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September 2012

Engineers are a literal bunch. The Unknown Editor is not asking anyone to relocate to Paterson NJ, although it is still el lugar muy bueno.

The Great Falls

This story may or may not be historically 100% accurate, but the way I like it is the way it is told here. I only came to assign it its full meaning late in life, after the principal players are both deceased. Let's look at some background, before we tell the story in reverse.

Warning: UE has placed some subliminal messages (not quite "liminal") in this content, watch out for sentences in italics...

Paterson is in the heart of Northern New Jersey, and was historically significant as one of perhaps two sites where the Industrial Revolution started. To claim that title required a power source, in the case of Paterson, it is the Great Falls. Up in Massachusetts the Merrimack River provides similar flow, and Lowell became a competitive mill site but had to depend on dams to achieve what in Paterson came naturally. Paterson was founded as a city after the Revolutionary War, and with some help from Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (on the US $10 bill in case you never noticed) an organization called Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (SUM) was founded which soon took advantage of the Great Falls 77 foot drop. First cotton mills sprang up, and by 1830 a locomotive factory. Later Paterson became known as Silk City. Rogers locomotives were built in Paterson from 1830 to 1911 used all over the country.

A famous 4-4-0 locomotive built in Paterson was "The General", which was involved in an incident known as The Great Locomotive Chase during the Civil War and resulted in some posthumous Medal of Honor awards by Congress. West Virginian James Andrews and his seven raiders were executed as spies by the Confederates when they were finally caught after leaving an incredible trail of destruction. The 1956 Disney movie starred six foot six inch (198 cm) Fes Parker, and is worth a viewing on Netflix. It features bad TV-style acting, a mediocre treatment of a great subject, and a feel-good ending where Fes shakes hands with the guy that was responsible for his capture, just before he is hanged. But the rolling stock in the movie is amazing, in addition to the General there is a second 4-4-0 named the Texas and a tiny yard engine named the Yonah and all three end up balling the jack. You even get a top view of the General's awesome spark catcher cone in action. Time to wood up!

 

Today the General resides at the Southern Museum in Kennesaw, Georgia not far from where it was stolen a century and a half ago.

Paterson was where funnyman Lou Costello was born. You can visit his statue in Costello Park, or spend an entire day at your lonely computer watching full length Abbott and Costello movies available free on Youtube. Here's a good trailer...

 

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

New Jersey could be considered America's most compact melting pot. New Jersey is home to more scientists and engineers per square mile than anywhere in the world. It is also the most ethnically diverse state. The five largest ethnic groups are: Italian (17.9%), Irish (15.9%), African (13.6%), German (12.6%), and Polish (6.9%) (source: Wikipedia). Of course, the Dutch got there first, so the Vreelands, Van Duynes, and Van Wingerdens still own much of the farmland. Germans settled into NJ shortly after General Washington's Continental Army caught them with their pants down one Christmas morning. The American Revolution may have started outside a tavern in Lexington MA, but it was fought long and hard in New Jersey.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze

New Jersey is home of "Havana on the Hudson", the town of Union City boasts 85% Hispanic population and at 52,000 people per square mile is the United States' most densely populated city. Paterson itself is 32% African American, 58% Latino, and it can boast of owning a house on the Underground Railway. Does your city have one of those? Across New Jersey more than 10% of the population speaks Spanish at home, yet the are in not danger of being questioned about their "papers" as they are in Arizona today. New Jersey Transit (state run) operates a ridiculous amount of rail and bus service throughout the state, for profit.

John Holland was another Patersonian, having emigrated from Ireland in the late nineteenth century. Holland submitted several submarine designs to the US Navy, which were ignored. Later his work was funded by Irish separatists, and Fenian Ram was produced. It was never really used, mostly because of an argument over paying for it. You can visit it at the Paterson Museum.

Fenian Ram

As much as Paterson would like to call the Ram the first practical submarine, the Confederate Hunley was the first to sink an enemy warship, and the first and hopefully last to be sunk three times with all lives lost.

 

Hunley makes its fateful run

Just as there is no direct relationship between capitalism and democracy, nor a relationship between ability to generate personal wealth, brains and leadership, there is no correlation between bravery and being on the right side of a conflict. I'm sorry you guys died in your cool submarine, but you were terrorists.

But there is a direct relationship between greed and stupidity. It's an abusive relationship, just open a casino, serve up a crappy all-you-can-eat buffet, and you're living the dream. But sometimes the bad guys lose. It's nice to see the founder of Enzyte serve a prison sentence and get fined $500M for fraud.

 

Keep Smiling, Bob, your CEO might get out of prison by 2021

The American Navy's first submarine class was the Holland 602, designed by Paterson's John Holland, and produced by Electric Boat, founded 1899 in Groton Connecticut (you see, Paterson really doesn't have beach frontage...) The Holland 602 served in WWI under US and Russian (later Soviet) flags, but was crude in comparison to Germany's untersee boots, or U-boats. Microwave Hall of Famer Reginald Fessenden invented the early form of sonar that was used in this era.

Some Paterson trivia: over the years, West Paterson became Woodland Park, and East Paterson became Elmwood Park. Both names were chosen to retain the initials on high school athletic and band uniforms.

Now what about that story...?

I grew up as one of the youngest in a family with five kids. The oldest was a special needs child, I have no idea what label would be applied today but she was in her own little world. Part of that little world involved idioms she picked up and sometimes modified: we didn't have video games to play with, but we had a fly swatter. She would often hunt flies while saying the following:

"Now put your wings out, so I can hit you..."

