Day: July 29, 2002

Another Mass Whale Beaching:


[Wet towels were used to keep the animals moist.]

Several Stranded Whales Die at Cape Cod Beach: “More than 50 pilot whales beached themselves on a stretch of Cape Cod sand Monday and nine of them died before vacationers and other volunteers could push the animals back out to deeper water in a feverish rescue effort.” NY Times The headline should have emphasized that the vacationers and volunteers had saved 41 of the 50.

F-16s Pursue Unknown Craft Over DC

“Military officials confirm that two F-16 jets from Andrews Air Force Base were scrambled early yesterday after radar detected an unknown aircraft in area airspace. But they scoff at the idea that the jets were chasing a strange and speedy, blue unidentified flying object.

…At the same time, military officials say they do not know just what the jets were chasing, because whatever it was disappeared. “There are any number of scenarios, but we don’t know what it was,” said Maj. Barry Venable, another spokesman for NORAD.


… Radar detected a low, slow-flying aircraft about 1 a.m. yesterday, according to a military official. Controllers were unable to establish radio communication with the unidentified aircraft, and NORAD was notified. When the F-16s carrying air-to-air missiles were launched from Andrews, the unidentified aircraft’s track faded from the radar, the military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


… (One observer) remains convinced that what he saw was not routine. “It looked like a shooting star with no trailing mist,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”Washington Post

Let’s see, it appeared on radar, so it wasn’t an optical illusion. The civilian’s observation that it looked like a ‘shooting star with no trailing mist’ suggests it may indeed have been a meteor, which disappeared when it vaporized. At least it’s probably not Al Qaeda [although of course if you’re not with us you’re against us].

Fears that Saudi Arabia could fall to al-Qaeda

“Saudi Arabia is

teetering on the brink of collapse, fuelling Foreign Office fears of an extremist takeover of one of the West’s key allies in the war on terror.

Anti-government demonstrations have swept the desert kingdom in the past months in protest at the pro-American stance of the de facto ruler, Prince Abdullah.


At the same time, Whitehall officials are concerned that Abdullah could face a palace coup from elements within the royal family sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

Saudi sources said the Pentagon had recently sponsored a secret conference to look at options if the royal family fell.” Guardian UK

Learning to love Big Brother

Daniel Kurtzman, San Francisco writer and former Washington political correspondent: Bush channels George Orwell: “Here’s a question for constitutional scholars: Can a sitting president be charged with plagiarism?

As President Bush wages his war against terrorism and moves to create a huge homeland security apparatus, he appears to be borrowing heavily, if not ripping off ideas outright, from George Orwell. The work in question is “1984, ” the prophetic novel about a government that controls the masses by spreading propaganda, cracking down on subversive thought and altering history to suit its needs. It was intended to be read as a warning about the evils of totalitarianism — not a how-to manual.” SF Chronicle

"Blog"

William Safire’s take on “Blog” in his On Language column in the Sunday New York Times. Nothing special here, except that it took him so long to notice.

I was disappointed that he hasn’t caught wind of my use of blink, originally suggested to me by my friend Abby shortly after I started FmH. It is probably time for my annual reexplanation for FmH readers who may puzzle over this idiosyncratic usage of mine — which as far as I can tell has only caught on with one other weblogger. Blink: Just as a blog is a weblog, a blink is a web link. Continuing the wordplay, just as “we_blog” (instead of logging), “we_blink” (instead of simply linking).

Guardian’s ‘Best British Blog’ Contest:

A ‘bloody stupid idea’?:

“Among the the cream of Britain’s bloggers is one who will not be taking part.

