Thursday, August 31, 2006

Universes in Cyberspace

I know some ecologically minded people who shun computers. But here is this blog and I advocate sustainability through my blog. There is the argument that computers keep people away from each other. And to some extent that is true. It's easy to spend time on a computer and you can be connected to people through a discussion forum or whatever - but it is not the same sort of connection as real life.

For some of us - it's easier to express our opinions are online. And it can be easier to find people who share opinions. And it's certainly easier to find information. But it seems worth questioning whether in the long run - the cyber world hurts us more than it helps. Balance is always a good thing.

These types of considerations come into play with what media that I choose to be creative with. I like using actual paints and things like sand and grit and other textures. It's nice to use actual stuff - instead of pixels. I know all about pixels and megabytes and gigabytes and online programs that simulate painting and all of that. But there is nothing tactile - it's all about the screen.

The artwork that I do can be reproduced into pixels. But then there is only the illusion of texture. And I do think that that is a loss for the eye and for the mind and senses. It is probably no accident that the trend in artwork has been to become more textural in this flat screen world of ours.

The following is from a book review of Let Them Eat Data: How Computers Affect Education, Cultural Diversity, and the Prospects of Ecological Sustainability by C.A.Bowers. (It's from 2001) ->

Cyberspace is not limited by the context of natural laws, as Joseph Weizenbaum points out:

An engineer is inextricably impacted in the material world. His creativity is defined by laws; he may, finally, do only what may lawfully be done. The computer programmer, however, is a creator of universes for which he alone is the lawgiver. . . .
Universes of virtually unlimited complexity can be created in the form of computer programs. Moreover, and this is a crucial point, systems so formulated and elaborated act out their programmed scripts. They compliantly obey their laws and vividly exhibit their obedient behavior. . . .he corruption evoked by the computer programmer's omnipotence manifests itself in a form that is instructive in a domain far larger than the immediate environment of the computer. (1976, p. 115)

Other testimony could be given, and it seems as though there is a chorus of voices supporting the idea that the experience of a computer, with its total subjection to the individual will, reinforces this particular attitude of individual supremacy. Thus, Bowers's description of the attitudes reinforced by computer use, and the methods he uses to explain this process of reinforcement, both seem supportable.

But why would these attitudes be troubling to those concerned about ecological sustainability? Bowers answers this question in his third chapter by arguing that the experience of computers is the replacement of “local knowledge” with data. He writes, “To digitize thought and aesthetic expression is to abstract them from their multilayered cultural and ecological contexts” (54). In contrast, ecological sustainability demands an intimate knowledge of context — a knowledge of place and of the culture that has learned to live in that place. The abstract computational impulse works against local knowledge, that is, against personal familiarity with a place's streams, grasses, soil, trees, weather. This is the knowledge that becomes vital in directing responsible human activity, such as intelligently situating a house, sewing crops, and preserving plant and animal diversity.

Bowers continues:
Knowledge of place, when it is deeply embedded in personal experience and understood as an intergenerational responsibility, also includes knowing who were the earlier inhabitants, their technology and economy, and the mythopoetic narratives at the base of their moral community. It also involves knowledge of immediate ancestors and what they learned or failed to learn as they build their community on the moral and conceptual baggage they brought with them in their immigration. We receive this knowledge through stories of their previous experiences with the land. (p. 64)


As far as people circumventing natural laws - or having that illusion - that's been going on for a long time (before computers). I don't think it's the illusion that people can "create worlds" of one sort or another that is the problem. But the attitude that people don't need this one that we are living on and dependent on. I think that the attitude - the appreciation of our world can be encouraged through cyberspace as effectively as anywhere. And there is certainly the possibility of reaching more people - for most of us. (Though it's good to get out and garden and see people also).

The truth of the matter may be as basic that electricity is not sustainable - along with our entire lifestyle. That would, of course, include all that is computers. And this blog.

High Crimes & Misdemeanors

JonBenét Died - And Bush Lied?

by Thom Hartmann

I was on the air doing my radio program two weeks ago when the story came down the wire that the killer of JonBenét Ramsey had been captured in Thailand just hours earlier. I opened the microphone and said words to the effect of, "Today there must be something really awful going down for the Republicans. Maybe Rove really will be indicted. Maybe Cheney. Maybe some terrible revelation about Bush. And if there isn't, today will be the day they'll toss out the unsavory stories - like gutting an environmental law or wiping out pension plans - that they don't want covered."

Apparently it was worse than I'd imagined.

That same morning - just hours after the JonBenét information hit the press and just after I got off the air - it was revealed that US District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor had ruled that George W. Bush and now-CIA Director Michael Hayden had committed multiple High Crimes, Misdemeanors, and felonies, both criminal and constitutional. If her ruling stands, Bush and Hayden could go to prison....

Think Progress went on to chronicle how much time the three big networks had devoted to the two stories that first night:

NBC - 7 minutes 39 seconds on the Ramsey story, only 27 seconds on the NSA
CBS - 3 minutes 23 seconds on the Ramsey story, only 25 seconds on the NSA
ABC - 4 minutes 3 seconds on the Ramsey story, only 2 minutes on the NSA

Within a few days, the story of the President being found guilty of both imprisonable felonies and impeachable violations of the Constitution had vanished from the mainstream media altogether.

This isn't the first time bad news for Republicans has been coincidentally eclipsed by Suddenly Huge Stories...


It is pretty amazing that when a sitting president has a judge ruling that he has committed impeachable offenses - and about all the media can talk about is a suspect in a murder case from 10 years ago - where the evidence was so flimsey the charges get dropped within a couple weeks. But many of us are no longer surprised. It's par for the course with this administration and with this Corporate Media.

The media had all the time in the world for nearly every Clinton story - as you may recall.

On the bright side - I heard that FOX viewing is down.

Oh - and unfortunately - I don't expect to see Bush going to prison for anything he has done anytime soon (Mr. Hartmann was sounding pretty optimistic there). No matter how many things Bush is guilty of. A Democratic majority in the House could be useful for these situations, however - the one party rule that we have now is bound to be a negative thing. While I have rather low expectations of the political process - there would more hope than there is now if there were the possibility of checks and balances. Of course that would mean a Democratic party that was not like Republican Diet Coke.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Disaster Capitalism"

Naomi Klein has an article today in the Guardian on Disaster capitalism: how to make money out of misery" (Called Pay To Be Saved: The Future of Disaster Response on her website). She is writing a book about it - due next Spring. Most of what she writes - nobody could disagree with - but it's the different point of view that this is not the rosy way to operate a government or a society that goes unsaid by the US press.


The Red Cross has just announced a new disaster-response partnership with Wal-Mart. When the next hurricane hits, it will be a co-production of Big Aid and Big Box. This, apparently, is the lesson learned from the US government's calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina: businesses do disaster better.

"It's all going to be private enterprise before it's over," Billy Wagner, emergency management chief for the Florida Keys, currently under hurricane watch for tropical storm Ernesto, said in April. "They've got the expertise. They've got the resources." But before this new consensus goes any further, perhaps it's time to take a look at where the privatisation of disaster began, and where it will inevitably lead.

The first step was the government's abdication of its core responsibility to protect the population from disasters. Under the Bush administration, whole sectors of the government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, have been turned into glorified temp agencies, with essential functions contracted out to private companies. The theory is that entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are always more efficient (please suspend hysterical laughter)....


I think that it is even more outrageous than how she puts it. Because not only do people have to "pay to be saved" - but they have to pay the right people!!! You may recall this account of the paramedics from New Orleans last year - they got their money together to hire a bus to come and get them - the bus was not allowed in.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

It was the same case with the boats and helicopters that were turned away and the corpses that were left in the streets for weeks - people who were not contractors were often not allowed to infringe on the contractors area of operations. There were accounts of volunteers getting in there with boats and one thing and another to help - and there were also accounts where they were turned away. Also - at the hospital set up at the airport - people died because the people who were contracted controlled the situation and turned away volunteers.


