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old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

28 August 2005

here comes your new public school Life Science curriculum -- Hallelujah & Amen!

This image has nothing to do with Natural Selection / Intelligent Design, but now that Vleeptron has apparently mastered posting images that don't look like sausages, we thought we'd toss this one on here: more Digital Virtual Non-Existent Toon Pixel Porn. It's not from the shocking depraved Grand Theft Auto/San Andreas.

This one's from the videogame The Sims (for sim-ulation). Here's a couple of non-existent Sims fooling around without their non-existent clothes. Later in the videogame, the Population of Sim City will increase by 1 or 2 or maybe 3.

I hope Senator Hillary Clinton can do something about this horrible stuff, and then Americans will make her President in 2008 because she's really doing important stuff to fix the most important problems in the world today.

That's why she's not in Crawford, Texas this week, showing her support for Cindy Sheehan and her opposition to the War in Iraq. She'd like to be there -- Hillary is never afraid of political controversy -- but she's much too busy making sure our precious children can't see non-existent strings of zeros and ones having non-existent sex.

Okay, Vleeptron is back to the IMAX Science Documentary Censorship Thing
... where IMAX nature movies that mention Natural Selection are being banned from being shown in IMAX theaters in science education facilities -- museums, etc.

Farther back up the Food Chain, this means new IMAX nature movies can't get the financing they need because the paying audience (busloads of schoolkids) has shrunk, because the number of IMAX screens is shrinking.

The way around that, of course, is that future IMAX science movies just won't mention anything about Natural Selection/Evolution.

One interesting aspect of the Bush Administration's famous "No Child Left Behind" law is that every public school district in the USA (in order to conform to the law and keep receiving federal money) has had to re-write all its curricula in every subject.

Into this once-in-a-blue-moon national opportunity has leapt the Intelligent Design crowd. (They used to be Creationists, then Creation Science people. They keep changing their name, like my cousin the hot check artiste.)

Now every big public school district's science curriculum is being pressured bigtime to "teach the controversy" -- not to reject or deny Natural Selection, but to "balance" it by buying new textbooks that do mention Natural Selection, but also teach junior high and high school students about this other theory: Intelligent Design.

The temptation during the Bush years to laugh at this as a Local USA phenomenon -- our national politics are currently controlled and very heavily influenced by organized Christian fundamentalists, Bush's real and highly energized voter power base -- is great.

But Pat's Pub (currently communicating with Vleeptron on his wi-fi laptop in a rowboat on a large new Swiss Lake) has noted that there's a movement of Swiss parents yanking their kids out of public schools whose science classes teach Evolution. It's not a local USA thing.

Here's Intelligent Design in New Zealand.

I'm not going to Prove or Disprove or Yea or Nay any kind of Science Thing here today. Vleeptron Special Holiday, Today Only: Believe anything you want. Believe Jennifer Lopez has a doctorate in Galois Theory from Cambridge. Vleeptron doesn't care. Believe swans can sing Eurovision Pop Songs. Fine with us today.

But down below, you'll see that one Core Scientific Fact of Intelligent Design is that the Earth is no older than 10,000 years. However the Earth got here, that's when it got here: Sometime between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Compare that with the Natural Selection folks, most of whom are in general agreement that the Earth is about 4,500,000,000 years old, and claim they have compelling scientific evidence (computed by measuring radioactive isotope proportions in rocks believed to have been formed soon after Earth became a planet) to support that.

So, after reading this (and tons and metric tons of other articles about the Intelligent Design/Natural Selection back-alley knife fight going on all over Christendom), please Leave a Comment that starts by Checking One:

I believe the Age of Planet Earth is

|__| between 6,000 and 10,000 years

|__| about 4,500,000,000 years

|__| other (please specify)

~ ~ ~

The New Zealand Herald
Saturday 27 August 2005

Intelligent design --
coming to a school near you

[photo caption:] David Jensen says the evolutionists' perspective relies on unproven scientific facts and theories.

By Chris Barton

Science teachers say it has no place in the classroom.

Christian educators say children shouldn't be denied alternative views.

Science teachers retaliate that it's not science, it's religion behind a mask and they don't want a bar of it. Christian educators argue they can teach it alongside traditional science, so what are science teachers so afraid of?

Science teachers' blood begins to boil. "It's not science."' they fume.

"It" is "intelligent design" -- a challenge to the theory of evolution described by some as creationism in disguise. But it's a challenge that's garnering support from high places.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," United States President George W. Bush said this month. "If you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

The topic is also the subject of court action in Pennsylvania, taken after the Dover Area School Board decided to revamp its biology curriculum to include intelligent design.

In December, 11 parents sued the district and its board members, claiming they were bringing God into the science class. The case is being watched closely by 21 states across America facing controversies over how evolution is taught to high school students.

The debate also has been simmering in New Zealand. Chief proponents of intelligent design here include Investigate magazine editor Ian Wishart and Auckland University School of Engineering associate professor Neil Broom, author of How Blind Is a Watchmaker?

The argument was rekindled last week when 500 New Zealand schools received unsolicited DVDs and workbooks from the Christian-based Focus on the Family organisation.

The material comes via the Centre for Science and Culture (CSC), a division of the Discovery Institute, a religion-based conservative think-tank in Seattle. It criticises Darwinism and promotes the idea of an "intelligent designer" outside the laws of nature to explain the intricate complexity of living organisms.

"Intelligent design people will tell you it doesn't mean there was a God. It just means something intelligent designed it. I'm much more comfortable saying God's there and he made it," says Michael Drake.

The principal of Carey College looks pleased with his answer. It avows his faith. Drake exudes the unshakeable rightness, some might say smugness, of a committed Christian.

The private school in Panmure teaches a literal interpretation of creation found in Genesis alongside the teaching of evolution. Drake believes in a young Earth -- one that's about 6000 to 10,000 years old because that's what you get if you add up all the begats in the Bible.

Questions of carbon dating are not a problem. "It's perfectly possible to say God created the world at a point in time and at that point in time it [the Earth] was fixed with so many carbon 14 and so many ordinary carbon molecules -- why not? God is God."

It's the sort of statement (given ample evidence that the world is at least 4.6 billion years old) that gets science teachers spluttering into their coffee.

"There are no geologists I am aware of who think the world is only 10,000 years old. That's the most fatuous idea one has ever come across," says Martin Hanson, a science teacher of 40 years and author of nine textbooks including Apes and Ancestors II.

Drake is unbowed, pointing to the swag of science awards the school has won. "Our kids will leave this school understanding evolutionary theory and creation theory and being able to work with both right through the science syllabus."

David Jensen, principal of Immanuel Christian School, holds a similar view.

"People have to see that evolution is as much a religious faith-based position as is creationism. Our creationist beliefs rest on faith in God as creator. An evolutionist perspective is just as religious.

"It relies on unproven scientific facts and theories - that's why it's called a theory of evolution. It's not the fact of evolution - it's called a theory for good reason. No one can prove it."

Science teachers splutter in unison with incredulity. "These people talk about evolution as a theory in crisis -- they don't understand the word theory," says Alan Munro, head of science at Southland Boys' High.

"In layman's terms a theory is just a guess or something unproven, but in science a theory implies something that has been proven and generally accepted as true."

Hanson agrees, pointing to atomic theory. "No chemist has the slightest doubt about the existence of atoms. They're using theory in quite a different sense -- it's a framework of knowledge and ideas which has great predicative value and is solidly based."

Jensen's faith is also unshakeable. "At the very least it's intellectually honest to give a reasonable amount of attention to the deficiencies of the theory of evolution as well as having a look at other competing theories, creationism being one."

