The Art of Book Design: Easy Guide to the Constellations

Today’s book comes from Anne, Cranky Cat Lady and it’s absolutely charming. I’m pretty sure it’s a rare first edition and it looks to be in good shape for a book that’s 119 years old.

James Gall. An Easy Guide to The Constellations With A Miniature Atlas of The Stars. Gall and Inglis, London, 1900.

Jack’s Walk

Part of the floodplain at our park. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Can anyone tell me what the man in these photos is doing? Jack and I encountered him at our local park yesterday. He was slowly walking from one side of the creek to the other along a measuring tape laid out between the banks. He would move a step or two and stop, then fiddle with his machine and look up to the sky for a while and then fiddle with his machine again until he was satisfied with something and then he’d take another step or two and repeat the process. At the rate he was moving it would take him an hour or more to cross our wee creek. I suspect it’s related to the flooding you can see in the first photo. Two years ago they removed the concrete barriers lining the creek and naturalized the banks. It was an all summer long project and it was quite picturesque when completed. Since then, though, the area around the creek floods easily and essentially makes large areas of the park unusable.

I would have stopped to ask him what he was doing, but the children in the photo were tossing stones into the creek that kept landing close to the poor man and the 2 adults in their group let several minutes pass before stopping the action. I thought the fellow

really didn’t need anyone else annoying him. Also, I didn’t want Jack to go into the creek because the last time he did he came out smelling like a sewer. We watched for a while and finally came home with my curiosity piqued, but not satisfied. If you have a clue or a notion about this endeavor I’d sure appreciate it if you’d share.

That’s curious.©voyager, all rights reserved

 

Very curious. ©voyager, all rights reserved

What’s he looking for up there? ©voyager, all rights reserved

Tree Tuesday

One of our readers has recently moved back to Canada from Mexico and they’re missing the blooming of their favourite tree, the Royal Poinciana also known as the Flamboyant Tree. It’s easy to see why the these trees would be missed. Many people consider the Royal Poinciana to be the most beautiful flowering tree in the world. Native to Madagascar the trees were introduced to Mexico in the 19th century and quickly came to be loved.

In Yucatan, these beautiful flowering trees became favorite ornamental trees to grow near Mayan huts, villages, urban avenues and parks.  Its orchid shaped deep orange-red flowers are truly exquisite, one petal is different from the rest with light tone and deep shades of orange magenta spot; flowers grow in clusters, blooms in May and summer the Flamboyan trees are fully covered with flowers without their pinnae leaflets (foliage). Flamboyan seeds grow in large “machete like” hard pods.

Mexico is only one of many warm climates where the Flamboyant tree has prospered. According to Wikimedia the Royal Poinciana is now successfully cultivated worldwide in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

The blooming of the royal poinciana is certainly an event to be celebrated as its flowers are large, bright and plentiful.

The flowers of the royal poinciana are large and normally a shade of yellow, orange, or bright red. Each flower has four spreading petals that measure up to 3 inches (about 8 cm) in length and a fifth petal called the standard that is upright and a little bigger than the other petals. The standard is distinctive because of its white and yellow spots. Another common name of the royal poinciana is peacock flower because the physical appearance of the flowers is similar to that of a peacock with its feathers up.

Because of its size and wide umbrella shape the royal poinciana is an excellent shade tree and is beloved wherever it grows. There is also research being done that shows the plant has much more to offer than just beauty and shade. Studies have found anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties along with an ability to increase wound healing and aid in glucose tolerance in diabetic mice. If you’re interested, the article linked below at the Liliana Usvat blog also offers information on the propagation of the tree and the current research studies being done on the plant.

via – Liliana Usvat – Reforestation and Medicinal use of the trees

Tree Tuesday

©voyager, all rights reserved

The effects of human-caused increased greenhouse gases were predicted as early as the turn of the 20th Century and according to the Ivan Semeniuk of the Canadian Globe and Mail a NASA study of tree rings from the last 120 years is helping to prove out this theory.

In 1896, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius made a prescient calculation that showed the vast quantities of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning coal and other fossil fuels would eventually cause the planet to get warmer.

Little did he realize that the effect he described was already under way and being dutifully recorded by a ready-made monitoring system distributed around the globe in the form of trees.

The growth record of trees is recorded in their rings and this growth is highly sensitive to changes in moisture.

Tree rings are among the most direct ways of measuring past climate because trees are sensitive to soil moisture. In drier years, trees grow more slowly and the annual rings that are recorded in their trunks become narrower. By comparing overlapping tree-ring patterns in wood that grew at different times on different continents, scientists have gradually built up “drought atlases” that show changes in moisture distribution dating back to the year 1400 or, in some areas, even earlier.

Drought atlases are nothing new, but using trees to measure the effects of drought across time and region is new science and it’s showing some startling trends.