Not long after that, her special ed teacher (exclusive Mountain Lakes NJ) was fired. The expression originated from that teacher punishing students with a ruler; "hands" had become "wings" in this usage. It seems that saying something in anger had a way of impressing it on her brain such that she repeated it when she was frustrated.

Little Falls, late 1950s

A family of seven lives in a small apartment in Little Falls, New Jersey, within sight of the Beattie Carpet Mill, which specialized in long rugs for cruise ships back in the day. You can see historic pictures of Little Falls at flickr thanks to their library. The fourth and fifth kids have caused at least one fist to be shaken at Ortho Pharmaceutical's Raritan NJ facility, which makes family planning products. If not for this chemical failure you would not be reading this account now. This was couple of years before Enovid was approved by the FDA, which Sandra Fluke can now appreciate, while Limbaugh abuses Oxycontin. It took until 1965 before the Pill was available to all married women in all states, thanks to Griswold v. Connecticut. By 1972, you no longer had to be married to obtain it, and unmarried sex could no longer be against the law, at least in the US.

 

 

Learn how the word "slut" has been recently been redefined...

The time had come for a bigger place to live, but these are not ordinary parents who would take out a bank loan. They decide to buy a large piece of property way out in the boondocks of Morris county and build a house. The wife is an engineer with one of the first Masters Degrees issued to a female by MIT (in physics) but in the new role of stay-at-home Mom.

Little Falls is on the Passaic River, downstream from the Great Falls, you can see how these two towns could get mixed up. Jackie Gleason was born there. It has a Memorial Park with a 17 foot granite statue, and a US M2 light tank which was developed in 1935 and saw limited use in WWII, as there were soon better armored vehicles. Kids can crawl on and learn about what trash that no one can reach eventually smells like. Been there and done that!

On with the story... one of the idioms that Sister used was "go back to Paterson, where you belong!" which she would say in anger. Here is my version of how she came to learn this.

Mom is in a car with a real estate agent, touring some upscale place like Lake Valhalla, which by the 1970s had more pothead teenagers per square mile than modern California. The real estate lady had picked up Mom and Sister at the apartment in Little Falls, which is next door to Paterson. Let's move to the screen play version of the conversation...

Real Estate Lady: You know, this area is quite exclusive...

Mom: What do you mean by exclusive?

Real Estate Lady: you know, we don't let those people buy houses here.

Mom: Which people?

Real Estate Lady: You know...

Mom: I'm afraid I don't know who you are referring to.

Real Estate Lady: OK let me spell it out for you: we don't sell to Negros, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Chinese...

Mom: Oh! Well then, we are definitely through with this tour!

Real Estate Lady: Jesus Christ, you're just like one of them! GO BACK TO PATERSON, WHERE YOU BELONG!

Sister: (I can use that...)

So what is the message here? We can't go backwards to the 1950s, in spite of what Tea Partiers think of the past. We all need to embrace our inner Paterson. Diversity is a strength. Vote Obama.

Didn't see that coming, did you?

UE is off the chain now... is another Chick-Fil-A corporate disaster upon us?

So, what of the party of rich white men with no skin in the game except money? Send them back to Utah where they belong. Or maybe back to Mexico where they came from, before they realized that they couldn't protect themselves in an armed conflict. Guns and bluster do not always provide the best answer.

Before I say something important about sarcasm, let me point out that the Republican party now bears strong resemblance to the "127th Annual Upper Class Twit of the Year Show" from Monty Python's Flying Circus. Certainly Mitt has insulted every waiter in the nation with his recent 47% comments. Dick Cheney's hunting skills are perfect for this event.

Upper Class Twit of the Year

Word search

Speaking of 47%, Mitt focuses on half the nation's tax status when he hasn't proven that he has paid any taxes himself. I don't mind paying my fair share to support my country, especially in its hour of need, even if I don't agree with where it all goes, that is called "patriotism". What do you call rich people with off-shore tax shelters and $100M 401K plans using insider trading? "Greedy". Take a look at agricultural chemist Dr. George Washington Carver's life for a demonstration about generosity, he is arguably the most generous American in history. He often forgot to cash his paychecks, because he simply didn't care about money. When he died he left Tuskeegee 40X his highest annual salary for a scholarship. Let's not forget he was born a slave, was stolen as a baby and then discarded as worthless, so money wasn't part of his upbringing. He would be the first to tell you, he didn't "build the peanut" by himself, he was quite religious back in the days before religion became just another big industry with a congressional lobby. He has been honored at least twice by the USPO. Innovation comes in all colors of the rainbow. You are the man, Dr. Carver.

 

What do you call a political convention where every speaker blamed the president for every possible shortcoming in the past three and a half years, when the Republican minority leader of the Senate had publicly conspired to make him fail? "Disingenuous" come to mind. Back in high school you could always get at least a few points on an English test you didn't study for if went with this phrase. How about "Man's Inhumanity to Man"...?

 

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Hey Mitch, you fail! But you made a fortune the old fashioned way, you married into it.

Have I ever used sarcasm? Not as much as them...

Now for a quote about sarcasm, by John Knowles, from A Separate Peace. "It was long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak". Rush, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham are the most sarcastic people on the planet. Apply the Knowles Principle to talk radio, and what can you conclude about political positions?

Recently in the news...

Recently the Samuel Mullet clan was convicted of hate crimes for cutting off hair and beards of some neighbors they don't like. Similar to Mitt's high school prank on a gay student, a hate crime that never got prosecuted. Being religious does not make you a good person.

Parting shot

It pays to live in a Blue State when the president is a Democrat, during the time we decide to divide up the retired space shuttle fleet.

Endeavor, welcome to California. Those of you that worked at the Houston's Space City Complex, we award you the participant medal and a cardboard replica for your hard work.

 

Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

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