Hugh's 2019 reading and notes, part 4

This is a continuation of the topic Hugh's 2019 reading and notes, part 3.

This topic was continued by Under the Withaak's shade, Hugh reads in 2020 (part 1).

TalkThe Green Dragon

Join LibraryThing to post.

Hugh's 2019 reading and notes, part 4

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Nov 1, 2019, 7:39am

So here's the new thread.

Nov 1, 2019, 7:47am

I seem to have developed the habit of starting a new thread with a picture (must admit, I was beginning to get tired of that barbel). So here's an elephant instead.

Seen at the dam in front of the restaurant of the main camp at Hlane Royal National Park, Swaziland (Eswatini), in 2015. The "Royal" indicates that this area used to be the King's hunting preserve -- until all his hunters could find here was a solitary cane rat. The then king (Sobhuza II) called in the legendary Tony Reilly of Mlilwane fame, and the reserve has been resurrected into a very pleasant place to visit.

Nov 1, 2019, 9:17am

I love your pictures. That looks like a lovely elephant. Looks like there might have been a mud bath shortly before the photograph.

Edited: Nov 1, 2019, 10:16am

>3 pgmcc: Thank you! I dimly recall watching the mud bath.

Nov 1, 2019, 10:16am

And further to the earthquake. The geologists in Pretoria describe it as "the groan of an old continent". Apparently the centre was some 10 km underground, roughly between Alan Paton country and the coast. The only damage reported so far is a broken school fence near Port Shepstone.

Nov 1, 2019, 10:38am

Nice picture. I love how different from each other the places we all live in are.

On the earthquake: a boken school fence seems acceptable. When I think earthquake I imagine villages and roads swallowed by the ground, houses in ruins, people buried beneath rubbish, fires from broken power lines, no water... even though I do know that the standard quake barely registers in the minds of people.

Nov 1, 2019, 10:56am

>6 Busifer: Thank you. Indeed, that's why I enjoy looking at other Dragoneers' pictures.

The earthquake only managed 3.7 on the Richter scale, which AFAIK is only just noticeable.

Nov 1, 2019, 11:02am

>7 hfglen: We had a 3.2 back in the 1980s. My wife was still in bed and thought a truck has passed by. I was driving and did not notice it at all.

I hope you do not have follow-on tremors and that this was a once off.

The Richter scale goes up exponentially, so 3.7 is a lot stronger than 3.2.

I liked the description to said the Pretorian geologists used, "the groan of an old continent".

Nov 1, 2019, 12:54pm

>7 hfglen: >8 pgmcc: Earlier this year there was a 2.5 quake about 350 kilometres north of me. Epicenter quite close to the surface, only about 3 km down. People reported hearing a boom, somewhat like artillery.
I personally have never experienced one, so have no idea what to expect.

I too liked the description that the geologist used. Makes it sound more normal, less like impending doom.

Nov 1, 2019, 9:07pm

>2 hfglen: Love your photos :)

Nov 2, 2019, 12:11am

Southwestern Iran is quite seismically active (there’s a tectonic plate boundary running through the Straits of Hormuz) and the quakes are sometimes felt here. I vaguely recall one a few years ago that was strong enough for buildings to be evacuated.

Edited: Nov 2, 2019, 5:38am

>10 Narilka: Thank you! (Thinks: how to give me a warm, fuzzy feeling in three words!)

>11 haydninvienna: The Kaapvaal Craton, which underlies most of South Africa -- but not Kwazulu-Natal -- is said to be one of the oldest and most stable areas of crust on Earth. The really old bits crop out on the road between Barberton and Swaziland; the area has recently been declared a World Heritage Site.

Nov 2, 2019, 7:19am

>12 hfglen: You sent me to Wikipedia, where I discovered that there is a postulated supercontinent called Vaalbara which was the union of your Kaapvaal Craton and the Pilbara Craton in NW Australia. Long before there were any baobab trees though.

Nov 2, 2019, 10:32am

>13 haydninvienna: Indeed, before there was any multicellular life!

Nov 2, 2019, 10:34am

Sorry (not very) to rub it in to our English Dragoneers, but I have to repeat the top news item of the day. South Africa won the Rugby World Cup (32-12 against England, who were fancied -- especially in the northern hemisphere -- to win) this afternoon, and the whole country is celebrating!

Nov 2, 2019, 11:34am

>15 hfglen: Congratulations! My husband stayed up to watch it (aired here at 1:30 am), but I was long asleep. :) He is still in bed, so I hadn't heard the results.

Nov 2, 2019, 11:44am

>15 hfglen: Yes, we know, thank you. The BBC considers it "breaking news" and has been reminding me all day....

Congratulations, Springboks!

Nov 2, 2019, 11:50am

>15 hfglen: congratulations from Oz also. Every Australian follower of {any sport that both Oz and England play at international level} has 2 teams: the Australian one and whichever national team England is up against.

Nov 2, 2019, 11:58am

Thank you, all. DD tells me that local social media are overrun with photoshopped pictures of springboks eating lions and (often rather tired) red roses. But I like the joker who posted that the Sprongboks have arranged an early Brexit!

Nov 2, 2019, 12:09pm

>18 haydninvienna: Yeah, it's that attitude that makes us feel really welcome everywhere.... :-(

Nov 2, 2019, 1:18pm

>15 hfglen:. Well done to The Springboks. I am not a great sports fan and know precious little about rugby but I hear it was a good game and I am not referring to the result.

Whatever people think or say about England the English team did get to the final. Well done to all involved.

Nov 2, 2019, 1:19pm

>20 -pilgrim-:
I thought perhaps you might be Scottish.

Nov 2, 2019, 1:47pm

>20 -pilgrim-: I'm not a sports fan of any kind.

Nov 3, 2019, 5:03am

Seeing haydninvienna and I were discussing the Kaapvaal Craton and the long-gone continent of Vaalbara, here is a picture of the Barberton Mountain Land, some of the oldest scenery on Earth.

The vantage point is a hill near Berg-en-Dal camp, Kruger National Park, looking roughly southwards. The Crocodile River (hidden from view) is the Park boundary here; it is between the curve of the hill and the canefields beyond (on the left, where the road disappears).The mountains are some 40-60 km away, as the crow flies.

Nov 3, 2019, 10:43am

Rugby registers somewhat above cricket and lacrosse and baseball when it comes to sports - football definitely is my game. European football.
I think the only real reason that I know something about the sport is because an old friend of mine switched from playing football to playing rugby, and because, well - who can be on the internet and NOT know about the All Blacks?!

I feel congrats is in order, anyway, so - congrats!

