November 19, 2002

the millian view

An unsettling number of people are milling about at 4:00 on a Tuesday morning. Some are looking for meteors. Others are swimming in the Lake.

Most, however, are likely making final preparations for the Apostles’ Freestyle Rally at the DECC.


cartographical modifications

For those ya’ll of the skiing and snowboarding persuasion, there’s some good news. Rockies may be Higher than Thought.

Reflecting cartographic accuracy more than geologic uplifting, the new calculations set the official heights of many Colorado landmarks and the central Rockies as much as 7 feet higher than previously thought.

The changes weren’t big enough to shake up the rankings of any of the state’s 54 14,000-foot peaks, or create any new 14ers.

Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs gained 5 feet to 14,115 feet, while the state’s highest point, Mount Elbert near Leadville, gained 7 feet to make it 14,440 feet above sea level.

Other areas of the country also changed, but some of the biggest differences were found in the central Rockies, where the range’s strong gravitational pull has thrown off instruments used to measure elevation since the days of the Hayden survey in the 19th century.

Watch your step, Luke. That gravity out there sounds dangerous.

nothing killed the terrorism star

Analysis Finds Tape ‘Almost Certainly’ Bin Laden

The CIA and National Security Agency have been analyzing the broadcast of the tape, which was of shaky quality because it apparently was recorded over the telephone.

“It is clear that the tape was recorded in the last several weeks,” another U.S. official said. “At this point there is no evidence to indicate and no reason to believe that the tape was manufactured or altered.”

This was the hardest evidence that the United States has had since December 2001 that bin Laden was alive.

Things just keep getting better, especially with this cheerful send-off:

U.S. intelligence agencies have picked up an increased level of “chatter,” or threatening communications by al Qaeda operatives, and the FBI last week issued a warning that the network may favor “spectacular attacks” that result in mass casualties.

spam saddam

Writer Hacks Emails Sent to Saddam

Even Saddam Hussein gets spam.

He also gets e-mail purporting to be from U.S. companies offering business deals, and threats, according to a journalist who figured out a way into an Iraqi government e-mail account and downloaded more than 1,000 messages.

Brian McWilliams, a free-lancer who specializes in Internet security, says he hardly needed high-level hacking skills to snoop through e-mail addressed to Saddam.

I don’t know how seriously to take this, as the whole story rides on the word of McWilliams.

The CEO of a California wireless technology company e-mailed Saddam to request a meeting, suggesting they could discuss “technology improvements and exporting of rich technology aboard,” McWilliams said.

He said the company, which he did not identify, claimed to have developed wireless technology capable of “igniting large sections of the atmosphere”. But when McWilliams called the company he was told it contacted Saddam only to get permission to put a communication antenna in Iraq.

He also found interview requests from journalists and obscene messages from angry Americans. One man who identified himself as a former U.S. paratrooper wrote that he would welcome an invitation to finish what he started during the Gulf War.

“I deeply regret that a political solution was made before my friends and I had a chance to completely wipe your cartoon character of a leader o(f)f the face of this earth,” he wrote. “What sort of despot actually boasts of assa(ss)inations and the willful slaughter of the people he means to rule?”

But the account also attracted admirers, including someone writing from Austria who called Americans arrogant and told Saddam that if the United States attacked Iraq, “you need only send a ticket and I will come to Iraq to fight Americans.”

“I am a good shot, and I am serious about my offer,” the Vienna resident wrote.

Funny. I thought it was the Americans who were supposed to be braying for blood. Silly me.

intellectual spade work

Somewhere here at we have a picture of a crane (from a secure location) built by the American Diesel Company. During a lull in my six hours of researching social constructionism and human nature, I plugged the name into Google.

I found an article about submarine engines.

August Busch, (no relation to Arthur L. Busch), although better known for brewing than for submarines, did play a role in the early days of the U.S. Navy’s submarine force. In 1898 he bought the American rights to Rudolf Diesel’s engineering patents and formed the American Diesel Company to produce the engines. John Holland considered diesel engines for the Holland VI, but negotiations between the Holland Torpedo Boat Company and the American Diesel Company in May 1899 failed to produce an agreement. The American Diesel Company was reorganized in 1912 as the Busch-Sulzer Company. It first supplied diesel engines to the G-class submarines built by Simon Lake in 1911.

