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The ID10T Files
Computers are crap and people are stupid.
Civil War Living History in Carnegie 
19th-Apr-2016 06:22 pm
Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe presented a lecture on the Union Balloon Corps at the Captain Thomas Espy post 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. Actually, it was aeronaut Kevin Knapp cosplaying Professor Lowe giving the presentation. I had seen online that he presented at various reenactments and actually pulled out hydrogen balloons for presentations so I was very pleased that he had come to my neck of the woods.

I have a copy of “Military Ballooning during the Early Civil War, Vol; 1” by F. Stansbury Haydon so most of Mr. Knapp's presentation was already familiar to me. Something I did learn came from his practical experience in ballooning. Originally, he would do his demonstrations using helium. But because the Republicans panicked over a $4 billion deficit in 1995, they decided to sell off the National Helium Reserve. Subsequently, the cost of helium climbed. Where it once took something on the order of $1,200 to fill one of his balloons with helium, it would now take $37,000. I had known the cost had risen but I hadn't had any information on the scope of the issue.

And so, Mr. Knapp switched over to hydrogen.

Something else I had not known. I had thought that human flight utilizing hydrogen had been prohibited by the FAA. That is apparently not the case, though Mr. Knapp says that he avoids saying the word “hydrogen” to avoid panicking the lawyers.

In speaking to him after the presentation, I informed him of things he had not known. He had not heard of Doctor Solomon Andrews and his unpowered dirigible. Nor had he heard of the Mystery Airships of 1896-97.

After that, we were shuttled over top Chartier's Cemetery for a tour of the GAR plot there. And while the information provided was interested, I couldn't help but notice the L-shaped piece of wire in the guide's hand.

A dowsing rod.

And, sure enough, at some point he started talking about dowsing, how it works and how useful it is in finding disturbed ground in a cemetery. He explained that the way the rod moves can show whether the body beneath is male, female or a child.

And the assembled were all in awe!

I was repulsed. You are in a cemetery, you shouldn't be surprised if you find disturbed ground. It's all disturbed ground. In fact, you can literally see that the ground is disturbed as the coffins decay and collapse and the ground above them sink. You just got finished telling us that's what happens, why do you discount the possibility that you looked at the ground, saw that the ground was disturbed, and then moved the wire to confirm that disturbance? Dowsing doesn't work. Professional archaeologists don't use it because it doesn't work (and they are the sort's of people who could benefit in exactly the same way you claim to). It's the idiometer effect. YOU are moving the wire, not some magical force. You said, when asked, that “you couldn't patent it.” Well why the fuck not? If it's true, you could patent it and make millions. In fact, James Randi has a million dollars in an account just waiting for you to collect. All you have to do is prove that it works.

On a previous visit to the Espy Post, I got to hear more woo in that psychic investigators had found all sort of power there. It was obviously haunted. I actual had a little bit of dread at returning to the library from the cemetery to hear more junk when I toured the post. My blood was up and I thought I might not be able to restrain my incredulity.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. I did, however, get a change to speak with someone knowledgeable about about the GAR and I was able to get some information on the GAR medal I typically wear in persona.

The hook on the back, embedded rather than cast, the pointy wings on the eagle, and the lack of a stamped campsite scene on the back identified it as a Type IV from before 1883. More importantly, the M as part of the serial number, combined with the other elements, set the date of manufacture in either 1881 or 1882, when the GAR was lead by George Sargent Merril.

There was a book sale in the library basement and I went down to have a look. I saw a book on ironclads on one table but I didn't buy it right then, wanting to look around and see if there one of the other tables had something I would have rather spent my money on. When I returned to that table I found that the table belonged to the divining rod guy who had given the cemetery tour. He noticed my GAR badge and started pontificating on it, providing me information that mirrored that given me by the guy upstairs. He then gloated that he knew more than some “experts.”

And there was the key. His disdain for professionals and other “experts” lead directly into reinforcing his dowsing confirmation bias. Magical thinking plus Dunning-Kruger equals woo.

And, honestly. Identification of GAR badges is really a simple matter of knowing the history of the design. What year what style badge was manufactured and who was in charge then. Anyone could do it with the proper document (in fact, I found just such a document online).

In persona, I typically carry a katana in a cavalry saber scabbard. Well, not the actual sword because the blade, though the proper shape, is too wide for the scabbard. I would like to fix that which would involve dismantling the scabbard, chiseling the inside wider, then putting it back together. It's that last step that I think will be the challenge because the leather covering the scabbard would need to be replaced. Currently it's sewn on somehow and I took the opportunity to speak with some of the reenactors there to get their advice on how that might be accomplished. No one there had gone so far as to have built a scabbard or knew how it would be done but the doctor had a suggestion that, for some reason, hadn't occurred to me.

Go to a cobbler.

I had someone who had resoled my boots, it would make sense to go back to him and ask how the scabbard might be accomplished. Maybe even commission him to do the work (if it's not too expensive).

As I think about it more, I am increasingly confident that I could do the work. It might not look perfect but, hey, this is steampunk. This is making and DIY. To Tandy Leather!

Maybe. There are a string of events coming up; 3 Rivers Comicon and Vandalia Con at the end of May, Sci-Fi Valley Con and Old Bedford Village in June, I would want to have the sword to carry at those events. So either I have to do this work in the next few weekends to have it done for those events or perhaps put it off until July.

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