Machinery’s Handbook and the Model 1911

Expl-1911A1 CompAssy

Today is the 100th anniversary of the adoption by the United States Army of John Moses Browning’s .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, the weapon known since as the Model 1911 or simply “the .45”. Browning designed many of the last century’s best-known guns: the ones that you see in your mind when you think “cowboy rifle” or “machine gun,” and “automatic rifle” among others. Paul Mauser had definitively solved the problem of the repeating rifle already in 1898; his design has yet to be improved significantly.

So today, the newest and most advanced military technology of the Great War is still in use daily for sport and war. It’s not just weapons, either. Trains and their tracks have changed little. Mechanical clocks and watches are a solved problem. There is a long list of mostly hidden devices around us, the design of which has scarcely changed since then.

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Machinery's Handbook

This centenarian mechanical layer can be described and mostly created with the information in Machinery’s Handbook, a 2,104 page double handful of small print and diagrams. Detailed description of tools and materials, hundreds of mathematical tables, weights and measures, testing, ratios for all sorts of gears and transmissions, pipe fitting, the whole mess of machine lore is dumped into this box. Paging through the handbook, one gets the feeling that the mechanical parts of modern civilization are all here.

With this knowledge, a source of power, and sufficient raw materials one could in theory build almost anything a wood-and-metal bashing factory makes. And most of it is still a century or more old. Lathes, screws, blowtorches, springs, grinders are all from John Browning’s world, and he wouldn’t take long to adjust to a 2011 machine shop.

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Office Worker with Two Monitors

The people reading this do not live in Browning’s factory. Welds, springs, bolts, castings, threadings, gears, and bearings surround us, ignored. The modern first world service industry worker lives from the neck up, floating in front of a screen. The entire world view is defined by a screen full of media filtered through an imagination. Technology is software, and a layer down it’s microelectronics.

This attitude shows up dramatically when our modern Internet resident is confronted with a problem from Browning’s world. When something goes amiss with wheat, or steel, or ships and trains, Internet Person looks for solutions on the screen, or assumes that they’ll arrive. The idea of technological improvement itself “ends” arguments about scarce resources and decaying infrastructure. Mechanisms themselves are taken for granted or reduced to the level of weekend hobbies.

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.45 ACP

We’re still in Browning’s world, though. If one 21st century digital ape dislikes another, a quick reset to a century ago is in the glovebox, and an intricate machine will slap a tiny brass box of explosives into place, set off the little bomb, and send a chunk of lead a off on a surprisingly fast and accurate journey to an even more surprising distance, causing an unpleasantly surprising wound on arrival. Surprise! Everything old is new again! And almost faster than we can see, it’s ready to do so again. The promise of an elegant software solution to our problems just faded a bit.

Take a look at Machinery’s Handbook once in a while. You may not care about Browning’s world, but it cares about you.

Orange Countian Gothic

The Costa Mesa Grange

The last of the bean fields turned into retail a long time ago, and even the strawberry patches are gone. The Segerstroms kept their own estate as a farm for sentimental reasons, but that’s in Santa Ana. Costa Mesa has been definitively paved. Orange Coast College has a miniature farm for ag classes.

The Grange remains. I see AA groups coming out of there at night, but I have no idea if living or ghostly farmers meet.

more grange

Area Library To Remove Books, Librarians from Library

I rarely reproduce an article in its entirety, but as would say, the whole thing is a pullquote. I can’t come up to the challenge of annotating or responding. Instead, read:

Newport may close Balboa branch, open ‘electronic’ library
Instead, part of planned community center would be equipped with computer center, on-demand book orders.

NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Beach Public Library is considering closing one of its four branches and outfitting a planned community center with everything that it offered — except the books.

At a meeting about the Balboa Peninsula’s Marina Park development Wednesday, city officials unveiled plans to close the Balboa Branch — which houses 35,000 items, including books, DVD and other materials — and to dedicate a portion of the Marina Park Community Center to an “electronic library.”

By eliminating books and librarians at the building, they hope to adapt to modern times and save money while providing residents services they’ll actually use. In the process, they would replace the library’s most iconic features with Internet connections.

“That caused me the most angst,” said City Manager Dave Kiff. “People identify [book] stacks with the library.”

But officials analyzed how its patrons use the branches and found that most come for a quiet place to study, to plug their laptops into work spaces and to use the Internet-connected computers. Few of them actually remove books from the shelves.

That’s especially the case at the Balboa branch, said Cynthia Cowell, library services director.

“They come specifically to use the computers,” she said. “We have a lot of electronic use of the library, and it’s getting bigger all the time.”

The new facility would have a 2,200-square-foot “Internet library” room with a central fireplace and a kiosk where patrons could order books to borrow using an online system. Some seats and tables would look out onto the bay.

“What we hope to accomplish,” Cowell said, “is to create a place where people want to come and be.”

If residents still want to get their book on the Peninsula, they could order it online from the other branches and pick it up at Marina Park. Instead of holding books behind a desk, the library would drop them off in individual lockers.