Nov 5, 2019, 5:54am

Recently haydninvienna and I were discussing ancient scenery (#12-14 and 24). It dawned on me that there is another ancient structure that he might find interesting. The Vredefort Dome is, apparently, the world's largest verified meteorite impact structure, and the second-oldest, at 2023 ± 4 million years, so rather later than the breakup of Vaalbara. Despite Wikipedia's assertion that the structure is in the Free State, parts are in North-West, Gauteng and possibly even Mpumalanga provinces -- it's a big place. The splash-cone is, however, in the Free State, though the best views and the most spectacular evidence are in North-West.

Wikipedia tells us that there are few multi-ring craters on Earth, and goes on immediately to compare this one to craters on our Moon and one of the moons of Jupiter. Here you see two of the rings from a vantage point overlooking the hamlet of Venterskroon, North-West. The rings are very clear on Wikipedia's space picture, and the shape of the structure is easy to pick up on a map showing the Witwatersrand, Klerksdorp and Free State goldfields. Do I need to add that much of the structure is a World Heritage Site, if a rather neglected one.

Edited: Nov 5, 2019, 10:19am

>26 hfglen: Yes. I remember an article in Analog Science Fiction some time in the 1960s called "Giant Meteor Impact" that discussed the consequences of a strike by another Vredefort-size object. As I remember, the predicted consequences for life on Earth were not happy. That article was published before the discovery of the Chixulub crater (the one left by the strike that wiped out the dinosaurs). The Vredefort object seems to have been larger than the Chixulub object. Make of that what you will.

Nov 5, 2019, 10:36am

>27 haydninvienna: Yes indeed. This picture comes from a Botanical Society (!) weekend led by a well informed, more-than-articulate geologist (!!) to see the evidence. A kid on the outing asked what one would have seen from the location of, say, Potchefstroom, as the meteor came in. The answer was, to say the least, thought-provoking: "You wouldn't. You'd be dead first. But you get your choice of being suffocated or incinerated." I gather this one was at least several times the size of the Chicxulub object. And produced the folds you see in about ten minutes. If there had been any life bigger than bacteria around at the time, it would have been scared out of its wits, anywhere on the planet.

Nov 5, 2019, 12:37pm

>26 hfglen: That space picture is very good.

Nov 5, 2019, 2:09pm

Into the Black. Not finance but space exploration. The story of the Space Shuttle, from virtually the start of NASA to the first landing of Columbia, seen mostly from the point of view of the participants in the story. There is an epilogue on what happened later, more or less up to the time of writing. From time to time the book suffers from the TMI plague -- who cares about the brand name of some of the obscurer kit? The epilogue goes into the two Shuttle disasters, but not in detail, and Feynman's brilliant demonstration of the ultimate cause of the Challenger disaster is not mentioned at all. This may be tactful, but makes the cynical wonder whether some of the TMI in the main body doesn't perhaps come close to misdirection. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating, gripping and immersive tale, well told on the whole. Recommended.

Edited: Nov 5, 2019, 3:25pm

>30 hfglen: Is that title a Firefly reference? Or vice versa?

Nov 5, 2019, 9:31pm

>26 hfglen: That's awesome. Can you link to any satellite views of the impact site?

Nov 6, 2019, 5:59am

>32 clamairy: Try this:
The town in the top left is presumably Potchefstroom, and the river cutting through the structure is the Vaal. That should suffice to get your bearings on a decent map.

Nov 6, 2019, 6:56am

>32 clamairy: >33 hfglen: It shows up quite well on the satellite view on Google Maps, but if you just search for "Vredefort" you get a very large-scale view that looks like nothing much. Go to the satellite view and then zoom out until you see Potchefstroom to the north-west of the crater, and you'll get some idea of how big it is. According to my "measure distance" on the map, the rim is about 30 miles across. A bit more from Wikipedia: "The original crater was estimated to have a diameter of roughly 300 km (190 mi), but that has been eroded. It would have been larger than the 250 km (160 mi) Sudbury Basin and the 180 km (110 mi) Chicxulub crater. The remaining structure, the "Vredefort Dome", consists of a partial ring of hills 70 km (43 mi) in diameter, and are the remains of a dome created by the rebound of rock below the impact site after the collision. ".

Fun fact: the $2 word for such craters is astrobleme: "star-wound".

Nov 6, 2019, 7:25am

Just a thought: if you have Google Earth, try looking at it there. There's a page here for which you need to be able to read French, at least a bit, but it has an amazing image capture from Google Earth.

Nov 6, 2019, 8:01am

Thanks, guys. I'll wait until I'm on my desktop later in the day. Doubt I'll be able to see much on my tablet.

Nov 6, 2019, 8:49am

>35 haydninvienna: Many thanks for that. My French is essentially nonexistent, but I could read the localities and say "been there, done that!" IMHO the shatter cones they showed us were better than the ones the French authors saw.

These are on a boulder on a farm next to the first drift west of Venterskroon; I have it flagged as Schmidtsdrift, but it's a long way from the place Google knows by that name.

Considering that these structures were formed in a few seconds, can you imagine the force with which the rocks around here were hit?

Nov 6, 2019, 9:41am

Fascinating stuff here.

>34 haydninvienna: What a lovely name for such a horrific event. :)

Edited: Nov 6, 2019, 10:01am

I just took my own advice and looked at it on Google Earth in 3D. Just wow. It’s officially on my bucket list for when I win the Euro Millions (any day now ...).

What a place to float over in a hot air balloon.

Nov 6, 2019, 8:47pm

>33 hfglen: That was wonderful, thank you. It's even more impressive than I was expecting.

Nov 7, 2019, 1:03am

>33 hfglen: that's lovely! I think seeing it should go on my bucket list, along with the witwatersrand. I've seen the shattercones at Sudbury, but there really isn't anything else visible of the crater on the surface there.

Edited: Nov 7, 2019, 10:23am

>41 NorthernStar: Hmmmmmz. Having grown up on the Witwatersrand, I am convinced that the best sight it has to offer is the road out of the place. Still, I suppose you could go from the airport to Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in about 1 1/2 hours, and see more-or-less what the place looked like before becoming overpopulated. The next day it would be about two hours' drive to Venterskroon, where there is accommodation and where guides to the Dome can be hired -- important, as many of the sights are on private property and are not marked. The good news is that IMHO the best steaks in South Africa are to be found at a restaurant in Potchefstroom, only half an hour's drive from Venterskroon. After Venterskroon I'd strongly suggest recuperating in Mokala National Park, which is about 5 hours' drive away and has two rest camps with everything, including wildlife. A trip to Kimberley (less than an hour from Mokala) will give you the world's biggest hand-dug hole, diamonds, interesting museums and atrocious traffic (in this case mostly because the city centre was never planned). There are flights from Kimberley to Johannesburg and Cape Town, both of which have international airports that host flights that will get you home.