So I plugged in August Busch’s name with ‘diesel’. I got a article about the “This Bud’s for You” advertising campaign and the spy thriller hit of the summer XXX with Vin Diesel. Yes, apparently he is that Busch, of Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Misery.

Plugged in Anheuser-Busch. Bam. The Bavarian Brewery opened in 1852 but didn’t do too well until it was taken over by Adolphus Busch. Budweiser was born in 1876, thus named because it was brewed like beer in the Bohemian town of Budweis. The company changed its name to Anheuser-Busch in 1879.

In 1913, Busch died, but his son, August Busch, took over, and managed to keep the company going during Prohibition by such spin-off products such as yeast, soft drinks, syrup, and even refrigeration units. In 1933, after repeal, Busch had a case of Budweiser delivered to FDR in a carriage pulled by a team of Clysdale horses, which have since became a company trademark.

The brewery company operated freight cars under its own name. It also owned the St. Louis Refrigerator Company and the Manufacturer’s Railway. All this information is courtesy of the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society. I got lucky that Anheuser starts with an ‘A’, as the rest of their glossary is kept under lock-and-key for fat cat Society members. One year subscription: $50.

Plugged in Manufacturer’s Railway. East Troy, Wisconsin is the home of the Alpine Valley music venue, where I have experienced intense joy and elation at many Phish concerts. It is also the home of the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum.

Refrigerator cars are called ‘reefers’.

Early “reefers” were of all wood construction and about 36′ long. Ice bunkers were built into each end of the car and filled through hatches on the car roof. These reefers could only travel about 250 to 400 miles before they would need re-icing. Salt was sometimes placed in the bunkers to make the ice melt faster and lower the temperature of the load. Railroads built huge icing platforms and ice storage houses at major terminals and other strategic locations to quickly service cars.

Courtesy of, who seem quite fond of the Schlitz Brewing Company of Milwaukee.

Comments from a retired railroad engineer: When the beer train would pull up along side a Milwaukee brewery’s shipping dock platform, many of the crew would go into the brewery and come out with cases of beer. These were placed in whatever convenient places to be found on the train. When the train returned to the station, the crew members would pull their cars up along the train and transfer their goods. (Author’s note: Don’t know if these freebie cases were condoned by the breweries or the railroad management.)

It wasn’t uncommon to see a reefer car leaking foamy beer after it was backed into too hard while coupling. Sometimes this hard striking was intentional to break open the doorway of the car, at which time the culprits would begin unloading whatever beer they could get away with. This was usually done when the train yard detectives were on the other side of the yard checking car door seals.

While cool, this trail had gone dead. I plugged in Busch-Sulzer. Pulled up some U.S. Navy records housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Records, 1895-1946

Records of a St. Louis, Missouri manufacturing firm which produced diesel engines. Founded by beer magnate Adolphus Busch as the Diesel Motor Company of America, 1898-1901, then the American Diesel Engine Company, 1901-1911, this firm was the first to manufacture diesel engines in the United States under the patent of German scientist Dr. Rudolph Diesel. In 1911, the company merged with the Sulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Company, a Swiss manufacturer.

The records include correspondence, reports, blueprints, drawings, and legal records documenting the early development of the diesel engine, improvement of the locomotive engine, submarine engine production during World War I, engine production during World War II, and general industrial manufacturing; financial records documenting assets and liabilities, production costs, and engine orders; and corporate records including minutes of Board of Directors and stockholder meetings.

Also of interest is one folder relating to the company’s relations with labor during the 1920s and data on employee wages and working conditions, photographs of factory construction, advertising publications, and operating handbooks.

14.2 feet

Oh wait. My crane was built by American DiesElectric, not the American Diesel Company. The Southeastern Railway Museum of Duluth, Georgia has a 50-ton 1953 U.S. Army #C-271 self-propelled crane, built by American DiesElectric. The emblem on the back matches up.

More digging, now through books on internal combustion engines. It seems a ‘dieselectric plant’ is a single cylinder diesel engine with directly coupled generator units. Witte Engine Works of Kansas City makes them.

The Windsor West Green Party Candidate Chris Holt advocates the use of dieselectrics as a viable option for alternative fuel powerplants.

Busted out the groove with Witte Engine Works. It appears they made tractors. Found a ‘personal’ letter from Mr. Ed Witte himself, type-written on November 17, 1925 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

I think I made a big mistake in asking you to make a big payment down on that engine that you need and I’m going to correct it right now!

