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Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

We spent the day yesterday ( the 16th) at Waterloo. The battle field is largely preserved and reminds me a bit of Gettysburg. There is an excellent museum and we spent an hour or so at Hougoumont Farm where the battle really began.

Napoleon planned to draw Wellington’s reserve to Wellington’s right flank in defence of Hougoumont and then attack through the centre left of the British and allies’ front near La Haye Sainte.

Before the battle started, Hougoumont and its gardens, located on the allies’ right flank, were garrisoned and fortified by the 1st Battalion, 2nd Nassau Regiment, with additional detachments of jägers and landwehr from von Kielmansegge’s 1st (Hanoverian) Brigade. The light company of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards under the command of Lt-Colonel Henry Wyndham, was also stationed in the farm and chateaux, and the light company of the 2nd Battalion, Third Guards, under Lt-Colonel Charles Dashwood in the garden and grounds

The fighting here lasted all day and ended finally when the defenders were forced out as the buildings burned. It was too late for the French which had been reenforcing failure all day.

The French eventually committed 14,000 troops to Hougoumont Farm, of whom 8,000 were killed. The most famous encounter was The Battle of the Closing of the gate. The French had surrounded the farm which was an enclosed bastion of brick and stone walls with a gate access to the rear. They managed to force open the gate with axes into the yard but a few British soldiers managed to close it again and all the French who had gained the yard were killed. The few who closed the gate, were to be famous after the battle.

Sous-Lieutenant Legro, of the French 1st Light Infantry, broke through the wooden doors with an axe, allowing French soldiers to flood the courtyard. Graham’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel James Macdonnell, led his men through the melee in the courtyard to the gates, in an attempt to shut them against the pressing French. This was done with the help of three officers (Captain Wyndham, Ensign Hervey, and Ensign Gooch), Corporal Graham, and a few other soldiers including Graham’s brother Joseph. James Graham was the one to slot the bar in place. Flagstones, carts, and debris were then piled against the gates to hold them secure. The Frenchmen trapped within the courtyard were all killed, apart from a young drummer-boy.


The crucial mistake made here was by Napoleon’s brother, Prince Jerome, who commanded the first French troops to attack Hougoumont Farm. When they were repulsed, Jerome kept reenforcing the attack and drew the French focus to the strong point which resisted all day.


The farm is to the left and in advance of the British lines. La Haye Sainte is in the middle and both were to be crucial strong points for the British. A word about British tactics here.

Wellington was outnumbered and the hard center of his force was his British Peninsula Campaign veterans. He stationed them on the “military crest” of the low hill behind Hougomont and La Haye Sainte. This sheltered them from French cannon fire. Direct fire cannon fired cannon balls which would skip and were devastating for infantry in squares. It was important to disperse these squares when under fire by cannon. Napoleon was a master of artillery and had won many battles with it. Wellington, in Spain, had learned to shelter his infantry. He even had them lie down in the grass behind the crest of the hill to rest and make them invisible to French cannons.

The fact that it had rained hard the night before the battle, a reason often given for the late hour of the French attack, made the ground soft and the cannonballs often dug in rather than skip along the surface.

Infantry squares were almost impervious to cavalry assault so the wise commander attacking such a force would combine artillery and cavalry to weaken and disperse the defenders. Napoleon knew this but his brother drew the center of gravity to the strong point.

The two battalions that defended Hougoumont suffered 500 dead and wounded out of strengths of 2,000.

The French lost 8,000 of 14,000 men. The courage of the men who closed the gate is still celebrated in England.

The same occurred at La Haye Sainte, another fortress in the center. It was well in advance of the infantry lines at the hill crest. The French attacked and the result was the destruction of The King’s German Legion, which had not prepared the farm as well for defense. However, they did hold it until afternoon.

It was the scene of a famous charge by Marshall Ney who led the French cavalry on a futile charge that destroyed the center of Napoleon’s army.

the French could not see the squares until they were almost on top of them.
Here then they came over the ridge at a steady canter, to be decimated by grapeshot from Mercer’s and other batteries, and by musketry from the squares, at an opening range of about 50 paces.