The scientists found that after centuries of normal variations during which some places alternately became wetter or drier relative to each other, an additional effect on moisture emerged around 1900 that is consistent with climate change. Over all, the data show that much of North America, Australia and the Mediterranean have been getting drier over the past 120 years while parts of Asia, including India and western China, have been getting wetter.

The effect was especially pronounced during the first half of the 20th century, but became more subdued between 1950 and 1975. Since then, it has accelerated. The scientists posit that a huge increase in the release of sulphates and other airborne chemicals in the postwar era served to temporarily counteract the effect of greenhouse gases by deflecting sunlight and promoting cloud formation. This countertrend later subsided after air-quality regulations went into effect in North America and Europe.

The results of this study help confirm that human activity is directly related to global climate change, although trees in the southern hemisphere were not included because their growth patterns are not as seasonally visible.

So it seems that trees are helping to relate the story of climate change in new ways. I’m not surprised. Trees have proven to be one of mankind’s best natural resources and now they’re talking to us in ways we can understand. Whether people will listen is another matter.

 

Via: The Globe and Mail, May 2/19, Ivan Semeniuk

Tree Tuesday

Trees in the News:

A massive yellow meranti found in the Dunam Valley area of Malaysia has been confirmed to be the world’s tallest tropical tree at 330 ft. (100.5 meters). Originally seen from the air, the tree was climbed by a daring local man with a tape measure to confirm it’s status. Logging is prohibited in the area and it is thought that there may be even larger trees as yet undiscovered in the same area. The video has some very nice aerial photography.

 

From The Smithsonian Magazine

Youtube Video: Flat Earth OR Why Do People Reject Science? | Philosophy Tube

Phil O´Sofy Toobe is great leftist channel. I do not agree with everything in his videos, but that is not because I disagree with him on principle – I disagree with him on practicality. In short, I think we are fucked beyond hope, because human race as a whole is irredeemable and this prevents sensible implementation of leftist policies on greater scale.

In this video he tackles some of the whats and whys behind science denialism. I recommend many of his other videos – and there realy are many. I still haven’t seen them all.

YouTube Video: A Super-Material You Can Make In Your Kitchen (Starlite?)

Today a bit of chemistry and engineering that took my fancy. I have read about Starlite before, and I always wondered what it was made of. It would be swell if it could be made to actually work on big scale.

There are other materials that have similarly amazing insulating properties – aerogels – but they are brittle and a pain in the arse to make at home (i tried, and failed).

I am already thinking about how to use this in knifemaking.

Oh and sorry for being so quiet, but I was away for almost a week without internet and I am still catching my breath after getting back to work after.

Funeral Care is Changing and Becoming Green

 

There’s a growing movement to wrestle death care away from the needlessly expensive hands of the Funeral Industry and to return to simpler methods of care and burial of the dead. The Order of the Good Death is an international organization committed to helping people find safe, green, affordable and natural options for burial. The Order is young, but growing quickly in part as a response to the startling statistics about our modern burial practices.

“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.” via Just How Bad is Traditional Burial?

One of the primary chemicals used in embalming fluid is formaldehyde, making all those gallons of embalming fluid highly toxic. Practitioners are required to wear full body and face protection and the chemicals aren’t always safely contained in our modern sealed caskets and concrete vaults. Flooding, earthquakes and even simply shifting ground can allow embalming fluids to leach into the soil and ground waters.

Cremation isn’t much better, releasing many dangerous pollutants into the air. There is, however, a new technology available called Aquamation which chemically breaks down a body using Alkaline Hydrolosis. The process is simple and transformative according to green funeral director Jeff Jorgenson

The AH process is that of heating a solution of water and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH), which breaks down the complex molecules that make up the soft tissue of a body. In most human AH machines, this solution is pressurized and heated well above the boiling point of standard atmosphere. This high pressure/high temperature accelerates the breakdown of these complex molecules to a liquid. What remains are just the bones of the deceased, which is the same result you see with cremation. The process in human machines takes around three hours. Most animal AH machines however, this one included, do not use pressure for the process and thus, the temperatures used in the process are far lower, and that equals a longer processing time. This longer process means that you must perform multiple aquamations in one cycle to make it viable…

The water at the end of the cycle then gets discharged into the sanitary system like all other waste water. I would like to take a moment to explain that the liquid that is discharged is nutrient rich and safe enough to use in the garden for all of your vegetables. In cremation, all the tissues and liquid are vented up the chimney in the form of particulates and steam. In the both cremation and AH, what is returned to the family is simply bone and trace materials.