The Point of View of the Earth (and Pluto)


and an interesting take on the Pluto/Planet thing - seen @ Hecate (posted on the 29th):

The Pluto Report

The god of the Underworld, was amused by being called "Dead as a planet."

"Of course I'm dead, I'm the god of the dead."

And used to being dissed, exiled, albeit at tremendous cost to cultures that
do so....

Man-Made Mud Disaster in Java

When I first saw this headline in Nature, Mud volcano floods Java - I assumed it was a natural disaster.

Then I saw this headline on ENN, Mud from Indonesian Oil Well Engulfs Key Road Again and realized that they were talking about the same thing. That is a pretty different story if it's created by an oil company than if it is a naturally occurring event. It seems that it is an oil company that triggered a (non-natural) "natural" disaster - we may need new words for these sorts of things.

Naturally - the oil company would like to try to make this out to be a act of nature - not an act of theirs - so that they are not held responsible. (Not that companies usually end up paying the full restitution when they are responsible - ie. Exxon still has not paid their punitive damages from the Valdez Oil Spill - but they would have more legal fees at the very least).

From the ENN article (source Reuters):

SURABAYA, Indonesia — Foul-smelling mud oozing from an exploratory oil well in Indonesia has forced the partial closure of key toll road for the fifth time this month, officials said on Wednesday.

The mudflow is part of an unfolding environmental disaster in East Java province and there appears few signs of a resolution soon.

Authorities and well operator PT Lapindo Brantas have been struggling since late May to plug the mud that has displaced more than 10,000 people from their homes....

The highway is the main transport artery for goods from industrial areas south of East Java's provincial capital.

The noxious mud gives off fumes that have made people ill and caused respiratory problems.

The economic cost has also been mounting with swathes of land in four villages and many shrimp ponds engulfed dotting coastal Sidoarjo regency, famous in Indonesia for its shrimp crackers.

An oil industry watchdog official has said the mudflow could have been triggered by a crack at about 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) in the Banjar Panji-1 exploration well, operated by Indonesia's Lapindo Brantas.

Lapindo is a unit of PT Energi Mega Persada, partly owned by the Bakrie Group, which is controlled by the family of Indonesia's chief social welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie.

Australia's Santos Ltd., which has said it is insured against the problem, has an 18 percent interest, while Indonesia's largest listed energy firm, PT Medco Energi International Tbk, holds the remaining 32 percent. (Additional reporting by Diyan Jari in JAKARTA)


From the Nature article:

"What has happened?"

For 3 months a sea of hot mud has been gushing from the ground in Sidoarjo, East Java, 35 kilometres south of Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya. The steaming mud pool is growing at an estimated 50,000 cubic metres a day, accompanied by hydrogen sulphide gas, and now reportedly covers more than 25 square kilometres. The flow has not yet been stopped; thousands of people have lost their homes.

....In the case of the East Java mud flow, the mud is thought to have come from a reservoir some 2.7 kilometres below the Earth's surface.

"And what triggers an eruption?"

A number of things can create a crack that allows trapped mud to bubble to the surface; particularly earthquakes and drilling.

Geologist Georg Delisle of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Hannover, Germany, explains that the drilling apparently penetrated into the liquid sediment and created a connection back to the surface. The pressure then squeezed up the mud, like toothpaste from a tube....

"Just how big is the eruption?"

According to many geological experts, the scale of this mud volcano is unprecedented — at least on land.

"Can the disaster be stopped?"

Nobody knows. So far, nothing has worked. PT Lapindo Brantas's senior vice-president Imam Agustino has been quoted saying: "The best-case scenario is now mid-November, but I have to admit it might never be stopped."


On Universes and "Manunkind"

by -- e. e. cummings


pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go


Ancient Hot Spell

It was one of the greatest calamities of all time: Something turned up Earth's thermostat, touching off a monstrous heat wave that killed many animals and drove others far from their homes to seek cooler climes.
This catastrophe occurred 55 million years ago, after the age of the dinosaurs and long before humans appeared. But scientists warn that today's global warming means that it could be happening again.

The ancient hot spell, which lasted 50,000 to 100,000 years, goes by the unwieldy name of Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). It was caused by a sudden -- in geological terms -- doubling or tripling of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Climate scientists say the result was an increase of 10 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit -- even higher near the poles -- above the prevailing temperature.

"In certain regards, the PETM is very similar to what is happening right now," said Gerald Dickens, an earth scientist at Rice University in Houston. "Just like now, a huge amount of carbon rapidly entered the ocean or atmosphere. The most notable difference is the rate. Things are happening much faster now than during the PETM."

Most scientists attribute much of today's global warming to the burning of carbon-rich fossil fuels. If the trend continues, Dickens said, the world will add as much carbon to the atmosphere in 500 years -- from 1800 to 2300 -- as the PETM did over 10,000 years.

The long-ago heat wave "shows without a doubt that if you pump a bunch of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the planet warms," Matthew Huber, an earth scientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., wrote in the June 1 edition of the journal Nature.

Scientists realized the speed and extent of the prehistoric carbon explosion only recently.

A blizzard of scientific papers "reflects the community's excitement at discovering an extraordinary perturbation in biogeochemical systems that was unimaginable 10 years ago," James Zachos, an earth scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, declared on his website....

Many species of mammals arose during the PETM and spread to new areas of the world, altering the course of evolution.

But the unusual warmth also caused the loss of many deep-sea species. "It was the most severe extinction in the last 90 million years," said Gabriel Bowen, another Purdue geologist.


What is there to say?

We are going to have all of this knowledge and yet no more wisdom. :(

"On a trail..."

On a trail atop White-Crane’s green cliffs,
My recluse friend’s home in solitude,
Step and courtyard empty of water and rock,
Forest and creek free of axe and fish trap.
Months and years perfect old pines here.
Wind and frost keep bitter bamboo sparse.
Gazing deep, ancestral ways my own again,
I set out wandering toward my simple hut.

- Meng hao-jan (689-740 C.E.)


Today's Daily Zen

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"The "Four E's" of Environmental Improvement" ->

What an economist recommends:

1. Eliminate all natural-resource subsidies

Subsidies to timber companies, fisherman, farmers, and the oil and gas industry are by far the most damaging environmental policies engaged in by governments around the world. Not only do these subsidies directly increase environmental degradation, but by artificially lowering the prices of natural resources, they spur over-consumption, decrease conservation, and make it harder for substitute resources to compete.

In addition, they cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year -- money that could be used instead for improving human welfare in myriad ways. Many economists refer to these types of subsidies as "perverse subsidies" because they actually exacerbate bad behavior instead of encouraging good behavior.

2. Expand property rights in areas where they are weak or non-existent

The areas in the world where we witness the greatest levels of environmental degradation (the oceans, many large tropical forests, and the atmosphere) are those where property rights are absent, unclear, or poorly enforced. Without property rights, resources are almost always treated as "open access," which leads to a "tragedy of the commons."

While in many instances private property may be the best form of property rights from an environmental standpoint, property rights can also be held by the government (public property) or collectively by groups of individuals. They key is creating transparent and enforceable property rights for all of the world's resources, so that individuals, groups, governments, and corporations have the incentive to use the resources wisely and invest in their preservation.

3. Empower society with information

Basic environmental science is something that will be underfunded in a pure "free market," because it is rarely profitable; therefore, governments should do more to support scientific research that helps us better understand the links between our actions and environmental outcomes. In addition, laws mandating that companies disclose their pollution emissions and environmental impacts provide individuals, politicians, non-governmental organizations, and investors with information that can help gauge a company's environmental performance and differentiate "green" companies from "brown" companies.

4. Enlarge green markets through government purchases

Since governments are some of the largest buyers of natural resources in the world (e.g. paper, power, food), their purchases have a huge impact on markets and the environment. If governments can increase their demand for "green" products (e.g. chlorine-free paper, power from renewable energy, pesticide-free food) they can push businesses towards much more environmentally friendly practices at a greatly accelerated pace. In addition, governments can both save money and improve the environment by investing in state-of-the-art efficiency for all government buildings and infrastructure.

Universal Health Care

I am a big fan of personal responsibility - which is why I expect industries to pay their costs.