Jensen is not as hard-line as Drake in terms of the age of the Earth. He's comfortable putting that aside as "a bit of a grey area." He claims evolutionists are fixated on the Earth being millions of years old because that is what evolution requires.

His main problem with evolution lies with its notions of chance mutations and accidental events creating complex forms of life. He rejects more figurative interpretations of the Bible which allow some Christians to see evolution as part of God's plan.

"It makes no sense. Why would God use a process of death and random events to create when he can create things as good?" And he sees it as inconsistent that "a good God" used millions of years of death and suffering.

For Jensen such an idea doesn't fit with Genesis, where it says, "God created and it was good." And with the description of the Garden of Eden -- "an amazing place where animals were not ripping each other apart and devouring each other."

The intelligent design argument is more sophisticated. It doesn't retreat to a belief in the Bible as its founding truth. And it doesn't directly refer to God. But it shares with creationists the same difficulty in accepting the role of chance, accident or randomness in explaining the origin of life.

VLEEPTRON NOTES: Yeah, yeah, but click on any of these Intelligent Design site links, and see how close -- a page up or down scroll or one click -- God and the Bible are.

Drake sums up the problem for all. "Evolutionary theory says if there is a God, then he has not made things by means of design, purpose or, in the creationist point of view, with immediacy."

Hanson is scathing. "Intelligent design people are nice people, but they have difficulty in confronting complex realities -- they need simple truths. There are a tiny number of biologists who do have problems with evolution, but they are such a minute, microscopic rump that they are hardly worth considering."

The Privileged Planet
, one of a set of three DVDs distributed by Focus on the Family, sets out to show through maths and astronomy that purpose and design are everywhere.

The Earth, rather than being an inconsequential, chance speck in a vast universe, is the perfect viewing platform from which to appreciate God's handiwork. Similarly it's hard to accept that humans might not be the special objects of God's creation but simply a product of natural selection brought about by "numerous successive slight modifications".

Enter Icons of Evolution to cast doubt on the formulation of Charles Darwin's theory. Munro, who has assessed some of the DVDs, is annoyed by its bias and use of outdated information. "They say 'here was an error that was made back in the 1860s' and, therefore, because of this error the whole of evolution is wrong."

He points out the nature of science is to test theories for validity and be prepared to accept the theory can be proved false. "You come up with a theory and later evidence changes the story and we have to do a rethink, but we've never found anything which totally disproves evolution."

The material, Munro thinks, should probably be returned to sender. But he's toying with the idea of using some of it in a lesson on testing whether evidence is valid. "If it was going to go to the library, I'd file it under something like fairytales and fables -- it's not scientific."

Intelligent design's king hit argument against evolution is found in the third DVD Unlocking The Mystery of Life. It claims to have found a scientific principle ("irreducible complexity") which proves certain structures could not have been produced by evolution.

The argument asserts that structures like the bacterial flagellum (a whip-like motor found in single cell organisms) and the human eye are so enormously complex that if you take them down into their constituent parts, the simpler bits and pieces don't have a function.

Take one part away and the eye or the flagellum doesn't work. In other words, it's irreducibly complex and must have been designed.

While evolution doesn't have a clear explanation for the development of the eye or the flagellum, biologists say they can show that both are not irreducibly complex.

"As soon as you look at bacterial flagellum and find that the various structures that go to make it up do have a function, and look at the complexity of the camera eye and find that there are much simpler versions available, the argument gets pulled to pieces," says Alison Campbell, a former secondary school science teacher and now senior lecturer in biology at Waikato University.

Campbell, who helps run the Evolution for Teaching website, points to a paper -- The Flagellum Unspun -- which claims to undo some of the probability equations used to make the irreducible complexity case.

Intelligent design may not be in our science curriculum, but it's not exactly out, either. The Ministry of Education's national administration guidelines don't place any restrictions on its teaching. Nor do they specifically restrict the teaching of young Earth creation or theistic evolution. So does the science curriculum allow for alternative theories to evolution to be taught?

"Schools and teachers have a responsibility to select theories widely accepted by the scientific community," says the ministry's curriculum manager Mary Chamberlain. "A full exploration of these theories should include a consideration of challenges that have been made to them."

Even if the challenges are non-scientific? "We are not suggesting that teachers teach it as accepted science," says Chamberlain. "We are suggesting that challenges to accepted scientific understandings should be considered in science lessons" - such as in the "Making sense of the nature of science" strand.

Southland High's Munro rejects the interpretation of the syllabus. "A science controversy has to have science on both sides."

Campbell is not impressed, either: "It's a non-controversy as far as the wider scientific community is concerned." There is only one theory -- evolution -- and to suggest otherwise is to fall into the trap of misunderstanding what a scientific theory is.

She says neither young Earth creationism nor intelligent design offer any reasonable challenge to evolutionary thinking.

"It's the thin edge of the wedge -- as soon as you introduce intelligent design into the classroom in any guise, then it's in the classroom and it gives it some legitimacy and I don't think that legitimacy is warranted. It's not science."

- 30 -

27 August 2005

No Substitute For Victory! (in Vietnam; pro-war movie poster 1970)

Click twice, it gets bigger and stupider each time.

poster advertising a pro-war documentary hosted by John Wayne, Seattle, Washington, April 1970.

The film features Barry Sadler, Green Beret sergeant who recorded the huge pro-war smash song "Ballad of the Green Berets," and Martha Raye, a comedienne long past her prime and popularity -- she starred with Chaplin in his "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947) -- now made herself something of a Living Pro-War Show-Biz Freak Clown. This niche brought her work and attention; nearly all of America's big stars were against the war.

Ballad of the Green Beret
lyrics: Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler
music: Robin Moore

Fighting soldiers from the sky
Fearless men who jump and die
Men who mean just what they say
The brave men of the Green Beret

Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America’s best
One hundred men we'll test today
But only three win the Green Beret

Trained to live off natures land
Trained in combat, hand-to-hand
Men who fight by night and day
Courage peak from the Green Berets

Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America's best
One hundred men we'll test today
But only three win the Green Beret

Back at home a young wife waits
Her Green Beret has met his fate
He has died for those oppressed
Leaving her his last request:

"Put silver wings on my son’s chest
Make him one of America’s best
He’ll be a man they'll test one day
Have him win the Green Beret"

Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America's best
One hundred men we'll test today
But only three win the Green Beret

it's Mammalian Quadruped Porcine Racing Season again!

You know the click drill.

My brain and emotions have been Constipated lately. I got the Weltschmerz -- the feeling one gets by comparing How The World Might or Could Be with How The World Really Is.

If I haven't been writing much about Vleeptron, it's because the goddam Zeta Beam seems to be broken lately. And a lot of my Weltschmerz comes from comparing Vleeptron -- the planet in the Dwingeloo-2 Galaxy that has no capital punishment, no nuclear weapons, almost no prisoners and almost no prisons, where women are as free as men to peek inside the Lupanar and see the Naughty Ancient Porn Mosaics -- with Earth.

Well, I am Taking Steps to combat the Weltschmerz. First of all, on Monday, I will jump an Amtrak train from New Haven, and with Prayer and a Merciful & Generous Providence, I will arrive in Baltimore in time to join my brother and cousin to see a Besbol Game at the gorgeous Camden Yards stadium.

And then eat Chesapeake Bay Crabs until they're coming out of my ears.

And now I want to talk about Racing Mammalian Quadrupeds.

Many people believe that the most thrilling, beautiful sport on Earth is Thoroughbred Horse Racing -- the Sport of Kings.

Many other people love Greyhound Dog Racing. (The rabbit they chase around the track is just a little Robot Rabbit, don't worry about the Rabbit. But you can worry about the dogs, and what happens to them when they "retire." But there's hope -- a big grassroots movement to adopt and give good homes to "retired" racing greyhounds. Apparently, they make wonderful gentle pets -- if they don't think they see a rabbit.)

