Category Archives: Food

Armies Around the World Testing Electric Bikes (Yet Again)

A nod to military bike history can be found in a new article about the British military called “Charge of the light brigade: Army Parachute Regiment trial electric bikes

Eighty years ago, wartime necessitated the introduction of the Royal Enfield WD/RE ‘Flying Flea’ and the Welbike, which were parachuted into occupied Europe, providing a means for airborne and assault troops to transmit messages. […] “Motorcycles have been in military use ever since they were invented. So, what we’re doing is nothing new – what’s new is the electrification side of it and the opportunities that presents…they can be used in a way where a petrol engine would just give your position away.”

Electric bikes have many obvious advantages, already getting a lot of attention from special forces in America: given low sound and heat profiles they are much safer, faster, lighter and easier to maneuver than liquid fuel bikes, not to mention an easier and safer supply chain.

What’s not to like about electric bikes?

Even more broadly, the bike in most cases is a far better tool for modern military application than any automobile including trucks. It’s not really any kind of news or secret.

Without a Motorcycle in Kandahar, ‘You Are Like a Prisoner’. A foreshadowing of how the Afghan war would be won and lost by distributed / localization networks, hit & run tactics, and terrain advantages.

See also:

In terms of the US Army, consider how they rode mountain-bike field tests way back in 1896, as I’ve written here before, so the Ogden Bolton electric bike from 1895 might be a better “nothing new” reference than a smelly, greasy 1939 Royal Enfield.

Source: ElectricBike

Speaking of references, in 1991 there was even a book published that detailed a century of bikes used in war. It’s kind of amazing to think how many better references there may be versus that WWII Enfield.

Swiss book that gets far less attention than it should

In WWI soldiers allegedly even were pulling heavy gear into battle using bicycles as if some kind of direct replacement for horse power. You’d think electricity would be on their mind.

Source: Leeds Bikes

Journalists in 1914 indeed mention that a bike has a major advantage because it can be dropped flat to the ground and completely hidden from enemy fire, which seems an odd point to make today yet it was an innovation in military thinking at the time.

Being completely hidden, of course, is again why the electric motor signature has been so compelling for 100 years versus oil burners.

And from there, the 1938 McDonald seems even more relevant, especially because by this time Japan was using bicycles in major offensive campaigns (1937 invasion of China).

Source: ElectricBike

Given the superiority of electric, it’s a wonder anyone bothered with gasoline bikes at all.

It seems all too easy to find evidence of electric bikes in military projects throughout history that are far more relevant to today’s British paratrooper than an Enfield of WWII. Here’s a good one:

In 1997, [US Government was] seeking a way to move military troops and equipment without the heat or noise signatures of a combustion engine and due to Montague’s experience in the field, they won the grant to develop the Tactical Electric No Signature (TENS) Mountain Bike. Montague worked closely with Currie Technologies on their earliest electric systems to equip these military models with the best electric motor technology of the time. Currie is still making electric drive systems used on many e-bikes today.

US military Tactical Electric No Signature (TENS) Mountain Bike. Source: Montague bikes

Someone in the US military surely thought TENS would be an hilarious acronym for an 18-speed electric bicycle.

So what really is new? The oil industry seems to be losing its death grip. In retrospect, bikes never should have been anything but electric this whole time.

I mean I know it’s fashionable to say electric bikes have short range, have trouble keeping a charge in extreme weather… but let’s be honest about such nonsense.

You can’t pull gasoline out of thin air or water like you can electricity. Even diesel has potential to be created from local sources that gasoline clearly does not. I’ve always found electricity available in even the most remote locations, places oil was nowhere to be found.

In fact, WWII motorcyclists reminisce about their leaky and wasteful fuel cans, which could never serve modern operations.

“We had flimsy cans of petrol, so you cut them in half, pierced it with a lot of holes, three-quarter fill it with earth, pour petrol and put a match on it and it would burn for a long while. That’s how we used to brew up [tea] while we’re on the road!”

With an electric bike he would have just heated water using a simple pad or pole plugged into the battery, having none of the signature/footprint issues of a setting that petrol can on fire.

“He seemed to find it surprising soldiers would have good things to say about him”

A fascinating profile of the US Army’s top enlisted leader, Sgt Maj Michael Grinston, reminds me very much of the brilliant modesty found in American heroes like President Grant.

…while much of Grinston’s motivation over the years stems from his belief and desire to be with and help soldiers, that doesn’t mean his soldiers always liked him…. “I was mean,” he said. “There’s no way I could lie to you, if you were to talk to my soldiers … I was not nice, I was not fun. I wouldn’t want me as a drill sergeant.” That’s not all there is to it, of course. Soldiers who have served with him described him as technically proficient — impressively so. […] To those who know him, that is the real Michael Grinston — a soldier who confronts things head-on, not some soft leader who is more focused on nail polish than winning wars. […] Despite the many things he’s accomplished over his long career, he seemed to find it surprising that the soldiers who he served with would have overwhelmingly good things to say about him. When he learned that they did, he responded, “I don’t know why.”

