Monthly Archives: February 2016

The most offensive thing in America – Parker House

There are many offensive things about Americans, and many offensive things, but perhaps the most offensive is the famous Parker House restaurant, Boston, shown below in a photo taken by a friend of mine, historian Jim Wald. The Parker House is the home of Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie. Then there are the customers: Colin Powell and John Kennedy among them. It’s also the site of the Saturday club of Emerson, Longfellow, Holmes, Agassiz, Dana, and Charles Dickens; he lived in the Parker Hotel for two years. But more remarkable than either  is that its staff have shown a singular tendency to go off and become revolutionarily anti-American after working there for even a short time.

The Parker House restaurant, Dec. 2015, photo by jim Wald, perhaps showing the next world leader.

Among Parker House employees we find Malcolm X, he worked as a busboy under his original, given name: Malcolm Little. We also find Ho Chi Minh, a pseudonym taken — it means, the enlightened one or the one who will enlighten (strangely enough, Genghis Kahn also means the enlightened one — in Mongol) was a pastry chef. he arrived in Boston as a ships cook, and worked in the hotel as Nguyen Cung. After Boston, he moved to Paris where he again made cakes and pies but changed his name to Nguyen O Phap (Nguyen who hates the French). Eventually, he and Malcolm X revolted against America and managed to turn the tables, as it were, on their customers.

Why do workers in this hotel turn out this way. Perhaps it’s because the hotel tries to hire hard-working, intelligent staff. You’ll notice, in the photo above that the waiters look more physically fit than the customers and at least as sharp. They are as engaged in their conversation as the customers, but this is not the entirety of the issue. I suspect that the waitstaff in this location constantly listen to socialist discussions from the customers, and then are sent off for coffee, or ignored, and perhaps insulted as well.

My guess is that Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh became socialist revolutionaries because they came to believe they deserved more than they got from the customers at Parker House. I’m reminded of the “Uber” driver in Kalamazoo who picked up customers between bouts of a shooting spree. Apparently he showed no sign of mental illness, and got a five-star rating from his last customer.

So what can you do if you eat at Parker House or any fancy restaurant? I think it pays to tip. Don’t tip so much that your driver/ server feels like a peon, but tip. It would help to chat, I think. It’s likely to leave a good feeling — important if your waiter is homicidal — and if your waiter becomes famous some day, you might get a mention, or have the basis for a great story — “Me and Genghis go way back…” It’s nice if the next world dictator doesn’t hate you. I’m given to understand that the people hate Satan is that you can serve him, but he never tips.

Robert Buxbaum, February 29, 2016, updated August 24, 2017. I run REB Research, and I’m running for drain commissioner. I try to be nice to my employees and waiters.

Michigan, an emerging economy

Between 2009 and 2014, Michigan’s per-capita GDP grew at 14% per year, an amazing growth rate similar to that of an emerging, tiger economies. According tot the Bureau of Economic analysis, the only US states that grew faster were Texas and North Dakota, and these oil states were hit badly in the current year 2015-16.


Unfortunately, Michigan remains relatively poor despite it’s growth. Its per-capita GDP, $20,263 (2016), lags behind even perennial backwaters like Vermont, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The wealth gap in Michigan is growing, as in an emerging economy, and the cities, e.g. Detroit and Flint, are known for high murder rates, and a large-scale bankruptcy.

Michigan population change, Detroit Free Press

Michigan population change, Detroit Free Press

Then there’s pollution and flooding. Our beaches close for e-coli after every major rain, and we recently found that the drinking water in Flint was contaminated with lead; it seems other MI cities have lead problems too. Add to this, that we’ve  had major floods, a result of mismanagement, cronyism, and rampant growth, and Michigan keeps looking more and more like Vietnam, China, and India.

Everything here isn’t third world, though. We replaced our hapless, ex-governor Granholm with a relatively competent (in my opinion) nerd, Rick Snyder. We’ve jailed the of worst crooks, e.g. Detroit’s walking-crime-wave mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, and his father, “Pay-for-play”, and the corrupt city manager, Bobby Ferguson. Under the previous administration, the state population shrank. It is now growing slowly.

Flood of 2014; the view at 696 and Mound rd. It's just incompetence.

Flood of 2014; the view at 696 and Mound rd. It’s part incompetence and part growth.


We passed a needed roads bill. Taxes are high, but not as bad as Illinois, and even Detroit is beginning to look good, at least in the center city. Industry is coming back, and so is Michigan real-estate. Here are some of my ideas going forward: pay our teachers well, and don’t imprison for so long. Some ideas to keep us on the upswing.

