Ran across this early today and found it interesting.

I’ve commented often on how much knowledge has been lost as we have become more and more insulated from nature by our technology and our history. We’ve lost many of the skills that would allow us to survive and prosper without that advanced technology.

Yet knowledge of the skills themselves is not the only thing lost. We’ve also lost words and vocabulary which was used in relation to those skills. This is a good example…

Tath – dung of cattle and sheep allowed to remain on the field on which they have been pastured, so as to improve the fertility of the land.

The concept is something most of us who garden or grow food know about in general terms but I suspect most did not know there was a specific word for it. Most of us don’t keep sheep or cattle and if we do we don’t specifically use them to improve the fertility of fields except perhaps for some folks using organic techniques.

I wonder how many other other words like that have been lost as our knowledge of skills and older technology has faded?

The Librarian




Seems, as with many things, there is a good reason our grandparents and their parents did thing a particular way.

The fact that we didn’t know why doesn’t change anything. A lot of modern folks have this smug attitude that they are so much smarter than their parents, grandparents and certainly their earlier antecedents.

Guess what? You aren’t. In fact you probably know less about the real world than they did.

I asked about half the people in my office why barns are painted red and only one came close. She said it was because long ago red paint was cheap. She didn’t know WHY it was cheap but figured that must be the reason.

So there’s little article below that I ran across this morning on what barns are painted red. Enjoy.

The Librarian


People today forget that diseases like Cholera once devastated communities in entire areas of the world in the 1700-1800s.

It’s passed primarily by drinking untreated water. Since it could infect local water supplies it hit most often in areas with significant populations which shared a common water source.

By the late 1800s and into the 1900s sanitary, treated water supplies became the norm in most of the Western world and by the mid 1900s when antibiotics became widely available it was virtually eradicated in most parts of the world.

It’s something keep in mind and of which to be aware when you consider the requirements of rebuilding a community and reach a point of growing population all sharing a common water supply. That is when it is most likely to strike and have the most devastating effect on a community.

In a world rebuilding and with limited medical facilities a disease like Cholera could virtually wipe out a new community which overlooks or neglects water supply treatment.

The Librarian

Only for the Little People

In light of yesterday’s announcement that “Laws are only for the Little People” I felt I needed to post this article which sums up the state of the relationship between the United States Government and the People. It’s a sad, sad day for the country and our Republic.

The Librarian–not-respect-not-loyalty-not-obedience-n2186865


An interesting article on the Vintage News site. Apparently the Germans, towards the end of WWII, were working on a coal fueled ramjet for use as a fighter. The coal fuel system was an attempt to get around the increasing fuel shortages they were facing at that time.

Was most intriguing is that the basic engine system was actually built and tested before the end of the war.

So there you have it. Steampunk truly does exist. There is, in fact, such a thing as a coal powered rocket (ramjet anyway).

The Librarian


There’s an old saying which I think comes from Mark Twain which says:

Never ascribe to conspiracy what can be explained by simple incompetence.

When I read the latest article about EMP preparations (or rather lack of preparations) by the U.S. government that saying comes to mind. Except it comes to mind in the sense that even the worst kind of incompetence can no longer explain the government response to the EMP threat.

After almost a decade of information from various commissions, scientific reports, congressional testimony and open discussion in international military journals of the continued development of nuclear EMP weapons by our enemies the response by Homeland Security is….

…to undertake another study of the issue to be completed sometime next year.

If the people in our government are truly that incompetent then God help us because surely no help will be coming from the government and at that level of incompetence any help they tried to provide would probably just make the situation worse.

The Librarian.


Interestingly enough there were actually “hackers” in the Victorian Era. Each year in our time there is a Black Hat conference where the best hackers get together to compare skills and discuss techniques. The Victorian Era had something similar.

It appears there were Locksmithing competitions in the Victorian Era with all of the drama, intrigue and scandal that accompanies modern hacking.

It’s fascinating reading and an interesting glimpse into a long gone era that shows that human nature hasn’t really changed much in a hundred years or so.

The Librarian




Read an interesting tidbit yesterday related to Lime and Whitewash.

Whitewash, in it’s most basic form, is a simple mixture of lime and water. It was used as a paint and protectant for generations around the world. Whitewash was really more a of a side product of the production of lime for agricultural use.

Lime has been used around the world to reduce the acidity of soil and to boost crop yields. The burning of limestone produces caustic quicklime or calcium oxide which is combined with water to produce calcium hydroxide which is the more common “lime” used in agriculture, whitewash and many other fields.

Many people remember reading the scenes in Tom Sawyer about whitewashing the fence and the image of people applying whitewash to buildings and barns is one of the most ubiquitous images from the 1800s.

What is less commonly known is that whitewash once dry retains sufficient alkalinity to have a fairly effective antiseptic effect.

I suspect it was simply that folks noticed that people who whitewashed their homes and barns experienced less illness among their livestock and family members since whitewash was in use long before germ theory became common knowledge.

People in earlier generations may not have had the depth of scientific knowledge that we believe we have today but they were keen observers of the world around them and often made quite astute connections between cause and effect. They may not have understood the underlying mechanisms involved but were adept at understanding that when you do X then Y occurs.

Regardless of the reasons it seems that once again our ancestors, perhaps through luck or more likely through astute observation of the world around them, discovered a method of decreasing illness and maintaining more sanitary conditions for both themselves and their farm animals.

So when you think of whitewash as a way to make things look nice and clean realize that it actually did make things cleaner and had more health significance than we might have thought.

The Librarian


There is a classic SciFi movie from the 30s called Things to Come based on an H.G. Wells story. The title came to mind after reading the latest Shakespearean tragedy coming out of Venezuela.

It’s reached the point in that country where the doctors are resorting to stealing food from their own hospitals in order to feed their families and that children are now starting to die from starvation.

Something someone said recently struck me though and that was when an individual I know said that if we ever did have a collapse here in the U.S. it would more a matter of just holding out until relief came than having to plan for long term survival.

I wonder how many people in Venezuela are thinking that any time now relief will come. help will appear. Aid convoys will come rolling into town with food and water and generators and fuel and medicine…. any time now…. real soon… any minute. I wonder how many still think that?

The world unfortunately doesn’t appear to actually see the situation in Venezuela as a humanitarian crisis. It is simply politics as usual. When it comes right down to it Venezuela is actually in better shape than many countries in the world.

They are only starting to see children starving. In many countries that is the norm and has been for a long, long time. While it may not be reliable they do have a functional electrical grid, something that many countries do not. They have police even if they are used more to harass those who dissent against the enlightened government than to protect the citizens. They have roads and cities and all of the remaining infrastructure of a civilized industrial world even if it is decaying around them. And of course they do have abundant natural resources which used to provide a fairly high standard of living and might again one day.

Which begs the question why would anyone in any industrial country expect aid to flow to them or even more absurdly expect the government that created the situation to accept the aid? Accepting aid would be a tacit admission that the government was completely incompetent… something that the citizens of most countries know about their governments but that governments are institutionally incapable of grasping. But then… if they could grasp that fact perhaps they would not be so incompetent.

Keep that in mind the next time someone talks about just needing to get by until help comes in the event of a collapse or an EMP attack, a cyber attack, a civil war or some other catastrophic event.

The Librarian