Nov 7, 2019, 11:41am

>42 hfglen: Kimberly featured in my Geology education with the diamond bearing kimberlite.

Nov 7, 2019, 1:05pm

>43 pgmcc: De Beers Mine does guided underground tours, which you might find interesting. I believe Premier Mine at Cullinan also does. Either will show you real kimberlite.

Nov 7, 2019, 1:24pm

>44 hfglen: Yes, the closest we got to Kimberley or kimberlite would have been photographs. It was always one of those geological sites that inspired "Ooooo"s and "Aaaaaaa"s when we saw pictures of it and discussed its formation, and the scale of work by the miners.

Nov 7, 2019, 1:38pm

>45 pgmcc: It is indeed amazing to consider that before diamonds were discovered there, the Big Hole was a hill. You may also be interested in the 280-million-year-old glaciated pavements nearby. (There is another fragment of pavement from the same glaciation in Westville (Durban suburb), just 20 km down the hill from where I live.)

Nov 7, 2019, 6:43pm

>42 hfglen:, >43 pgmcc:, >44 hfglen:, I was thinking about the witwatersrand gold deposits, but an underground tour of the diamond mines would be pretty interesting too. I've seen actual rocks from both places, back in my university days in geology. I spent several years after graduation as an exploration geologist, mainly looking for gold, but also various base metals. I'd pretty much moved on to other things before the diamond rush in Canada's Northwest Territories hit, so the only kimberlites I've seen in the field were on a field trip to Montreal in my student days.

Edited: Nov 8, 2019, 5:10am

>47 NorthernStar: The Gold Reef City theme park does underground gold mine tours in an otherwise disused mine shaft, and so is relatively genuine. They also have decent hotels on site, and probably do airport transfers, which would be a relatively gentle introduction to Johannesburg traffic.

In my final year at school, we were subjected to a Tour of Industry (why go to the abattoir and the rubbish disposal works, for Pete's sake?!) As I have always had a fear of heights, the other site I couldn't handle was Libanon Gold Mine on the Far West Rand. They kitted us up in non-fitting overalls and marched us off to the headgear, where the guide gleefully told us that we would now go 6000 feet straight down. And there was a large gap (6000 feet straight down) between the lip of the shaft and the hoist. And 6000 feet of steel cable is, with the best will in the world, springy. So when the hoist gets where it's going it oscillates. A lot. And you have to jump for Mother Earth. AAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!

Nov 10, 2019, 5:41am

Just like bookmarque, we've been having lots of mist; ours keeping the early summer temperatures down as moist air is forced up over the first series of ridges on its way to the interior.

This is almost the view from the bathroom window towards our street (but I went outside!) a week or 2 ago.

Nov 10, 2019, 1:04pm

Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology. The Master's retelling of the traditional Norse stories, and very well re-told they are too. Though at this point in the 21st century, I kept hearing echoes of Wagner (the "Ring" cycle man) and Tolkien.

Nov 10, 2019, 1:10pm

>49 hfglen: I love fog. Some people get depressed by it, but it makes me feel cozy and safe.

>50 hfglen: I think I have that on my Kindle, looking forward to reading it.

Edited: Nov 10, 2019, 4:41pm

>50 hfglen: Were you already familiar with Norse mythology? I admit that I gave up on Neil Gaiman's version because it seemed very weak in comparison with the first version that I read when I was seven: Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green. I was amused to read in the introduction to his Norse Mythology that that had been Gaiman's introduction to those myths also.

Nov 11, 2019, 4:36am

>52 -pilgrim-: "Familiar" is, of course, a relative term. So yes, I was aware of at least some of the stories, but had long forgotten any details, if I ever knew them. I was hearing cadences as of a storyteller around a fire at night, which made Gaiman's version more than acceptable to me. It is also possible that I was subliminally remembering some of Credo Mutwa's African tales (also read long ago), which I would recommend to you if you haven't encountered them already. Indaba my Children is the locus classicus.

Nov 11, 2019, 5:34am

>53 hfglen: I think one is always affected by how one first comes to a cycle is tales. I have read more direct translations from the Eddas since, of course, but the rhythms of the Lancelyn Green version have stayed with me, and made Gaiman's feel flat by comparison. So I was wondering what version, of any, you had lurking in the back of your mind...

And thank you for that recommendation; it looks wonderful!

Nov 12, 2019, 6:09am

Galileo's Daughter. Curious title. To be sure, Suor Maria Celeste is never far from the action (at least until she dies), but the lead character is undoubtedly Galileo himself. Of him, this is a good biography, and shows the key role he played in inventing modern science. Unfortunately (and here I have to tread warily around the sign in the foyer) Ms. Sobel also shows all too clearly how jealous, reactionary elements in the Roman Catholic hierarchy did their best to destroy Galileo's life. A timeline at the end of the text shows how they succeeded in handing leadership in Western civilization to Protestant northern Europe, gave the Papacy an image problem that bedevils it still, nearly 400 years later, and caused the hierarchy to have to spend the following 350 years (at least) backtracking on "infallible" positions. I found it interesting that since the middle of the 19th century the Papal line on the boundary between science and religion has been almost verbatim the same as Galileo's -- without admitting as much, of course.
A good read if the topic interests you.

Nov 12, 2019, 6:22am

>55 hfglen: I read and enjoyed Sobel’s Longitude so am favourably disposed to reading any of her books. I have noticed this book a few times but never picked it up. Your post has increased the likelihood of my picking it up the next time is see.

Yes, I have been grazed.

Nov 17, 2019, 10:18am

This week I have for you a pair of lions trying to look like lovable, loving kitty-cats.

I am not convinced.

Edited: Nov 17, 2019, 10:27am

The Rough Guide to Weather. From which you may deduce that the selection available in the library was dire that day. However, this is a good-enough account of the subject, with numerous (the book claims over 200) summary charts of what to expect in various more-or-less desirable destinations around the world. Acapulco is a no-brainer, but Verkhoyansk as a tourist destination? Hardly. The text is good, but marred from time to time by sloppy proofreading; presumably the excuse is the pressure that guides like this to rapidly-changing places / phenomena are produced under.

Nov 17, 2019, 10:47am

>57 hfglen: Sweet iddle pussy-ums!

Edited: Nov 17, 2019, 11:31am

>58 hfglen: Hugh, your mention of Verkhoyansk sent me to Wikipedia. It’s probably no coincidence that most of the Wikipedia article is about its climate.

