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[ 20020727 ]


OK, one more political one and then I'll get back to the sci-tech stuff. A couple of weeks back, UPI ran a story slightly misleadingly entitled Manipulation makes us dependent on govt., which in spite of its title is not about something from the black-helicopter crowd, but a lucid explanation of Charlotte Twight's "political transaction-cost manipulation" theory, as presented in a speech at Cato and in her new book. America's not perfect, and PT-CM is a big part of the reason why.

Jay Manifold [5:14 PM]

Oh, Let the Sun Beat Down Upon My Face (II)

AP also has Powell Urges Dialogue on Kashmir:

"I am a traveler of both time and space to be where I have been," said Powell. "All I see turns to brown as the sun burns the ground, and my eyes fill with sand as I scan this wasted land."

Well, OK, those weren't his exact words. But does he support the Kashmir Resolution?

Jay Manifold [10:11 AM]

Iridium Watch

U.S. Ports Alerted to Missing Iridium, says AP. See this and this for an earlier incident involving 192Ir and the potential hazards thereof.

Jay Manifold [9:59 AM]

[ 20020726 ]

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

-- is not the headline of this story, but it should be. Technical note: when astrophysicists say "metal," they mean any element above helium on the periodic table. Also, the nearest example of a flare star (though not one inside a globular cluster, like the ones in this story) is none other than Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun.

Jay Manifold [4:06 PM]

Harvesting Hearts?

Heart transplant shortage persists in U.S., says UPI, and the resulting desperation produces an unsurprising but unpleasant proposal:

[Transplant patient] Edward Jenkins, 59, an insurance broker from Warren, Pa. .... said he has been following the debate about incentives and thinks there should be a "fairly nominal incentive for burial or funeral expenses. But I don't see that a big financial incentive is the way to go." He said a better option would be "mandatory organ donation. Unless someone says specifically that they don't want their organs donated, the organs should automatically be donated."

Larry Niven, call your office.

Jay Manifold [9:54 AM]

[ 20020725 ]

Today's Lesson in Game Theory

House Expels Ohio Rep. Traficant:

Only Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., who was defeated in a primary for re-election after he was romantically linked with Chandra Levy, a government intern who was murdered, voted against Traficant's expulsion.

Somewhere, Robert Axelrod is smiling.

Jay Manifold [6:15 AM]

[ 20020724 ]

Asteroid of the Week

Astronomers Monitoring Asteroid, says AP; Big Asteroid Leaves Scientists Unruffled, says Reuters. The AP story helpfully points to NASA's 2002 NT7 Earth Impact Risk Summary, which informs us that the putative impact would be the equivalent of 1.2 million megatons of TNT.

Referring back to this handy post, we find an effective blast radius of 450 kilometers. Were 2002 NT7 to hit land, it would knock down just about every structure in an area the size of Texas. And if it hit water, it would be a whole lot worse; this source states:

We see that an asteroid 400 meters in diameter produces waves more than 10 meters above sea level at 1000 km from the impact point. In the absence of wave dispersion an object this size falling in the mid-Atlantic would produce tsunami more than 3 meters high before they come ashore in North America and Europe as the heights drop off inversely with distance from the impact point. This height would rise several fold as it comes ashore.

Note, however, that 2002 NT7 is five times the diameter of the hypothetical asteroid in this example. In any case, the actual likelihood of this particular impact is 1 in 6 million, so this is not much more than a (slightly macabre) parlor game. But this isn't.

Jay Manifold [6:31 PM]

Fusion Follow-Up

This story popped up way back in March. Now UPI says not so fast:

Although sound waves can generate temperatures as hot as the surface of the sun simply by squishing bubbles, the potential of tabletop nuclear "bubble fusion" raised earlier this year may have been exaggerated, new calculations suggest.

The news isn't all bad, though:

Tabletop fusion may be out of reach, but "there are other uses for sonoluminescent bubbles," said physicist Detlef Lohse of the University of Twente in Entschede, The Netherlands. For example, now that scientists understand the chemical processes of sonoluminescence more thoroughly, they might be able to harness it for applications in medicine and industry.

The article ends on an odd note:

[Kenneth] Suslick [, a chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] noted sonoluminescence is already helping to enhance the chemical reactions used to make pharmaceuticals. Quoting Russian intellectual Leon Trotsky, Suslick said the research should go "forward in all directions."

Russian intellectual Leon Trotsky?

