Category Archives: Misc

Marshall Islands Stick Charts

The people of the Marshall Islands used a number of techniques to help them navigate between their 29 atolls and 5 islands.  Such as following the seasonal navigation of birds, celestial navigation and noting the interferences in air and sea patterns caused by atolls. They might also have taken frigate birds with them. These birds will not land on the water as their feathers will become waterlogged making it impossible to fly. When the navigators  thought they were close to land they could release a bird, which would either fly towards land, or  return to the canoe if no land was in sight.

Doctor David Lewis’ ‘We, the Navigators: Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific’ is the classic study of Pacific navigation techniques.

Probably most of the travel in the Marshall Islands took place between the islands in individual atolls. Bikini Atoll has 23 islands and the central lagoon is 229 square miles. Enewetok has 40 islands and a central lagoon 50 miles in circumference. Navigating even within a lagoon would not have been trivial.

Navigating between atolls would in most cases have been both difficult and dangerous. The area bounded by Bikini Utrik, Majuro and Ebon is 165,000 square miles. That is a lot of sea to get lost in. Travelling from Bikini to Enewetok involves a journey of 190 miles and if a navigator missed Enewetok it was a long way to the next land.


Navigators were important people who guarded their knowledge. They created stick charts to help them remember the direction of other atolls and the currents and swells that would affect their navigation. The charts consisted of sticks tied to create a frame and shells fastened to the frame to indicate atolls.

Some stick charts just showed [usually inaccurately] the direction and distance of some other atolls, like this 1884 specimen one from a Swedish Museum.


And this one from the Harvard University’s Peabody Museum.


Others also included sticks to indicate the flow of currents and swells.


Each navigator prepared his own stick chart and probably jealously guarded it from other navigators, just as sailing masters guarded the charts and notes in the early days of Western exploration.

During the Cold War the US used the Marshall Islands for testing nuclear weapons. The islands were designated as the Pacific Proving Grounds. See this post on the testing that took place there. There is also a stick chart that was made to illustrate the geography and identify the main atolls used for testing.



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Forgotten History – Tally Sticks

Tally sticks were once  essential for recording government and commercial transactions. Kings used them to help collect taxes. Individuals and businesses used them provide a tangible record of debts and  investments.

Tally sticks were usually made of wood, but could also be made of bone, ivory or stone. The Ishango Bone tally was made from the thigh bone of a baboon and dates from around 18000-20000 BC.

Tally sticks were introduced into England in about 1100 and continued to be used by Exchequer until 1827. In 1834 someone decided to dispose of the remaining sticks and succeeded in setting fire to the Houses of Parliament link.


Single tallies were usually used as a memory aid. Split tallies had a much wider range of applications. They were used to acknowledge receipt of goods, payment of taxes or a fine. Or, like the example below, provide proof of a debt. They formed part of a primitive but essential accounting system in medieval times.

Few tally sticks have survived [they made good firewood], so I made the one below to illustrate their features.

The stick is just under 12 inches long [about 30cm] and made of a wood with a clear grain. It records that AB owes CD five British pounds [£5], six shillings [6s] and three pence [3d]. Before decimalisation a pound was divided into twenty shillings and each shilling was divided into twelve pence. AB is the debtor [who owes the money] and CD is the creditor [who is owed]. It also shows when the debt is due. In the example repayment is due when CD demands it.

NN means non negotiable. CD cannot sell or give the debt to anyone else. AB will only repay CD.  You can see the point of that. If CD sold the debt to an enemy of AB the enemy could bide their time and then present the tally when they knew AB was overstretched.


The notches in the top edge indicate value. There were different notches for pounds [and thousands of pounds], shillings and pence.

Sticks were made of woods that split easily so the one part of the split tally could be kept by the creditor and the other part taken by the debtor.


The creditor’s [CD] part was called the ‘stock’ and was longer than the ‘foil’ which was taken by AB.  This is why we refer to someone getting the ‘short end of the stick’ when they have the worst part of a deal.

If someone lent money to the recently established Bank of England they would get a stock [from which we get the ‘stock’ in ‘stocks and shares’] recording the transaction. The Bank would keep the foil.

When we pay someone by cheque we send the cheque to our creditor but we keep a record of the payment on a ‘counterfoil’ in our cheque book.

Tally sticks had a number of anti-forgery features.

  1.  The notches on a stock and a foil had to match exactly when payment was demanded.
  2.  The grain had to match. If you look at the first photograph you can see that the grain clearly continues from the foil to the stock.
  3.  Details of the debt was written on both the stock and the foil.

The two photographs below show another tally stick. I made this to resemble one that was used in Switzerland until the end of the 19th century and is now in a museum.  The same anti-forgery features are present.  The holes in each part were presumably drilled so that the tallies could be strung on a string and not mislaid or used as firewood by a housemaid. Thoughtless housemaids were a real danger. A maid burned Thomas Carlyle’s only copy of his book, the ‘The French Revolution: A History’,  after mistaking it for waste paper and using it to kindle a fire.



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The Nuclear Club

worlds nuclear club

Note that the US had 31,255 warheads in 1967. See this post.

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January 17, 2016 · 7:50 pm

Looking for campaign funding? Why not try to restart the cold war?

Are you an American politician hoping to increase your campaign funding?  Why not join other American patriots and tap into cash from from major defence contractors? Our lobbying firm can help you have a Super PAC which is really super.