ETA love the lions. At a suitable distance.

Nov 17, 2019, 12:55pm

>57 hfglen: But they're so cuddly!

Nov 17, 2019, 2:08pm

>61 Narilka: I am sure they would just love to cuddle you too. VERY tightly...

Edited: Nov 17, 2019, 2:53pm

>57 hfglen: - >62 -pilgrim-: Thank you, all!

>62 -pilgrim-: Have you ever read Memories of a Game Ranger by Harry Wolhuter? It should be relatively easy to find, though it was written a long time ago. I ask because Wolhuter had arguably the most famous encounter with lions in what is now the Kruger National Park. One night in 1903 he was riding back to his camp (on horseback) when his party was attacked by a pride of lions. He was dragged some distance by the male; fortunately his assistants, horse and dog all scattered and got away. Eventually he remembered and could get hold of his knife, and stabbed the lion in the heart. Before he passed out he climbed a tree, and tied himself to a branch with his belt. The next day his staff retrieved him, his dog and his horse (the latter two unhurt) and saw him safely to HQ at Skukuza. From there he could be transferred safely to the nearest hospital (in Barberton at the time, but since then they have built nearer ones), where he almost died of blood poisoning. The hide of the lion and Wolhuter's knife and belt are on display in the museum / library in Skukuza.

And that, Narilka, is why one rather doesn't stick one's nose out of the car while there are lions about, far less try to cuddle them.

Nov 18, 2019, 12:52am

>63 hfglen: No, I had not heard of him before. They don't make them like that any more!

Nov 18, 2019, 9:45am

>64 -pilgrim-: Hmmmmz. I wonder if they really don't. I rather suspect that if you look in a mirror you'll see someone just as brave when push comes to shove.

Nov 18, 2019, 9:52am

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. The library redeemed themselves with this one. It's a great read and certainly appears to take into account the latest research, often Prof. Brusatte's own. And the pictures of reconstructed dinosaurs often show feathers, making the animals look like hoboes. Prof. Brusatte is obviously very keen on his subject (good!), but occasionally so keen that his writing becomes jarringly informal. Nonetheless, it's a pleasure to recommend a book by an expert and enthusiast, who clearly knows everybody worth knowing in his field.

Nov 18, 2019, 9:28pm

>66 hfglen: I really liked that one too.

And thank you for the lion pictures. Lovely to see in a picture or from a safe position. Although there are a few cougars and lots of lynx around here, the bears are much more of a risk than wild cats in this area. Sometimes I shudder when I see tourists out of their vehicle taking pictures of a "cute" bear at the side of the road. Often they are much too close to the bear and much too far from the safety of their vehicle. I'm sure tourists in your area are sometimes as foolish around the wildlife.

Nov 19, 2019, 4:40am

>67 NorthernStar: Sadly, our National Parks and other reserves are stuffed full of stories of damfool tourists and, unforgivably, locals. The stories all end badly.

Nov 19, 2019, 6:05am

>67 NorthernStar: >68 hfglen: Sounds like a self-solving problem to me, in line with Darwinian evolution.

Nov 19, 2019, 6:46am

>69 haydninvienna: Except that the eejits breed faster than they are eliminated.

Nov 19, 2019, 7:14am

>70 hfglen: Resulting in well-fed wildlife?

(And yes, I know that once they have tasted human, they can become more aggressive and so more dangerous.)

Nov 19, 2019, 8:02pm

>70 hfglen: Not only that, but they are often eliminated and take some of the animals with them. :o(

>71 -pilgrim-: Happens here all the time. People go jogging in a wildlife refuge, run into a bear who gets frightened and gets aggressive. Then the joggers report the bear*, and the officers from DEP shoot the bear*.

* substitute coyote, mountain lion or whatever.

Nov 20, 2019, 7:01am

>72 clamairy: Or they eliminate innocent wildlife and bystanders. In the latest incident, a taxibus travelling much too fast ran into a giraffe, which fell over on to a car driven by a visiting Swiss couple, coming the other way. The Swiss driver later died of his injuries, but the taxibus driver escaped unscathed. Give or take charges of culpable homicide, speeding and an assortment of other things.

Nov 20, 2019, 11:53am

>73 hfglen: How horrible. :o(

Nov 24, 2019, 10:10am

So let's have some very much alive wildlife instead. Red Duiker are among the smallest of our antelopes, standing no more than half-a-metre (18-20 inches) tall.

Seen in Umlalazi Nature Reserve just after sunset on 6 June 2009.

Nov 25, 2019, 9:46am

How long is Now?. Apparently the latest in the series of New Scientist "Last Word", and no less fascinating than any of its predecessors. As the questions and answers are generally in the range of 1--2 pages long each, one can recommend this book for MrsLee's bathroom (once she's recovered from the loss of her mother). For everybody else, recommended as you're bound to learn something, probably something useful, from the discussions here.

Nov 27, 2019, 4:04pm

Great Scientific Discoveries. Translated from a French original, and so French scientists and technologists are heavily emphasised. Seeing how badly garbled the account of the living coelacanth is, I can't help wondering how inaccurate other accounts (except those of French discoveries, naturally), are. Considering the number of participant accounts of the discovery of the coelacanth are still in print, I find the account of this one unforgiveable. But then the French original was published in the late 1980s, and the sources were published in English (shame!) in South Africa (double shame!). Here ends the political rant. For the rest this one is too old to be current and not old enough to be historical; the pictures are few and poor. No idea why the library keeps this one when more worthy, more recent books are withdrawn.

Nov 28, 2019, 10:21am

Happy Thanksgiving to all USAnian Dragoneers. Extra hugs to MrsLee, recognising that the wish in the first word is inappropriate (to say the least) this year.

Nov 28, 2019, 11:14am

Verdigris Deep aka Well Witched. Somebody in the pub grazed me with a BB (more accurately an Author Bullet) for Frances Hardinge. Many thanks to whomever it was. This wasn't the recommended book, but stands as a sample of the author's work, which is well worth pursuing. Three kids of an age that I think of as just entering high school get snared by the spirit of a wishing well, and mayhem ensues. They grow up fast, and deal with the problems they and the spirit cause, learning a lot about human nature on the way. A good read for all ages, though clearly aimed at about 11-13 year-olds.

Nov 29, 2019, 6:34pm

>78 hfglen: Thank you, "happy" does seem somewhat of a fickle word, doesn't it? And yet, there was laughter around our table and in our home yesterday. I would say that Joyful describes it better. A deep sense of knowing that one is loved, even though we are missing someone important. That is my family's gift to me. From those who are gone and those who are present. I am blessed.