Robert Buxbaum, February 23, 2016. I’m running to be the Oakland county water commissioner, by the way.

Ginsberg poem about Bernie Sanders

It’s 30 years to the day since Alan Ginsberg wrote “Burlington Snow” a poem inspired by Bernie Sanders, the socialist mayor of Burlington Vermont. It’s a snapshot of the wonder and contradiction of socialist government. And now Bernie is running for president.

Birlington Snows, April 24, 1996

Burlington Snow, February 21, 1996 by Alan Ginsburg.

“Socialist snow on the streets. Socialist talk in the Maverick Bookstore. Socialist kids sucking socialist lollipops. Socialist poetry in socialist mouths — aren’t the birds frozen socialists? Aren’t the snow clouds blocking the airfield social bureaucratic apprentices? Isn’t the socialist sky owned by the socialist sun? Earth itself socialist, forests rivers, lakes, furry mountains, socialist salt in oceans? Isn’t this Poem socialist? It doesn’t belong to me anymore.”

Dr. Robert Buxbaum, February 21, 2016. If anyone would write a poem about me, or water commissioner (I’m running) or pollution or drinking water, or anything like that, I’d be awfully honored. It doesn’t have to be complimentary, or even particularly good.

New REB hydrogen generator for car fueling, etc.

One of my favorite invention ideas, one that I’ve tried to get the DoE to fund, is a membrane hydrogen generator where the waste gas is burnt to heat the reactor. The result should be exceptional efficiency, low-cost, low pollution, and less infrastructure needs. Having failed to interest the government, I’ve gone and built one on my own dime. That’s me on the left, with Shua Spirka, holding the new core module (reactor, boiler, purifier and purifier) sized for personal car fueling.

Me and Shua and our new hydrogen generator core

Me and Shua and our new hydrogen generator core

The core just arrived from the shop last week, now we have to pumps and heat exchangers. As with our current products, the hydrogen is generated from methanol water, and extracted 99.99999% pure by diffusion through a metal membrane. This core fit in a heat transfer pot (see lower right) and the pot sits on a burner for the waste gas. Control is tricky, but I think I’ve got it. If it all works like it’s supposed to, the combination should be 80-90% energy-efficient, delivering about 75 slpm, 9 kg per day. That’s the same output as our largest current electrically heated generators, with a much lower infrastructure cost. The output should be enough to fuel one hydrogen-powered automobile per day, or keep a small fleet of plug-in, hydrogen-hybrids running continuously.

Hydrogen automobiles have a lot of advantages over Tesla-type electric automobiles. I’ll tell you how the thing works as soon as we set it up and test it. Right now, we’ve got other customers and other products to make.

Robert Buxbaum, February 18, 2016. If someone could supply a good hydrogen compressor, and a good fuel cell, that would be most welcome. Someone who can supply that will be able to ride in a really excellent cart of the future at this year’s July 4th parade.

Alcohol and gasoline don’t mix in the cold

One of the worst ideas to come out of the Iowa caucuses, I thought, was Ted Cruz claiming he’d allow farmers to blend as much alcohol into their gasoline as they liked. While this may have sounded good in Iowa, and while it’s consistent with his non-regulation theme, it’s horribly bad engineering.

At low temperatures ethanol and gasoline are no longer quite miscible

Ethanol and gasoline are that miscible at temperatures below freezing, 0°C. The tendency is greater if the ethanol is wet or the gasoline contains benzenes

We add alcohol to gasoline, not to save money, mostly, but so that farmers will produce excess so we’ll have secure food for wartime or famine — or so I understand it. But the government only allows 10% alcohol in the blend because alcohol and gasoline don’t mix well when it’s cold. You may notice, even with the 10% mixture we use, that your car starts poorly on the coldest winter days. The engine turns over and almost catches, but dies. A major reason is that the alcohol separates from the rest of the gasoline. The concentrated alcohol layer screws up combustion because alcohol doesn’t burn all that well. With Cruz’s higher alcohol allowance, you’d get separation more often, at temperatures as high as 13°C (55°F) for a 65 mol percent mix, see chart at right. Things get worse yet if the gasoline gets wet, or contains benzene. Gasoline blending is complex stuff: something the average joe should not do.

Solubility of dry alcohol (ethanol) in gasoline. The solubility is worse at low temperature and if the gasoline is wet or aromatic.

Solubility of alcohol (ethanol) in gasoline; an extrapolation based on the data above.