Pressed on by the ranks behind, they charged past between the squares, losing their formation as they did so. Lord Uxbridge came up with the survivors of the Household Brigade, and the infantry watched a bloodthirsty cavalry battle which raged all round them. At least ten times the French cavalry retreated down the hill, or round by the Nivelles road, reformed their ranks and attacked again, until all this ground between the lane and the ridge was so covered with dead men and horses that they could not ride over it.

Uxbridge lost his leg in this battle and it is buried, in the town.


It is buried here, behind Wellington’s headquarters in Waterloo town. He had a very good prosthesis made which is displayed in the museum at Wellington’s headquarters in Waterloo town.

The La Haye Sainte farm is still there although it is not open to visitors.


The farm lies in the center and is at present privately owned. I understand there is a pending sale to add it to the museum.


Monday, September 14th, 2015

We are here in Brussels staying in a business hotel near the center city. Not far is The Grand Place, where the Hotel de Ville and the Guildhalls are located.

At the beginning of the 13th century, three indoor markets were built on the northern edge of the Grand Place; a meat market, a bread market and a cloth market.[3] These buildings, which belonged to the Duke of Brabant, allowed the wares to be showcased even in bad weather, but also allowed the Dukes to keep track of the storage and sale of goods, in order to collect taxes. Other buildings, made of wood or stone, enclosed the Grand Place.

It has been destroyed in several wars since then and always rebuilt.

Town Hall

The Hotel de Ville is the town hall and dominates the square.


Here we stand in the Grand Square. It was raining and the rain stopped for a hour or so, then resumed.


The “Museum” which began as the “Bread house” and then became the palace is now partially covered by plastic cloths as work seems to be going on. We were there on a Monday so the museums were all closed. We walked about and Jill found a Starbucks coffee place so she was content.

We did quite a bit of walking and found The Black Tower, which is the only remaining remnant of the city wall.


The Black Tower is near the St Catherine’s Church and was on our walk. Naturally, any visit to Brussels must include Manneken Pis, the statue of the small boy urinating. Why this is an attraction, I:m not sure but it was surrounded by Chinese tourists snapping their pictures with it. We of course, had to follow suit.


Today we go to Waterloo Battlefield.

The Medical History of the American Civil War V

Friday, September 4th, 2015

This series is a slightly annotated version of a lecture I have given in several places. One of them was at the Royal Army Medical Corps Museum in the Salisbury Plain.


Two major diseases at the time of the war were Smallpox and Malaria. Both affected large bodies of men in close quarters. Both were infectious but not water borne. Vaccination had been discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796.

In the years following 1770, at least five investigators in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty 1774, Rendell, Plett 1791) successfully tested a cowpox vaccine in humans against smallpox.[20] For example, Dorset farmer Benjamin Jesty[21] successfully vaccinated and presumably induced immunity with cowpox in his wife and two children during a smallpox epidemic in 1774, but it was not until Jenner’s work some 20 years later that the procedure became widely understood. Indeed, Jenner may have been aware of Jesty’s procedures and success.

By the early years of the Napoleonic Wars, Larrey had vaccinated the French Grand Army. By 1870, the French army had forgotten Larry’s work and they were decimated by smallpox while the Prussian army had been vaccinated by Billroth.

Malaria could be treated with Quinine, an extract of Cinchona bark.

Quinine occurs naturally in the bark of the cinchona tree, though it has also been synthesized in the laboratory. The medicinal properties of the cinchona tree were originally discovered by the Quechua, who are indigenous to Peru and Bolivia; later, the Jesuits were the first to bring cinchona to Europe.

The Union Army used 19 tons of cinchona bark to treat malaria in the troops. The Confederates were blockaded and had little to use. The Germans were blockaded in World War I and used their new organic chemistry industry to find alternatives, chiefly from organic dyes, like Methylene Blue.


