Autistic man survived desert ordeal on will power

Escalante River gorge approximately four miles...

“An autistic man who survived weeks in the Utah wilderness on snakes, frogs and roots described his ordeal as spiritual and said the desert was calling him.

“I’ve eaten things that would probably gross you out,” William LaFever told KSL-TV after his release Thursday from a St. George hospital, nearly 40 pounds lighter than his normal weight of 165. He boarded a bus for his hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Authorities say the 28-year-old man is lucky to be alive after setting out for an estimated 150-mile journey from Boulder, Utah, to Page, Ariz., without a backpack full of gear he says was stolen, and with few provisions.

Garfield County deputies said LaFever was probably only 24 hours from dying when a search helicopter found him July 12, cooling off in the Escalante River in his underwear. LaFever said he spent nights shivering from cold.

“It was the most honest meditation I have ever done,” LaFever told KSL. “It wasn’t even a bad experience.”

Authorities estimated LaFever spent three weeks bushwhacking along the wild Escalante River, but the man says his ordeal lasted weeks longer. In a somewhat confusing account, he recalled setting out June 3.” (SFGate via Steve Silberman)

Names of infamy: deny killers the notoriety they seek

This is a photo of David Brin.
David Brin
FBI mugshot of Timothy McVeigh.
Timothy McVeigh

“Journalists and shrinks and the public fret over each killer’s declared motives, From Brevik’s islamophobia to Timothy McVeigh‘s war against government, to Al Qaeda suicide bombers, to the murderous students at Columbine High School who appeared to be seeking vengeance for bullying. Yet, when we step back and look for common threads, the emerging pattern seems to be less about specific hatreds, racism or anti-Semitism than frenzied, bloody tantrums staged by a string of losers with one common goal — to grab headlines…

…Courts already do have some authority to order name-changes. Suppose that power were widened — any criminal sentenced for a truly heinous crime could be renamed as part of his punishment, with a moniker that invites disdain… Who would choose the new names? Judges could get creative, or the public might be invited to suggest appropriate derogations.  Or something random might be the greatest punishment of all. However it’s done, won’t it make sense for ridicule to replace some of the grotesque fashionableness that’s now attached to terror? It would reflect society’s determination to allocate fame properly, to those who earn it. We would be saying — “You can’t win celebrity this way. By harming innocents, you’re only destroying your own name.” (– David BrinCONTRARY BRIN)

Via Shelby, who commented:

“Right. Show no photos of the actors, use ‘unsub’ or some other neutral, impersonal term for them, pay them no attention at all. That’s the way we treat the enemy killers in wars, after all, while we pay all of the attention (but still too little) to the victims.”


R.I.P. Alexander Cockburn at 71

The left loses one of its most outspoken straight-shooters. I have read Cockburn with delight since his Village Voice days. “Mr. Cockburn had, at various times, regular columns in ideologically disparate publications like The Nation and The Wall Street Journal and became known as an unapologetic leftist, condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right but also castigating the American liberal establishment when he thought it was being timid.” (NYTimes obituary)

Night Sounds: The Gamelan Music of Bali

gamelan in action

“Larry Reed presents a selection of recordings of gamelan music, recorded in Bali, Indonesia in 1979. The program begins with a brief field recording of frogs, crickets and other night creatures, the rhythm of which it has been suggested served as a template for early gamelan ensembles. We then hear a “Pemungkah,” the introductory music of a traditional Balinese shadow play, performed by a gender wayang, the smallest (four piece) of the gamelan ensembles. This is followed by an example of a larger 20 piece gamelan orchestra called gamelan angklung, recorded in Tunjuk, Indonesia in 1979. The program concludes with an example of gamelan leko, used as accompaniment for legong dancers, and also recorded in Tunjuk.” (

“Now I Am Become Shiva, The Destroyer of Worlds.”

“Most films of nuclear explosions are dubbed. If they do contain an actual audio recording of the test blast itself (something I’m often suspicious of — I suspect many were filmed silently and have a stock blast sound effect), it’s almost always shifted in time so that the explosion and the sound of the blast wave are simultaneous.

This is, of course, quite false: the speed of light is much faster than the speed of sound, and the cameras are kept a very healthy distance from the test itself, so in reality the blast wave comes half a minute or so after the explosion. Basic physics that even a non-technical guy like me can understand.

It’s rare to find footage where the sound has not been monkeyed with in post-processing. So I was pleased when a Russian correspondent sent me a link to footage digitized by the National Archives of a 1953 nuclear test. The footage is very raw: it hasn’t been edited much, and is a bit washed out, but the audio is still in “correct,” original sync.

Click the image to go to a YouTube edit of the video that I made. You can see the original via NARA’s page….

The video starts off pretty dark and muddled, but don’t let that turn you off. What’s interesting about this clip is not the visual aspects. The test looks like any old nuclear test, but with poor film quality.

The audio is what makes this great. Put on some headphones and listen to it all the way through — it’s much more intimate than any other test film I’ve seen. You get a much better sense of what these things must have been like, on the ground, as an observer, than from your standard montage of blasts. Murmurs in anticipation; the slow countdown over a megaphone; the reaction at the flash of the bomb; and finally — a sharp bang, followed by a long, thundering growl. That’s the sound of the bomb.” (Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog)

If You Are Hit By Two Atomic Bombs, Should You Have Kids?

“…[R]oughly 150 people were unlucky enough to be in both in Nagasaki and Hiroshima when the bombs hit, but very few, only a handful, were in both blast zones, within 1.5 mile zone of intense radiation. Across Japan, the assumption was that these people shouldn’t have children, that the gamma ray damage would be too heavy, too long-lasting to make child bearing safe.” The story of one man who beat the odds. (Krulwich Wonders… : NPR)