Dec 1, 2019, 10:15am

This week's picture is an African Jacana seen in the Kruger National Park in 2015.

The bird has given its name to a worthwhile publisher of wildlife and other books in Johannesburg.

Dec 1, 2019, 11:48am

>81 hfglen: My, what long toes!

Dec 1, 2019, 12:46pm

>82 MrsLee: But what a good way of spreading the weight as it walks around on floating vegetation!

Dec 2, 2019, 10:43am

Reality is not what it seems Now this is what a translation should be! As opposed to the mess that the one in #77 is. Prof. Rovelli is positively lyrical about his beloved physics, and it comes through clearly in the translation. As one LT review puts it, he does not "hide behind the equations", but the vital ones are there for born-again mathematicians. For the rest of us, he draws vivid word-pictures of what the equations actually mean (which makes him unusual, if not unique). There is a brief history of physics, and sympathetic pen-portraits of the makers of quantum physics; the former makes me wish one could travel backwards in time about 2000 years and retrieve the writings of the pre-Socratics, though he explains why this is not possible. His speciality, which takes up roughly the last 1/3 of the book, is Loop Quantum Gravity, which he explains so clearly that one could almost believe one understands it ... at least until one closes the book. There are one or two Dragoneers who would probably enjoy this one.

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 11:37am

>84 hfglen: Enthusiastically seconded. Hugh, I don't know if you had me in mind as one of the "one or two Dragoneers", but if so you were spot on; if not no matter. It's a terrific book and I agree with everything you said.

ETA Much better than anything of similar kind by Stephen Hawking.

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 1:06pm

>85 haydninvienna: You, Pete, drneutron and JPB if he's still around.

Dec 2, 2019, 1:17pm

>86 hfglen: I’ll take that as a compliment thanks Hugh. But I haven’t seen drneutron in here for quite a while either. I suspect he has rather a lot to do work-wise at the moment.

Dec 2, 2019, 1:20pm

I have to smile. The summer school holidays start on Wednesday. Durban is known to many South Africans as Holiday City. The weather, at least since Friday, has been gorgeously supportive of that perception. So from Wednesday for as far as the Weather Underground forecast period runs, the forecast is cold, wet and miserable. No wonder my mental image of school holidays in Durban is a pair of blue, shivering Gautengers getting soaked above and sandblasted below as they stride grimly along a deserted beach. (Though I have to say in all fairness that between Christmas and New Year you can't see the beach for people. Or the sea, close inshore.

Dec 2, 2019, 4:10pm

>86 hfglen: It is an honour to be included in that list.

Now I have to go an attend to a BB wound.

Dec 2, 2019, 11:17pm

>84 hfglen: >89 pgmcc: Just to add a bit of return fire, Rovelli’s earlier book Seven Brief Lessons in Physics is worth a look too. This one is made up of a series of essays written for an Italian newspaper, and shows what an excellent populariser of science he is.
And in view of previous discussions in the Pub we ought to show some love for the translators, Simon Carnell and Erica Segre (same for both books), who appear to have done a first-class job.

Dec 3, 2019, 3:53am

>90 haydninvienna: Indeed. I intended my first sentence in #84 as a compliment.

Dec 11, 2019, 10:10am

Ciao Asmara. Englishman spends two years as a volunteer teaching in Keren, Eritrea. The story starts just after a 30-year war at the end of which Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia. Much of the book is taken up by the ecological and human disasters caused by that war. The author mentions that the president, by failing to ratify the constitution, has made Eritrea a single-party state with himself as dictator. Unfortunately we have to learn from external sources such as Wikipedia that the said president seems dead set on repeating all the mistakes made by other African one-party states (though he does not seem to have made quite as much of a mess of his country as a certain dictator on our northern border). /end rant
For the rest the book is interesting if at best bittersweet, with some excitement at the end as the war resumes and the author is airlifted out in a hurry. Probably worth reading if you find the subject interesting and you run across a copy, but I wouldn't put much effort into going out of my way looking for a copy.

Dec 12, 2019, 6:18am

And just for fun, a picture. Another odd-looking bird for MrsLee.

This is a Hamerkop (Afrikaans, means "Hammer-head"). Clearly a fish-eating riparian dweller.

Dec 12, 2019, 6:32am

Nice shot.

Dec 12, 2019, 6:37am

Thank you!

Dec 12, 2019, 9:32am

>93 hfglen: I like it!

Dec 14, 2019, 1:11pm

Catherine the Great & Potemkin aka Potemkin, Prince of Princes. The alternative title may be more accurate; although Catherine is ever-present, though sometimes off-stage, Potemkin is always centre-stage. The story is interesting, but the print is small and the writing sometimes leaden (YMMV). There are many words of which the writer is apparently the only user, which slows matters up. However, if you are interested in Russian history and happen to chance on this, by all means try it.

Dec 14, 2019, 3:52pm

>97 hfglen: That does sound tempting...

Dec 15, 2019, 10:17am

Also read, from the library, books on brewing and space exploration. Neither significant enough to bother noting.

Dec 15, 2019, 10:24am

Here is one for MrsLee's collection of D activities. It's snow on the southern Drakensberg in August 2010 (so about 6 weeks after our midwinter), seen from the Drakensberg Gardens Road near Underberg.

A short distance off the screen to the right is the foot of Sani Pass; at the top of the pass is a place that claims to be the highest pub in Africa (over 9000 feet above sea level). The pub is in Lesotho, right on the border -- so much so that one corner of the patio sticks out over South Africa!

Dec 15, 2019, 11:03am

>100 hfglen: Breathtakingly beautiful!

Dec 15, 2019, 11:42am

>100 hfglen: Oh wow! That is gorgeous.

Dec 15, 2019, 11:58am

>100 hfglen: Just fantastic, Hugh.

Dec 15, 2019, 5:03pm

>100 hfglen: Fantastic.

Dec 15, 2019, 7:27pm

>100 hfglen: Beautiful!

Dec 19, 2019, 5:23am

Today (just over an hour ago) we welcomed Jinny, an SPCA graduate, into the family.

Dec 19, 2019, 8:22am

Twilight Robbery. The second of two books chronicling the adventures of the 12-year-old Mosca Mye, but very readable as a standalone. Having established a more-or-less democratic (?) or at least humane government in the city of Mandelion, she and her "minder", one Eponymous Clent, move along in a hurry, but get stuck in the thoroughly unlovable town of Toll. Here they (mostly young Mosca) do what they can to rid the place of the more odious elements of its government. The book ends with them moving on after having done so. A rip-roaring yarn, often beautifully written, aimed at, one would guess, 11-13-year-olds, but enjoyable by all of any age who appreciate a good story well told, and therefore recommended.