There obviously was some understanding of the role of mosquitoes in transmission of malaria as we see with the use of mosquito nets in hospitals.


Other infectious disease were scourges although nothing was known about the cause. Tonsillitis was seasonal and diphtheria was treated with tracheostomy although I don’t know how many were done. The story of diphtheria is the story of the great triumph of bacteriology in the late 19th century. In the Civil War the only treatment was tracheostomy.

Wounds were always assumed to be infected and treated accordingly.


The treatment of extremity wounds was almost always amputation as there was no understanding of infection.

Here is an amputation tent with a pile of amputated limbs nearby. Baron Larrey, Napoleon;s surgeon personally amputated 200 limbs in 24 hours at the battle of Borodino. That was one amputation every seven minutes and was prior to the discovery of anesthesia.

There was little treatment available for wounds of the head or the body.


The wounds from a small battle are listed in The History. Head wounds were mostly fatal although a few survived.


Early wound care was mostly in the open as the dressing stations were overwhelmed easily.


Saber wounds, inflicted by mounted cavalry were survivable if the skull was not penetrated and they did not become infected.


The Battle of Chancellorsville was a success for Lee but a great loss resulted as Jackson was lost.


Many believe that all chance of success in the war died with Jackson.


Jackson was shot by his own men as he reconnoitered the battlefield. His left arm was amputated but he did not survive. His wife was with him when he died.


Gunshot wounds of the extremities were most of the survivors. The mortality rate of amputation was 27%. In the Franco-Prussion War, the incompetent French military surgeons had a 50% mortality rate even though antisepsis had been described three years before by Joseph Lister. Lister was treating tuberculosis of the joints, which was a common condition at the time. He found that infection was prevented by carbolic acid.

In August 1865, Lister applied a piece of lint dipped in carbolic acid solution onto the wound of a seven-year-old boy at Glasgow Infirmary, who had sustained a compound fracture after a cart wheel had passed over his leg. After four days, he renewed the pad and discovered that no infection had developed, and after a total of six weeks he was amazed to discover that the boy’s bones had fused back together, without the danger of suppuration. He subsequently published his results in The Lancet[8][9] in a series of 6 articles, running from March through July 1867.

He instructed surgeons under his responsibility to wear clean gloves and wash their hands before and after operations with 5% carbolic acid solutions. Instruments were also washed in the same solution and assistants sprayed the solution in the operating theatre. One of his additional suggestions was to stop using porous natural materials in manufacturing the handles of medical instruments.

The Germans adopted “Listerism” and the French did not. His reports were after the American Civil War although Semmelweis had tried to introduce hand washing in 1846.


Vascular injuries were untreatable and would remain so until Vietnam, when new techniques resulted in salvage of most arterial injuries.

To be continued.

Muslim Lives Matter

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015


The current trope on the left is that “Black Lives Matter.”


The Democrats have an impressive record of genocide, beginning with the abandonment of South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was begun by Democrats, specifically John F Kennedy, who agreed to the assassination of South Vietnam leader Ngo Dinh Diem, who was killed by Vietnamese generals with Kennedy’s agreement.

Now we are faced with a somewhat similar situation in the Middle East. To quote Richard Fernandez, who I have always found reliable,

The collapse in the Middle East feels like Black April, 1975, the month South Vietnam fell. And it should, because just as the collapse of Saigon did not happen in Black April, but in a political American decision to allow South Vietnam to fall after a “decent interval”, so also is the ongoing collapse rooted, not in the recent tactical mistakes of the White House, but in the grand strategic decision president Obama made when he assumed office.

We are about to witness the total collapse of any American influence in the Middle East.

The reason the press has been trying to corner interviewees into “admitting” that George Bush made an error in toppling Saddam Hussein is the need to reassure themselves that catastrophe in the Middle East isn’t really their fault. The constant need to be told it’s not their doing is a form of denial. The more certain they are of their blunder the more they will need to tell themselves that the sounds they hear aren’t the footfalls of doom.