This source notes a major factor in the Soviet victory in the Civil War:

Trotsky organized a strong Red Army. It was mostly led by former imperial army officers, some of whom joined voluntarily for patriotic reasons to drive the foreigners out of Russia, but others were coerced. Both kinds of officers were closely watched by leather-jacketed commissars, ready to shoot them at the slightest sign of disloyalty. On the whole, it was a well-disciplined army, except after a victory when rape, killing and looting was allowed. Above all, the Red Army was well-armed and well-fed -- but at the expense of the peasants.

This source quotes estimates as high as 10 million people killed by war, terror, famine and disease in Russia from 1917-22.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure "intellectual" captures it.

Jay Manifold [3:26 PM]

[ 20020723 ]

An Evening in the Life

Ref this much earlier post -- wonderful concert this evening at an amphitheater in Bonner Springs. Opened with Siberian Khatru; included extensive solos by Howe, Squire, and Wakeman; abbreviated version of And You And I with just Anderson singing and Wakeman on keyboard was especially sweet. Deeply moving version of Awakening roused audience toward end of performance. Encore was, of course, Roundabout, plus Yours Is No Disgrace. This was the first time I'd seen Wakeman perform. All with the Summer Triangle rising behind the stage, plus a full Moon later on. Driving home, saw spectacular meteor in southern sky out car windshield. More tomorrow; it's way past my bedtime.

UPDATE: Picture (WARNING: 642kB; high-speed connection recommended!) showing, left to right: Steve Howe, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Alan White, Rick Wakeman; I'm the well-fed, hairy guy occupying most of the left-hand side of this 420-kB picture.

Jay Manifold [11:12 PM]

[ 20020720 ]


I can hardly let this day pass without a few words. Simberg et al have developed a liturgy of sorts to commemorate it, and Bill Walker has a historical commentary; but I should simply remember.

I was nine years old, the perfect age, I now think, for being able to appreciate what was happening -- to have some (however limited) technical understanding of it and yet be unshadowed by the terrors of adolescence. I had avidly followed the space program for two years, having first become interested in it (and all things astronomical) during the interregnum between Gemini and Apollo. I could sketch the innards of a Saturn V (well, kinda high-level) from memory. So for me the Apollo 11 mission was the entirely logical, but still tremendously exciting, culmination of something that had started when I was a toddler.

My parents had a harder time getting used to it. On the evening of the moonwalk, the sky was clear in KC, and our house faced south, so one could step out our front door and look to the right of the silver maple in our front yard, and there was the waxing crescent Moon in the southwestern sky. Back inside, on TV, people were on that Moon. One metaphor for the impossible, struck down in a grand human endeavor.

In the context of the time, it was sorely needed. The previous year, 1968, was far harder than these past ten months and nine days have been; more unsettled, much more bloody, strewn with horrific blunders. It was magnificently redeemed by this broadcast and given an enduring emblem in the form of this photograph. And so four times as many people traveled to Cape Canaveral in July of 1969 to watch Apollo 11 take off as would travel a month later to Woodstock.

Seven years later to the day, the triumph was repeated with the landing of Viking 1 on Mars. I well remember watching TV as the first picture came in, and how strange it seemed to see the frigid landscape of another world during the hot midwestern summer.

Jay Manifold [3:14 PM]

Uranium Core Drives, Reverses Earth's Magnetic Field

I meant to blog this back in early June; a UPI story offers an astounding explanation for Earth's magnetic-field reversals: "... a ball of uranium about five miles in diameter and located at the center of the core [which] may have been operating [as a breeder reactor] nearly since the formation of the planet." Read the whole thing.

Jay Manifold [1:43 PM]


Virginia Postrel needs the hits from me about the way the Manifold household needs more cat excrement, but I've just got to plug Come All Ye Faithful, if only for this passage:

Friends tell me stories of attending “megachurch” services in Atlanta and Kansas City. The churches are huge, they say, with more than 1,000 congregants. I scoff. In Dallas, a thousand people is not a megachurch. It’s a home Bible study group.

I'm the KC friend and am accordingly honored, but also feel it necessary to point out a few things:

  1. The great-grandaddy of 'em all is in the City of the Big Shoulders, not the Big D.

  2. Notwithstanding (1), a key difference between Dallas and the Midwest is that "wretched excess" is still a concept here; I think it dropped out of the north Texan vocabulary at least 30 years ago.