Dec 19, 2019, 8:56am

Welcome Jinny! What a cutie :)

Dec 19, 2019, 5:38pm

>106 hfglen: Awww, Jinny is adorable! Here's hoping she provides you with many years of sweetness and mayhem. :)

Dec 20, 2019, 5:42am

>108 Narilka: >109 YouKneeK: Many thanks. Her mommy taught her well, and she already knows just how to crawl into her hoomins' hearts. And that's what she's doing all day long. In between causing mayhem, of course.

Dec 20, 2019, 5:54am

The Corner House wears its 50 summers well (arguably, the book better than the eponymous building). Despite being the history of the first 25 years of one particular mining group, it functions as one of the best histories there is of early Johannesburg. So some bits, such as the Braamfontein dynamite explosion of 1896, which Wikipedia lists as one of the worst non-nuclear accidental explosions ever, anywhere, gets no mention at all. The northward growth of suburbia is likewise compressed, and only features because of the Corner House group's land holdings on which suburbs (and the Johannesburg Zoo, and the Zoo Lake) were laid out. But what is there, is accurate, fascinating and well written. Not the world's easiest book to find, but highly recommended to anyone interested in South African history 1886-1910.

Next up: Golden Age, sequel to the above, taking the story to 1967. Blessings on parents for acquiring a copy when it first came out.

Dec 20, 2019, 6:30pm

> 106

Wait! After all those background checks, they sent you a cat?

Dec 20, 2019, 7:46pm

Jinny is adorable! She looks like she’ll enjoy being queen of the castle.

Dec 21, 2019, 4:29am

>112 suitable1: No, we fetched the cat ourselves. They gave her an exit visa.

>113 catzteach: Thank you! I think she's already enjoying exploring her new realm.

Dec 21, 2019, 2:47pm

>106 hfglen: What a sweet face! Easy to see why you are smitten with the kitten.

Dec 23, 2019, 4:09am

>115 MrsLee: Thank you!

Dec 23, 2019, 5:51am

Golden Age. The blurb claims that this tells "the story of the industrialization of South Africa...". It would be more accurate to say it is a continuation (from The Corner House: the early history of Johannesburg) of the history of the Corner House Group from 1910 to 1967. This is not unimportant, as the mines in the group produced a significant proportion of the world's gold in this period. However much of the development that took place in this period was done by others, and so is not touched on. For example, in World War 2 munitions were also made by the railways and the Mint, and armaments (including the armored cars used in Somalia, Ethiopia and North Africa!) by the railways. Although most of the book chronicles boardroom comings and goings, the start of the uranium, ferrochrome and timber industries do get a mention. I suspect one should not be too hard on Mr Cartwright, if only because in this period there were a great many players independent of the Corner House, active in developing the South African economy.

In summary then, a worthy and well-written sequel to the first book, but necessarily more closely focused. If that answers your question, then take this as a recommendation.

Dec 23, 2019, 9:57am

It's ages since we last had a scenery picture. Here's something I hope will gladden Bookmarque's heart: a ruined house somewhere in Bushmanland, Northern Cape.

Seen in 1985, and so even the picture is somewhat faded.

Dec 23, 2019, 12:28pm

>118 hfglen: Bare and desolate-looking landscape. You see a good few ruined cottages like the on the road between Canberra and the Snowy Mountains too--people who went bust trying to farm marginal land.

In other news, is "my mate Jess" also smitten with the kitten?

Dec 23, 2019, 1:09pm

>119 haydninvienna: Not as much as the hoomins, I don't think.

Dec 25, 2019, 6:11am

Merry Christmas, everybody. (As Christmas is close to the summer solstice here, pictures of snow and robins and the like are few and farbetween; none of them ring true anyway.)

Dec 29, 2019, 1:48pm

And the last picture of the year:

It's a picture I took in my teens of what is now the Hester Rupert Art Museum in Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape. Graaff Reinet (named after the then governor's wife, Reinette van der Graaff) is the 4th-oldest town in South Africa, and was founded in 1804. This building was originally the Pastorie (Dutch Reformed rectory), but was saved from dereliction by the multi-millionaire Anton Rupert; hence the commemorative name. The back garden sports one of the largest (if not the largest) and oldest grape vines in the country. The age of the picture is shown not only by the faded colours, but also by the obsolete stop-street sign in the foreground.

Dec 29, 2019, 1:50pm

Folks, as I don't see myself making the 151 posts I need to get a smooth continuation of this thread in 3 days (for the new year), I think it's time to invite all good friends to a small piffle party.

Dec 29, 2019, 1:53pm

By the way, does anybody know when people started cooking on kitchen ranges (stoves) and not over an open fire on a hearth, that may or may not have been indoors in a kitchen?

Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 3:03pm

>124 hfglen: You need to be careful here. Terminology for cooking apparatus differs between the US and the UK.

In Britain, a hob is the set of heated surfaces (heated by electricity, gas, or (on a range) coal or wood, on which you would put a saucepan, for example. I believe Americans refer to this as a cook-top?

In earlier times, the hob would be any shelf within a chimney on which you could rest something, like a kettle, to hear over the fire.

Thus whether something on the hob was being heated on part of a stove or over an (indoor) fire is only determinable by context.

I would also not consider a stove as being the same object as a range, as your question seems to imply.

A stove for me, consists of an enclosed heating area e.g. an oven, with a hot surface above (the hob). It includes gas or electric powered devices.

A range would be a freestanding object, with cooking surfaces above, and ovens (plural) below, burning coal, wood (or possibly another fuel).

Yet I am well aware that in the most common Russian and Polish traditional usage, the stove has an enclosed fire, primarily for heating (but which you can cook over), and the heated, flat surface was for sleeping on.

After all that, I don't know the answer to your question!

But I suspect it relates to the idea of enclosing your heating source (stove as opposed to open fire), rather than specifically cooking technology.

As the evolution of the (English) use of hob shows, the idea of putting something on a shelf above your heat source ("on the hob"), remained constant past the transition from open fires to enclosed ones (stoves).