Corruption of science by vested interests

Chromium industry hides adverse lung cancer results
Industry coalition distorts science on bisphenol A
Industry bias in studies of bisphenol A
Flawed industry science on atrazine and frogs
Chemical industry collusion with tobacco effort to undermine use of epidemiology
Tobacco links corrupt scientific results

and things like:


Bisphenol A tied to prostate cancer in rats
Bisphenol A alters mammary gland development in mice
Genotype increases breast cancer risk associated with PCBs
Testicular cancer linked to environmental exposures early in life
Are current declines in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma rates tied to chemical bans in the '70s?
Mother's organochlorine contamination linked to son's testicular cancer
Cancer and EDCs: are we asking the wrong question in human studies?
Miscalculation revealed: we are not winning the war on cancer after all
Bisphenol A stimulates proliferation of prostate cancer cells
Seveso, Italy: breast cancer risk rises with dioxin exposure
Childhood leukemia linked to household pesticides
Soy phytoestrogen causes uterine cancer, like diethylstilbestrol (DES)
Low-level arsenic interferes with glucocorticoid's role in tumor suppression
PCBs interact synergistically with virus to elevate risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Dieldrin linked to higher mortality rates in breast cancer victims


Here we have a situation where industry has not been required to be responsible and where many millions of Americans and other citizens of the world are getting all manner of diseases because of those industries. Where the health care costs continue to grow - to the point of bankruptcy.... Why should not the government that allowed all of these lapses of oversight provide 100% health care to every member of our society?

We are being diseased as a result of the paid off government's actions and inactions - it seems like the only logical thing to do is to have the government pay for the health care to cure the resulting illnesses. The global industries should all be taxed to pay for the illnesses and conditions that they caused, are causing now and will continue to cause.

It's a subsidize the commons and privatize the profits sort of operation - for many industries. We the citizens are bearing the costs to the environment and to our own bodies and we are paying to try to fix what others broke.

Evolution and the Pope

Echidne of the Snakes had a post yesterday about an article that suggests the Pope is considering moving more toward the idea of Intelligent Design than Evolution.

I Googled the subject to see what came up. This article came up on (these are the concluding paragraphs):

...At the time of the Scopes trail, Chesterton remarked that Catholics were not at all involved in a battle which set biblical and scientific fundamentalists against one another. As usual, there was a reasonable Catholic center which allowed both science and theology their due competence.

It makes no difference whether man is descended biologically from some ape-like creature, so long as we understand that there had to be what the Pope calls an "ontological leap" to the first human person. This would have involved the direct intervention of God, who creates each rational soul out of nothing....

The confusion over evolution among Christians boils down to the question of how to read the creation account in Genesis. Here the Pope simply reiterates what the Magisterium has argued tirelessly since Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus. Scripture does not teach science, period. Genesis tells us what happened in the archaic, pre-scientific idiom of the ancient Hebrews. It does not tell us how it happened. We can learn what we can about that "how" from science, always keeping in mind that there can be no real conflict between two very different orders of knowledge: science and theology.


I think it's a good thing that the Pope/Catholic Church does not expect Genesis to be a scientific account. Unlike fundamental literalist people who try to make the science fit a mythical account of something written thousands of years ago.

Even still - it sounds like the Pope - who has quite an influence on the world - may try to insert more of the hand of God into the interpretation of evolution than many have assumed. Maybe the Pope would not assume that God has a hand in every minute aspect of every cell that changes a little bit - or maybe he would.

It pretty much goes back to the idea of whether people think that people are special whether God created them or not. And whether a person accepts randomness/chance as being an essential part of life or whether one thinks that a being is directing every minute aspect of everything that happens. (I think that if one says that Nature - as a natural process is God/dess - THEN Nature/Goddess/Evolution are all compatible. Most people don't say that, however).


I was at a church service recently - the Old Testament verses in Joshua about leaving behind the gods of ones ancestors and embracing the "God of Israel" were read. It came up in conversation later that many people do not know that the snake was a symbol for wisdom - being part of the history that people were told to turn away from (an interesting essay about all this - here). As probably happens all over the world in Christian churches - there is still an emphasis on abandoning other gods and there continues to be a mischaracterization of those gods.

I don't think it's intellectually honest to say that what these people believed was evil. And it is interesting how it changes how one intreprets the Adam and Eve story - whether you think that the snake was evil or wise. And what does it mean if the woman embraced wisdom and knowledge - why would that be a bad thing? And why would God "kick them out of the garden for it"? It's very strange. Especially if you assume that God wants what is best for people - and if people are supposed to be such special creatures. (It makes more sense if you think of the Tree of Life as representing the Goddess that a group of people were/are trying to get other people to abandon).

But our churches don't generally have room for other ideas. As it happened - the Second Bible verse of the day was the one from Ephesians about women submitting to their husbands - so it seemed like the message of the day was clear. The religion that included Goddesses or any other alternative thinking was to be abandoned and people were to embrace the hierarchical order that included God - then Men - then Women (and maybe Nature below women - after children). And wisdom is evil - espcially in the hands of women. While the preacher at the service was a woman - and while it's nice to have women preachers - it doesn't change the message of the verses.


....And I should mention - the Sunday school teacher from Watertown, New York - Sunday School Teacher Fired For Being A Woman

"Lambert received the letter signed by Kendra LaBouf, wife of the pastor. "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission" the letter said. "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became sinner".

The way that ties back to the Catholic Church was that it was the Catholic Church - influenced by Augustine in about 300 AD. who successfully argued for that interpretation of the Adam and Eve story - and making that the foundation of people's need for the Church and for redemption. If you don't think that people are necessarily evil - they don't need to be redeemed. (While Paul made the case to some extent - Augustine took it further). And it has become the underlying message of nearly all Christian Chuches since that time. Some churches are more blatant about it (like the Baptist church in Watertown) than others.

"Beyond Hope"

I saw this by Derrik Jensen linked over at Hecate and I think that it makes a lot of sense.

"When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.

And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power."

While I can see where such an attitude can have it's advantages - at least for some people - I think that there are people who respond very badly to not having hope. Drinking, for instance. Or an attitude that if you screw things up for other people or yourself it doesn't matter.

But I think that in general - that if a person can let go of fantasies (as Jensen suggested) - of one sort or another - that keep someone trapped in one box or another - that that can be empowering and somewhat liberating.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Yes Men in New Orleans

Hoaxsters dupe crowd with bogus HUD announcement
(As reported in the NOLA Times-Picayune Updates for 8.28.06)

Two members of the Yes Men, a group of environmental and corporate ethics activists, duped business executives and some news organizations earlier today when they posed as top HUD officials and announced the agency planned to renovate several housing developments now slated for demolition.

One of the men said they set up the hoax after receiving an e-mail solicitation from Equity International -- the group staging the conference -- in search of conference speakers. They responded by saying HUD secretary Alfonso Jackson would like to speak, after which Jackson was placed in the conference lineup after Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin....


I always think it is interesting when the "Yes Men" (and women) are able to get the message out that should be instead of what is. And that it generally makes a lot more sense to most people - than the official plan of action.


One year later - Democracy Now! today has some interesting reporting by Greg Palast on the disaster (non)response.

"Top Hurricane Expert Says Officials Threatened His Job Over Pre-Katrina Warnings"

On the eve of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, investigative journalist Greg Palast reports that a top hurricane expert says government officials threatened his job over his warnings about the impending disaster.

"Who is New Orleans Being Rebuilt For? - City Demographics Radically Altered With Many Black Residents Still Unable to Return"

A year after Hurricane Katrina hit, only about half of New Orleans' population of 450,000 has returned. Many of those unable to come back are poor and African-American, drastically altering the demographics of a city that used to be two-thirds black.


I don't think that I had previously heard of the Bush-supporting company, "Innovative Emergency Management" that was supposed to have come up with a New Orleans evacuation plan (for a half a million dollars) - even though experts in the field @ LSU already had a plan....