  3. Notwithstanding (2), I adduce this (click on "VIEW THE NEW PLANS FOR COR") and this (where I was once a member -- click on "NEW SITE UPDATE") as evidence that we Midwesterners do strive, in our own small way, to keep reasonably "culture-current."

All this made me curious about historical forebears. What about this church, for instance, which is said to have had a staff of 600 (pictures)? Well, this source says its area is 25,000 square feet. Packed in, this would hold over 6,000 people -- to this day, Eastern Orthodox churches usually have seats only around the perimeter of the sanctuary, reserved for the elderly, very young children, and pregnant women; everyone else stands throughout the services, which are not short.

(An interesting bit of alternate history is presented at the bottom of this page: "... an idealized image of the Great Church as it might appear today, had it not been desecrated by the Turks first as a mosque and later as a tourist attraction. The minarets have been removed and the life-giving cross restored to the dome.")

Jay Manifold [1:12 PM]

Wednesday Night Sermon Follow-Up

New readers may wish to browse this earlier post for background. It garnered me several responses and probably additional notice of which I am unaware, due to my concentration on a job search.

Agreeing with me, more or less, were:

Disagreeing was Kevin Holtsberry, whose remarks I urge you to read in full. My original post was not a troll, and of course I don't agree with him on this point, but I was very much hoping that someone would say what Kevin did. A truly Thucydidean what-the-situation-required offering, based on a solid foundation of Biblical knowledge and exegesis, and not coincidentally illustrative of the differences between mainline Protestantism and evangelicalism.

Jay Manifold [12:00 PM]

[ 20020717 ]

Explanation for Week of Non-Posting

I got laid off. OK, it ain't up there with what happened to this guy, but it shut me down for a few days. Not moping -- updating a résumé and networking like mad.

My situation: I've been with my employer for 12 years, and they're handing out 2 weeks' separation pay for each year of service. My last day in the office is supposed to be Thursday the 25th (this may change, but that's way too complicated to go in to here). I should therefore be at full pay until mid-January and full benefits until the end of January, which softens the blow quite a bit. It also gives me a disincentive to try very hard to find another job there -- I can pocket the ~6 months' severance if I go elsewhere (unless it's a direct competitor) and it spreads the Manifold household's risk, as She Who Must Be Obeyed works there as well.

I already have some promising leads, but I know better than to leave any stone unturned; so if you would like to see my résumé, drop me a line. I'm not going to send out personal information to utterly random strangers, though, so if you write, explain a bit about what you do and how you might be able to help. I'm looking for a project management position.

Short version of my qualifications:

  • 18 years professional experience; 9 years project management.

  • PMI and Quality SIG member; working toward PMP certification.

  • Leadership of numerous quality and business process improvement teams and initiatives.

  • Strong problem-solving skills and ability to matrix-manage cross-functional teams to achieve organizational goals.

  • Proficient in MS Project, PowerPoint, Word, and Excel; experience developing databases in MS Access.

I live in Kansas City, Missouri, and would prefer not to relocate.

I'm going to leave this up for a couple of days and then resume blogging properly.

Jay Manifold [6:03 PM]

[ 20020710 ]

Wednesday Night Sermon

While browsing UPI, I happened upon Commentary: Presuming God at -320 degrees, by UPI Religion Correspondent Uwe Siemon-Netto, who profoundly disapproves of the cryogenic freezing of Ted Williams:

... an entire worldview -- Christian, Jewish or Muslim -- conflicts with the selfish desires of the wealthy nonbeliever.

To be sure, if you rummage through the Internet you will always find clerics who see nothing wrong with this desperate attempt to create a this-worldly alternative to the believer's return to his Creator -- and therefore to real life.

The clerical collar does not necessarily enable you to make the proper distinctions between progress in medicine -- a progress that prolongs life and is willed by God -- and the technological attempt to deprive him of his sovereignty over all life.

So keeping somebody alive with medicine is OK, but resurrecting them isn't?

Those of you who brought your Bibles this evening may turn with me to John's Gospel, chapter 11, beginning at verse 32 (Lattimore translation):

When Mary [sister of Martha and Lazarus] came where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. When Jesus saw her weeping, and saw the Jews who had come with her weeping, he raged at his own spirit, and harrowed himself, and said: Where have you laid him? They said to him: Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.

Back to Siemon-Netto, who isn't doing any raging, harrowing, or weeping:

To Christians, it is singularly egregious because it mocks the Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the Giver of Life," as the Nicene Creed defines the third person in the Trinity.