These defence companies have many calls on their finances and you will need to demonstrate that you are seriously committed to fomenting nuclear war between the US and a worthy opponent. Don’t waste their time prating about terrorism. These companies need people who can bring contracts for big ticket items such as missiles, aircraft carriers and submarines.

Prod the bear

The best way to demonstrate that you are a serious player is to approach them with a well thought out plan for a nuclear holocaust. You will need something that will really get the Russkies riled up.

For example, how about planning a strike on the Kozelsk missile fields south west of Moscow?


As well as knocking out some missiles the prevailing winds should ensure a >10,000 rem fallout cloud over Moscow with over 16 million casualties including 13 million deaths.  That idea should get the Russkies pretty annoyed and, if you are lucky, provoke them to do something that will increase US defence spending.

All our clients have access to a number of tools which you will find  invaluable when preparing your plans.

DNA nuclear Targeting binders 01

Defense Nuclear Agency Damage Prediction Rule 1986 version 21

In case things get out of hand we can help you make arrangements for some secure accommodation. Iron Mountain has some suites available, or perhaps a converted Titan missile silo might be most attractive. There are lots of locations available.  For really deep security you might want to consider a bijou residence in one of America’s 15 salt mines. You would be over 600 ft  down and when you emerged you would find your surviving electorate eager for the kind of leadership only you can provide and our company ready to help you with your campaign needs.

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Hitler the tax dodger

“Adolf Hitler spent years dodging taxes, accumulating enormous debts as he led his Nazi party to power, a German tax expert has revealed.   He owed the authorities 405,500 Reichsmarks (6m euros; £4m in today’s money) by 1934, when as German chancellor his debts were forgiven. ”

Reading this made me turn to Surviving Hitler by Lebor  Boyes.  This excellent book gives much more detail on Hitler’s financial affairs.

Once he became Chancellor the sales of Mein Kampf increased enormously. Copies of the book were given away at official ceremonies.  For example, newlyweds were given a copy of Mein Kampf as bedtime reading. In 1925 Hitler sold less than 10,000 copies; by 1933 annual sales were over 800,000 copies and continued at this rate until 1944. He used to earn 2 million marks a year from publishers royalties and had 7 million marks awaiting collection from his publishers at the time he died.

Whenever Hitler’s image was used on a postage stamp he received a payment. Albert Speer saw Hitler get a royalty cheque for 50 million marks [worth about £100 million or almost $200 million at current prices]. There may have been several such payments. Hitler also made money from selling copies of his collected speeches and reproduction rights to his paintings.

A final source of income was backhanders from German industrialists.  Lebor and Boyes estimate this was worth 100 million marks a year to Hitler. Martin Bormann acted as his bagman.

It’s sad when you cannot even trust an homicidal tyrant to be honest.

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Space elevators and other ideas from science fiction

Click on this link for a list of ten significant technological concepts which had their popular origins in the world of sci-fi. In some cases, a science fiction source was not necessarily the actual originator, but was influential in bringing the idea to popular attention.

The following could be added to the list

Space Elevator – The Fountains of Paradise – A C Clarke

Aquaculture – The Deep Range – Arthur C Clarke

Data Glasses [e.g. Google Goggles} – Virtual Light – William Gibson

Nanotechnology [and particularly the idea of The Young Ladies Primer] – The Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson

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What did the EU ever do for us?

Saved us 50-100 billion euros per year

“EU finance ministers have unanimously supported a new package of rules for making payments across the union without extra charges. The move could lead to cross-border payment transactions costing the same as payments within one member state. The so-called Payment Services Directive, adopted on Tuesday (27 March), provides the legal framework for a single payments area – with no national barriers to impede companies from offering their services across borders and no extra fees for consumers to use their debit or credit cards abroad or send money anywhere in the EU. The European Commission believes that the reduction of costs will save the EU economy 50-100 billion euros per year and make it simpler and cheaper for Europeans to make cross-border payments.”

Stopped the mobile phone companies overcharging us

“EU travelers could first notice a difference when they slip across borders in August: Their phones will beep and tell them how much a call home will cost. And when they return, they may see their phone bills cut by as much as 70 percent, compared with the last time they called friends or family members from the beach.” link

Protected us from dangerous chemicals

“Legislation requiring the safety testing of tens of thousands of chemicals – many in everyday use – has come into effect across the EU. For the first time, it will be up to industry, rather than the regulatory authorities, to prove that chemicals are safe.” link

Introduced proper labelling for organic foods

“Farmers who sell produce containing at least 95 percent organic ingredients will use a special EU logo, along with a label to indicate the product’s origin. Below that, there will be labelling of the organic ingredients present. “This is an excellent agreement which will help consumers to recognize organic products throughout the EU more easily and give them assurances of precisely what they are buying” link

Made us recycle electronic waste

“I think this is an absolutely great piece of legislation,” said Jonathan Wright, a senior supply chain executive for Accenture, the management consultancy. In the past, all that companies focused on was getting products made and getting them out to customers,” he explained. Now, organisations are having to think about what is going to happen after the product has been sold.” link

Saved us $40 billion a year in energy costs

“Industry and households throughout Europe could save £40bn a year after the EU’s domestic energy supply market was yesterday opened for full-scale competition. The move promises to help put an end to distortions that cost UK consumers £10bn last year.” link

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