I don’t need to SELL you this engine–but you sure NEED this engine, to save you money, time and hard labor, and if it were working on your place NOW it would be paying for itself.

Now, just send me $5.00 down and I’ll send you the engine, any size, mind, 2 to 7 H-P. inclusive, and don’t get one too small because practically every engine I ship pays for itself. Take a year to pay the rest and divide it up to suit your convenience, 2-4 or 6 months, 3-6 or 9, or anything that’s fair, and remember there’s no interest to pay.

Under this plan, you are really getting the engine FOR NOTHING, because it earns and saves you many times its cost. Remember, you need send only $5.00 down! Let me have your order today!

Yours very truly .

Witte Engine Works.

Ed. H. Witte


Proof that junk mail is nothing new. Proof that credit is nothing new. At least back then you got the dope straight from the President himself, and he actually signed the letter. I get junkmail from Playboy and Visa, not John Deere… but still… it’d be cool.

Various sites suggest that Witte Engine Works became Oilwell, but no one offers a history of the company. Even Marilyn Jones can’t help us, now:

Marilyn Jones, 67, of rural Dearborn, [Missouri?] passed away Tuesday, June 4, 2002, at her home.

Marilyn was born on August 24, 1934 the only child of Dewey and Edna (Hinton) Miller in Iantha. Her parents preceded her in death. She grew up and attended school in Liberal, MO., where she graduated high school as the valedictorian of her class, and later attended business school.

On November 7, 1954 she was united in marriage to Paul V. Jones. After their marriage they lived near Dearborn, where they made their home. He survives of the home.

Marilyn was a bookkeeper for Witte Engine Works.

According to Hoover’s the BUSINESS INFORMATION AUTHORITY (I see a square-jawed man with a vacuum stuck up his nose), “National-Oilwell is the tool man of the oil patch.” These would seem to be the right guys, as Witte engines are often mentioned parathetically with National-Oilwell on other pages. This company is still alive and kicking, making sure that the untooled man can suck the marrow from the bones of our Mother.

The company produces, distributes, and services oil and natural gas drilling equipment for land and offshore drilling rigs. Its mechanical components include drawworks, mud pumps, rotary tables, SCR houses, top drives, and traveling equipment.

No mention of the bartering Eddie Witte. Witte Engine Works is all but dead.

Other products include masts, derricks, substructures, and pedestal cranes.

Cranes. That’s what brought us here in the first place.

November 16, 2002

dante’s prayer for mamu

I took my writing underground for a few reasons. Some of my thoughts are somewhat personal and I would rather keep them internal than play the complete exhibitionist. I mean, I don’t mind having them in hard copy. I keep the journal out in plain view, so if you stormed into my apartment you could easily tear it apart and digest every saucy word. Why, if you actually did that, I’d probably show my appreciation for your efforts by cooking you a mug of hot Jell-O.

Many of these thoughts would seem small and spindly under the harsh glare of the public realm. They’re important to me, yes, but should be of little concern to others and I would rather not go through the effort of distilling them down for mass consumption.

Other thoughts of mine are huge. Grandiose. If I could channel out a tablespoon of these ideas, even just for my own use, the serving would be so dense and massive that the Earth would turn itself inside out around my thumb and index. They seek to solve problems that have plagued mankind for millenia. Ways to get rock climbers to Olympus Mons. A vehicle that runs on pure ugliness. Cures for love.

I owe a benchmark. In my journal today I listed various thoughts that I want to hone on a spinning whet stone. Here’s what still sits in the bath:

The frustrations of being an intellectual romantic… or a romantic intellectual… or whatever. Do not hump. Make love. And think. Or something.

I ran out of raw skill and talent so very long ago that I’ve been forced to survive on my work-ethic alone. Where did I hide the creativity? The passion? Will I be able to find that cigar box when the time comes and dig it up next to the old rock wall, where she sat weeping?

Shit, I’m graduating.

Shit, I’m single… for two years running.

What if I’m not biologically suited for the urban, modern environment? What if natural selection demands that I perish and take my unsuited genes with me? (unsuited – like light skin under a harsh desert sun) What if I don’t have the faculties necessary to be be happy dealing with the stress and productivity and consumption and demands and alienation of my environment? How genetically different could you possibly be from any other human? A hell of a lot? Not so much?