But here in New England, it's the season for County Fairs and Country Fairs and State Fairs. And at almost every one of these wonderful fairs is our very favorite kind of Mammalian Quadruped Racing: RACING PIGS!!! We're gonna see the Racing Pigs!!! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Why the USA must Stay The Course and not give up (circa 1969)

Whoops, I forgot a link in the previous post about Tickling the Dragon's Tail.

Why the USA fought a War in Southeast Asia -- Vietnam and Cambodia (but that was a classified military secret, I'm not supposed to know we were making war on Cambodia, too) -- for ten years.

Anyway, I'm a little hazy about remembering why we had to keep fighting in Vietnam and why we couldn't give up and end the war and Bring The Boys Home. Bush (who was at the time flying an Air National Guard jet defending our southern borders from an invasion from Mexico) would say: We have to Stay The Course.

But at the time, here's why the President(s) (Johnson and Nixon) and the Secretaries of State (Dean Rusk, Henry Kissinger) and the Secretaries of Defense (Robert MacNamara) and the National Security Advisers (Kissinger again) said we had to keep fighting in Vietnam and we had to fight harder and send more soldiers and marines and send more B-52s to bomb Hanoi.

They kept talking about Dominos.

If you remember any details about the Dominos more clearly than I do, please help me out here. It's all like an ancient nightmare to me ... and a New, Modern nightmare keeps getting in the way of my memory and concentration.

(I don't think this one has anything to do with Dominos. This one's more classic: Freedom. Democracy. They are going to love our Freedom and our Democracy. They are going to be so grateful.)

Tickling the dragon's tail / 60th anniversary Hiroshima/Nagasaki

Click image for larger and clearer.

I showed up for The Draft (universal military conscription) on Friday 21 March 1969 (a day late -- but the lady who answered the phone at the Draft Board said that would be okay because "Fresh meat on the hoof doesn't spoil.").

From the Draft Board in Washington DC we were bussed to Fort Holabird, Baltimore, where a doctor cradled my testicles with his fingers and told me to turn my head to the right and cough, after which we were given the oath that made us all members of the U.S. military. (One guy wouldn't take it, and he was immediately handed over to the F.B.I. to be prosecuted for the felony of draft refusal. He almost certainly spent a year or more in federal prison. If he didn't, I want the name of his lawyer.)

From there we were bussed through the night to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I was to take my eight weeks of Army Basic Training. But first there was a week of Reception -- marched to place after place to get haircuts, uniforms, dog tags, vaccinations, and an intensive battery of intelligence tests.

Did I mention that the USA was at that moment involved in a ferocious war in Asia, and our enemies were non-white non-Christians (atheists and Buddhists -- our allies were non-white Christians)?

Well, we were, and it was a very important war for America's national security, although the exact reasons why this war was so terribly important for us to win seem dim and hazy to me now -- probably an early sign of Alzheimer's. I remember something about Dominos. Perhaps a reader who remembers more clearly why winning the Vietnam War was so necessary to American national security can chime in and Leave A Comment.

Anyway, we lost, the Asian atheists and Buddhists won, so I guess all the Terrible Things which would happen to America if we did not Stay The Course and Win The War happened. (Large numbers of our troops were maimed, became addicted to heroin, acquired Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and about 52,000 of them were killed during ten years of America's second-longest war.)

Let that be a lesson to those who suggest we withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan like immediately. (Many Americans are calling for Today or Tomorrow; I prefer Yesterday.) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently predicted American troops would be required to stay in Iraq for twelve years.

~ ~ ~

So far I owed the U.S. military two years of active service.

On the last day of Reception, I had an interview with a Recruiting Sergeant. It seemed odd -- I was already in the Army, what did a Recruiter want with me? Well, I owed the Army two years, and he wished to persuade me to sign up for an extra year or more.

"If you stick with the two-year obligation," he explained, "they'll make you an Eleven-Bravo, ship you to Vietnam, and you'll die there." (Eleven-Bravo is Army job code for Light Weapons Infantryman.)

My intelligence test scores had come back. He told me they were so good that I could have my choice of any Army job training school that had an opening that week. He showed me the list; there were about twenty schools I could choose from -- if I signed up for a third year.

I was extremely determined not to spend a day longer in the Army than I had to, but neither did I particularly want to die, so I looked at the list.

One school did catch my eye. I suspected I might find it, and the job it trained me for, very interesting:

Nuclear Weapons Maintenance and Repair School, in Sandia, New Mexico.

I detested the Vietnam War, and I really hated the Army I'd just been drafted into. I was one Very Very Angry Young Guy.

And although up to that time (and, for that matter, to this day) I'd never been a violent person, the National Weather just then was very violent -- overseas, a huge, senseless War, and at home, those citizens opposed to the War were becoming increasingly violent. They had long since ceased to say "Please" when they asked President Nixon to stop the War.

I suspected my anger wasn't unique. If the Vietnam War is earlier than your Memory Horizon, you can get a pretty vivid sense of the National Anger with some documentaries, in particular "The Ten Thousand Day War."

As a civilian, you could pretty much express your anger quite openly in a variety of very candid and public ways. As a soldier, it was much more difficult to Go Public with your opposition to the War -- so antiwar soldiers, Marines, sailors, etc., expressed their feelings more privately and secretly.

(It is a ridiculous and naive mistake to believe that nearly all soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan support the wars. The only absolute certainty is that any soldier facing a TV news camera and microphone knows to absolutely keep his mouth shut about his political feelings. Vleeptron has posted several news stories about American soldiers and marines -- volunteers -- escaping to Canada, deserting, trying to become conscientious objectors, smoking dope to flunk drug tests to get kicked out of the military, etc.)

So. Here I was, furiously angry, as goaded toward violence as I had ever been in my life -- and the nice Recruiting Sergeant was offering to teach me all about the guts of atomic and thermonuclear bombs, in exchange for pretty much guaranteeing that I would get out of the Army alive and with both testicles and a penis.

There was a lot about this deal that I was finding Very Tempting.

But I turned him down. Decided it wasn't worth another whole year of my life.

Two months later, the Army made me a journalist, and two years later, I was discharged, alive and without wounds, and have been a civilian again ever since.

~ ~ ~

But the deal must have seemed good to a lot of other very angry draftees, and Sandia trained them all throughout the intensely angry decade that combined the Vietnam War with the draft.

And I'm sure they all remember everything they learned about the insides of atomic and hydrogen bombs.

I sure hope every one of them got completely over his anger.

~ ~ ~

What did I miss
by not going to Nuclear Weapons Maintenance and Repair School? Well -- I don't know, I didn't go.

But I've done quite a bit of reading, entirely of public, declassified books. I particularly recommend "Lawrence and Oppenheimer" by Nuel Pharr Davis, "The Curve of Binding Energy" by John McPhee, and "The Los Alamos Primer" by Robert Serber.

When Serber was in chemistry grad school in the mid-1930s, his advisor told him that the top tiers of American academic chemistry had very few Jews, and advised Serber to switch to physics. He became a protege of the theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who taught at the University of California at Berkeley. When Oppenheimer was named science chief of the American atom bomb project -- The Manhattan Project -- he took Serber to the new secret laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

(The school I was invited to attend, Sandia National Laboratories, is an outgrowth of the World War II Los Alamos bomb lab.)

At Los Alamos, Serber's job was to lecture newly-arrived scientists and teach them everything that was known so far about building an atomic bomb. His lecture notes were called "The Los Alamos Primer." In 1992, long after most of the scientific content of the Primer had been declassified, he published the Primer, along with personal memoirs of the bomb project.

