Wednesday, December 11, 2019

How I actually view advanced Technology

With the FIRST robotics season soon upon us it might be well to consult Galaxy Quest, my oracle and guiding light for many things.  As I also am soon to be surrounded by technology that I but dimly understand the important line is:

"Well, it has never been successfully tested...."

Not long now before things that should work blow up in surprising ways....

Monday, December 9, 2019

Snowed In

Up north, with the forecast changed to include ten inches of snow.  Oh well, no place I have to be until Wednesday.

And, as it turns out, we are snowed in WITH the grand children.  So that's good.  

One of them challenged me to do a cart wheel, the first I've likely attempted in 30 years.  I'm still ambulatory, so that's good too.

A TARDIS Brewery in Menomonie Wisconsin?

In my study of brewery caves in Western Wisconsin there are several where I have solid evidence for their existence but for various reasons can't locate them.  Usually this is because they are underneath newer development as communities grow beyond their 19th century boundaries.  But one has bothered me to no end, causing me to make numerous visits.  And each time I come away frustrated and/or puzzled.


It should be easy.  Here is the 1885 plat map that gives exact details.


And if that is not enough for you, There's are descriptions in the Dunn County News. After a fire in 1877 - probably arson - destroyed the original brewery it was rebuilt "..on the brow of the hill just above where the old brewery stood, and directly over the vaults in the solid rock below, and communicating therewith, so that the beer may be carried through pipes from the vats to the cellar"  Further mention is made that the "spacious beer vault" was cut in the rock, was 40 feet below the floor of the brewery's basement, and that the "..main entrance to the vault is at the foot of the bluff near the site of the old brewery."  

A very blurry map from 1877 shows the brewery in its original form.   It would be somewhere near where the yellow "shed" appears in 1885.  Indeed, the shed is probably the entrance/antechamber for the beer vault.  The creek shown on the older map is a handy landmark and is just off the lower edge of the '85 map.

A slightly more detailed sketch is based on an 1874 source not available to me:

So, this should be easy.  There is still a road leading from the north down towards the original brewery site.  Doubtless this is the "wagon road" shown above.  You needed that road.  The beer was not going to go back up through those pipes after all.  With these coordinates in hand it is a simple matter to stand where the road must have taken a turn to go right into the brewery cave:

So that's it.  And the problem?  You can't tell from this perspective but from the road grade, which should be original, to the flat spot up above, is only about 30 feet.  And remember that the descriptions agree that the vault was 50 feet below the brewery. (For this discussion assume that 40 feet below a basement counts as about the same). It just does not work.  The title of my post suggests one possible answer...

But honestly a Dr. Who TARDIS brewery that could be much bigger on the inside than its external dimensions seems an implausible explanation for this dilemma.

Lets take a brief step back to review the history of the brewery.

Christian Fuss apparently started it in 1867.  He had a beer garden down near the river although sources disagree as to which side of the creek it was on.  Annual production of 300 to 400 barrels a year was about average for this time and place.  He appears to have struggled with debt so the allegation of arson associated with the fire in late 1877 could have various interpretations.   After the rebuild business seems to have been good, but Fuss went bankrupt anyway in 1884.  A series of complicated ownership changes, openings and closings followed with the final act being yet another fire that destroyed the brewery in 1891.  Christian Fuss went to work for the other brewery in town.  In 1894 he "..died destitute in a brewery where he had for several years past worked for his board."

So, be prepared to join me in confusion.  Maybe the descriptions of the beer vaults were inaccurate?  I'm not buying it.  Sanborn maps are painstakingly correct and we have essentially the same numbers from the 1878 newspaper articles and the map seven years later.

Maybe the top 20 feet of the hill were simply pushed over the side along with the ruins of the brewery?  I have seen something like this happen a time or two, but a local historian who grew up nearby remembers the ruins of the brewery still being there in the 1930s.  John Russell naturally went looking for the caves, as any lad of the era would have, but never found them.  He was a keen observer of local doings and I'm sure would have mentioned if 20 or 30 feet of the hill had been removed during his younger days.

I have seen one brewery cave that had a decided downward slope from its entrance.  It was in Prairie du Chien.  