Use what you do have, and explain why it is insufficient. Rationally explain why you cannot be a happy cog. Make millions off book publishings and TV interviews, Drown in a barrel of irony.

I want to be socially conscious, worldy aware, caring… but no one has come up with arguments that I find satisfactory. A selfish life would be so boring and internal… who the fuck wants that? I want people. I want to care about them and have them care about me and I want them to be happy and lead productive lives while I am happy and lead my productive life. I don’t want success by breaking necks.

But the contrarians have such idiotic, self-serving, righteous, sensless voices. That Narco News story about Media as the Middleman is a genius observation, but is not sufficiently developed. Contrarians (or liberals, or idiotarians, or however you want to characterize the group… labels are troublesome) have no voice… or rather, they have a voice but they have nothing to say, yet. All contrarians have been able to do is hiss and squawk.

Be relentless in presenting evidence and strong argumentation. Don’t waste time giving generalizations that sound right but are unjustified.

The societal conflict between producerism and consumerism. The media satisfies our needs as consumers but not as producers.

Unification of Western and Eastern philosophies. The rational versus the intuitive. Division versus holism. Is the holism actually real or is it just pleasant self-deception? Is pleasant self-deception morally right?

The brain roils. Whee.

November 13, 2002

how many waffles?

I graduate next spring, apparently. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know some things that I will require.

I need to be around people. I love people… they’re fascinating, they’re funny, they tell great stories. Without others what is the point of writing or saying anything? What is the point of listening?

I have a mild case of insanity that results in stories about murderous ice cream machines and well-endowed neon cowboys. I don’t come up with any of this stuff myself; it always needs a seed from the outside world, often from a conversation that spirals into weirdness. I’m not crazy. It’s the world that is fucking insane, and I just pick up on that. I love it. I latch on to the irony that is the human experience and roll down the hill with it clutched to my breast, laughing.

Wherever I end up, I’ll need some crazy people to feed off of. This cools my heels in looking for employment at a newspaper or something, because journalists too often have this crippling sense of Duty that prevents them from having fun in their profession. “My work is too important to enjoy it.”

The Statesman suffers violently from this affliction. Whenever a reader calls the Statesman on its intense level of suckage, the paper caws and bristles like an ugly ferret. This response is wrong, the correct response being to admit that the paper really sucks and take a playful approach to it. The writers and editors at the Statesman need to quit rattling their noble chains and braying about their Duties to Society. The contempt that Statesman employees hold for their jobs wafts into the halls every Thursday like the wind off a sewage pond.

Some journalists get it, but they are so on top of the game I feel I won’t be rubbing elbows with them any time soon. Outside magazine kicks ass and has this rock and roll voice that can only come from journalists that are as amused as I am with life. The way they describe things, the details they include, the ironies, the passion, the crazy swirling colors of living are made real and tactile in their words. I can try to filter down a particular scene right here, where a whole bunch of snowboarders were drinking beer (and vodka and Red Bull) at the World Quarterpipe Competition, calling the professional boarders pussies as they pulled gay tricks. To make the competition less gay they built a fire under the jump, but the pros kept swinging around it so the boarders spit beer at them as they swept by. Things didn’t get cool until they threw Ross Powers’ custom board on the fire. Powers ducked in to grab it right as Colin Langlois blasted over the top, nearly slicing off Powers’ head.

But my Reader’s Digest version doesn’t do the story justice, because the way Eric Hagerman wrote it was so well-orchestrated that the omission of any words minimizes the effect. These guys write because they enjoy it, because they can’t help not to write, not because they think they’re doing a great social good and we should be grateful. While a crushing sense of duty can make you feel heavy and foul and sluggish, a love for your work can make you light and beautiful and nimble. The same amount of work gets down, perhaps more so, only this way it’s way actually enjoyable.

This is why I push myself so hard at my academics. Grades and achievement are my ticket out of here, and if I’ve got those in order I can’t be pushed around by potential employers. I want to flick a company the finger if they suck, and be able to find another one that doesn’t suck. I don’t want to be at their mercy. I don’t want favors. I don’t want to be a beggar. I don’t want to enter an abusive relationship where I need to settle for writing grant proposals in Podunk, Wisconsin, just because no one of decent character wants me. My discipline is my power.