Dec 30, 2019, 2:03am

>124 hfglen: Trust Wikipedia. For all the flak it gets ("You know that anyone can edit Wikipedia, don't you?", as someone once said to me—yes, I do, and some of them even know what they write about), it's my go-to for quick information on any subject whatsoever. In this case I guessed that cast iron would be involved, because most stoves were built of it until relatively recent times. Cast iron flourished, as something other than the material for the Royal Navy's cannon, from the mid-18th century. Wikipedia says that Count Rumford made major improvements to the domestic fireplace and invented a masonry stove, but it seems that he did not go on to invent the "portable" stove (that is, one that was not part of the construction like a fireplace). From Wikipedia:
The modern kitchen range was invented by Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford in the 1790s. ...
The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed a steady improvement in stove design. Cast iron stoves replaced those made of masonry and their size shrank to allow them to be incorporated into the domestic kitchen. By the 1850s, the modern kitchen, equipped with a cooking range, was a fixture of middle-class homes. In 1850 Mary Evard invented the Reliance Cook Stove, which was divided in two with one half for dry baking and the other half for moist. Patents issued to Mary Evard are US76315 and US76314 on April 7, 1868. She demonstrated this stove with her husband at the St. Louis World's Fair.
There had been stoves before this, apparently, but I think it's probably fair to say that the "stove" or "cooker" or "range" as we know and love it today dates from the beginning of the 19th century.

Dec 30, 2019, 3:26am

>124 hfglen:, >126 haydninvienna:

As I said, it depends on your definition.

The Russian stove is used for both cooking and heating. According to Wikipedia, it developed in the 15th century. It is wood-burning. It is used for baking bread and pies, for example; although the long, slow heating process is distinctive, functionally it covers the same cooking processes as a modern Western oven. It can also be used to make soups etc., which makes it functionally equivalent to a "range", in your terminology, I suppose.

I happened to be reading about the Chinese kang when you posted your question. Although most descriptions refer to it as a bed-stove, and treat it primarily as a heating system, there were various passing mentions by Chinese authors to it being used for cooking.
(cf. for a description of how one works, beyond that given in Wikipedia)
If that fits your definition of a stove (i.e. enclosed cooking), then it seems the answer is "7,000 years ago".

N.b. I looked further into the traditional Polish ceramic stove - but my (brief) investigations suggest that was solely for heating.

Dec 30, 2019, 4:23am

>126 haydninvienna: >127 -pilgrim-: Thank you. It occurred to me recently that in the "stately Homes" of the Western Cape: Groot Constantia, Koopmans-de-Wet House (both Cape Town) and Swellendam Drostdy -- all mid-18th century -- all cooking arrangements involve an open fire on a hearth, with or without an oven on the side. Often under a thatched roof. According to their (glacially slow) website, three houses in the Stellenbosch Museum complex have similar arrangements, but O.M. Berghhuis has a cast-iron stove built into a much earlier hearth; the house was re-modelled to the latest fashion in the late 1850s. IIRC Baynesfield (1850s--1880s) near Pietermaritzburg has a similar arrangement. Which suggested to me that cast-iron stoves really only became common in Queen Victoria's Glorious Days. Remarkable when you consider that some paleontologists hold that the first evidence of hominins cooking food dates from some 2 million years earlier (at Sterkfontein Caves, in the Cradle of Mankind).

Dec 30, 2019, 4:38am

>128 hfglen: If your definition of "stove" is based on the material of construction, rather than the modality of cooking, then it is not really surprising that it develops so late.

Use in a stove requires cast iron of reliable quality. It undergoes repeated cycles of heating and cooling, often whilst unattended, in circumstances where explosions are likely to have extreme consequences. It is a late application of casting technology, rather than an early one.

Consider that cooking "on the hob" - in the open hearth sense - occurs amongst the poorer classes in Dickens' novels.

Edited: Dec 30, 2019, 6:54am

>128 hfglen: >129 -pilgrim-: When I think of a stove, I think of the crappy electric thing in my flat in Doha, or the big black cast-iron fuel stove in our neighbour's house back in 1950s Brisbane, but not of a cook-top (electric or gas), or an oven. (Admittedly there are heating stoves.) Cast iron is of course both heavy and brittle, and would be expensive to cast in large pieces. But by 1780 the casting technology available in England was good enough to make possible a cast-iron bridge, which is still standing. I think that Abraham Darby, who cast the parts for the bridge, could probably have cast a stove if anyone had thought of it. He certainly did make cast-iron pots and kettles. As to quality, English iron-founders were making cast-iron cannon as early as the time of Henry VIII. Of course we have no way of knowing how many of the early cast iron cannon blew up.

ETA: Bless you, Doha. Sitting on top of one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, and almost all cooking is still electric.

Dec 30, 2019, 7:18am

>130 haydninvienna:

Certainly the slow, relatively small temperature changes that a bridge experiences are a comparatively trivial problem.

And if your cast iron pot or kettle cracks, it can simply be replaced; its failure doesn't threaten life and limb.

Cannons certainly experience a severe pressure wave when firing, but I don't think that they experienced the heat generated for long enough to heat the metal. I don't recall any accounts of cannon being hot to touch at the external surfaces, the way cast iron stoves were, as being a routine problem when handling. Certainly they could overheat during an extended exchange of fire - but then there was also a known risk of their exploding.

My materials science courses (a small part of my physics degree) were rather a long time ago now. But, as I recall, the severe tests of a material are cyclical tensile stresses, such are provided by the repeated heating up and then cooling down of a metal.

I vaguely recall the problems with explosions in the development of the first combustion engines (and I am treading gingerly into Hugh's territory here!) As I understood it, this was primarily an engineering rather than a scientific problem - in the sense that the theory was not difficult, progress depended on the development of sufficient engineering proficiency in the manufacturing process.

Repeated expansion and contraction - that's the b***d to work with.

Aside: I am totally confused by your terminology. A "cook-top" was not a word that I had ever encountered until I approached Wikipedia in the course of this conversation, but it seemed to be what I would call a hob. So what is your "crappy electric thing" if it has neither a cook-top/hob nor an oven?

Dec 30, 2019, 8:31am

>131 -pilgrim-: The "crappy electric thing" has both a cook-top and an oven. (Neither work very well.) Doesn't this go back to something said earlier, that the terminology is all messed up? Said he, carefully avoiding taking on the point about thermal cycles. I think it's fair to say that no-one seems to have thought of making cast iron stoves before 1790 or so. But it's also fair to say that there may be no evidence either way about whether someone tried and concluded that it couldn't be done.

With the bridge, I actually had in mind more that it showed that the English iron-founders of the day could cast really big castings, and also make them fit together well enough. I also noted the coincidence in time, that it's the same period during which Watt and Boulton were making steam engines practicable. I don't know what they made the cylinders of, but iron certainly would have been involved, and the only sensible way to turn a block of iron into a cylinder would be by casting.

Hugh: what are the cylinders in a locomotive made of?