Blaspheming the Spirit is an unpardonable offense, Jesus warned. It will not be forgiven, either in this world or the age to come." (Matthew 12:31).

From a Christian point of view, trying to undo death is a supremely arrogant act of unbelief -- and shows a grotesque misunderstanding of life.

Lest there be any doubt that the above is nothing but a huge non sequitur, let's pick up the story at verse 38:

Jesus once more was inwardly raging, and went to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was set in front of it. Jesus said: Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him: Lord, by now he smells, since he has been there four days. Jesus said to her: Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God? So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted his eyes up and said: Father, I thank you for hearing me, and I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd which surrounds me, I said it so that they should believe that you sent me. And saying this he cried out with a great voice: Lazarus, come out here. And the man who had died came out, with his hands and feet wrapped in bandages, and his face tied up in cloth. Jesus said to them: Untie him and let him go.

Nope, keep 'em in the ground, says Siemon-Netto, and anyone who does otherwise is anti-Christ. Besides, the extra life can't possibly be worthwhile:

Overcoming death through Christ -- as opposed to technology -- is so central to Christians that some denominations, Lutherans for example, dare not even pray for the dead because this would seem presumptuous. They simply commend the dead person into God's hands; there is no more that man can or should do.

This perspective on human life is of course diametrically opposed to that held by the proponents of cryonics, whose view is strictly one-dimensional. What they are saying, in effect, is this: Better 1,000 years of misery on earth than trusting in the promise of a life without the constraints of time, space -- and without strife.

I'd better start a list:

  1. If that Christ vs technology meme takes off, someday all Christians will have about the same effect on society as the Old Order Amish do today.

  2. The Christians I know who don't pray for the dead don't do so because, well, they're dead. And, of course, some Christians do pray for the dead, but being a kind of mongrel evangelical, I don't understand that; but I also know that my lack of understanding isn't necessarily meaningful. ;)

  3. Why does long (Earthly) life = misery? Either you can find things to do or you can't. Does Siemon-Netto assume that purposefulness becomes impossible at some point? Or is he making the common mistake of thinking that life extension does not include the halting or reversal of aging?

  4. Not to overlook the obvious, since I am both a "proponent" (or at least an allower) of cryonics and a Christian, where does that put me?

Siemon-Netto reassures us that this is really, really creepy:

Better finite selfishness than completing the mission that started with man's creation in God's image -- the mission of returning to God.

It is a horribly cold worldview that has landed Ted Williams' remains in that Arizona storage tank -- immeasurably colder than the interior of the tank itself. Just thinking of the meaningless "life" his body is being preserved for gives you goose bumps.

Only if you think preserving your life is meaningless. The Apostle Paul thought this over and came to a very different conclusion:

... Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith ...

Philippians 1:20b-25 (NRSV)

Life extension, so far from threatening the Christian worldview, provides all of its beneficiaries, Christians included, greater opportunities to pursue their values. In a technophilic America, it seems unlikely that such advances will be rejected; but we must be prepared to defend them against the lure of stasism.

Jay Manifold [6:51 PM]

[ 20020709 ]

The Meme That Wouldn't Die

This story informs us of this report -- a thinly disguised response to Lomborg's devastating indictment of "the Litany" -- which will of course eventually join books like this and this (and this, which lists ecological collapse through population explosion as one of its many failed predictions) in well-deserved oblivion. Here's a specific example of what happens in the real world when eco-apocalyptics are stupid enough to put their money where their mouths are. But they'll always have an audience eager for more cheap thrills.

Jay Manifold [5:21 PM]

[ 20020707 ]

My Independence Day Weekend

I'll get back to the sci-tech stuff real soon now, promise. But first, indulge me by reading a bit of day-in-the-life material. My mother and aunt visited this weekend, and we spent most of Thursday and Friday with them and a distant cousin who lives here in KC. Watched a fine fireworks display occurring over Arrowhead, following a Wizards game, from the field behind our house. There were a ton of fireworks in the neighborhood too -- all illegal within city limits, of course -- far more than years past, but all ended relatively early; I got the impression that people were doing lots of stuff with their kids and then tucking them away in bed. From the top of the hill, I could see great clouds of smoke everywhere, drifting along near the ground in the deepening twilight, with fireflies flashing in the summer heat.

Last night we attended the annual party at a friend's farmhouse up in Platte County. This involved eating to excess, listening to lots of live bluegrass music, and detonating large quantities of explosives, including a firework mortar which I managed to load upside down, with interesting results, to say the least (but no injuries).