To estimate the separation temperature of our normal, 10% alcohol-gasoline mix, I extended the data from the chart above using linear regression. From thermodynamics, I extrapolated ln-concentration vs 1/T, and found that a 10% by volume mix (5% mol fraction alcohol) will separate at about -40°F. Chances are, you won’t see that temperature this winter (and if you you do, try to find a gas mix that has no alcohol. Another thought, add hydrogen or other combustible gas to get the engine going.

Robert E. Buxbaum, February 10, 2016. Two more thoughts: 1) Thermodynamics is a beautiful subject to learn, and (2) Avoid people who stick to foolish consistency. Too much regulation is bad, as is too little: it’s a common pattern: The difference between a cure and a poison is often just the dose.

Comic colonialism I: How the US got Guam without a fight.

America is often criticized for land it acquired by war e.g. Guam in the Spanish-American War. Though Spanish were corrupt and incompetent, and had (it seems) sunk the USS Maine by accident, the idea is that conquest is bad. Well, for better or worse, here’s how the US acquired Guam in a comic bloodless non-battle that provides an example of God laughing as he protects children, fools, and the U.S. of A.

It’s mid June, 1898, the Spanish-American War has raged for two months, and Theodore Roosevelt is in Cuba. Four ships lead by the USS Charleston leave Hawaii on a secret mission with orders to be opened only at sea. Captain Glass of the Charleston find he is to try to take Guam and destroy its fortress before proceeding to the Philippines for the major battle of the war. Glass is informed that Guam Harbor is defended Spanish warships plus a thick-walled fort housing many heavy cannon. A land assault will face, he’s told, over 1000 fighting men, dug in, heavily armed, and thoroughly familiar with the terrain. As it happens, military intelligence had vastly overstated the challenge. There are only 56 soldiers on Guam, and Span has neglected to tell the garrison that there’s a war on.

USS Charleston

The USS Charleston, victor of the non-battle of Guam.

Expecting a fierce battle, our soldiers and naval gunners practice shooting at towed targets and get excellently proficient, or so Glass believes. Fortunately, he’s wrong. On June 20, 1898, The Charleston steams into Guam’s harbor and finds no resistance. The only major ship is a Japanese trader sitting at anchor. No shots are fired, and there is no apparent activity on shore. In some confusion, Captain Glass order that 13 shots be fired at the fort. As it happens, it’s a fortuitous number. Also fortuitous, is that all the shots miss. In complete ignorance, the folks on shore think it is a 13 gun salute: that the Charleston is here for an official, state visit.

Now, the normal response would be for folks on Guam to return the 13 gun salute. If they had, it would have likely begun a cycle of death and destruction. But God is the protector of fools, and the fortress is out of gunpowder. The Spanish send an officer to the Charleston to ask for gunpowder and apologize for not returning the salute. After what must have been a most uncomfortable parlé, it is agreed that our nations were at war; that the officer was now a captured prisoner; and that he is being released to request surrender.

Coins celebrating our colonial territories.

Coins celebrating our colonial territories. None have senators or congressmen. Only DC gets to vote for president, a result of the 23rd amendment, 1961.

As soon as he is sent off, captain Glass begins to worry: maybe this is a trap. Maybe the guns are now focussed on him and his men? Maybe he should resume fire on the fort! Right about then, a friendly whaleboat sails by flying the American flag. It’s captained by Francisco “Frank”Portusach-Martinez from Chicago, an old friend of an officer aboard the Charleston. Captain Portusach comes on board, shows his US bona-fides, and explains that it’s no trap, just ignorance. Taking his advice, Captain Glass lands with a small party, arrests all 56 soldiers without a fight, and raises the American flag. The Star Spangled Banner is played, and Glass doesn’t quite know what to do next. What would you do in his shoes?

Captain Henry Glass

Captain Henry Glass, man with a mustache.

Having no experience or other orders, Captain Glass appoints Portusach as the first US Governor of Guam, and leaves to join Dewey in the Philippines. He does not destroy the fort as he finds it in such poor repair that he can claim it’s already destroyed. And that’s how we got Guam. Credit to Captain Glass for not screwing things up or angering the locals needlessly. One hundred and eighteen years later, Guam is still a US territory, though there have been movements for statehood, for union with Hawaii, and for independence. Until the folks on Guam decide otherwise, they are US citizens, but can not vote for president or have representation in congress. They pay federal income taxes, but not state taxes. Bill Clinton is the only US president to ever visit Guam.

Dr. Robert E. Buxbaum. February 1, 2016. I’ve written previously on the ways of peace, and on what makes a country, and on beards: why only communists and Republicans have them. Stay tuned for “Comic Colonialism II: Canada’s Queen.”