Tom Coates, the current holder of the European Blogger of the Year award for plasticbag.org, has announced on his site that the competition is a “bloody stupid idea”, and that he will be boycotting it.” Guardian UK

The voice of the lonely crowd

Martin Amis on the relevance of fiction after 9-11:

‘After September 11, then, writers faced quantitative change, but not qualitative change. In the following days and weeks, the voices coming from their rooms were very quiet; still, they were individual voices, and playfully rational, all espousing the ideology of no ideology. They stood in eternal opposition to the voice of the lonely crowd, which, with its yearning for both power and effacement, is the most desolate sound you will ever hear. “Desolate”: “giving an impression of bleak and dismal emptiness… from L. desolat-, desolare ‘abandon’, from de- ‘thoroughly’ solus ‘alone’.” ‘ Guardian UK

Ear to the ground

Elephant feet made for talking?: ‘Elephants may be listening to and communicating with each other through their feet.

Recent research by US scientists supports previous claims that elephants can interpret slight vibrations they pick up in the ground.

Speaking to BBC World Service, Stanford University biologist Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, said: “For people who have spent time studying elephants, this is a relief.

“They finally understand some strange things that were happening with elephants and they really are excited about it.’ BBC [via RobotWisdom]

Via loose association, a piece about someone who doesn’t have his ear to the ground:

The Rogue Elephant: Bush Jr.’s Nuclear Sabre-Rattling — Francis Boyle on his contempt for international law. Counterpunch [also via RobotWisdom]

Hit Where It Hurts

Jorn Barger repost to alt.fan.unabomber of a new tactical article by Ted Kaczynski, with ambivalently supportive response from Green Anarchy Collective which originally published it.

There are five books that we can recommend

to our readers that will help get them started on the

process of deconstructing their faith in and

allegiance to technology. They are:

The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul

(out-of-print, but readilly available in any good

used bookstore)

Technics and Human Development: The Myth Of The

Machine Volume 1
by Lewis Mumford

Technics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford

My Name Is Chellis & I’m In Recovery From

Civilization
by Chellis Glendinng

and

Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television by

Jerry Mander, which focuses on the destructive

impact of a very specific technology but which also

offers an incredibly strong critique of

technological mediation which has a much wider

applicability.

Happy belated Bloomsday:

Get ready for another big stink:

A new, huge “corpse flower” is expected to bloom this week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Last year’s bloom of a Titan arum drew tens of thousands of visitors to the UW Botany Department greenhouse to see the exotic plant whose rare, purplish flower can grow as big as 4 feet wide – and many times that size in its native habitat, the Indonesian rain forests.

Fewer than 15 blooms had been recorded in the United States before last year’s flower at UW, which tied the record at 101 inches tall.

The new corpse flower is from a plant that came from the same seed source as the other one and has been at UW for about seven years. It grew 14 inches in a week and is now 59 inches tall and growing.

It grows from a tuber that can weigh up to 170 pounds, and it gets its name for the stench it puts out to attract carrion beetles, dung beetles and sweat bees to pollinate it.” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel [via higgy]

I posted a blink to the story, and a live webcam, the last time one bloomed last year. The flower will reportedly again get a web presence, sans smell, this time around.

Bad Faith Healing?

California Medical Board Suspends Internet Doc’s License: “Jon Opsahl, M.D. will appear before a California administrative law judge July 25 in a hearing about alleged violations of a state law that requires physicians to perform a “good faith” examination before prescribing certain medications for patients, reports The Sacramento Bee. Opsahl allegedly wrote more than 8,000 prescriptions for antidepressants and painkillers over the course of a year for patients that he had spoken with on the phone rather than seen in person. The Bee reports that the complaint against Opsahl charges he received $60 for each of the phone consultations, which were referred to him by a now-closed Texas-based Web site.” Today in E-Health Business

Autism and Autoimmunity:

Vijendra K. Singh, Sheren X. Lin, Elizabeth Newell, Courtney Nelson: Abnormal Measles-Mumps-Rubella Antibodies and CNS Autoimmunity in Children with Autism : “Stemming from this evidence, we suggest that an inappropriate antibody response to MMR, specifically the measles component thereof, might be related to pathogenesis of autism… ” Journal of Biomedical Science This has been a persistent speculation; findings have been contradictory. Obviously, important public policy decisions about childhood immunization depend on getting a better bead on this issue.