GREG PALAST: The LSU scientist already had an evacuation model, but IEM and FEMA refused to use it.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: We had the science. We had really studied this thing. We knew what was going to go wrong. We had an enormous amount of information, right down to mapping where the gas tanks were and pipelines. Science was basically ignored all the way through the process.

GREG PALAST: The LSU professors warned, for example, that the IEM plan simply made no provision for people -- the old, the sick -- who couldn't escape in a car. I asked him the consequences of this oversight.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Well, you know, 1,500 of them drowned. That's the bottom line.

GREG PALAST: Then the professor surprised me by saying that giving us this information put his job at risk.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: I wasn't going to let them -- let those sort of threats shut me down or any of the other sorts of nonsense that went on, because it was so important that we get out what had gone wrong and why.

GREG PALAST: Apparently, the heat from the university originated with a state official, who now works for IEM.


The Greg Palast reporting shows one example of how the Bush Government is all about money for their friends and contributors and that the people of the United States are getting worse than nothing in return. The second story shows that the disaster is being used an excuse to prevent people from living in public housing that is on what is now valuable land that did not flood.

I think that the disaster response for New Orleans was beyond outrageous and was actually criminal - and that the vast majority of the blame falls at the feet of the Federal Government. They were the ones who were turning back people in boats who were trying to help. They were the ones who were reprimanding the people in the military who rescued people by helicoptor. The were the ones who were preventing water and help from reaching people.

I don't know how people who are responsible for such things could still be governing us. And I think that the deaths are being underreported to this day.

Living Statues/Sculptures

Apparently there was the First World Championship for Living Statues in Arnhem, the Netherlands on Sunday. Our paper says that over 200 people competed. (They had a couple photos and a caption - but no article).

On left - 'Titan's figurehead'

"'La Pieta' Sophie Malraye, of France, unfreezes after hearing she won the first prize" (from the AP photos)

I found a website on Living Statues linked at Wikipedia - but it is in Dutch (I guess). I couldn't find any news stories on it - they must all be in other languages if there are any.

I think it's an interesting art form. I've seen people doing this sort of thing in places like New Orleans (years ago) - it's fun that there is a "Championship". It looks like people in the Netherlands take this more seriously than what I have seen.

Mariken Van Nimwegen

New Harmony

I got down to New Harmony for the weekend. I noticed that there would be an "Art Stoll" - of gallery openings on Saturday - so it seemed like an esp. good weekend to meet a friend there - get away and see some art.

On my way I stopped at the plant sale (fundraiser) for the Southern Indiana Daylily, Hosta, Daffodil & Iris Society and got some daylily starts. Daylilies are great because they are easy to grow and I love how they look. (I used to paint paintings of them). I had a great time choosing various colors that I could assemble a new garden with - so much so that someone said that "I" was an inspiration. But what I was doing was nothing compared to whoever organized the event and got all of the daylily starts organized by color and tagged with information about whether the plants bloomed earlier or later in the season - and that sort of thing. And the people helping out were great.

I was thinking on my drive down to Evansville/New Hamony how fun it is to "paint" with plants. I felt that way when I bought wildflower seeds by the pound and was scattering them strategically around the prepared dirt that we had tilled (I'll do a post just on that soon...) and it's similar with the daylilies. There are so many colors to choose from. I actually like the orange wild daylilies ( I need to get some of them - I used to have lots) - but it is fun to have lots of colors as well. And I got some white ones that will hopefully bloom late next May. :)

New Harmony (official site here) is a place where gardening is an art. The public gardens are wonderful - as well as all of gardens around so many of the houses and businesses. The gardens add to the sense that simplicity and spirituality - along with art - are more appreciated there than in a lot of places. There is the history - the utopian vision of the Rappites as well as the Owens - and it's nice to get back (I lived there one summer - taking art classes) and see that people are carrying on the vision in some sense or other.

I especially enjoyed the Art shows at the Women's Institute and Gallery - "Looking deeply into Tea" (photography and poems) - as well as The New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art with an exhibit by Kathryn Waters "At Home and Abroad". Good places to run into artists that I knew from the area.

It was a good weekend to reconnect with friends and art and gardens and all sorts of inspirations.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Bisphenol A (BPA) linked with breast cancer" (New Study)

From the MediaIndia article - >

According to researchers, bisphenol A, a chemical used in plastic bottles and other household products may be linked to the development of breast cancer.

Bisphenol A, “pseudo-oestrogen” which mimics female hormones, can stimulate cancer cells, when present in high concentrations.

Though previous studies suggest that natural changes in the oestrogen-like chemical after entering the body makes it harmless. However, a U.S. study revealed that these chemicals retain their carcinogenic properties even after modification inside the body....

BPA is used in the production of food containers, CDs and DVDs, car parts and in dental sealants. According to previous researches, BPA escapes from products and may be absorbed at low concentrations into the body.


An article from The Herald Times of Bloomington, IN, explained how the IU Chemistry Professor set out to prove that "Bisphenol A" was NOT connected to cancer and ended up proving the opposite. It is interesting when you know that the person got results opposite of what s/he expected to get.


The study, led by IU chemistry professor Ted Widlanski, appears in the Aug. 28 issue of the journal Chemistry & Biology. It shows that the chemical bisphenol A retains breast cancer-causing properties even after being modified by bodily processes that were thought to neutralize them.

"It obviates one of the arguments people in industry had been using for why bisphenol A should be harmless," Widlanski said. "And it suggests this process may in fact be something to worry about."

Widlanski stressed the study doesn't demonstrate that the chemical causes cancer. Rather, he said, it points to the need for more research on how the chemical acts in the body.

Bisphenol A is a plasticizer used in making plastic water bottles, CDs, DVDs and other household products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found trace amounts of the chemical in 95 percent of urine samples collected from U.S. adults.

Working with researchers at IU, the IU School of Medicine and the University of California at Berkeley, Widlanski in fact set out to show bisphenol A wasn't something to worry about.

In 1997, he attended a lecture at IU by Dianne Dumanoski, co-author of "Our Stolen Future," a book that argued widespread chemical exposure disrupted delicate hormonal balances.

"I was outraged," he said, by Dumanoski's claim that funding pressures from chemical companies kept scientists from studying the risks of exposure. After the lecture, he challenged her to provide one example of a chemical that was causing the problems she claimed.

"I kept pressing her, and finally she said bisphenol A," he said. "I said, 'No way'."

He devised an experiment to confirm the hypothesis that bisphenol A would be changed by substances in the body into a form that wouldn't penetrate the walls of breast cancer cells.

"We were going about it with the mindset that bisphenol A could not possibly be the culprit, the body detoxifies it," he said.

Sure enough, the study showed, a human enzyme called estrogen sulfotransferase modifies the chemical by adding sulfate.

But when the modified chemical was added to a medium containing breast cancer cells, the sulfate was removed. Researchers said an enzyme on the surface of the cancer cells caused the change, allowing the chemical to enter the cells.

What was striking, Widlanski said, was that all the desulfated bisphenol A was inside the cancer cells and none was in the medium outside of them, suggesting the chemical could be concentrated in the cells.


I did a Google "News" search to see what media outlets were carrying this story - and at the time 18 related articles came up. has it,, and and a couple of other similar things in the US.

And otherwise there were 3 articles from India outlets; plus CBC News, Canada; Scotsman, United Kingdom, Monsters and, UK; and Kenya London News, Kenya.

It kind of makes you wonder what happened to the US media ? ? ? It sounds like it's more likely that people in Kenya will be better informed about this than people in the US - at the rate things are going.


P.S. At the Our Stolen Future site - there is news of another study that links Bisphenol A to Prostate Cancer.

“Canon Rock”

I admit I am a sucker for Pachelbel’s Canon - have been probably ever since the movie Ordinary People came out. And I have apparently been behind the curve on this “Canon Rock” phenomenon - because I just heard about it in the New York Times, today - and I guess it's been online for months.