“A lot of people still want to touch a book, hold a book, smell it,” Cowell said. “The sensory experience is still very important to many of us.”

The new process would be similar to Netflix. Patrons could place orders from anywhere with an Internet connection: home, work, Marina Park, etc. The kiosk would also be equipped with video-calling software, similar to Skype. Patrons could speak face-to-(projected) face with a reference librarian who could help answer research questions and point them toward the right online resources.

Cowell said she anticipates some blow-back from people in the community, but downplayed the change in peoples’ library experience.

“It’s just the delivery method,” she said.

When Long Beach considered closing its downtown library in 2008 and opening a similar Internet library with pick-up capabilities, many in the community fought back. Some of them were from the Long Beach Public Library Foundation.

In Newport, the Friends of the Library may not have such a strong reaction.

Speaking for herself, Nancy Acone, a Friends board member and manager of The Friends Book Store, said, “You have to be open for change in the library, because you don’t want to be like the railroads and go out of business.”

Presumably, it would be cheaper to run the library without trained reference librarians, but Cowell said she hasn’t run the numbers yet. The City Council would have to decide what to do with the three full-time staff members at the Balboa Branch, she said, and whether closing it would eliminate additional work for other library staffers.

At older than 50 years, the Balboa branch and the adjoining fire station need to be rebuilt, city officials said. If this plan goes through, they would rebuild the station and possibly turn the library land into a park, Kiff said.

Summer Book Roundup from Fringehead House Publishing

We’re as pleased as punch and just as excited to share this summer’s new releases with all of you. As always we remain eclectic yet focused, with a concentration on a wide variety of accessible yet cerebral titles. Please visit our booth, #35B in Kentia Hall. Justin Celine, our VP of marketing, is the one in the hilarious mad scientist outfit!

Now to the releases. We are excited to present:


Chived: Hard Times and Stale Tastes in the Dried Spice Business. Basil, Oregano, fines herbes: every day we open a bottle of dry leaves and add flavor to life. But what’s it like where these little jars are filled? Chef and freelance journalist Katie Montaigne spent a year in the rough-and-tumble world of professional spices. Her stories may shock, surprise, and even humble you. You’ll never look at poultry spice the same way again.

Pillows and Predators: A Year in a Quality Inn Off I-10 Somewhere. Notary and freelance journalist Justin Svevo walked out of his comfortable life to manage a mid-range travelers’ motel for a year and came back with this powerful yet nuanced picture of an industry on the brink. From rough towels to midnight pot deals, no detail escapes his questing eye. Nominated for the National One Small Topic Book Award.

Will There Ever Be a Flag Day? When mom and freelance journalist Katie Firbank learned her youngest daughter had sunburn, she didn’t back down. This is a powerful and surprisingly accessible story of science, sun, health care, and one mother who wouldn’t stop until the real story — and the real cure — was revealed. Soon to be a Lifetime Channel Movie of the Week. Book club study guide available.

Rebar: The Stuff of Empire Ignored and even mocked, the strong yet flexible stands of this ubiquitous material hold up most of Western Civilization. Construction supervisor and freelance journalist Justin Bulgakov tracks the hidden history from the story of Hans Rebar’s first discovery through the Rebar Treaty of 1938, and finally to the Presidential Medal for Structural Items. You’ll never look at an urban construction site the same way again.

Nothing Over $20: A Long Year in a Tollbooth. When dental hygienist and freelance journalist Katie Calvino walked into a tollbooth in 2008, she had no idea of the journey that lay ahead. Greasy cash, angry drivers, and the dark secret behind America’s $500 billion toll road industry frame this gripping story of one writer’s passage from boredom and fear into a new strength born from knowledge. Forward by Malcolm Gladwell.

Go Fish! The Card Game that Gave Us World War — And Hope. Families and friends gather every day to play this simple card game. But does anyone know why? Sales associate and freelance journalist Justin Faulkner spent a year tracing the game’s history from its dark Nazi past in Munich to its life-changing energy in modern-day Turkey.

Pulling Iron: A Year on the Tugboat ‘Marie Rouge 223-B’ New York Times reporter and freelance journalist Katie Mishima walked out of a divorce and family tragedy onto the deck of an ocean-going tugboat in Long Beach, California. This is a story of huge ships, smaller ships that tow huge ships, grease, gumption, and finally redemption. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon. Book group study guide available.

These Pants are Made for Walking: The Sansabelt Way To Grow Any Business Justin Sansa, freelance journalist and son of legendary pants CEO Victor Sansa, teams up with his father in this hard-hitting, hard-nosed story of the man who didn’t need a belt to win. From the early days of Rubr-Shorts to the peak of 1979’s Stretchin’ film appearances, the whole story — and we mean really the whole story — of the Sansabelt phenomenon is here.


Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Young Sanjay DeSantis is only 10 when his abusive father mails him to a fruit processing plant in Camarillo, California. The world of a fatherless child, seen through a strawberry glaze, shines its luminous light over Sanjay’s molecular journeys through time. A thunderous achievement by first novelist Katie Lysenko.

