April 14, 2001
A lot of fuss surfaced just before the last U. S. inaugural. Some person or persons had removed the letter "W" from the keyboards of the typewriters and computers that new president George W. Bush's staff would be using. Was it a naughty schoolboy prank or a serious act of sabotage? No one lost a lot of sleep over the question and soon keyboards were repaired and the whole thing blew over. Those pardons may have had something to do with that. Actually the new staffers had it easy. Things were much more serious back in 1958. In Conakry, not Washington. A little background - starting with the answer to the question "where the heck is Conakry?"
Long before the coming of the Europeans the Kaloum Peninsula
marked the westernmost end of the north central African kingdom
of Ghana and later of the empire of Mali. Just off its tip lay
the island of Tombo, containing a small fishing village named
Conakry. This region along the northwestern coast was known to
the first Europeans as the Grain Coast, or sometimes the Windy
or Windward coast. Down through the last six centuries if you
were to ask a European mapmaker to depict Guinea, he might have
placed it anywhere between the Tropic of Cancer and the Congo.
The general region is often thought of as French West Africa,
with various parts known at one time or another as Senegal, the
French Congo, Upper Guinea, Lower Guinea, Cameroon, Sierra Leone
and the French Congo. To name a few. The French, the Spanish,
the British and the Portuguese all came searching for slaves and
gold. Eventually it was the French who prevailed on this part
of the coast, defeating local chiefs and establishing the protectorate
of Rivieres du Sud, with its capital here on Tombo, in 1891. At
some point a 328-yard causeway was built, linking island and peninsula.
Over the next half dozen years the protectorate became first French
Guinea and then part of French West Africa. With all of the changes
the small French bureaucracy on Tombo grew larger and larger.
In the late 1950s France began offering her African colonies the
opportunity to become self-governing entities within the French
Community. By October of 1958 only Guinea held out for and obtained
full independence. French president Charles DeGaulle was not used
to hearing the word 'non'. These ingrates must be taught a lesson.
The streets leading down to the harbor must have been very busy for the next few days as French civil servants packed their belongings and moved out of the government offices. All their belongings. Bureaucrats of every stripe - administrators, doctors, teachers, judges, law officers and hundreds of clerks, receptionists and secretaries - walked away, leaving their offices looking as if a massive swarm of locusts had just deserted a picked-over field. Every single governmental record accumulated over the past 63 years - gone. The phones were silent and throwing a light switch accomplished nothing - all had been disconnected. File cabinets, desks, chairs, wastebaskets, towel dispensers and pencil sharpeners - all gone. Guinea was on it's own. Of course it was almost inevitable that the replacement government would turn into a brutal, ruthless, police state, run with an iron fist by a paranoid dictator who threw thousands of his people into gulag-style prisons, where hundreds died over the next 26 years. Guess there are things worse than a few missing "W"s.
For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor
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Have a Blast! Those of you having absolutely no interest in technical matters can tune out now. For those wanting to know how things work (I hope this includes some of you of the female gender), in great detail, can find an excellent description of the workings of a blast furnace at SteelWorks, one of the pages of the AISI - American Iron and Steel Institute, at
There you'll find a step by step description, with full-color schematic drawings, of a blast furnace operation. I will admit my eyes began to glaze over a bit at the chemical formulas but you can follow my example, cry "too much INFORMATION", and skip that part. If all this just whets your appetite, you can surf to the home page and find links to autoSteel.org, AISI newsletters and ress releases, a Steel Glossary, and an Animated Steel Flowline.
© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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