I do think it's quite a fun version - and I can imagine people dancing to such a version at wedding receptions - I think it could overtake the "Chicken Dance". :)

You can listen to it here - I had to let it download awhile before it would play through smoothly. I love it that people can create such a thing and get it out there where people can hear it. At this rate - Pachelbel’s Canon won't be going away any time soon.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

One Sad Crab

(AP Photo of crab covered in oil from oilspill in Lebanon)

"GOP candidate says 9/11 attacks were a hoax"

It's not such a surprise if non-Republicans say that the 9/11 attacks were a hoax - part of the US governement plan. The Democrats and Greens are critical of Republicans anyway - and the media seems to take little of what the opposition says seriously. It's always interesting when a Republican starts speaking out about these things. And things being what they are - more people seem to listen.


From Nashua, New Hampshire -

A Republican candidate for this area’s congressional seat said Wednesday that the U.S. government was complicit in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In an editorial board interview with The Telegraph on Wednesday, the candidate, Mary Maxwell, said the U.S. government had a role in killing nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, so it could make Americans hate Arabs and allow the military to bomb Muslim nations such as Iraq....

she implicated the government by saying the Sept. 11 attacks were meant “to soften us up . . . to make us more willing to have more stringent laws here, which are totally against the Bill of Rights . . . to make us particularly focus on Arabs and Muslims . . . and those strange persons who spend all their time creating little bombs,” giving Americans a reason “to hate them and fear them and, therefore, bomb them in Iraq for other reasons.”

She said this strategy “would be normal” for governments...

In turn, the Sept. 11 attacks “made the ground fertile” for more stringent laws, such as the Patriot Act, and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, Maxwell said.

Near the end of the interview, Maxwell pounded her fist on the table and asked editors of The Telegraph why they weren’t publishing more stories about the government’s role in the terrorist attacks or proliferation of nuclear weapons....


And if anyone is still blaming Clinton... there was this (from 2003) with various points that made the case against that idea.

Polar Bear Shrinkage

Study: Polar Bear Genitals are Shrinking

The icecap may not be the only thing shrinking in the Arctic. The genitals of polar bears in east Greenland are apparently dwindling in size due to industrial pollutants.

Scientists report this shrinkage could, in the worst case scenario, endanger polar bears there and elsewhere by spoiling their love lives and causing their numbers to peter out.

In fact, all marine mammals could get affected by these pollutants, "especially the Arctic fox, killer whale and pilot whales," wildlife veterinarian and toxicologist Christian Sonne at the National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark in Roskilde told LiveScience. These animals bodies also carry extremely high levels of these contaminants.

Polar bears from northernmost Norway, western Russia and east Greenland are among the most polluted animals in the Arctic, as they feast on ringed seals and bearded seals. The blubber of these seals accumulates high levels of organic pollutants loaded with halogens such as chlorine. These organohalogens can act like hormones.

Sonne and his colleagues looked at formaldehyde-preserved genitals from 55 male and 44 female east Greenland polar bears, collected from 1999 to 2002 by about 30 polar bear subsistence hunters regulated by the Greenland government.


I fugured you would want to know.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Tropical Fish Visiting Rhode Island

According to people who pay attention to these things - there are about twice as many tropical fish that have swum up to the Rhode Island area compared to what is usual.


NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) - An unusually large number of tropical fish have been spotted this summer in Rhode Island waters by divers, fishermen and environmentalists.

Among the fish seen so far: juvenile orange filefish, snowy grouper and lookdowns. A local lobsterman pulled up a large trigger fish in one of his traps.

"We're always catching tropicals during the summer months, but I mean there are a lot more. Probably about double the amount," Jean Bambara, an aquarist at Save the Bay's Exploration Center in Newport, told The Providence Journal.

The fish being seen are normally found in the warm waters off the southern states, just like the Portuguese men-of-war that invaded southern New England waters earlier in the summer and the manatee that was spotted this week in Warwick and North Kingstown.

Scientists said a change in the pattern of the Gulf Stream is likely a major reason for the number of warm-water visitors this summer. The Gulf Stream moves north from Florida along the East Coast before turning east toward Europe. Scientists say the turn is usually south of Delaware, but this year it's a more north than usual.

John Torgan, baykeeper with Save the Bay, said the average water temperature of Narragansett Bay has increased three degrees over the past few decades. He said this could cause cold-water species like cod and haddock to move further north and warm-water fish to move in.

"What's different is we've seen warmer water and we're seeing an increased sighting of these rare or accidental species in Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound," Torgan said.

"Does it never end?"

If anyone has any doubts about the continuing need for people to push feminism/women's rights - go over to see Dr. Violet Socks and she will set you straight.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"10,000 Reasons Civilization is Doomed"

Add a reason if you are so inclined....

"Pluto’s no longer a planet"

Well - this is the sensible thing. So now there are 8 instead of 9 (or 12 or some other thing). It's a good thing that planets don't have feelings - what a demotion! :)

Historic new guidelines approved by astronomers in Prague

PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is — and isn’t — a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell — a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings — urged those who might be “quite disappointed” to look on the bright side.

“It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called ‘planet’ under which the dwarf planets exist,” she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight “classical” planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn’t make the grade under the new rules for a planet: “a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.”

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune’s.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of “dwarf planets,” similar to what long have been termed “minor planets.” The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun — “small solar system bodies,” a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.


• Pluto's day: 6.4 Earth days.
• Pluto's year: 248 Earth years.
• Average distance from sun: 3.7 billion miles, or 5.9 billion kilometers.

More about Pluto

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) (can't connect right now - too busy).

Gigantic Yellow Jacket Nests

This sounds like a global warming problem. Ordinarily the yellow jackets would die off in the winter - but they aren't - in Alabama - like they used to.

"Giant nests perplex experts"

To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama.

Specialists say it could be the result of a mild winter and drought conditions, or multiple queens forcing worker yellow jackets to enlarge their quarters so the queens will be in separate areas. But experts haven't determined exactly what's behind the surprisingly large nests.

Auburn University entomologists, who say they've never seen the nests so large, have been fielding calls about the huge nests from property owners from Dothan up to Sylacauga and over into west-central Alabama's Black Belt.

At one site in Barbour County, the nest was as large as a Volkswagen Beetle, said Andy McLean, an Orkin pesticide service manager in Dothan who helped remove it from an abandoned barn about a month ago.

"It was one of the largest ones we've seen," McLean said.

Attached to two walls and under the slab, the nest had to be removed in sections, McLean said.

Entomologist Dr. Charles Ray at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Auburn said he's aware of about 16 of what he described as "super-sized" nests in south Alabama....

In previous years, a yellow jacket nest was no larger than a basketball, Ray said. It would contain about 3,000 workers and one queen. These gigantic nests may have as many as 100,000 workers and multiple queens.

Without a cold winter to kill them this year, the yellow jackets continued feeding in January and February -- and layering their nests made of paper, not wax. They typically are built in shallow underground cavities.

Yellow jackets, often confused with bees, may visit flowers for sugar, but unlike bees, yellow jackets are carnivorous, eating insects, carrion and picnic food, according to scientists.
"They were able to find food to colony through the winter," Ray said in a telephone interview.

He investigated a nest near Pineapple, measuring about 5 feet by 4 feet...

Commercial Butterflies

There is an op-ed in today's New York Times about Commercial Butterflies - Butterfly Kiss-Off by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, a natural sciences professor at the University of Wyoming.

I guess this issue has been around for awhile because I googled it and found an article written in 1998 by the National Wildlife Federation.

It sort of reminds me of the ladybug problem and the release balloons mixed together. We had terrible infestation problems at a log cabin that we used to live in from Asian Ladybugs that have been sold in the US to kill aphids - as an organic gardening method. While I think that organic gardening is great and we need to do what we can to to reduce pesticide use - what has happened is that we have bought pesticides to deal with the ladybugs because other people introduced them to our ecosystem and they became pests without any natural predators. The alternative was to have 1000's of ladybugs flying and crawling around the house. It was not doable.

The release of helium balloons looks like a wonderful thing. Balloons don't look deadly. But eventually many of the balloons fall and drop into the ocean where some form of sealife eats it and dies. The balloon releaser does not see that part of it. And when you get these giant releases all over the place - and at commercial ventures like the Indianapolis 500 - as well as back-yard parties - it adds up to lots of balloons and lots of deaths.