One review of "The Los Alamos Primer" begins:

To make an atomic bomb, take a few kilos of plutonium, shaped into half spheres, in either hand and slap them together.

Building a good bomb is harder.

~ ~ ~

A "good bomb" is a bomb that will go off far away from the bombers, a bomb which gets the maximum efficiency -- the biggest bang -- from its fissile material, and a bomb that can be detonated at a precise height above a target city to produce the maximum blast and heat damage.

Prior to the atomic bomb, the world's greatest man-made explosion had resulted when a munitions ship bound for World War I in Europe caught fire and then blew up in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1917; Los Alamos physicists visited Halifax to study that explosion and determine the best height for the maximum destruction of an enemy city.

The above recipe calls for plutonium, but a naturally-occuring but rare isotope of uranium will also work. Either metal will "be" an atomic bomb if enough of the metal -- known as a critical mass -- is brought together and forces keep it together for just a tiny fraction of a second.

A mass of enriched uranium or plutonium less than a critical mass -- subcritical -- can be transported and handled relatively safely.

One of the biggest questions the Los Alamos scientists didn't know was just how much of these substances were needed to go critical -- how much would spontaneously generate an atomic explosion.

A small, crude shed was built quite far away from the other buildings and activities at Los Alamos to answer this question, and the experiment a few chemists, metallurgists, physicists and engineers devised became known as "tickling the dragon's tail."

The idea was simple. A solid ingot of fissile metal known to be subcritical was dropped through the hole in a doughnut (oh, okay, a torus or hollow cylinder) of fissile material that was also known to be subcritical. In the fraction of a second that the ingot and the doughnut were together, before the ingot (hopefully) kept falling, instruments could detect a sudden spike in neutron flux, other radiation spikes, a heat spike, etc.

Each time the ingot was dropped and nothing particularly dramatic happened, they would repeat the experiment with a slightly more massive ingot.

The experiment was incredibly crude, incredibly hit-and-miss, incredibly trial-and-error -- but it eventually yielded an answer that worked for the first test bomb (Trinity) detonated in the New Mexico desert, and for the bombs dropped from B-29 bombers over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

They tickled the dragon's tale hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. The dragon growled. The next time they tickled its tail it growled a little louder.

But it never quite woke up.

This month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the only atomic bombs ever dropped on enemy cities in warfare. The first one, Little Boy, was a uranium bomb, the other, Fat Man, was plutonium.

After Japan surrendered, Serber led the first American science team that entered Hiroshima and studied the effects of the bomb.

~ ~ ~

Although the Manhattan Project was the largest and most expensive project the United States had ever undertaken, most of the technology involved was incredibly crude by today's standards.

My neighbor who turns junked clunkers into beautiful classic cars in his garage probably has almost everything (except the fissile material) you need to tickle the dragon's tail. I suspect you could reproduce the dragon-tickling experiment today for less than $10,000, and get most of what you need from an auto supply store or Home Depot. (I own a geiger counter; I bought it from a magazine ad for about $25 when I was 14; it still works.)

But a much quicker way to find out how much fissile material you need to make a "good bomb" is to hire one of thousands of nuclear weapons experts who have been trained by Los Alamos/Sandia or Lawrence Livermore or their comparable nuclear weapons labs in the former Soviet Union. Since the Cold War ended, many of them have been let go, and are on the open market, looking for new jobs to support their families.

And lots of other countries are eager to hire people with just those skills.

In "The Curve of Binding Energy," former atomic-bomb designer Theodore Taylor suggested in 1974 that the skills needed to make a fission bomb were now so public and well known that fission bombs were within reach of violent subnational groups.

The "how" part is easy. More difficult is getting one's hands on weapons-grade plutonium or enriched uranium.

Plutonium is produced as a biproduct of nuclear power reactors, which have proliferated all over the world.

Enriching uranium in sufficient quantities to make a bomb was for decades thought to be beyond the reach of any but the most technologically and industrially advanced nations.

But we know now that when Iraq was on the verge of producing uranium bombs, it had relied on ancient, 1940s-era, small-yield centrifuge technology.

Uranium in gas form is mechanically spun at high speed, and the tiny difference in weight/mass between the desired fissile isotope and the unwanted non-fissile isotope slowly seperates the two. Patience and time are the only other ingredients required to get enough weapons-grade uranium to make a bomb.

Other players who have publicly or secretly tried to make atomic bombs or have succeeded are Brazil, Apartheid South Africa, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea. France and the United Kingdom had atomic bombs soon after the USA and the Soviet Union did, and like the USA and Soviet Union, went on to add hydrogen/thermonuclear bombs to their arsenals. The Peoples Republic of China has atomic and hydrogen bombs. France and the USA tested their hydrogen bombs in the Pacific; the UK tested some of theirs in Nevada.

~ ~ ~

Okay, that's it for now. I'll have more about the past, the present and the future of nuclear weapons on Earth. (Vleeptron doesn't have any.)

24 August 2005

fingernails on a blackboard

Okay, here they are, about a dozen samples of the chanteusserie and piano artistry of Jonathan & Darlene Edwards. Scroll down, do the best you can with the clicking, and eventually -- it just happened to me, I heard it -- you will hear these magical snatches of beloved popular song.

Alas, my very favorite is not among these, but perhaps you Musical Youths can find it, first for Your Education, and then SVP a copy to moi: "I Am Woman." Only Darlene could give this song its just desserts, and she does.

And Jonathan Edwards -- what a triumph over a tragedy of heredity. Most people with his problem would never even have thought of trying to play the piano. If you ever see a Steinway making a desperate dash across the avenue, look behind it -- Jonathan Edwards is probably chasing it.

Bob heaps effusive praise & gratitude on Elmer for his savage prowess

What humans say to a cat
when the humans are sure
no other humans are listening

Elmer! Wow! That's astonishing! Honey! Come quick! Come see what Elmer just dragged right onto the middle of the living room carpet!

Oh my goodness, that just looks So Delicious! The rear half of a fully-grown wild rabbit! Boy, he must have been Really Hard to catch -- those wild rabbits are FAST! That's just amazing! How do you do it? I know I could never catch a rabbit!

And that haunch -- oh, you saved us the meatiest, best part! I'm hungry already -- we're CERTAINLY going to have this for dinner tonight! Ah -- shall we eat it raw, just like it is? Or with shallots, grilled, with shallots, garlic and a white wine! Over Basmati rice! No! Over WILD rice! Oh what a night this will be, what a feast!

meanwhile SWMBO is sneaking around behind Elmer with a paper bag and a broom and a dustpan. he can be distracted pretty easily after a Major Kill, and he knows when he's dragged back Something Special, he makes a special shriek, a banshee howl, just like Tarzan after he's killed Something or Someone Big and Hard to Kill. Then he gets really stupid during the big Encomium Festival of Effusive Praise, Gratitude & Admiration from the Humans (who so often take him for granted)

and then suddenly, right in the middle of a "That's Really Spectacular! You are such an Amazing Cat!" he looks around and -- IT'S GONE! THE CARCASS HAS VANISHED! He panics! What can have happened to the Wonderful Dinner he just murdered in the bushes especially for his beloved humans???

Oh. It is just now dawning on me that some of you like Cats. You want Cat Stuph? I give you Cat Stuff. I give you Bubba Sans Elmer Elevator the Maine Coon stuff. I give you Priscilla stuff, Priscilla the hardscrabble Shelter Veteran issues easily rattled and triggered cat, don't get your hand too close, and she doesn't like to be petted like -- whoops! Sorry, I think we have some bandaids, maybe Iodine too. And Happy Happy Joy Joy Benedict Spinoza Benny stuff.

