It’s worth reading if you haven’t already. Even if you have read it in the past it’s worth a few minutes to reread. The kafkaesque quality of it when describing the effects of such an event can produce a moment of truly stunning cognitive dissonance comparable to the finest drug experience available in Colorado or Copenhagen.

The Librarian


The threat of a solar flare destroying the power grid and most electronic technology is one the government recognizes, based on their own studies, as capable of killing 90% or more of the population.

The threat of Nuclear EMP attacks by rogue nations is deemed to be of sufficient gravity that diplomatic and military action is being discussed and contingency plans exist to disarm potentially rogue nuclear powers.

As if those are not enough to threaten the continued existence of industrialized civilization we now have member nations of that industrialized civilization developing cyber weapons to accomplish the same thing.

I wonder if the concept of deterrence applies to cyber weapons?

Nuclear weapons are difficult and incredibly expensive to produce. The sheer scale of the effort makes it almost impossible for anyone without a massive amount of money and the time to develop both the physical and the human infrastructure needed. Unlike most technology nuclear development isn’t something you can do in mom’s basement with a computer and an internet connection. Twinkies and Dr. Pepper did not fuel the Manhattan Project. Massive amounts of money and human research and development did.

Cyber weapons, on the other hand, can be produced in mom’s basement on a computer with an internet connection.

So we have one nation which is developing or has already developed a cyber weapon capable of taking down a power grid or at least large portions of it. Does anyone think that the U.S., the Europeans, the Indians, the Pakistanis, etc., etc. are not also developing or have already developed comparable weapons? You also have to wonder if some of the less “civilized” nations, now knowing that it is possible, aren’t also working on developing such weapons?

A nuclear weapon is a physical, tangible, heavy and bulky object which can be stored and guarded against someone taking possession of it and using it.

A cyber weapon however is simply a pattern of digital 1s and 0s stored on a hard disk somewhere. It can’t be physically guarded. It can’t be stored in a secure bunker in a remote area under constant monitoring and surveillance.

The leaking of NSA cyber weapons used in surveillance suggests that all it takes is one individual with a flash drive getting access to the wrong computer at the wrong time to steal such a weapon. From recent events in the U.S. and elsewhere it’s fairly clear that security clearance vetting of individuals with access to the deepest and most secret material leaves something to be desired.

A nuclear weapon is simply not practical for an individual or even a small group to seize and use despite what Hollywood would have us believe. A Cyber Weapon only needs one person and a cheap flash drive.

With the so called “civilized” world developing cyber weapons capable of killing off so many people, essentially destroying entire nations and, if spread, of destroying entire civilizations you have to wonder if perhaps we’ve entered a period of vulnerability where the question is not IF an individual could decide to end industrialized society but WHEN one will?

Maybe we’ll eventually reach a point where technology develops past the current reliance on circuits and devices that are susceptible to the effects of an EMP field or are perhaps decentralized to the point that a single attack cannot affect multiple systems.

In a TV series called Battlestar Galactica the humans were at war with an robotic species called the Cylons. One of the features of their ship, the Galactica, was that they used older analog technology for virtually all ship control functions because the Cylons were capable of infiltrating and infecting computer networks thus seizing control of them.

A computer game I played a few years ago placed it’s climactic scenario on a sophisticated aircraft carrier whose computer control network was compromised by a terrorist who was then able to neutralize the ships defenses and actually turn some of it’s systems against it’s crew.

Sci-Fi is rapidly becoming a reality and the books, movies and games in which this particular scenario features are not ones in which you’d want to be a character.

The Librarian

p.s. Should have some library updates added later this week. Been snowed under at work and home with summer chores but am slowly catching up.


A new article in American Thinker is again highlighting the danger of our vulnerable power grid…

Many of you remember the incident back in 2013 when someone shot at a power substation in California which was damaged and had to be taken offline for repairs. They were able to maintain power in the area by increasing the power output of other plants but the sobering factor was that it took almost a month to repair the damaged substation.

A single substation… 27 days to repair and return to operation. It’s not hard to imagine what would happen if all of the local substation in that areas went down. It’s probably better not to try to imagine if ALL the power substations in the country went down along with the plants feeding them.

It is interesting that the article also points out that the Naval Academy resumed teaching celestial navigation in 2015 after it had been abandoned back in the mid 90s. (link in the article) At least someone recognized that relying on computers and advanced technology with no backup is probably not the most prudent course of action when you are responsible for a multi-billion dollar naval task force.