But that one was pretty odd.  Also it was well away from any rivers and streams.  You can imagine the problems associated with having a lagering cellar that fills with water during spring floods.  Or even heavy rains.

So I end this trip to the site of the Christian Fuss Rock Brewery as I end all others.  Puzzled and frustrated.  It does not seem as if a TARDIS phenomenon should be up there among the more plausible explanations.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Encountering Resistance

Seasons come and go.  Just as I am finishing my electronics class at the local tech school it seems that the political season is getting warmed up.  The former runs for a semester.  The latter has become continuous.

In Electronics I learned quite a bit about resistors.  I had not known that there were different kinds, each with their own symbol.  Perhaps this will carry over to the political arena.  In each case if you overload the system you get plenty of heat and smoke.

Let's start with a photo resistor.  



Fixed resistors are the most common ones used in electronics.  And while rare, they do exist in the world of politics also.
For many years, and through assorted Presidencies there has been a small group in our town who get together every Saturday morning to protest U.S. foreign policy and militarism. I have stopped by and sipped coffee with them once or twice.  In a past career I've worked with several of these folks, and they're good people.  While respectful they don't cut either party any slack. This of course gets them very little press so I can't find a picture to show you.  You'll have to settle for this image of a more strident outfit who manage to be obnoxious to whoever is in power.  I guess that's something.

If I recited the mnemonic for resistor color codes in their hearing I suspect everyone but the formidable lady on the far right would keel over in a swoon.
Alas, most of what passes for protest these days is instead just a variety of activism.  Whether it is deficit spending, or overseas military involvement, or well most anything, our current political climate encourages people to vigorously condemn actions when done by their opponents even when they extol the virtues of the same actions when done by their own party.  Of course there's an electronics symbol for that too...

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Frisky Times in the Bat Cave

As I have mentioned a time or two, you should not go rummaging around in brewery caves in the winter  time.  At least not in those known or suspected to be safe havens for hibernating bats.  They need their sleep.

Cave hibernating bats you see, have an odd lifestyle.  Stop eating in the fall.  Huddle together in underground spaces all winter.  Sleep. Wake up every now and then to stretch and mate.  Go back to sleep.

It all seems very decadent.  

Researchers tracking the plight of bats in this age of White Nose syndrome have gotten, well rather nosy in their study of bat night life.  (I suppose for bats in a cave all winter, it's always night).  They tag them with fluorescent powder then check later to see how many other bats have the magic dust on them.  Somewhere or other.

One of my "bat friends" sent me this photo of a dusted bat under UV light illumination.  It struck me as resembling pictures I've seen of "Raves" where decadent humanoids gather in underground spaces with glow sticks, loud music and illegal drugs.  Rave Bat manages to have a pretty good time even without these things.

Sleep well my squeaky little pals.  See you in the spring.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Bloomer Wisconsin

Years ago I visited a cemetery in Bloomer Wisconsin.  Oh it had a few "tree shaped tombstones" but nothing remarkable.  Well, the other day I took a wrong turn going out of the place and ran across another, smaller cemetery.  Catholic in its persuasion, which means you get the distinctive "Christ on the Cross" variations...

There were two nice specimens near each other.  And they make an interesting pairing.

This one is older.  As you can see below Wenzel Recha died ("Gestorben") in 1888.  At that point in time his monument was carved in his native German.  "Ruht in Frieden". Rests in Peace.

And here's a generation later, a man who died in 1909.  English for the tombstone now.

Also of course a German name, and from the early dates of birth it seems likely that these men were both born in the Old Country.  But the old ways fade.

Of course not in my family, I'm told my father still grew up speaking German in the 1920's.  And that of course was after all things Teutonic became a bit unpopular during World War One.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Squirrel, the Fez and the Robot Overlord

Of course I run the Machines Behaving Badly course just for fun, and to see kids get a start in the world of technology.  I don't accept payment.  But when you are offered a coffee mug that bears your quasi-official title as Robot Overlord one must of course graciously accept.

It might be used for its primary purpose in the future but for now it is up on the shelf alongside Bill the Squirrel and my fez collection.