And Charlotte Temple Scarlet the Screaming Meezer stuff. We got Charlotte-Scarlet by Surprise! A generous thoughtful Providence who enjoys Practical Jokes gave her to us! Been three years now. It's like living with Ethel Merman. It's like living with Maria Calas, on days when nothing's going right -- like living with a Perpetually Unhappy coloratura soprano. It's like living with Darlene Edwards, but without the sense of humor.

19 August 2005

Elmer & Benny, bestester friends than Spongebob & Patrick!

The Impolitic has referred Vleeptron to two blog pages of Baby Gargoyles, which look suspiciously like Kittens.

She (I think I finally got that right) and one of her colleague Bloggers have discovered a terrible Secret Scandal and are telling all America the Truth:

Kittens are actually Liberals. Or Liberals are actually Kittens. I'm not exactly sure what the Message exactly is.

But something must be done immediately. The Safety and Future of America depend on it.

(Does this mean that Conservatives are really Dogs?)

Anyway, I can't contribute much to this new Discovery, but just this week SWMBO figured out how to liberate the photos trapped inside our new digital camera, and to my astonishment, there were many photos of Liberals in the camera -- I guess someone must be using the camera for a sort of Political Porn Fest.

Here's an Example: 2 Liberals wrestling.

Oh, okay, they're just Cats.

The Cat on top is Elmer (officially Bubba Sans' Elmer -- this Thing has a longer and much fancier pedigree than I do). He's a Maine Coon Cat, the largest breed of domestic cat on Earth -- huge already, but apparently he still has a considerable Growth Spurt ahead.

He just looks raccoon-ish, but that's a myth that he's part raccoon.

But it's not a myth that he's part bobcat, wildcat -- it's increasingly obvious that a few hundred generations ago, there was some sort of unfortunate Dating Mistake in the Maine woods, and Elmer is the result.

He hunts rabbits. Successfully. And always brings us the tastier, meatier half. Not wishing to confuse him or hurt his feelings or lower his self-esteem, we always put on an elaborate theatrical show of praise and excitement when we discover the latest carcass he's dragged into the living room.

(SWMBO explains that Cats never Fell -- they are entirely free of any taint of Original Sin -- and thus can be neither Good nor Evil.)

The Cat on the bottom of the wrestling match is Elmer's bestest bestest friend Benny -- short for Benedict Spinoza. Benny is a fairly standard Alley Cat, a former Shelter Cat, and has the Happiest, Friendliest Disposition of any Living Creature I know. He doesn't seem to even know the Concept Notions of Bite or Scratch. I don't even think he understands what Unhappiness or Fear are.

He and Elmer hunt together. Nothing that flies, scampers or hops is safe when they're off a-hunting.

We have two other cats, Priscilla -- a bit high-strung, perhaps neurasthenic -- and the Screaming Shrieking Meezer (Siamese) Scarlet-Charlotte. I'll post their portraits later.

So we have 4 Cats.

I'm not saying we have No Mice.

But I am saying we have Very Few Mice. And they are Very Frightened Mice. And they are Hiding.

18 August 2005

Malaysia's next direction? Hey Brandon! What's the skinny?

So far, Vleeptron has heard from one Correspondent in Southeast Asia/Pacific -- Brandon Teoh, a tekkie who lives near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

(NOTE TO BRANDON -- Hey big guy! Big USA television report on the Israeli withdrawal of settlers from Gaza the other night began with a GOOGLE EARTH graphic that zoomed in on the streets of Gaza City from an Earth orbit view! Google Earth kix butt!)

Brandon found his way to Vleeptron somehow when we attracted his attention with our thread on the Virtual Toon Porn of the videogame Grand Theft Auto/San Andreas. We pumped him mercilessly with endless nosey questions about Malaysia, and he was kind enough to answer them.

Big news from Malaysia today (actually tomorrow, International Dateline yadda yadda)!

And now if somehow we can get Brandon's attention again, perhaps he would tell us a few of the On-the-Ground details about these very important political developments. Does
Anwar Ibrahim have a snowball's chance in hell of becoming PM of Malaysia and making a new independent political force that could challenge the way things have been done for the past half-century? Will Anwar attract the political support of the ethnic Chinese and Indian community?

Like ... yo, Brandon ... what's the skinny?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

International Herald Tribune / Asia-Pacific
Friday 19 August 2005

Award helps ex-Malay leader
'clean up his name'

by Thomas Fuller

When Anwar Ibrahim travels through Malaysia, past the oil palm plantations and durian groves, his supporters, he says, greet him with signs saying, "Welcome Anwar Ibrahim, the sixth prime minister of Malaysia."

The current prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, is the country's fifth since its independence in 1957, so the message is clear: Anwar, the former deputy prime minister who spent six years in prison before being freed last September, is their hope as Abdullah's successor.

On Thursday, Anwar's supporters and staff won what they consider a major step toward that goal: A judge in Kuala Lumpur awarded Anwar 4.5 million ringgits, or about $1.2 million, an unusually large amount by Malaysian standards, in a defamation case against a writer who helped destroy Anwar's career.

The author, Khalid Jafri, who is now ill with diabetes-related complications, will probably never pay that amount for writing "Fifty Reasons Why Anwar Ibrahim Cannot Become Prime Minister," a book that was circulated at a political convention in 1998 and that led to a police investigation and ultimately prison for Anwar.

Anwar said in an interview that he did not want the money anyway. The judgment, Anwar said, was the vindication he had been waiting for.

"This one is really very sweet," Anwar said, adding that the judge in the case had acknowledged that Anwar had been the victim of a political conspiracy. "This proved my point from the beginning."

For several months, Malaysia has shown signs of remaking itself as a nation with a more open political ethos. And it would be tempting to conclude that Anwar's gradual rehabilitation as a political figure is part of this trend.

But even Anwar acknowledges it is too early to draw any such conclusion.

An aide to Anwar, Adlin Zabri, summed up the feeling of relief among supporters.

"Vindication is an understatement," Adlin said. "It's part of the slow process to clean up his name, to prove to the people that all these allegations are actually trumped up."

That process began last September, when a court overturned Anwar's conviction for sodomy and set him free. Earlier this month, Anwar won an apology from a former chief of police for beating him in custody in 1998 and giving him a black eye.

And yet the path to full rehabilitation still looks very long for Anwar. Perhaps the most telling reaction to the verdict Thursday came not from Anwar's camp but from the prime minister's office.

"The decision has pretty much come and gone here," said the official, who wanted to remain anonymous because he said he was not authorized to speak publicly. "This hasn't created the type of buzz that it might have created seven years ago."

Since his release from prison almost a year ago, Anwar has been described as a potential threat to the current ruling elite -- but the emphasis has been on the word potential.

Anwar remains firmly outside the political machinery that has had a lock on Malaysian politics for the nearly 50 years of Malaysia's independence, a system where each major race has its own political party represented in a grand coalition.

Instead, Anwar influences Malaysian politics as a combination of statesman and dissident.

"Anwar is basically setting the agenda for the development of Malaysian politics in a broader perspective," said P. Ramasamy, a political science lecturer at the National University of Malaysia.

In recent weeks, Anwar has suggested what no major Malay politician has dared in the past: that the system of affirmative action for Malays and other ethnic groups be abolished.

"Affirmative action is no longer relevant; it is obsolete," Anwar said in the interview Thursday. "This was a vehicle to enrich a few families and cronies. How do you expect me to be associated with a party to strengthen the same oppressive and corrupt policies?"

The system, which dates to the 1970s, is unusual because it is affirmative action for the majority: Malays and other "sons of the soil" are given priority for everything from government contracts to university admissions.

The program is called the New Economic Policy, or NEP, and is meant to reduce the domination in business by ethnic Chinese Malaysians.