And so it goes for butterflies. People like to realease them at weddings. People like to raise them and watch their life cylce. It seems that there could not be too many butterflies. And that it wouldn't hurt if commercial growers helped them out. Lockwood suggests that there could be 11 million released a year.

In the '98 article 40,000 was the estimate for monarchs being released.

"Butterfly suppliers say some opponents of the trade may be letting emotions get in the way. "Some people just don't like the idea of butterflies being commercialized," says Sheri Moreau of The Butterfly Conservancy in California. "I estimate less than 40,000 artificially raised monarchs were released last year to join a monarch population of over 150 million--hardly a statistical blip in the total population."

Now - 8 years later - Lockwood writes:

"Their primary concern is the release of butterflies from one locale into a different region. Federal regulations prohibit the shipments to states where a species doesn’t naturally occur, as if Long Island was the same ecological system as Albany.

The butterfly association also raises the concern that interbreeding of otherwise separate populations could cause genetic deterioration of endemic varieties that have adapted to local conditions and warp migratory behaviors. In principle, the farm-raised butterflies may also carry unfamiliar strains of pathogens, although diseased larvae rarely survive to adulthood.

A less plausible concern is that the released individuals will compete with the natives for food; nectar is rarely in short supply. But the feeding of the subsequent generation is a more complicated issue: painted ladies larvae eat thistles, which include both nasty, invasive weeds and endangered species."

Lockwood suggests only releasing sterile adult butterflies. And for teachers and classes to find their own caterpilars and raise them "a savvy teacher could work with students to collect local caterpillars, raise them and release the butterflies whence they came. "

Some schools are doing more to create ecosystems that are favorable to butterflies and wildlife - that is where I think the answer lies. Less mown fertilzed and pesticided lawns - and more unmown wildflower meadows - as part of the school grounds. A lot of places have much in the way of mown lawns that are not part of the area where people are playing softball or something and are not used at all. I see no sense in that.

Other than that - it would make sense to regulate where the butterflies are shipped - as in the grower who would not send Eastern monarchs to a Western State. I am not convinced that as long as the grower were to raise butterflies locally and sell them locally - that it would be a problem. (That's not how modern commerce operates these days, though - people expect to ship them all over).

Some places are becoming so generic - like vast areas of farmland growing corn crops - that it hardly seems that there is a local ecosystem left to protect. I live where there is lots of wild areas. But there are still people who mow grass just because they like the look of it. I like the look of butterfles flying around because there is stuff for them to eat.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Squid Population Explosion"

Apparently some of the Humboldt or "Red Devil" squid, which can weigh 40-50 kg (88-110 lb) from Peru have headed up to Alaska - for the "first time" (that people know about). And some are traveling down to Southern Chile.

"Red Devil" Squid, Jellyfish Point to Ocean Upsets"

Warmer oceans are likely to add to older marine threats such as pollution and over-fishing and upset the habitats of everything from crabs and Mediterranean jellyfish to "Red Devil" squid and whales.

As species shift, tropical regions, or almost enclosed seas such as the Mediterranean where fish cannot swim far if the water gets uncomfortably warm, may be among the most vulnerable.

"Areas close to the equator will most likely be the losers while the northern or southern areas might be the winners," said Harald Loeng, head of research in oceanography and climate at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.

"It's most likely that some of the species in the North Sea like cod will move north ... and be replaced by anchovies and sardines," he said.


P.S. I don't think that this site (Laughing Squid) has anything to do with Squid - but it does look like a nice collection of artist sites. I added it to my list.

Judges Who Are Our Friends

Judge rejects Bush plan to log in Sequoia National Monument

"But, but, but - we are just protecting the trees."

Yeah right.

Maybe if they didn't stand to profit from the selling of our National Treasures - I might believe them. (Probably not).


A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a Bush administration plan to allow commercial logging in Giant Sequoia National Monument, home to two-thirds of the world's largest trees.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer sided with state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and environmental groups that sued the U.S. Forest Service over plans to permit timber cuts on up to 3,200 acres each year in the 328,000-acre preserve, home to 38 sequoia groves in Central California.

"The Forest Service's interest in harvesting timber has trampled the applicable environmental laws," Breyer wrote, calling the agency's forest management plan "incomprehensible."

The plan would have allowed up to 7.5 million board feet of timber - enough to fill 1,500 logging trucks - to be removed each year from the monument in Sierra Nevada, the plaintiffs said."

..."When the smaller diameter trees catch fire, that's the one thing that can kill the giant sequoia trees towering above them," ( spokesman) Mathes said. "We need to take another look at how we're going to manage this monument to protect these magnificent trees from fire."


One of the things that I remember from being at the Giant Sequoia National Monument is that the large trees are to some extent resistant to fire - and that is part of why they live so long. And then there are fires that are used to try to maintain the natural ecosystem. Somehow I don't think that hauling off hundreds of truckloads of wood is part of the natural system of things.

Dark Matter

"Proof of dark matter"

Scientists using Nasa's Chandra X-ray observatory and other telescopes claim to have found direct evidence for the existence of dark matter.

In astrophysics, dark matter refers to material which cannot be seen but is thought to exist through its gravitational effects on visible matter. Its composition is unknown, but is thought to consist of elementary particles, dwarf stars and non luminous gas.

Some researchers have proposed alternative theories for dark matter, but the scientists behind the current study into a "tremendous" collision of two large clusters of galaxies believe that only the existence of dark matter can explain its effects.

During the collision, which Maxim Markevitch of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics described as "the most energetic cosmic event, besides the big bang, which we know about," the scientists argue that dark matter and normal matter were wrenched apart.

After observing the galaxy cluster 1E0657-56, which is also known as the bullet cluster, the scientists were able to determine the mass in the clusters. A separation between dark and normal matter was observed through the hot gas in the collision being slowed while the dark matter remained the same.

"A universe that's dominated by dark stuff seems preposterous, so we wanted to test whether there were any basic flaws in our thinking," said lead researcher Doug Clowe of the University of Arizona at Tucson. "These results are direct proof that dark matter exists."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


It sounds like someone got a hold of Perelman - but his friends are protecting his whereabouts because he doesn't want the media attention which would be considerable - since he won the "Field's Medal" today. Perelman reportedly said that he "does not want to be seen as its figurehead."

This explains what he solved more basically than some other things:

The Poincare conjecture essentially says that in three dimensions you cannot transform a doughnut shape into a sphere without ripping it, although any shape without a hole can be stretched or shrunk into a sphere.

Proving the conjecture — an exercise in acrobatics with mindboggling imaginary doughnuts and balls — is anything but trivial. Colleagues say Perelman's work gives mathematical descriptions of what the universe might look like and promises exciting applications in physics and other fields.


Apparently Perelman posted his proof on a Math web site in Nov. 2002 instead of the normal procedure of publishing in peer reviewed journals.

I think it's interesting - and not surprising that someone who is so exceptional at Mathematics that he is also so reclusive. And that he doesn't follow standard procedures. It's not generally the sociable type of people who have the time or inclination to come up with these things. Einstein became quite the public figure - discussing religion and art and all kinds of things - taking a stand against nuclear weapons and wars - but that is probably pretty unusual.

My previous post about his was here.


Burning Man

I've never been to a Burning Man festival - but I think they sound interesting and I like the idea of people coming together for modern rituals. This year's theme is "Hope and Fear".

The dates of the festival this year are August 28-September 4. It's at Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada - near the towns of Empire and Gerlach. (Tickets are $280 for the week).

2006 Art Theme

Our Art Theme for Burning Man 2006 will be "Hope and Fear: The Future", wherein we explore how we create futurity, manifested as an expression of the promise of our hopes, and the contractions of our fears.