The Upside of the Down Market

Corporate Corruption Has its Advantages, says P.J. O’Rourke. “(It) endangers everything in which we have, over the past many years, invested our time, effort, and money–particularly Republican control of the House of Representatives. And our 401(k) plans aren’t doing so well either. In this period of gloom–with liberals seeking to make hay from capitalist foibles and our own capitalist foibles reduced in value to bales of ditto–it behooves us to look for a moment at the bright side of corporate corruption.” The Weekly Standard

Ubicomp and 911:

A speech (scroll down about half a page) Bruce Sterling gave at a design conference in Brussels last week, to which I was pointed by Joe Katzman’s piece on his Winds of Change. Sterling describes “a rather extensively worked-out vision in worldbuilding from the point of view of ubiquitous computation in the 21st century”, and a notion he calls 911.net. None of this really appears well-worked-out to me, which he actually acknowledges apologetically several times in the speech, because he’s just a science-fiction writer, folks:

“The actual September 11 event, 9/11, was a rare and remarkable thing. And, with fewer than 3,000 people dead, it’s just not that big a deal as genuine catastrophes go. Politically, theologically and militarily it was huge, but a workaday 911.net wouldn’t fret much about terrorism. Instead, it would have to deal mostly with floods, fires, climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes and (let’s hope never) asteroids and weapons of mass destruction.

So, basically, with 911.net, we are describing a social re-definition of computer geeks as firemen. Native twenty-first century computer geeks as muscular, with-it, first-responder types. I think this would be pretty good for the computer industry. We all need to take the dysfunctional physical world far more seriously. This week, Italy’s flooding, Texas is flooding, Colorado’s on fire. This morning, the brand-new wilderness forests around the site of the former Chernobyl are on fire, spewing radioactive ash hither and yon. Chunks of Antarctica the size of Rhode Island have fallen into the sea. I could go on.

“…This is the sort of activity that humanity is required to deal with

in this new century. If we build a successful method with which to do

this, those useful tactics will spread across the fabric of our

civilization. I believe they are already spreading. An innovation like

911.net will likely serve as a camel’s nose in the tent for a whole

series of ubicomp [ubiquitous computing] applications across society…”

Tom Clancy meets Revelations:

Fundamentally unsound:”Left Behind, the bestselling series of paranoid, pro-Israel end-time thrillers, may sound kooky, but America’s right-wing leaders really believe this stuff…There is probably very little overlap between Salon‘s readership and the audience for apocalyptic Christian fiction, but these books and their massive success deserve attention if only for what they tell us about the core beliefs of a great many people in this country, people whose views shape the way America behaves in the world. ” Salon [via Walker]

Life on six bucks an hour

A portrait of Barbara Ehrenreich’s unlikely bestseller Nickel and Dimed, an ‘undercover’ view of the working poor:

“Her experiences, however, have had a lasting effect on her own conscience. ‘I used to have a boyfriend who thought we should have a cleaner. I couldn’t explain why I was opposed to the idea – it just seemed emotional on my part. Then I did the job and I knew why I felt so uncomfortable with it. Do I still eat out? Yes, but remember: even in an expensive restaurant, where the waiters do well in tips, there are still the dishwashers and the other people in the background.

‘My perception really has changed. Now, when I see a woman behind the counter in a convenience store, I have so many questions. How long has she been on her feet? What does she get paid? Who does she go home to?’ ” Guardian UK Books [via Walker]

Forecast Exchange

NewsFutures is a game. Similar to fantasy stock market games, this one lets players trade on news events. You predict the outcome of various real-world news events we supply. So the more you know, the more likely you are to predict correctly and win. And it’s not just how much you know. You can benefit from the bad predictions of others.

Win what? NewsFutures won’t make you rich, but it will give you the ability to bid for a variety of prizes using the “eXchange dollars” (X$) you earn from playing.’ “Seriously addictive!” — Bruce Sterling