Anwar is gambling that his stance will appeal not only to Chinese and Indians, who feel they are being discriminated against, but also low-income Malays as well.

"This whole NEP was abused by certain groups of Malays," Ramasamy said. "I don't think there's any problem of convincing a lot of Malays that they are not the beneficiaries of the NEP."

Anwar is active within the Justice Party, which his wife formed while he was in prison. And he says he is still working with two other opposition parties, the Democratic Action Party and the Islamic Party of Malaysia, to challenge the policies of the ruling coalition.

"The problem is that the system is very oppressive," Anwar said. "There's a total media blackout. We are not seeing any signs that there will be free and fair elections."

He is also teaching a class this autumn at Georgetown University in Washington [DC] on Muslim-Christian understanding.

In the interview, Anwar compared the bitter history between Israelis and Palestinians to domestic Malaysian politics.

Asked whether he was ready to make peace with Mahathir bin Mohamad, the former prime minister who fired him, Anwar joked: "Was there a war?"

"As a policy I make peace with everybody," he said.

more Gargoyles, & How To Make Bob Happy

Here are some more Gargoyles. In previous Post, I neglected to add the obligatory:

Cliquez sur l'image
pour une image
plus claire et plus grande.

This is a poster for sale to tourists, but on this fellow's website, he has inscribed the names of his colleagues who were visiting Oxford for some seminar. Each Gargoyle reminded him of a particularly colleague, I think that's what's happening here.

Please remember that Bob Is Unhappy. Astonishingly, Bob can be made Happy Again with the simplest, silliest things: Leaving A Comment, for example. Not Leaving Comments also makes Bob Unhappy. Leaving A Comment makes Bob Happy!

Gargoyles, and Important Advice

Please forgive me for not posting much recently.

Do you like excuses? Some of my favorites that I have used in the past have been

* Pirates tied me up

* Our home was attacked by marauding savages and we barely escaped with our lives (that actually used to happen a lot in my neighborhood, but not too much recently)

But of course the invention and dissemination of personal computers has opened up a wonderful new excuse for human beings: Blame it all on computer troubles! Crappy free software! A virus! A worm! A download that made things worse than they were when you clicked: DOWNLOAD EMERGENCY REPAIR PATCH FOR WINDOWS NOW.

Groucho Marx once ended a letter to a friend:

"I meant to include a check to pay you back the $200 I owe you, but I see I have already sealed the envelope."

Actually the reason I have been a lousy Blogger lately is that I am deeply and profoundly Depressed and Angry about a variety of Things, which I promise I will write about very shortly. I sincerely hope these Things will be of some interest to the Blogosphere. (Meanwhile, please feel free to Leave A Comment or send me Fun Things to Make Bob Happy.)

Meanwhile here are some Gargoyles from Oxford University in England. Gargoyles are rain drainspouts, here on ancient university buildings, but most famously on ancient European cathedrals. I shall have more to say about them, but for now, some very important advice to you all.

After many centuries of nasty weather, Gargoyles eventually wear out and have to be replaced. So new and original Gargoyles are always being sculpted out of stone and placed on cathedrals and university buildings.

The modern sculptors do exactly what the ancient sculptors did: They very often choose as subjects famous people of today, or famous persons of their own town -- clergy or well-known public officials. Or just a neighbor they know.

IF THE SCULPTOR LIKES YOU, if you are a pretty girl who once smiled at him, or if you once did him a tiny little favor, the Sculptor will make your Gargoyle handsome and beautiful, dignified, reverent, reflecting Virtue & High Character. So for the next One Thousand Years, long after everyone forgets who the hell you ever were, they can still gaze upward and see your beautiful, youthful, handsome, dignified visage and know only that while you lived, you just must have been a fine, fine spiritually advanced Credit to your Nation and Community, and just drop-dead gorgeous.

IF YOU PISS OFF A SCULPTOR -- maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, and maybe you didn't even know that the fellow you insulted or snarled at or sold a crappy sandwich to was a Sculptor -- the Sculptor will go back to his studio and spend a Happy Week carving You into stone -- with a nasty, foul, ugly face, a nasty, ugly scowl, zits all over your sallow stone skin, big silly ears, a big bulbous nose, and a weak chin indicative of your Lack of Virtue & Character.

You thought you were a Judge or a Bishop or a Prince.

The Sculptor thinks you rather more resemble a Dirty Clown.

And that's the Face which you will show the world for the next One Thousand Years, as rain drains out of your ugly mouth.

17 August 2005

they came, they saw, they flopped in the mud, they took their clothes off in the parking lot, they

The Springfield (Massachusetts USA) Republican
Tuesday 16 August 2005

Warped Tour concert
snarls traffic for miles

by Diane Lederman

NORTHAMPTON -- Traffic was backed up for miles along Interstate 91 yesterday as police dealt with the estimated 20,000 rock fans who jammed the Three County Fairgrounds for the Warped Tour.

As traffic and parking problems mounted, city police asked state police to shut down three northbound exits on Interstate 91 about 4:15 p.m., to divert traffic away from the concert site, state police said.

Exits 19 and 21 were reopened about 8:15 p.m., and state police hoped to reopen Exit 18, at the Interstate 91 junction with Route 5 in Northampton, by 11 p.m.

As Northampton police worked to ease traffic problems last night, they said they had to respond to Cross Path Road around 9:30 near the fairgrounds, where several young women were standing on a car and disrobing and causing something of a commotion among concertgoers.

City police stopped letting people without tickets into the concert area about 4:30 p.m., halting the purchase of tickets at the door 3½ hours before the concert was scheduled to end at 8 p.m. Those with tickets were allowed entry.

Cars full of concertgoers had snarled traffic on Interstate 91 northbound for miles well before the gates opened at 11 a.m. for the start of the noon concert. Vehicles were also backed up on Damon Road much of the day and on Route 9 at some points during the day all the way to downtown.

State police reported some problems with people abandoning their cars on the interstate and walking to the concert and others with vehicles that broke down or ran out of gas, requiring police to deal with those problems as well.

The only arrest reported was that of Olivia Singleton, 21, of Great Barrington, who state police said ignored a trooper's order about 5 p.m. not to exit the interstate at Exit 19, and hit him with her car as she did.

The trooper was not seriously injured. Singleton was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (her vehicle), failure to stop for a police officer and failure to obey a police officer, state police said.

Local police reported no arrests as of last night. There were a couple of ambulance runs from the concert to Cooley Dickinson Hospital earlier in the day, but police did not know whether there had been any serious injuries.

Fair general manager Bruce Shallcross said he was not sure why there were parking problems that contributed to the traffic backups. In the past when the Warped Tour had been held, that hadn't been an issue. The event has been staged here for years, although last year city officials denied concert promoters a permit for a two-day festival to mark the tour's 10th anniversary.

This was the last stop on the music festival tour this year. The Warped Tour also included stops in Florida, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Concert organizers, police and city officials met earlier this year to discuss a range of issues including security, parking and traffic management. Officials also met with the neighbors, who were concerned with traffic, noise and litter.

Shallcross said the fairgrounds has parking for about 5,500 to 6,000 cars, which is usually good enough for about 24,000 people.

He said people working for the concert promoters were in charge of parking and had been avoiding the use of one of the larger lots because of the mud, but were directed in the afternoon to park cars there.

Shallcross estimated 20,000 music fans packed a field near the racetrack for the event that featured dozens of bands, including The Offspring and the Dropkick Murphys.

But while there was a tangle of traffic outside the event, inside at midday there was nothing but a sea of teens and twenty somethings "having a good time," said City Council President Michael R. Bardsley, who toured the concert scene with Ward 3 City Councilor Marilyn A. Richards. The concert is a nonalcoholic event.