We take comfort in the notion that we have a past to guide us, but we reinterpret history every day according to what happens in the present. The future, too, is a projection of our hopes and fears in what is called the here and now. But even what we term the here and now is largely an imaginary place and time. If we say that now exists exactly now, we already speak of the past. We are caught in a temporal slipstream, a state of perpetual flux. The present really narrows down into the thinnest slice of time. It is no wider than the span of a reflexive arc, that moment when the heart says to the mind: so shall it be. This year's art theme will allow us to explore how we create futurity. Express what you most hope for in the future! Express what you most fear! The Burning Man, as heartbeat of our city, will be made to rise and fall upon this tidal flow of our emotions and imagination.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ice geysers on Mars

This is awesome. What an inspiration. For my planet paintings and all.

"Ice geysers 'discovered on Mars'"

Images from a camera orbiting Mars have shown the 100mph jets of carbon dioxide erupt through ice at the planet's south pole, Arizona State University says.

The orbiting camera, called the Thermal Emission Imaging System (Themis), is on the Mars Odyssey probe.

The geyser debris leaves dark spots, fan-like markings and spider-shaped features on the ice cap.

The scientists said geysers erupted when sunlight warming the ice turned frozen carbon dioxide underground into high-pressure gas.

"If you were there, you'd be standing on a slab of carbon dioxide ice," said the university's Dr Phil Christensen.

"All around you, roaring jets of CO2 gas are throwing sand and dust a couple of hundred feet into the air."

Dr Christensen said the process was "unlike anything that occurs on Earth".

His team discovered the jets through examining more than 200 Themis visible and infrared images. The findings were published in the latest edition of the journal Nature.


There is an artist's impression at the BBC site. I may have to make my own - it doesn't seem to want to post.


"More rain on the way in flooded Alaska"

It seems that Alaska could have a lot more flooding if warmer weather means more snow melt. Right now they are getting a lot of rain.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — High water that closed the main corridor between the state's two largest cities dropped steadily Sunday, though weary emergency officials kept a close watch on forecasts calling for more rain...

Roads and bridges were still under water, he said. Both the Parks Highway and the Alaska Railroad remained closed between Anchorage and Fairbanks because of bridge damage and mud slides....

Showers tapered off Sunday morning, but 2 to 4 inches of rain was forecast for the evening.

Site of the Day - "Assemblage"

Assemblage - The Women's New Media Gallery

This looks like a great resource. I'll have to come back when I have more time.



From Neil Young's Living with War blog and site - His Families video:




As it happens - I was with much of my extended family yesterday including a nephew who is the Marines who has a Purple Heart after having been wounded in Iraq. I mostly avoid the subject - or avoid saying what I think about it - but yesterday I did tell him and several other family members (some who knew what I thought and some that did not) that I did not think that the US was ever at risk from Iraq or that Iraq was in any way responsible for 9/11 (?) (?) (?) (?) - the main justifications for the US invasion. (Assemblage and analysis of misleading and inaccurate public statements about the invasion here).

They pretty much all acted like I was from another planet (notice that I create planets - that is one of the reasons for that - I do not share the same reality as many people who live around here). And we all knew that there was not going to be anyone who was going to change anyone's mind about it all. They have their sources that they trust - I have mine. We were all amicable about it. I figured my nephews might as well know what their liberal aunt thinks.

I think that I am probably more disturbed about nephews and the children of friends who go off to fight in this war - than many people who support the war - it's an awful thing to know that people that you love are going off to fight in such a fiasco. People such as my extended family members (my immediate family thinks more like I do) - are able to be filled with pride and self-rightousness (which is the point of propaganda, after all). So there may be comfort in that.

I am very concerned for all of the people there. Soldiers and Iraqis (or whatever country it is at the time) alike. It's a horrific, unnecessary tragedy. But it is a tragedy manufactured mostly by the United States. And as far as I'm concerned - we have nothing to be proud about.

The US government has been very successful at getting people in the Middle East to hate us. And getting people in the US to hate Arabs/Muslims. And for setting the stage for more wars and devastation.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Morning Morality

I noticed this over at Chaotic Utopia -

The Story of Schrodinger's Apple

Some questions that were raised -

If each is guided by a code of self-responsibility, encouraging the promotion of existence, then individually we will enrich our existence, and find the path of evolution a fairly smooth one. However, if we try to assign responsibilities and blame beyond the events we are directly involved in, we will make any change or improvement difficult for others and ourselves.

...So, going back to dreaming of Eden, was this always true? Or perhaps, did we once understand basic values, and take their complexities for granted?

Somewhere in our earliest civilizations, while doing the firsts of many things, writing, farming, and more, humans began to argue over which code of morality (along with which creation story, etc) was most correct. Even 10,000 years later, no one can seem to agree on a solid solution. Perhaps, after all this time, we are finally starting to rediscover the nature of values and uncertainty.

...We began to ignore the complexity of values which made the existence of an object possible. Is it possible, then, with language, to return to an Eden in which we never fight over values? Probably not. Perhaps, at least, as we come to appreciate complexity and uncertainty in nature, we can glimpse the beauty of Eden.

- Chaotic Utopia


My response (more or less - I added a couple things for clarity)

I am also interested in the ideas of chaos and morality. I think that people are persuaded to adopt a "moral code" that is often in their own best interests - but that people allow themselves to ignore the consequences to others. Sort of like the lioness and the antelope. Like when Americans use the cheap labor of people in China and places like the Marianas Islands - US territories exempt form US labor laws. It benefits them - they ignore the cost to others. (The "morality" where if someone can get away with taking advantage of others - it's considered fair game).

I think you would enjoy reading Adam, Eve, and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels. She goes into - among other things - different interpretations of the Adam and Eve story. How the versions that were more favorable to women - like by some of the gnostic groups were successfully squashed.

Another good book for considering how morality has been shaped to suit a particular world view is The Chalice and the Blade By Riane Eisler. (A snip from Ms. Eisler - see link for full essay).

"For perhaps the most critical fact emerging from the new view of our past and potential future made possible by the study of society from a perspective that takes into account the whole of humanity, both women and men, is that all the modern movements for social and economic justice are neither radical nor new. Rather, such seemingly diverse progressive movements as the "rights of man," utopian and scientific socialist, abolitionist, and feminist movements of the 18th and 19th centuries and the anti-colonial, peace, ecology, civil rights and women's movements of the 20th century are part of a resurging thrust towards a social system that is not geared towards man's conquest of women, other men, or nature...

Indeed, the struggle for our future is not between capitalism and communism or between religion and secularism. It is a struggle about what kinds of relations we have, be it in our intimate or our international relations."

I think that the prevailing "morality" that many have adopted is one of exploitation of others. I don't think that is the only possible one. I think that more cooperative moral systems were able to be advanced in places where there was little outside threats from other groups - way back when when there were far fewer people on the planet - or more recently where groups of people are isolated from others - deep in some rain forest or other.

When the defense of the group becomes the main value - then the people and resources that accomplish that become glorified - often to the detriment to many within the group. (And most offense is sold as "defense" - so that the group will accept it). I think that the US is engaged in overkill in many ways these days. The military is receiving a huge share of the resources - the US military costs as much as the militaries of the rest of the world combined. We are engaged in overkill when it comes to using the world resources like energy and other things. We are engaged in overkill when it comes to consumerism and consumption and how much stuff most people think that they need. And the more stuff - the more value a person is thought to have by the society.

Our overkill is responsible for much loss of life - unnecessarily. It's like the lion and the lioness are killing all the other animals and hanging the heads from the trees as decorations - not killing out of need. It is absurd to think about.

So I definitely think that our currently accepted morality needs to be questioned.


P.S. When you accept the exploitation of others - you can get in the extreme case - the 5 year old Cambodian girls who are sold by their parents for $10 and who are forced to "have sex" (ie - be raped) 30 times a day for pennies.

At what point is exploitation acceptable? When the person is an adult? - 18 - in our society.

I find it hard to believe that people cannot be given fair wages for work - while it is acceptable for CEOs to make 2000 times as much and have far more than they need. It may be little different from Kings who amassed outrageous amounts of property and riches while peasants went hungry - but that doesn't mean that it is the best way for a society to operate.

Of course many of people with an abundance of money and resources balk at "redistribution of wealth" through taxes - but there are so many inequities in the system and so many ways for people with certain advantages to exploit those without those advantages - that it is only sensible way for a capitalist society to operate - IMO.