Dec 30, 2019, 8:38am

>131 -pilgrim-: I rather think we have, if not the twin of Richard's "crappy electric thing", then a close cousin, in the kitchen; DD had it when she was a student at Onderstepoort in order to make edible food for herself. It has two hotplates on top of a tiny oven with minimal temperature control, and sits on a counter-top. To me a "proper stove" stands on the floor and provides heat at a comfortable working level for a cook standing up.

Dec 30, 2019, 8:41am

>132 haydninvienna: AFAIK (but remember I run the library at Inchanga, and don't dare touch anything in the repair sheds) the cylinders are some or another grade of steel these days. I'll ask someone who knows, but will only see him on Wednesday week.

Dec 30, 2019, 8:48am

>132 haydninvienna: >133 hfglen: and previous. I'm mildly surprised that neither of you have picked up on my throwaway comment about the old Cape custom of cooking on an open fire under a thatch roof (admittedly with a ceiling between).

The train of thought was suggested by the prospect of having to talk to the residents of a Retirement Home about Roman cookery some time in the new year. I point out that 97% of the residents of the City live in flats (US: apartments), and at the time of the Empire the vast majority of insulae were 4 or more storeys tall, made of lath and plaster above a brick-built ground floor. So sensible plebs bought their food from the pub rather than trying to cook it themselves and burning half the city down.

Dec 30, 2019, 8:51am

And now you know why a good Roman would have found the concept of paying a higher rent for a penthouse flat on the 140th floor utterly incomprehensible. Which indeed it is without good built-in plumbing and electric lifts.

Dec 30, 2019, 8:57am

>135 hfglen: As it was, I gather that the insulae either burned or fell down with depressing regularity anyway.

Dec 30, 2019, 9:02am

I am arriving late to this piffle party and know little enough about the dates when stoves, ovens, ranges, hobs and the like were first used. My family home had a gas stove which we located in what we called the back-kitchen. It was standalone, was fed by a single gas pipe, had four gas rings on top, a grill under the rings, and an oven under the grill. We had a pipe feed off the main gas pipe with a tap to control the flow of gas through the spare pipe. We used this pipe on Pancake Tuesday to fuel a griddle on which we made, you guessed it, pancakes.

Dec 30, 2019, 10:43am

We need some serious piffling in here! Where is everybody?

Dec 30, 2019, 10:47am

>138 pgmcc: But nonetheless welcome! Grab a virtual PGGB/Guinness/whiskey/ tipple of choice and make yourself comfortable.

The house I grew up in had an almost identical stove, without the spare pipe. The gas was made by the municipality from coal, and was piped to users. That stopped yonks ago, but I gather that Johannesburg now uses the remains of the reticulation system to distribute natural gas imported from Mozambique to subscribers. The kitchen was off the entrance hall (dumb idea) and had three doors, and so doubled as a thoroughfare. This caused Mother to throw toys out the cot frequently if someone Opened A Door while she was Baking; this would Cause A Draught and Make The Cake Sink -- a hanging offence!

Dec 30, 2019, 10:49am

>137 haydninvienna: AFAIK you're right, but the Powers That Were evidently saw no reason to help the collapse by cooking at home.

Dec 30, 2019, 10:51am

>139 haydninvienna: Piffling seriously? What could be more serious (but still suitable for a family pub) than food and a roof over one's head?

Dec 30, 2019, 1:25pm

>140 hfglen: OMG coal gas! Nasty, both the stuff itself and the by-products of its production. I remember when I was a very wee lad, my mother used to take me to visit her former employer (my mother used to be the housekeeper on a sheep property before and during WWII). Mrs Storey lived in a very grand flat overlooking the Brisbane River, and she had gas cooking, which I had never seen before.

Dear me. The people are long gone now, but the the building, called Greystaines, is still there and is now heritage listed:

Mrs Storey had one of the flats with the balconies.

Dec 30, 2019, 3:11pm

>140 hfglen: The gas we had was produced from coal. The gas-works was at the bottom of the Ormeau Road. The area has now been redeveloped and includes a luxury hotel.

It was at these gas-works that an IRA unit was planting a bomb at a gasometer when the bomb exploded prematurely killing the four members of the unit and triggering a massive mushroom shaped flame that I witnessed from about half-a-mile away. I was sitting in a pub (some things never change) on the first floor of the students' union building at Queen's University of Belfast. There were windows to my right and to my left. It was dark outside.

At one point I noticed the area outside the window to my left was being illuminated by a bright amber light. This was the 1970s and we were used to the British army using parachute flares to light up an area they were searching. I thought this was the case with the bright light to my left. I then noticed that there was light to my right. Looking out the windows to the right I saw a massive column of flame lighting up the night sky. It started forming a mushroom top and continued rising with the central column of flame rushing upwards feeding the top of the structure. It was an amazing sight, albeit a horrible event.

And yes, my mother would also blame draughts with causing cakes to sink in the middle.

Dec 30, 2019, 3:12pm

>139 haydninvienna: I thought a discussion on the history of cooking was very serious piffling.

Dec 30, 2019, 3:47pm

>137 haydninvienna: Ably assisted by Crassus' merry men!

Dec 30, 2019, 5:35pm

With only five posts required to reach the targeted 151 I am amazed this piffle party is not rushing to the finish line.

Dec 30, 2019, 6:19pm

I've been a bit tied up the last couple of days, but...

Dec 30, 2019, 6:19pm

here's my contribution to the piffle party.

Dec 30, 2019, 7:08pm

>149 YouKneeK: It would be nice if the host posted the 151st post.

Dec 31, 2019, 2:16am

>150 pgmcc: Your wish is my command!

>144 pgmcc: The Johannesburg gas works were also filthy, and closed down yonks ago (but not so dramatically). I've just checked the satellite image on Google Earth, and see that some of the factory is still standing, as are three gasometers. The tag "Egoli Gas" leads me to believe that the site is now used as the entry point for natural gas from Mozambique, which makes sense.

Dec 31, 2019, 2:17am

Many thanks to -pilgrim-, haydninvienna, pgmcc and YouKneeK for taking me past the post. Now I can start a 2020 thread tomorrow!

Dec 31, 2019, 2:38am

>151 hfglen: Like the 4 gasometers in Vienna that were gutted and turned into apartments: (The article talks about "natural gas", but I'm pretty sure they meant coal gas.)

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 3:15am

>153 haydninvienna: Seeing they're in Vienna, I can't help wondering what they (or one of them) would look like if remodelled by Hundertwasser.

Dec 31, 2019, 3:25am

>154 hfglen: I've seen the Hundertwasserhaus, but my favourite Hundertwasser project, which I have not seen, is his positively pulchritudinous public potties.

Dec 31, 2019, 4:28am

>155 haydninvienna: There's a similar installation across the street from Hundertwasserhaus. I have used that one.