Fitzwilly's, a popular restaurant and bar on Main Street, was full last night at 9:30 p.m., although traffic outside remained thick, said Devin J. Hammerle, a Fitzwilly's manager.

"I don't think (the concert) really had a negative effect on us," he said. "I think it's throwing business into the area."

Hammerle, a Chicopee resident, said the restaurant didn't lose any reservations. He said he suspected many people, including concertgoers were parking wherever possible and walking to Fitzwilly's. He noted that his own afternoon commute to work was delayed by 30 to 45 minutes by the earlier traffic jam.

Earlier in the day, there had been some noise complaints from neighbors, and Building Commissioner Anthony Patillo said they were going to check it out and ask the volume be lowered if it exceeded the city noise ordinance volume.

Richards, who earlier had received calls of complaint as well, said they would be holding a meeting with neighbors and others following the event to look at "Is the event too big for the neighborhood? You have to balance that," she said with the fairgrounds being able to conduct business and offering teenagers a place to go.

She was concerned with the flow of traffic after the event and was hoping the area would be cleared by midnight.

She said 25 cents of every ticket was being contributed to the city's Youth Commission.

Ward 3 Neighborhood Association Chairman Robert Reckman, who lives on nearby Fruit Street, said he could hear the music when he was outside, but not once he stepped inside his house.

He said he had only heard one complaint about traffic.

Staff writer David Bergengren contributed to this story.
© 2005 The Republican. Used by with permission.

14 August 2005

Ad Astra Per Aspera -- a wonderful robot of hope and peace voyages to Mars

With luck, and perhaps an extra prayer or two,
a year from now Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
will begin to survey the entire surface of Mars.
Here it is -- here it may be -- over one of the Martian poles.
Ad astra per aspera. (NASA/JPL)

Take a break from the pathetic mess
on the surface of Earth and for five minutes watch a beautiful, thrilling preview of the robot probe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was launched from Cape Canaveral on Friday and will reach Mars in March 2006.

As you watch, note what the world's mightiest sovereign nation is capable of, what it can do with its minds and its hands and its will, and Not a Single Human Being Nor a Single Animal Will Be Harmed in this Voyage to Revolutionize Our Knowledge of Planet Mars.

A third of the way through the animation from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (an agency of California Institute of Technology in Pasadena), you will see the MRO gently and efficiently transfer from Earth's orbit around the Sun to Mars' orbit around the Sun, in a path called the Hohmann Transfer Orbit.

Walter Hohmann was a German civil engineer who, as an exercize in Pure Imagination in 1916, tried to figure out what the most fuel-efficient way to travel to other planets was. (His most powerful computer, of course, was his slide rule. They don't need batteries.)

He died in 1945 without ever knowing that his unhappy government had created rockets as weapons with which to bomb cities and terrorize human beings, but rockets which could indeed scrape the edge of space.

Today, every rocket we send to another planet uses his wonderful, elegant navigation plan. He was a member of the German Verein für Raumschiffahrt -- the club of amateur rocket experimenters who called themselves The Space Travel Society. As the Nazi war machine began taking over the Verein and re-directing its efforts from Space Travel to Mass Murder and Terror, Hohmann distanced himself from the Society and from rocketry.

Please cross your fingers for luck, or say a little prayer for a robot, but if all goes well, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will send back more super-close-up photographs and radar data than all previous missions to Mars combined.

A hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, 35 years from now, America's Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be almost completely forgotten -- and what faint memories linger will all be bad, regretful, sorrowful, bitter, ugly, reeking with shame.

But the same Mighty Nation which brings Shock, Awe, Misery and Death to Asians, and to its own children, for lies, bigotry, racism and greed, simultaneously is capable of these remarkable Voyages across the Solar System.

The orbiter carries six scientific instruments for examining the surface, atmosphere and subsurface of Mars in unprecedented detail from low orbit. For example, its high-resolution camera will reveal features as small as a dishwasher. NASA expects to get several times more data about Mars from MRO than from all previous Martian missions combined. Researchers will use the instruments to learn more about the history and distribution of Mars' water. That information will improve understanding of planetary climate change and will help guide the quest to answer whether Mars ever supported life. The orbiter will also evaluate potential landing sites for future missions. MRO will use its high-data-rate communications system to relay information between Mars surface missions and Earth.

If all goes well, the human future which will be desperate to forget the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will rejoice to remember the knowledge this mission will send back to us. As a species, as a nation, we are capable of wonderful things. As a species, as a nation, we are capable of miserable things. Are we the same people?

As MRO glides through its Hohmann Transfer Orbit for the next year, we could take that year to wonder why the same government which sends such violence and destruction to Muslim strangers in Asia also subsidizes these remarkable Adventures whose sole purpose is to collect revolutionary knowledge about one of our planet neighbors. We could take this time to wonder, perhaps to decide, which America we want to be, and which America we want human beings to remember America as -- America the Voyager for Knowledge, or America the Deadly New Hate-Filled Rome.

TAG THE WEB: Vleeptron Antikriegspost (v.2), and Documentation

Click for larger and clearer image.

Flemish Bond is much stronger than Stretcher Bond. For example, a car must go much faster to destroy a Flemish Bond brick wall than it must go to destroy a comparable wall of Stretcher Bond.

Download these brick walls, open them in MS_Paint (it came free with Windows) or Paint.NET (an improved version, free download), erase my graffiti, use paintbrush or spraypaint tool to make your own message about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Use a kitchen timer and try to paint all brick wall messages in 5 minutes or certainly in less than 10 minutes. When the bell rings, SAVE and begin sending your brick wall throughout Cyberspace.

Send your brick walls in e-mail to anyone or any entity all over the world, and post it to blogs, Lists, Forums, etc.

In the USA and the United Kingdom, soldiers are not responsible for the wars. Elected and appointed civilians made all the decisions to wage these wars. Soldiers carry out the orders of civilians in parliamentary democracies.

Note particularly the civilian leaders who helped wage these wars who never served in their country's military; in the USA note particulary the civilian leaders who managed to evade the Vietnam-era universal (for males) military draft.

While the media focuses almost exclusively on Iraq, give comparable attention to the war in Afghanistan. A child, soldier, woman or man killed in Afghanistan is exactly as dead as a child, soldier, woman or man killed in Iraq.

Set a personal goal to disseminate n brick wall messages throughout the Internet. Large values of n are better than small values. The idea is to maximize the total amount of time that the greatest number of peoples' eyeballs see the brick walls on computer screens all over the world.

If recipients of the brick walls complain, or say you have hurt their feelings, or injured their self-esteem, or if they say you are not engaging in civil dialogue, direct them here.

Depleted uranium is replacing lead in Western military bullets and artillery shells, because it is more dense

Force = Mass x Acceleration

and harder than traditional lead. Uranium is both chemically toxic and radioactive; uranium war zones will generate cancers and other diseases both among returning soldiers and veterans, and among the people who must continue to live in the war zones for many years to come.

As of this post, the United States has spent about

on the War in Iraq. Click on that figure to see a more updated amount (it will be larger than this figure, watch the digits spin). If you live in the USA, you can also see what the War in Iraq has cost your state, or even your city or your town.

To date, my town of Northampton, Massachusetts' share of the cost of the Iraq War has been $20,494,100. Every dollar of that can never be spent on anything else, not on health care, not on affordable housing, not on cheap food for children and seniors, not on public school teachers, not on creating jobs. (My town's rightmost digits do not spin as fast as the Total USA digits, but they spin while I watch. Your town or city's rightmost digits will spin for you while you watch.)