Clearly this is a man who cares deeply about others, who works hard and takes care of those in need. He is the very definition of the “Alpha” personality, the doting pack leader — a proficient parent who can take on development of dependents (the “Betas” capable mostly of caring only for themselves) to help ensure they will survive.

Interesting to read that being so good at leadership by establishing care made him perceived both as mean (high Alpha standards for his pack) and also soft (applying standards in a way that undermines the influence of Beta personalities).

It reminded me of an old post I wrote about how wolves in reality prefer fishing to hunting since risk of casualty is lower.

“Healthy Choice” Restaurant Closed by Health Inspectors

The Orange County Register regularly reports restaurants forced to closed by health inspectors.

In December “Healthy Choice” in La Habra was cited for insufficient hot water and closed for a day.

Source: The OCR

Water measured at the time of an inspection has to be at 120F degrees or more for cleaning. The icon for “Rodent infestation” is for a different restaurant.

The Amazing Almanacs of Benjamin Banneker

For five years in early American history (1792-1797) a genius published almanacs with copious information about the seasons.

Benjamin Banneker, who was self-taught, informed Americans of crucial science of the time to aid in trades including agriculture and fishing: astronomical calculations, cycles of locusts, phases of the moon, tide charts and more.

He even submitted the first edition of his almanac to slaveholder Thomas Jefferson (secretary of state at that time) as a form of proof that all Black Americans should be emancipated.

Jefferson officially replied to Banneker:

Sir, I thank you sincerely for your letter of [August] 19th. instant and for the Almanac it contained. no body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colours of men, & that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa & America. I can add with truth that no body wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising the condition both of their body & mind to what it ought to be, as fast as the imbecillity of their present existence, and other circumstance which cannot be neglected, will admit. I have taken the liberty of sending your almanac to Monsieur de Condorcet, Secretary of the Academy of sciences at Paris, and member of the Philanthropic society because I considered it as a document to which your whole colour had a right for their justification against the doubts which have been entertained of them. I am with great esteem, Sir, Your most obedt. humble servt. Th. Jefferson

Despite kind words allegedly things didn’t change and the slippery Jefferson recanted his praise of Banneker, not to mention ceased any efforts at ending slavery.

Jefferson’s reply fell far short of addressing the political, religious, and ethical challenges that Banneker had put forth… a question which the future president chose not to debate with the freeman: the fundamental contradiction between the principles of democracy and freedom and the cruelty of slavery, passionately voiced by Banneker. Jefferson, it seems, saw Banneker’s intelligence as an exception among African-Americans, rather than evidence that Jefferson’s perceptions about race might be fundamentally flawed. Sadly, three years after Banneker’s death in 1806, Jefferson wrote to Joel Barlow, an American poet and politician, disparaging the by-then well known Banneker and arguing that he could not have made the calculations contained in the almanac without assistance.

Jefferson’s disparagement in today’s terms would look like accusing someone of being part of an extra-national membership (e.g. Catholicism, Judaism, Islam) as if their thoughts are owed to some other group, or come from outside intervention. It’s an encoded way to call people puppets and unintelligent.

An antique cartoon (The American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1840) illustrates the absurdity of Jeffersonian racism:

Source: The Henry Ford Collection (THF7209)

Jefferson was obviously wrong about perpetuating slavery, and also wrong in discrediting the genius of Banneker by assigning him a false association.

Unfortunately, very little of Banneker’s revolutionary and pioneering work remains since his house was “mysteriously” set on fire and all his works completely destroyed on October 11, 1806 the day he was buried. Jefferson attempting to destroy the reputation of an American icon was foreshadowed by men attempting to destroy any evidence of that icon’s legacy.

One of the items destroyed, for example, was a famous wood clock he had made that had kept accurate time for decades. It is hard to overstate the significance of being self-taught yet making a precisely accurate clock out of wood in the 1700s.

Many historians believed that Banneker’s clock is the first one made entirely in the USA.

Or as Stevie Wonder put it even more generally in his song Black Man:

First clock to be made
In America was created
By a Black man

Arguably, based on the Library of Congress collections, Banneker was a colleague or even a peer of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In other words, we know about him primarily because records preserved on behalf of Washington and Jefferson (not to mention records made by Stevie Wonder).

It begs the question whether the genius of Banneker should have been afforded an even greater influence over American calendaring and timekeeping.

His almanacs remind us of the lunisolar calendars found around the world, which track agricultural cycles and the significance of environmental observation. Consider the Japanese documentation of poetic nijūshi sekki (twenty-four seasonal divisions), which achieves national significance as works of art.