It seems that awareness is beginning to spread among even some of the more mainstream media about the consequences of an EMP even whether solar or nuclear.

Will that awareness result in any actual concrete action? Your guess is as good as mine but with the American political system seemingly bent on self-destruction I’m not hopeful.

In the meantime I’m going to continue collecting books about surviving and prospering in a world without a power grid.

Speaking of potatoes (which I wasn’t but who cares since I recently posted that category) I’ve been trying various planting and growing techniques in the sandy soil we have here in coastal NC a couple miles from the shoreline. We had tilled an area then limed and fertilized it heavily before planting potatoes. They appeared to be doing quite well and we added some sweet potatoes to try those out as well.

Until the deer… or perhaps rabbits. We’re not sure. Probably going to put the trail cam out there this evening to see which it was. The potatoes plants are still there but a bit the worse for wear. Most of the leaves gone and I’m not sure if they’ll recover. We have a rabbit fence around the strawberry bed and the deer haven’t bothered them.

Some folks who don’t garden worry about having to raise your own food should it become necessary. The ones who think they’ll just put their collection of survival seeds in the ground then sit back on the porch and wait for a bountiful harvest probably won’t survive the first winter anyway so enough said about them.

But gardening is a lot of work and takes a substantial investment of time if you’re doing it as a source of food. Most folks don’t have the time and energy for gardening on a scale that will actually supplement their food supply. It’s just too easy to run to the grocery store and buy 20 lbs of potatoes.

But there is a compromise that can serve you well.

Think in terms of small scale gardening not as a supplement to your food supply but simply as a way to practice growing food and to learn the skill. If you play golf or tennis or any other sport you’re not competing as a professional. Your life doesn’t depend on it but every time you play you are learning a little more, honing your skill and, if nothing else, learning what you don’t know or what areas you need to improve.

The same applies to gardening. Do it on a small scale but do it. Even if you only plant 2-3 potato or cabbage plants, a square foot of carrots, maybe a couple of bean plants… plant something and try to grow it so that it produces something you can eat. And do it every summer. Try different foods, different techniques… That way if the time ever comes when you do have to grow food in order to avoid starvation you will have some rudimentary idea of what you’re doing and some practical experience. You’ll at least know what you don’t know and need to learn. Then when you pick up a book on growing food or farming you’ll have a context in which to fit the knowledge.

The idea is not to become self-sufficient in food production (though some people would like to achieve that goal) but to build enough knowledge and some confidence that should it become necessary that you have at least a running chance at doing so.

The Librarian


Thanks to Charles who found some of the missing Encyclopedia Americana volumes and sent me links to them.

I’ve pulled them down and will get them cleaned up and checked and added to the Encyclopedia Category this week.

And a thanks to Jesse who found a copy of the 1914 translation of Vitruvius-The Ten Books of Architecture.

That will also be added later this week.

The Librarian


I sometimes find myself missing the old Cold War days when Nuclear Deterrence was based upon the concept that since both sides were rational a nuclear war was unlikely.

This is one of many stories I’ve seen recently about the potential threat of a North Korean EMP attack on the United States.

It was many years ago when I first began to understand the potential consequences and long rang ramifications of an EMP event from my exposure to government studies and Defense Department briefings on the threat of an EMP in the event of a war.

It’s funny but I pretty much assumed that the most likely source of an EMp event was a solar flare. I thought that no matter how tense relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. became that both side would hold onto their sanity and find a way to work out their conflict short of nuclear war. The Cuban Missile Crisis which took us to the brink of open conflict still ended in a diplomatic agreement. With both sides understanding just how close the world came to nuclear conflict it was even less likely that such an event would ever occur.

However that was before nuclear weapons began to proliferate. As technology advanced in the field of computers and all other electronics fields the fabrication of nuclear weapons was no longer something that only the richest and most industrially advanced nations could pursue.

We’ve now reached the point where even third world countries that can’t even feed their own population such as North Korea, countries in the hands of pretty barbaric theocracies like Iran or failed states like Pakistan where the government doesn’t even exercise control over significant areas within their own purported borders all either have or are very close to having nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles which can loft them the 100 miles or so required for an EMP attack.

