It’s gonna be performative evaluations

Grading will never end. This was my own doing. The way the semester’s calendar came together I had two classes that were a little heavy in the last three weeks. Not so much as to be daunting for students, but to give them a little challenge. It has, however, become a bit daunting for me.

I have final projects to grade in one class. In two other classes there are two large written assignments, two smaller assignments, and final exams.

So guess what I’m doing between now and kingdom come?

I am making some progress. I got through all of the smaller written assignments yesterday. Trying to build momentum and all of that. That took several hours.

Smaller assignments.

Today I got through the final projects in my New Media class and tallied grades. I’ll go over those again tomorrow to make sure all of the numbers are correct. (Update: The math works!)

And then the work continues all through the weekend, probably.

Yesterday evening I did get out for a brief bike ride. Better work and the weather that’s probably the last ride I’ll get for the next week or more. In that context, this sort of thing is frustrating, but that’s the way it works. At the end of the ride I set two Strava PRs on segments even though they didn’t feel like they were especially strong, so I almost had some form. That’s the way it works for me. A few ups, followed by a bunch of downs immediately thereafter.

I saw some great livestock on this ride, though.

Makes me want to go on another bike ride!

Instead, let’s revisit another bike-themed feature, We Learn Wednesdays, where we discover the county’s historical markers via bike rides. This is the 34th installment, and the 61st and 62nd markers in the We Learn Wednesdays series.

So let’s go back to Fort Mott, where last week we saw the old gun batteries that defended the Delaware River and Philadelphia, beyond.

Today, we’ll examine the observation towers that served those batteries. This is fascinating technology at the beginning of the 20th century.

Fifty-two feet above the ground, soldiers in this observational tower were able to identify an enemy vessel, calculate its speed and distance, note weather conditions and communicate this information to the main plotting room and the ten-inch guns at Battery Harker. Soldiers at the gun batterys used this information to compensate for weather, set the firing range and direction and potentially fire at an unsuspecting vessel.

This tower was completed in 1903. It has two levels: an observation room and meteorological station on the glass-topped upper level, and a target plotting room below, from critical data would be relayed to soldiers aiming the big guns.

We learned last week that when they tested the guns they blew out the windows on the fort, and at nearby farms. These were powerful guns, meant to do terrible damage, and they had to control for the recoil. What went into that is most impressive.

When the big guns were fired, vibrations similar to a small earthquake affected the delicate instrumentation contained with the observation towers. Soldiers had to continuously adjust their instruments to make accurate readings.

To solve this problem Army engineers designed a concrete-filled tube below the tower and attached it between the instrument platform and the ground. The tube was then encased in a steel jacket. It served as a basic vibration-dampening device to protect the instruments and a means of insulating power and phone wiring as well.

These were serious people doing serious work, and they didn’t just invent these techniques on the spot. But every new thing you learn should make you wonder how the once-upon-a-timers came up with the solutions that worked.

If you look across the moat toward the river, you will see the second tower. This fifty-five foot high tower has a single observation level for taking accurate sights on enemy targets. Its primary function was to obtain target information for the twelve-inch guns of Battery Arnold.

And here is that other, simpler tower.

Five gun batteries, two observation towers. And, remember, Fort Mott was just one of three forts protecting this stretch of the Delaware River.

In it’s day, Fort Mott was a self-contained military community. There were more than 30 buildings here, some of which we’ll take a glance at later. There was a hospital, a PX, a library, a school and more. Fort Mott was rendered obsolete when Fort Salsbury became operational just after World War I. The last soldiers were removed in 1922, the fort became a state park in 1951.

If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Tomorrow: more grading! And maybe some other stuff, who can say? You can! Try the comments below.

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