Here you can see how Japan assigns three kō to every sekki, each about a week long.

Source: Quartz at Work

Industrial American calendaring tends to repeat at best the vague “April showers bring May flowers”. However, time keepers in Japan tell us March 31 “distant thunder” to April 15 “first rainbow” and then May 5 “frogs start singing”, May 21 “silkworms feast on mulberry leaves”, June 11 “decomposing grass turns to fireflies”.

Describing the “waxing and waning of the moon and the movement of the sun across our skies” is exactly what Banneker was so adept at in his almanacs.

Source: StudioTerp

Imagine what his legacy — so violently uninterrupted — should look like today had it been allowed to flourish; perhaps wonder whether climate change in America would be so controversial in 2022 if the existence of Banneker himself, a genius freeman in America, hadn’t been so controversial 230 years ago (let alone today).

Or as another cartoon put it in 1876, called “In Self Defense: Southern Chivalry”…

Source: Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928), “Harper’s Weekly”, 28 October, 1876, p. 880

American Honey Locust Bean Stew

When I grew up on the American prairie there were edible plants everywhere.

However, there also was a trend among ranchers and farmers (driven by overly technology-focused agriculture investors — like what Bill Gates is doing today) to see only the worst of native species instead of the best.

Take the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) for just one example.

Here’s how the U.S. government’s National Park service describes them:

Imagine walking through a forested area alongside the Missouri and discovering one of these – a honey locust tree. It’s very possible the men of the Corps did come face-to-face with these nasty thorns, especially in today’s Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota. But if anyone was injured by them, it didn’t get recorded in the journals.

One of the times honey locusts are mentioned is by John Ordway on July 3, 1804: “The land is Good high bottom pine Timber & black wallnut honey locas oak &C.”

In nature honey locusts grow in both thornless and thorned forms, with spikes growing up to 12″ long. Many regions in the South once referred to the trees as Confederate pin trees because those thorns were used to pin uniforms together during the Civil War. Others claim the thorns have been used throughout history as nails.

And here’s the image the NPS wants you to see.

Source: NPS

Nasty thorns. Any guesses why nobody on the expedition recorded being injured by them? My bet is because it didn’t deserve any more mention than any other thorns.

And I have found zero evidence to support any such idea that Confederate soldiers used tree thorns to “pin” their uniforms. Nada. Zilch.

Or let me put it this way: the alleged phrase “pin tree” appears exactly never in an exhaustive search of literature from the 19th Century.

Any guesses why nobody ever recorded the phrase “pin tree”? My bet is because it never happened.

To be fair to the NPS perspective of today, these trees do have a lot of thorns on them. Yet so do roses and raspberries, and how many people go around describing those two beloved plants as nasty?

Instead of focusing just on the thorns of a branch or trunk, let’s talk about delicious edible beans of the locust tree for a minute.

They get the name “honey” from the fact that they in fact have a tasty orange “goo” between seeds in a pod.

And their beans seem to be a high protein source easily grown in the wild (member of the legume family, like lentils and garbanzo).

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp oil or fat
  • 1 Tbsp locust beans
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • Handful of dried and seasoned meat (e.g. fish, fowl)
  • Pinch of seasonings (e.g. salt, pepper)

Recipe

  1. Depod the locust beans (clean, soak/boil for tenderness, wash and remove hull)
  2. Chop and mix onions and tomatoes
  3. Put pan on fire and pour in oil or fat to heat for 2 minutes
  4. Add prepared chopped mix to the oil/fat, stir and cover for 2 minutes
  5. Add seasonings, prepared locust beans, stir and cover for 5 minutes
  6. Add prepared meat, stir and cover for 5 minutes

Of course the younger green pods of the tree could be cooked like a green bean. And of course the hard seeds of a mature (dry, brown) pod could be ground into a flour. There are many options, so this is just one to give you an idea of why the NPS focus on the thorns in a story about exploration seems… not very exploratory.

What is truly unfortunate and bizarre is how nobody anywhere seems to have collected traditional recipes from the people who lived on locust bean for generations — Native Americans.

A few years back the President of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) paid me a visit in Silicon Valley.

Very purposefully I took him out for a nice sushi dinner and ordered edamame.

“Soy beans” he exclaimed! “We are supposed to eat livestock feed” he stated flatly albeit genuinely.

“Wait until you see the bill. We’re paying $5 a bowl” I sat back and replied with a wide grin.

Then I helped him off the floor and back into his chair as he said “what in the… we get barely $5 a bushel for our damn soy beans!”

If only he had explored what was all around him the whole time; tried harvesting honey locust beans growing naturally (literally falling from the tree).

Who knows what could have happened if he had ever thought about packaging honey locust beans for human consumption…

Source: freshola