During the Cold War which went on most of my life, say what you will about the Soviet Union, they were still rational beings who wanted to survive as much as we did so that each sides nuclear capability provided a strong deterrence to extreme action. Even the most callous Soviet or American proponent of war had to hesitate at the likelihood of the almost complete destruction of their own county.

Now however we appear to be living in a world where the leaders of some countries with nuclear weapons or close to having nuclear weapons are either ideologically or religiously prepared to sacrifice themselves and their entire country to get their way. It’s like dealing with petulant 2 year olds with nuclear weapons.

So perhaps these days a Solar EMP is the least likely source for an EMP event.

I have serious doubts as to whether North Korea is actually capable of a successful EMP attack on the U.S. or that they would succeed if they did make such an attempt. But they only have to succeed one time.

That doubt, however, is not going to stop me from maybe topping off a few fuel cans, perhaps adding a few more items to the emergency food supply and spending a little more time on the most recent book I’m printing and binding for the shelf.

The Librarian


I remember reading this information many years ago but just ran across a reference to it today and thought it was worth posting as reminder to all of us just how easy it is to actually “lose” technology.

For several centuries the Western World tried to solve the mystery of “Damascus” steel, that hard, tough steel used to manufacture swords first encountered in the Middle East that were far superior to swords made in the West. Even well up into the 1900s Damascus steel remained a mystery that frustrated metallurgists worldwide.

Lo and behold the mystery was solved late in the 1900s when it was finally figured out that Damascus steel was actually what was known as Wootz steel that had been made India since well back in the first Millennium around 400 AD and was still being produced into the mid 1800s. However significant export of it to the Middle East had ended well before then and the connection between the Middle Eastern Damascus steel and the Indian source of the metal was lost.

The “secret” if you want to call it that was simply making a high carbon crucible steel (an early method of smelting) by fabricating it at extremely high temperatures and then cooling it slowly. The steel was then sold to Middle Eastern smiths who made weapons out of it since it held such a sharp edge and most importantly could be forged at low temperatures.

So the technique of making a steel that was produced for myriad centuries in India using what today would be considered primitive almost crude methods going back almost 2000 years was lost in history.

Eventually the connection between the Indian source of the steel and it’s Middle Eastern users was rediscovered and the entire story pieced together. As a result a 1600 year old techynology has been “re-discovered” after being lost for centuries.

You can go on youtube today, enter the term “Damascus Steel” and find dozens of videos demonstrating how to make it yourself from scrap steel.

While Damascus steel has been eclipsed by some of the more modern steels it still retains a place among custom knife makers and hobbyists. It is an interesting and surprising simple metal to fabricate using non-sophisticated methods.

When you glance through some of the books in the Library on other subject you have to wonder how much other technology we’re losing .

The Librarian


I finally got around to cleaning out the Individual Additions page and got all of the books listed in it moved to the appropriate categories.

I wanted to get it cleaned out since I’ve started making good progress again on getting some of the material I’ve collected cleaned up a bit, cataloged and readied to add to the Library.

A good bit of it is material to add to either new categories or existing ones. I have a Corn section that’s pretty well along and should be added before too much longer. I also have a few new encyclopedias to add to that category.

The books that will be added to existing categories will be posted in the Individual Additions page first so they can be selectively downloaded and not have to be sought out within their respective category pages.

I suppose I could mark them in the category pages as new additions but that would be a nightmare trying to track each one in each category and keep it organized since the organization process is more manual than automated.

I maintain all of the book Names, Filenames and Sizes in Excel with each category in a separate tabs. That worked fine when I started but it’s grown into a very large spreadsheet and has becoming cumbersome to maintain. It’s also a manual cut and paste process to move individual books to the separate categories in alphabetical order and recreate the index for that category.

I’m using some convenient plugins that let me just upload the html for each index into tables which can simply be referenced by number in the index pages.

What I really need to do is to move all of the data into an SQL or MySQL database then build the PHP code to generate each index page dynamically as needed.

But every time I look at that and it comes down to a choice between spending the time I have available making a nice clean, elegant database system with dynamic pages for the site or searching for more books, cleaning them up and getting them added the latter always wins out. Maybe someday when and if I retire I’ll tackle the database solution.

Until then I’ll just keep putting new stuff for existing categories into the Individual Additions page and leaving it there until I’m forced to clean it out again.

The Librarian.