Because the alternative is to admit the truth and accept that to reverse the tide, 20th century Western liberalism has to die or radically reform itself. None of the people who have built political and establishment media credentials want to hear that, but all the same …

We are on the verge of a massive human catastrophe, one that the world has not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union or, in terms of percentage, since the fall of Rome.


Conspiracy Theories.

Sunday, January 18th, 2015


Global Warming and Cooling.

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

I have been frustrated by the antics of the AGW alarmists. Scientific American, for example, has lost whatever reputation it once had for objective science. In an another example, the actions of Michael Mann should make for an interesting discovery in his suit against Mark Steyn.

Today, I find a nice discussion of global warming and cooling over the past epoch. The Greenland ice cores are, or should be, the gold standard of temperature measurement. For example.

Records of past temperature, precipitation, atmospheric trace gases, and other aspects of climate and environment derived from ice cores drilled on glaciers and ice caps around the world. Parameter keywords describe what was measured in this data set. Additional summary information can be found in the abstracts of papers listed in the data set citations.

Now, to the data.


Who are they protecting us from ?

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

The latest word on the NSA scandal, and it is a scandal, is that they are not allowed to snoop on mosques.

Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee.

Who makes up this body, and how do they decide requests? Nobody knows; the names of the chairman, members and staff are kept secret.

We do know the panel was set up under pressure from Islamist groups who complained about FBI stings at mosques. Just months before the panel’s formation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there.

After all, all terrorists thus far have been fundamentalist Christians. Oh wait.

Before mosques were excluded from the otherwise wide domestic spy net the administration has cast, the FBI launched dozens of successful sting operations against homegrown jihadists — inside mosques — and disrupted dozens of plots against the homeland.

If only they were allowed to continue, perhaps the many victims of the Boston Marathon bombings would not have lost their lives and limbs. The FBI never canvassed Boston mosques until four days after the April 15 attacks, and it did not check out the radical Boston mosque where the Muslim bombers worshiped.

We have empowered CAIR, a group linked to Muslim extremists like The Holy Land Foundation, which:

In its earliest days, HLF received a $200,000 cash infusion from Ghassan Elashi’s brother-in-law Musa Abu Marzook, the Hamas senior political leader and Virginia resident who would be deported in 1997 for his involvement in six terror attacks in Israel that killed 47 people. By 1989, HLF had already sent nearly $1 million to Marzook and Hamas co-founder Ahmed Yassin (to the latter through an account called the Islamic Center of Gaza — another ostensibly charitable entity used by Yassin to finance Hamas activities).

Major Hassan, who is now representing himself, was an obvious suspect for jihad before he acted out.

At a hearing last week at the Army base here, Major Hasan told a judge that he was protecting Taliban leaders in Afghanistan from danger when he opened fire on Nov. 5, 2009. In describing his new defense — known in legal terms as a “defense of others” — he told the judge that he had been defending Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founder of the Islamic insurgent group, and its other leaders, from Fort Hood soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.

Oh well, that explains it. Can we be any more clueless with these dangers ?

Memorial Day

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Here are a few photos from a visit to World War II sites in 2006. I’ve posted some of these before.


This is my daughter, Annie, and her cousins at the American cemetery Omaha Beach. Annie is the farthest from the camera.


This is the theme building at the cemetery. The statue is called “The Spirit of American Youth.” The web site for the cemetery has a nice video. We walked around the cemetery and spent a week visiting battle sites as I wanted my daughter to know about this and remember.


The view of the bluffs from the top shows the magnitude of the problem of getting from that beach to the land above under hostile fire. This was completely different from the situation at Utah Beach where the transition from beach to the land behind it was almost level. Note the people climbing the path from the beach. It gives a scale of the size.


Here is Utah Beach and it is nearly level with the land inland. The problem at Utah was inland where the land was low and had been flooded by the Germans. The Airborne divisions were tasked with capturing and holding the inland end of the causeways from the beach to beyond the flooded fields.