Aquamation is new technology and it may take some time before it becomes widely available and accepted. For those who want a more natural disposition of their dead there are green cemeteries popping up where bodies are simply buried in the soil with only a natural shroud or a biodegradable coffin. There are also now burial suits that turn bodies into clean compost. Decomposition is natural and safe. There is also a growing number of funeral directors who will assist you to be involved in the care of the body at your own level of comfort. That may be as simple as helping to wash and dress the dead or as complex as keeping the body at home and arranging for transport and burial. It is not a legal requirement that bodies be embalmed and it is perfectly safe to keep a body at home for several days with simply ice packs to slow down decomposition. 

A home funeral is what used to be called”a funeral,” since all funerals took place in the family home. Nowadays it means choosing to keep a body at home after death, as opposed to having the body immediately picked up by a funeral home. It is a safe and legal choice for a family to make!

Now, an important caveat is that each US state (for instance) has different laws – some states require you to hire a funeral director to file a death certificate or to transport a body.  This won’t effect the keeping the body at home part, but the funeral director will need to be involved in the process.

To find out what the home funeral requirements are where you live, you can find more detailed information here.

And if you’re interested in the requirements around embalming, burial, and cremation, read your consumer rights listed by state.

I encourage you to visit the Order of The Good Death. The site is full of resources and interesting articles about this growing trend in after death care. They also have information to help you begin conversations about planning for death and advanced directives. Death is a natural and inevitable part of life. There’s no need to fear talking about it.

I’d also like to thank Avalus for prompting me to write about this. His photographs of mushrooms in a natural burial cemetery peaked my curiosity. We’ll be sharing Avalus’ mushroom photos daily over the course of this week and I encourage you to check them out, too.

 

 

 

Making Kitchen Knives – Interlude 1 – The Little Great Polishing Experiment

I will share with you a proper analysis of the acquired data, but I just finished a little experiment and I am too eager to share the results.

Without too big analyzing of anything, it is clear at even a casual glance that polishing is the most time-consuming part of the job. It is also the most boring part, in my opinion, because not much can be done and the opportunities for a mess-up are numerous. It is necessary to go through the laborious process for fancy knives, like Ciri’s dagger, but for a kitchen knife without any ribs or facets it is a waste of time.

For over twenty-five years, ever since I read about the technique in ABC as a kid, I wanted to try a process that goes under many names, “tumbling”  being probably the most known one. I have even mentioned the device for it in the article “The Handmade Dilemma” as a “polishing drum”. It is a technique that has been in use for thousands of years, literally – for example Bohemian Crown Jewels contain precious stones that were polished this way. And it has been tried and used for knife finishing both on commercial and hobby scale. All that it takes is having the polished things in a rotating drum where they tumble over each other, sometimes with the help of a polishing medium, sometimes without. A very simple machine, and had I lived by a stream I would build a water powered one years ago. Unfortunately I do not live near a stream and wind is too unpredictable so I am stuck with using electricity, and I have not got my hands on a motor with the right properties yet.

But I got lucky, my colleague has bought small toy tumbler for his son when he was little and they do not need it anymore, so he lent it to me a few months ago. As you can see, it is not big enough to hold a knife, not even a small one, so after I let it run with a few pieces of unhardened steel with very mixed and generally unsatisfactory results, it has collected dust again.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

But here was the second stroke of luck – I have bought a slab of high-carbon tool steel and I started to make myself a set of better hardness measuring gauges than the impromptu ones I have made from an old saw blade. I have already ground and hardened these little chisels to HRc 62,  and I only cleaned the two big facets and sanded them up to 150 grit – that is the grit up to which the grinding and polishing is relatively quick and the blade does not heat up too much. I was not intending to high-polish these, since that would be silly. But I remembered the lent tumbler and checked if they fit in – and the did!

So I chucked the blades into the polishing drum with a spoon of jeweler’s rouge and half filled it wiht crushed walnut shells, mixed it all up and let it run for one day. Bugger – it got blocked after unknown time and I only found out next day. So I started it again for one day. And the change in surface was remarkable. It was not polished, but the perpendicular sandpaper scratches were no longer visible and the surface has got a very nice satin sheen to it. But I like my blades mirror-polished, so I started it for another day. I took another chisel out and subjectively there was no change against the first day, so I assumed that this is as good as it gets (but I will let it run for one more day). But I also assumed that since there are no visible perpendicular scratches anymore, I can quickly buff it to mirror polish with the three buffing wheels that I have  – and I was correct.

Here you can see four pictures taken with my digital microscope (courtesy of our quality department who tossed it away because they lost the installation CD – so I took it home and downloaded free software). Each picture represents a section approximately 10 mm wide in reality.

After 150 grit belt – parallel scratches perpendicular to the blade are very clearly visible.
©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

 

After one day, scratches from the sandpaper are no longer visible with the naked eye, but they are still visible under the microscope.
©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

 

After two days, the scratches from sandpaper are no longer visible even under the microscope unless you really look for them.
©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And after just a few minutes with the set of buffing wheels the scratches are no longer visible and the surface is so polished that the microscope photographs itself.
©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.