Why should hoarding and waste NOT be seen as immoral - is the gist of it. There is intense propaganda that says otherwise.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Notes from Newport...

Here are some of the notes and sketches that I made this past Wednesday at the Newport (KY) Aquarium.

Moon Jelly - 5-6"
(top left and right)

Umbrella Jelly - small - 2"
(lower left)

West Coast Sea Nettles - golden - 8"
(lower right)

Also at the Aquarium:

Colored Jelly (fast moving) - 4" - 8 heart shaped cauliflower looking things (moving mechanism - on underside).

Sea Nettles - long strings (20-30") - max 5" D. (most there were 3").

There were also polyps - which account for half of a jellyfish life.


It was wonderful to watch the jellyfish move - next time I'll need to make a movie. About the time I got my camera adjusted for the light - it died for the day). This one of the sea nettles was not the look I was going for - but it does sort of show the movement.

At first sea nettle stuff hanging down looks like weird icky stuff - but when you start looking at it them closer (like I did when my camera ran out of battery and I started sketching) - it looks like lace - almost like a petticoat. And some of the tentacles have ribbons on them too - ruffley like.


Sea Nettle Haiku

Tranparent bodies
Dangle petticoats and lace
Waltzing through oceans.


The Newport Aquarium had classical music playing in the "Jellyfish Gallery" - which I thought made a nice effect.


Typhoon Report

China floods: a close-up look at the destruction in Hunan Province

At least 1,800 people have been killed in severe flooding in China this year, following a series of devastating typhoons and tropical storms. Most recently, Typhoon Saomai – the worst to hit China’s mainland in half a century – claimed more than 200 lives and destroyed or damaged over 432,000 homes and around 270,000 hectares of farmland in south-east China.
In early August, Typhoon Papiroon killed around 80 people, while Tropical Storm Bilis left more than 600 dead in mid-July....

This year’s storms have been unusually frequent and powerful, bringing renewed misery to rural families who are already struggling to scrape by.

Meanwhile, as some areas of China are hit by more typhoons and the resulting floods, other areas are suffering from intense drought, which experts say is another by-product of global warming.

17th century Chinese castle collapses in impact of typhoons

A 370-year-old castle in East China dating back to Ming Dynasty has collapsed after being hit by floods triggered by three typhoons over the past three months.

Nine houses in the Caipu Castle, in Yunxiao County of Fujian province, collapsed after being soaked in flood for weeks while more than 200 square metres of the outer wall crumbled, a county cultural official said.

"Fortunately nobody was injured or killed," curator of the county museum, Tang Yuxian said.

The moat has often flooded the castle since mid-May when Typhoon Chanchu slashed Southern and Eastern China, followed by Bilis and Kaemi that set off flood and landslides to kill hundreds of people.

There are more than 200 families living in the castle.

The Caipu Castle was built in 1636 and was the only round castle made of a mixture of lime, clay and sand that still exists in Fujian, Xinhua news agency quoted Tang as saying.

DPR Korea: Floods Information Bulletin No. 3

July and August are regarded as the height of the floods season in East Asia. Over the past eight weeks, large-scale flooding and a series of typhoons have affected China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Japan and the Republic of Korea. In DPRK, 14-15 July floods triggered by a typhoon affected a total of eight counties in South Pyongan, North Hwanghae, Kangwon and South Hamgyong provinces.

According to the latest official figures, floods during the second week of July killed 151 people. Having now located many who were missing, the number of missing has been reduced from 127, as reported on 25 July, to 29 people. Rains precipitated landslides and flash floods that totally or partially destroyed 23,400 houses and rendered more than 16,960 families homeless, causing extensive damage to crops and infrastructure.


For the Austrailia season of Tropical Cyclones - they also had a particularly bad year with 2 category 5s, and 3 category 4s (by their scale). "Monica was the strongest tropical cyclone on record to affect the Northern Territory (Australian Bureau of Meteorology)".

"Global diary...Cambodia"

If you can stand to read about what amounts to unspeakable human (basically girls and women) suffering at the hands of other people - read this account written by Mariane Pearl on the sex slave tragedy in Cambodia.

It's a wonderful thing that the woman, Somaly, has been able to take a hold of her life and created the group Acting for Women in Distressing Situations. The tragedy in Cambodia is so far beyond most of our daily experiences that it is difficult to fathom - and yet it sounds far too normal for over there.

The Glamour ads add a rather ironic twist - as they are mostly encouraging women to package themselves for sex ("sex sells") and the vast majority of the site and magazine encourages shopping and shallow thinking.

Freaks of Nature

That is what people are.

Thinking about the recent news about genes in human brains.... "In just a few million years, one area of the human genome seems to have evolved about 70 times faster than the rest of our genetic code. It appears to have a role in a rapid tripling of the size of the brain's crucial cerebral cortex..."

While there are those who like to reconcile evolution with God (and I think that there is no reason why a person could not do that), I rather like the idea that people changed randomly - just like all of the other freaks of nature. And the changes that worked best were the ones that survived. It is amazing how incredibly complex and diverse are people and life in general. Nature is awesome.

Maybe part of the thing is that people know that they get more done if they have intentions and goals and a plan - so having a God plan and direct things makes sense. To let things randomly take their course does not always prove to be the most productive. I think that going with the flow can be the most interesting.

But if people were not designed - then people are not "special" - and that point of view does go against the idea that people have a divine right to dominate nature. The argument goes....

"But He also made nature for man’s pleasure and profit. At the end of the six days of creation, He said to Adam and Eve, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’...God has put us at the centre of the universe, not we ourselves."

I think that it is more like if you look at how nature works - the strongest and best adapted wins. For some people that means industrial fishing because people can or strip mining mountains because people can - and because it is so profitable. Taking as much as someone can get - because they see no reason not to. If one were to notice - while animals will put up food for the winter - this ends up contributing to how nature works - not hamstringing it. While some species do end up being the losers - now it is becoming that most species are becoming the losers (except jellyfish, of course, and a few other things).

People in general are so egotistical that we don't worry about taking more than we need. The thing about being the best adapted - is that those of us who want humankind to live in a way that is adapted to the world (for the species to continue to survive) - means that everybody needs to get on board with the idea of protecting nature - not overkill.

For those who do not care if the species survives (the rapture and all) - then it doesn't matter what they do (as far as they are concerned) - but for the rest of us - it matters quite a bit.

To me life and nature are all that more miraculous - that everything evolved the way it did. I revel in diversity.

I was visiting the Aquarium in Newport the other day - and it was wonderful to see even the relatively small amount of diversity that they had housed in their building. (Though I was sad to think that for most of those animals it is like a prison).

As freaks of nature - we are just one of the freaky species. Not one with special privileges. That is one of the things you give up when you don't go along with the whole Genesis bit. We get to share this planet along with all of the other freaks.

It is all a war of sorts - who wins . And it concerns me that some people think that people are so smart that we can outsmart nature or something. People may be smart - but we are not that smart.

I think the best we can do is to live in harmony with all the other freaks of nature to the best of our abilities.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Case No. 06-CV-10204

It's difficult to be happy about much the government does these days (that would be the state and federal gov't - the local one is alright) - but I am happy about this judge and this decision (It is being appealed).

capacity as Director of the National Security Agency
and Chief of the Central Security Service,

Case No. 06-CV-10204

Hon. Anna Diggs Taylor

It's 43 pages long - This is the Concluding paragraph - with the quote that followed:

The Permanent Injunction of the TSP requested by Plaintiffs is granted inasmuch as each of the factors required to be met to sustain such an injunction have undisputedly been met.59 The irreparable injury necessary to warrant injunctive relief is clear, as the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs are violated by the TSP. See Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479 (1965). The irreparable injury conversely sustained by Defendants under this injunction may be rectified by compliance with our Constitution and/or statutory law, as amended if necessary. Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.

As Justice Warren wrote in U.S. v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258 (1967):
Implicit in the term ‘national defense’ is the notion of defending
those values and ideas which set this Nation apart. . . . It would
indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would
sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . which makes the
defense of the Nation worthwhile. Id. at 264.