Kwek has recently sent me some extraordinarily educational e-mails about the Nuts & Bolts of When The Bill Will Come Due, How We Will Have to Pay the Bill, and What It Will Do to the U.S. Economy and to Most of the People who live in the USA. For some reason, people seem to think it's vulgar to ask how much these wars are costing us, and how we're going to pay for them.

In January 2005, Seymour M. Hersh wrote in The New Yorker that President Bush's team of White House and cabinet officials who cooked up the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken Bush's re-election as a green light and popular mandate to put into action long-standing plans to go to war against Iran. If you do not feel you are a part of this popular mandate, express your feelings on a Virtual Brick Wall.

(Nixon claimed his Vietnam War policies were solidly backed by The Silent Majority -- that is, he had the support of millions and millions of Americans who were just too shy or polite to ever give any perceivable indication that they backed Nixon's Vietnam War policies.)

13 August 2005

i sing of Olaf glad and big

It only makes sense to be a conscientious objector when there's a draft / universal military conscription. It startles me to realize that most Americans living today have no direct experience with the draft; there was universal military conscription in the USA from the 1930s to about 1973. The draft, of course, filled the military ranks for World War II, but endured through the Cold War and finally ended, to be replaced by this Thing we got now, the euphemistic All Volunteer Military. During the Cold War, Elvis was drafted and served with the US Army in Germany.

While there was a draft, a man could declare himself opposed to war and military violence. It helped a lot if you came from a religious background like the Quakers, but if you had to convince the Draft Board or the Army of your beliefs, it was possible to do so without a specific anti-war religious background. Of course that implied that at the age of 18 or 19 or 20, you had independently concluded that you could under no circumstances take up arms against another human being. Well -- there are such 18, 19 and 20-year-olds. I knew a couple of them.

Some current "volunteers" are now filing with the military for Conscientious Objector status. Note the distinction between Pacifist and Conscientious Objector: A pacifist designates himself. Conscientious Objector is a designation that the military agrees to classify a particular soldier, or the Selective Service System grants a man subject to the draft. It's like saying, "I'm a cowboy!" vs. getting a notice from the government that says, "The Department of Agriculture has approved your application and you are officially designated an Equine-Based Cattle Transportation Specialist (Male)."


i sing of Olaf glad and big

by e.e. cummings
[Edward Estlin Cummings, 1894-1962]

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelov'd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but--though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments--
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but--though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat--
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

12 August 2005

free software that doesn't suck: TAG THE WEB Primer & brick wall template

Seemingly since the Beginning of Time, Microsoft has been tossing a delicious little goody called MS_Paint in for free with every version of Windows.

There is far fancier and far pricier software you can use to cook up an original image from Nothing except an Idea in Your Head, but why on earth would anyone want to bother or pay?

I particularly like MS_Paint because nearly all my talents as a visual artist are very crude, primitive, sleazy and honky-tonk. (There have been suspicions -- never scientifically verified -- that I am Color Blind, or Color Addled.)

As a child, all my art teachers made me swear I would never again attempt to make any visual art. They can all bite me, those who are not yet dead. MS-Paint just naturally guides my crude, ghastly, kitschy, talentless instincts to delightful outcomes which please My Inner Thug infinitely.

The icon for MS_Paint is probably on your desktop. (Sorry if you're a Mac, but Apple doubtless has something comparable; Macs have always been hyped as good for graphics and images. I hope it's Free.)

MS_Paint generally (but not exclusively) produces and can manipulate images in the *.bmp Bitmap format. You can Zoom In and control these images one pixel at a time, choosing from a large palette of colors -- or you can mix your own colors. If Mona Lisa has a tiny one-pixel zit on her nose, you can remove it, or if Mona Lisa has no zits, you can give her a tiny zit anywhere you like. A moustache on Condoleeza Rice is easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

MS_Paint is an excellent drafting tool, and one fellow sings its praises as perfect for designing original electronic circuit boards -- the hardest task in making your own home-rolled electronic gizmos. SWMBO is screwing around with MS_Paint right now to experiment with designs for original quilts. Ditto for original sweater patterns.


Let us pretend momentarily that it is Possible to End this fucked-up War in Iraq and Afghanistan with Art, Literature, the Internet, and possibly vacant large walls in the neighborhood which are currently not displaying any important messages or images.

The TAG THE WEB Project is a response to this Possibility or Illusion or Hallucination. Specifically TAG THE WEB encourages every human being with access to a computer to junk up all the computer screens on Planet Earth and the International Space Station with Original Feelings about the Iraq and Afghanistan War.

EXTRA CREDIT if you have the technological skills to turn your Virtual Brick Wall Feelings into annoying Popup Ads -- like porno spam popup ads, or mortgage offer spam popup ads, or popup ads for Britney Spears clothing and paraphernalia, or penis-lengthening contraption popup ads -- so that everyone innocently trying to go about their ordinary Internet business will get
STOP THE IRAQ WAR graffiti in their eyeballs all the time without doing anything to request it.

MS_Paint is so astonishingly simple to learn and use that I had a five-year-old girl making her own wonderful refrigerator art on her computer within five minutes. She figured it all out almost instantly, or rather, MS_Paint self-guided her to make images that delighted her almost instantly. The only Adult Hovering required was to lean over and click SAVE now and then.

MS_Paint features Spray Paint and Paint Brushes of various widths and shapes.

To facilitate this Hallucination, I am happy to provide a new Virtual Brick Wall, of Flemish Bond, its dimensions approximately screen-filling when displayed at the intended original size. Download it, open it in MS_Paint, then SAVE AS a new filename for your own Brick Wall Message. (That way you'll still have a blank brick wall for further messages.)

Images inspired by TAG THE WEB should be:


(as if a police car might show up at any moment -- use a mechanical kitchen timer to give youself a maximum of ten minutes for your image)




How offensive? How irresponsible? How offensive and irresponsible do you find the dead bodies of your young neighbors coming home in flag-draped caskets to Dover (Delaware) Air Force Base? I think that's a good benchmark standard for Offensive and Irresponsible. (My politics were largely formed, shaped, flavored and textured during the Vietnam War. Anger is a Creative Force. An excess of Civility facilitates Longer Wars.)

Please note also that If You Have Never Been A Visual Artist In Your Life Up To Now, you can Start Right Now. Absolutely No Previous Art Experience Required. TAG THE WEB is superdemocratic, open to anyone who has at least one finger. (There is a certain operation I do on Internet Relay Chat which requires me to click on my trackball with my nose, and another operation on Windows which required my left big toe -- but I recently found a Finger Way around that.)

I would Sincerely Appreciate your Comments -- but much more, Your Images.

Yours don't have to be Crude & Vulgar & Talentless like mine. If you are Georgia O'Keefe or Michelangelo or Frieda Kahlo or Stanley Spencer or Gully Jimson, and if you prefer an Image Program which cost you U$395, knock yourself out.

But please focus All Your Energies, Talents and Skills on ending these ghastly racist greed psycho lying useless endless perpetual wars immediately.

If there is a snowball's chance in Hell that this might work in the slightest, actual Human Lives are at stake -- young women and young men might come home and resume things they loved but have yet had little experience with: Fucking, Partying, Merrymaking, Happiness, Bicycling, Gardening, Going to the Vans Warped Tour, Eating Delicious Food, Perceiving Beauty.

The Dead, and most of the Maimed or Shellshocked, will be unable to do these things.

VLEEPTRON TEK UPDATE: I am stuck with the superfucked-up WindowsME operating system, but if you have Windows 2000/XP/2003, you can check out a New, Improved version of MS_Paint which is called PAINT.NET , and can be downloaded for
. It is written in the programming language C# and seems to have something to do with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington State University. Whoever first wrote MS_Paint (I can't seem to find her or his identity) was brilliant and serious. These people seem to be Even More Serious. That's quite scary.