In the end, I’ll be more productive if I enjoy my career. I believe in Heidegger’s externalization of the human spirit through meaningful work. What I do is who I am. For me, it is not enough to reserve laughter (or snowboarding, or music, or road trips, or whatever else I believe in) for the weekends. I need my work and production to involve my passion, not just my leisure and consumption.

This is what makes college so frustrating for me. There is no causal connection between how hard I work at school and how much time I get to spend with my passions. In actuality it is a backwards relationship, where the amount of work I do is inversely proportional to how much fun I have. Every time I choose to do something fun, whether it be exploring ore docks, watching The Little Mermaid or heading over to Superior at 1:00 on a Tuesday morning, it is always at the expense of work I should do for school.

Should. We now enter the duty conundrum. Without a sense of duty or responsibility our language would have no use for such a word. Now, duty can be a very good thing and a definite motivator. It would be wrong of me to assume that what I want to do will always be the best for me (or others). If this were the case we’d all be a bunch of fornicating beasts, tricked out on candy and acid, rolling around in the dirt. Sometimes mother does indeed know best in the end, even if you don’t agree with her during the process.

I feel a responsibility towards my studies, my family, my friends, my passions, etc., but often with school these duties come into conflict with one another. My education is very important to me, as I described above. I work myself over now with the expectation that it will pay off in the future. What’s four years of moderate hair-pulling, when compared to forty years of doing meaningful work that actualizes my spirit and allows me to embrace all of my passions?

But then comes the unsettling squawk from the other side. A few of my post-graduate friends have been telling me about how horrible the Real World is, and I don’t think they’re talking about the MTV show with cameras and drama and low-riding pants. Will my friends’ pitiful situation become mine next year? Perhaps. There is no rational reason to assume that their experience will be my own, but there is also no reason to assume that my experience will differ so wildly from the common. I see graduates all over the place that are miserable, unproductive little scamps, and I actually haven’t heard any stories about anyone graduating from college and doing anything enjoyable or meaningful.

So does this mean I should binge while there’s still time? Should I sacrifice all my work so I can enjoy what is apparently the last year of my life? Well, going to that extreme would be just as nauseating as studying every waking hour, but it raises the question of how much fun I can actually get away with without compromising my academic excellence.

I have a curious approach to school that has maintained a 4.0 for the last two semesters and the Dean’s List for the last six. I bust my ass all year while most kids are living it up, and I cut loose during finals week when everyone else is grinding away in textbooks. Last winter I went snowboarding almost every day during finals week, sometimes between two finals on the same day. It was bliss. It also presents an unsettling ratio, as most students get, what?, 16 weeks of collegiate excess to my one. During that week it all seems worth it, believe me, but in the weeks leading up it is most frustrating.

And once again we are presented with the backwards reward structure of college. By busting my ass in school I am conducting myself under a reward structure that’s on a completely different time-scale than that of the non-academic lushes. I’m projecting my enjoyment years into the future, which begs the question of whether or not my efforts are worth it. The lush has made an enticing point with his Carpe Diem attitude now, which likely includes a ‘settling down’ in the future. I don’t want to settle down, though. I never want to settle down. There’s too much to see, to do, to enjoy in the world, that cannot be crammed into four tiny years as a university. Just as I work hard to get my lazy days of finals week, I grind through my academics now to insure the blissful years of meaningful work in my future.

Mind you that I don’t think my experience is anything original; that I suffer more than any other student on the block. Also mind you that I can only speak personally of my experience, as clairvoyance still isn’t taught in college, even as an elective. This is the truth for me, and if that’s all it can build up to, well, fine. So be it.

November 12, 2002

grocott’s citations – thematic

By “I really should go to sleep” I either meant that I really should go to sleep, or I really should throw some clothes on, hop in the wagon, pick up Zosia and meet Alex and Ben down at the Twins Bar on 4th and 4th.

With Alex’s help I sorted out some gritty relational quandries while Ben and Zosia prepared to elope down in Mexico. The Twins Bar closed at 1:00 so we packed up our gig and moved it to the Capri Bar in Soup Town.

I bought Zosia a scotch at the last bar, so this time ’round she treated me to a glass of ice water with lemon. Ben and Alex played a game of shit-faced ping-pong but did so much better than me and Zosia, as I was too busy dancing to Sex Machine to hit the pong.

We ground peanut shells into the floor. Superior ground to a halt at 2 am. I really haven’t slept since 11 am on Sunday.