Street Spirit. The Kepler sisters, hosts of three competing television talk shows, frame this sweeping narrative of the mid 1990s in suburban America. This second novel from rising superstar Justin Mulholland will resonate with anyone who knew the chain bookstores and college rock of those years, and will be a touchstone for that magic moment in 100 years — or more.

No Parking On The Dance Floor. Neil Heliopolis, a brilliant and deeply troubled college freshman in 1983, chooses to spend the entire year in his dorm room. His tiny paragraphs on Post-It notes are the building blocks of this extraordinary first novel from facilities manager and freelance journalist Katie Merck. Forward by Malcolm Gladwell.

Crocodile Rock. When failed graduate student Esi Jones receives a carved stone in the mail, he’s confused at first by its intricate hieroglyphics and images. As he delves deeper, he is drawn into an ancient and deadly conspiracy that brings together the Pyramids of Giza, Big Oil, and the United Methodist Church. This page-turning thriller goes from hymnal to gusher and finally to a shocking denouement that nobody — not even Cheops himself — could have predicted. Another instant classic from Justin DuPont.

Right Round Like A Record. The short, chaotic career of Israeli disco impresario Luis Kent is brought to life in this series of five linked stories by Booker Prize winner Katie Lister. Once again her empathetic ear for the dialogue of failure and her extensive drug experience illuminate this rocket-speed narrative of long club nights, using short club sentences. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Owen Wilson.

Once again, please stop by and say hello. Justin, Katie, Katie, Katie, and Justin will all be there and we have some great “swag” to hand out!

Dear fellow educated bourgeois lefty white Americans:

The Angry White Guy on TV is nasty, brutish, and probably short. He bulges with barely repressed bigotry. He and his Angry White Lady wife hate foreigners, Muslims, intellectuals, and anyone with politics to the left of Ronald Reagan. He’s poorly educated, or perhaps just willfully ignorant. He feasts on improbable conspiracy theories and violent languages provided by TV personalities who are paid to do this by nauseating billionaires. Worst of all, he’s intent on sawing off his own branch by attacking public infrastructure that he needs, and taking everyone else with him.

Christ, what an asshole.

That having been said, we need to check ourselves. Angry White Guy opposes us on serious political issues. No good can come from appeasing know-nothing reactionary populism (hear that, White House?) and we mustn’t. There’s something else we mustn’t do either.

My own reading of the progressive and liberal response to the Angry White Guy depresses. Major media, writers, bloggers, and others take the same easy route every time. We’re snobs.

We hit Angry White Guy with the class bat. He has terrible taste: NASCAR shirts, chain restaurants, airbrushed van art, current Nashville country music, and the 2009 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. He’s a Guido or an Okie or a backwoods Ozarks rapist out of Deliverance. Worse, he’s a suburbanized version of all these things, without even the Noble Savage credibility of “real” country folk. Not only is he a Christian, but he’s got bad taste there too: he goes to a suburban megachurch. His hobbies are ridiculous: guns, powerboating on fake lakes, scrapbooking for the ladies.

Okay, I’ll stop now.

The next level of failure comes when we take a moment to ask why he’s being so awful. At this point, patronizing explanations arrive: AWG doesn’t really know what’s going on. He lacks our education, our sophistication, our informed perspective. If only he’d been plucked out of his awful culture and groomed! Neither does he have the deep but self-accepting guilt we feel at our own privilege, much less our natural generosity towards the less fortunate. The empathy we draw from this gives us a wider view of the world than his. Unfortunately, AWG is stuck. He can’t enlighten himself, and oddly enough he doesn’t react well when we arrive to explain him to himself. He wants all the riches to himself and hates the poor. Again and again we explain that he’s really poor like them and should be nicer. Why can’t he get that?

Now that we’ve told Angry White Guy that he’s a few notches below us, a Snopes to our Sartoris, unenlightened, hard-hearted, greedy, a victim of his own (lesser) culture, and frankly a bit dim, we can declare victory with satisfaction.

Sometimes real information is stuffed in the cracks of this big shitball: how taxes work and where money goes, why wars are being fought, why pluralism and tolerance make sense, why things are hurting so damn much right now. I doubt anyone but the converted hears the Gospel over all this crappy preaching. We exit smirking and now Angry White Guy is ten times as angry with more reason than ever.

I propose a different line of communication. Set aside the aristocratic mess detailed above and just talk straight. There’s an honest, simple message with some punch to it:

You and I are up against the same enemy. I know you don’t think so, but hear me out, because we’re in danger. The big money guys and their friends in Washington are doing their best to grind us all down into the streets. Everyone on television is lying because they’re paid to lie, and that means the ones you like as much as the ones we like. There aren’t any fancy conspiracies, just jerks with money who want more. The only way we can push back on these guys is to hold our noses and work together on the shit we have in common. Otherwise, we’re all fucked.

Maybe some others among my people have a different way of putting it, but it might just be time to switch off the Snide Channel and try something more like this.