But with my mother et al, we mostly spent a marathon session at various antique stores around the area (though we did also manage to fit in a visit to the Kauffman Memorial Garden). To prevent my untimely death from Male Indifference Syndrome, I zeroed in on old books and especially old postcards at the antique stores. Later my distant cousin showed me her collection, which to my somewhat aghast amusement included a postcard promoting this popular vacation destination; in very nearly the same breath it bragged about how the facilities were owned by the people of the United States and then promised "White Attendants" in the bathhouses.

I bought a postcard as follows:

The front is a black-and-white glossy photograph, slightly sepia-toned, labeled "The Mall, London," looking west-southwest on a sunny but rather hazy day; St James' Park is on the left; some colonnaded buildings about 4-5 stories tall on the right, one marked with "XXX," and a large column or chimney with some kind of statue on it in the background; Buckingham Palace faintly visible at the left rear of the picture, with what looks like a large fountain in front of it; perhaps two dozen automobiles and a handful of pedestrians visible; all tree-lined.
The back bears this message -- the card was sent, with a one-penny stamp bearing the image of George V, to "Mrs. John H. Mahne (etc.), 2346a S. Compton, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.":


Liebe Mutter --
XXX is the German Embassy - and the Coronation Procession passed right by here. Friedel sends her love. We have had breakfast in bed - and are being very lazy. Tell George almost all is forgiven - hope he has sent the money if he wants the material. I am really sorry to sail next week - but as I have no money I suppose I must - and I shall be happy to see youse - but not to leave London. Tomorrow is Bank Holiday and we go to Hampstead Heath to be stepped on in the crowd - ask George what Bank Holiday is. I have some tweed for a coat. It is cold here - Keine Sommer.* Have Betty's boils increased and multiplied? And Red's fleas? Did you send the letter to Bokie? How is August der Storke? - Love,

It is signed with a monogram, or perhaps a small drawing, which I will not even attempt to describe.

It would seem to be from a young man, perhaps one recently married or even on his honeymoon, who has spent much of the summer of 1911 (George V was crowned on 22 June) in London, to his German-born mother in St Louis. A fascinating glimpse into the vanishing Edwardian world, just three years before the start of the Great War. And now, Iain Murray is going to tell me what day Bank Holiday was in 1911.

* "no summer," which by comparison with sweltering St Louis is undoubtedly true!

Jay Manifold [6:55 PM]

Power of Pride

I've never been too keen on that "proud to be an American" line -- I think gratitude is a whole lot more fitting than pride -- but I am, by God, proud to be a Missourian, and things like Bride shoots truck thief hours before wedding are part of the reason why:

"It was a long day," the former public school principal said Friday.

She said the man threatened to set off the bomb if she didn't give him her truck. "I said, 'No sir, you go ahead and set the bomb off. My house needs work anyway.'"

Don't mess with our women. We won't kill you -- they will.

Jay Manifold [5:12 PM]

[ 20020704 ]

Things To Do Today

To start our 227th year off right ...

  1. Read this. Say this. If you've got nothing better to do, read "Because It Can Become Good."

  2. Have a look at some fireworks -- pictures courtesy of one of the greatest blessings of a free society.

  3. Put first things first:

You were saying, what is a nation? And who does more for a nation -- the one who makes a fuss about it or the one who, without thinking of it, raises it to universality by the beauty and greatness of his actions, and gives it fame and immortality? Well, the answer is obvious ...
When the Gospel says that in the Kingdom of God there are neither Jews nor Gentiles, does it merely mean that all are equal in the sight of God? No -- the Gospel wasn't needed for that -- the Greek philosophers, the Roman moralists, and the Hebrew prophets had known this long before. But it said: In that new way of living and new form of society, which is born of the heart, and which is called the Kingdom of Heaven, there are no nations, there are only individuals.

-- Boris Pasternak, Dr Zhivago

Jay Manifold [8:13 AM]

[ 20020703 ]

War Chalk Jay Hawk?

Apologies for the paucity of posts; the day job has been frantic and time at home has been occupied by preparation for my mother's visit. Fortunately, my vast number of contributors (~1) have been active; Leo Johns sends this article about warchalking, a sort of high-tech hobo language. He says "the resemblance to the ICQUS is startling," but only conceptually, I think; I'm not seeing much visual similarity.

Jay Manifold [1:54 PM]