The inland side of the beach was no obstacle to tanks or men.


Ponte du hoc was a point of land between Omaha and Utah that was believed to hold big guns that could command both beaches. The climb the Rangers made is almost unbelievable. Rangers at the 1984 ceremony for the 40th anniversary said they could not imagine how they did it. The guns had been shifted a mile inland to avoid naval gunfire but the casements still needed to be taken.


A view of Omaha Beach from the bottom of the bluffs show German gun emplacements which were turned to avoid naval gunfire and allow them to sweep the beach. Fortunately, the German guns were zeroed at the high tide line and the troops landed at low tide. This provided some shelter as they left the Higgins boats.


This is a reconstructed Higgins boat.


This is a famous photo from Omaha Beach on D-Day showing troops leaving the Higgins boat and wading ashore.


The Omaha bluffs are just as impressive from the bottom as from the top.

Micro Aerial Vehicles

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

This may be the future of drone technology.

I have previously posted on full size UAVs like the Grumman carrier landing vehicle. There are also intermediate sized UAVs that infantry can launch like model airplanes. And we are not the only military interested.

Rye Bread

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I am in Tucson spending a few days fixing a few things in the house here. A post of Chicago Boyz got me interested in the idea of making bread again. I had a bread machine for years and even made some French bread according to a Julia Child’s recipe years ago. I had a bread stone but it has been lost in my moves the last several years.

The progress of my effort will be recorded here. I used partly the recipe given in that post and partly another that I found on the internet. We’ll see how it turns out.


Here is the first illustration from the post with the ingredients.


Here is the second, which specifies 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

In the mean time, I have repaired the drip irrigation system, cleaned up some areas of the yard and helped my daughter move out of a house near the campus that she shared with another girl who has gotten rather difficult the past several months.

The first day was spent making the “sponge” which is rye flour, and water and yeast.


The sponge this morning had risen to about twice its size yesterday. I altered the recipe to add sugar and white flour to the sponge, as recommended by the second article. For that reason it is larger than the view in the second post of the rye bread series.


Here it is a little larger and is rising this morning.

SEcond rise with spoon

Here is has risen to the max and has been squished down again. I shaped it as a square as the second article suggested. A spoon is added for scale.

Loaves prerise

Now, after the second rise, it has been divided into two loaves, as per the first article. The recipe from Chicago Boyz suggests baking at 300 to 350. The second article recommends 15 minutes at 450, then the rest of the time at 300. This is what I will try to see if we can get a good crust.

The oven is preheating and taking forever.

risen loaves

The two loaves have about doubled in size while we are waiting for the oven. I finally gave up on the oven reaching 450 so the loaves have gone in at the max temp, probably about 400. I’ll turn the thermostat down to 350 at 3:15, Tucson time. The loaves went in at 3:00 PM.

While doing all this, aside from some garage cleaning, I’ve been reading Genius, The life of Richard Feynmann. It has gnawed at me that I never had the chance to see him at CalTech. I actually applied before he was there and was accepted but did not have the money for tuition. I was a National Merit Scholarship finalist but my father refused to cooperate and did not send in some material on financial need so, I got a letter congratulating me that I did not need money.

Anyway, back to the baking. More to come as they bake.

Now, it is 3:58 and the loaves are out of the oven.

Finished baking

Here are the baked loaves. Still too hot to cut.

Baked closeup

Here is a closeup of the loaf with the cuts showing how they have expanded.

Tonight we will have brats and sauerkraut with beer and this bread. A final report will follow after eating.

I had the first slice of the bread while waiting for my daughter to arrive and it is great ! The crust is very crusty and the inside is delicious.

My daughter and I just finished a dinner of sausages, sauerkraut and beans with the fresh bread. We ate most of one loaf and washed it down with Guinness beer. The next loaf is for tomorrow. I already have some pastrami.