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[ 20060728 ]

A Current Controversy, Tangentially Predicted by Me

With all the controversy about sock puppetry (language warning, but see especially the comments by "docweasel," who makes an appearance in "The Readers Speak" on the left sidebar of this very blog); this is beginning to seem downright prescient.

Jay Manifold [9:33 AM]

[ 20060722 ]

It Just So Happens --

-- that I'm on duty out at Powell tonight, so groupies/stalkers/etc are invited to come on down. Sunset is at 8:38 PM in Louisburg; I expect we'll be viewing Jupiter and several deep-sky objects, including M13, M22, M27, M57, the ever-popular Albireo, and the summer Milky Way in general ...

UPDATE: Judging by the till, we had 120 visitors! Only two of the regular Team 5 members were on duty, but fortunately we had 4 other ASKCers show up. I ended up on the smaller LCT (a Meade Starfinder 12.5), while others presented the program in the classroom (something about the early Earth, formation of the Solar System, that sort of thing) ran the 30", and gave general sky tours with lasers. Some clouds later but generally a very nice evening, with temperatures around 15°F below normal for this time of year and a pleasant northerly breeze. Visitors looking through the LCT saw Jupiter (including an occultation of Io by Jupiter), Albireo, and M57.

Jay Manifold [3:29 PM]

[ 20060720 ]


What I said then.

Jay Manifold [6:11 AM]

[ 20060719 ]

Situation and Susceptibility

Yet another Two Cultures, perhaps ... back in November of '02, I analyzed a sample of the Not in Our Name petition signers and found that academics; "people whose reflexive self-identification is political rather than occupational, familial, or religious"; artists; and people in the "helping professions" were all overrepresented, while all others were underrepresented -- particularly "academic disciplines with a significant mathematical component."

Now for a new example, by someone far more qualified, graze on over to Cliopatria (hat tip: Glenn, of course) for Robert KC Johnson's analysis of the "Group of 88" (emphasis added):

The 69 permanent faculty signatories included only two professors in math, just one in the hard sciences, and zero in law. (It would have been difficult indeed for a law professor to have signed a statement deeming irrelevant "the results of the police investigation.") Of the permanent signatories, 58—an astonishing 84.1 percent—describe their research interests as related to race, class, or gender (or all three), in some cases to an extent bordering on caricature. One Group of 88 member stated that his current project "argues that unless we attempt to read racialized trauma according to a more Freudian, Lacanian understanding for subjectivity we will continue to misunderstand why racial stigma persists and, more generally, why the laws humans create to protect against forms of discrimination leave in place a notion of the racialized subject as emptied of interiority and the psychical." Another reasoned that "it was not merely military mobilization . . . that paved the path to war [in Iraq] but a highly gendered war talk." An example? Laura Bush’s late 2001 comments about the plight of Afghan women, which “furthered the [U.S.] imperial project in her highly gendered appeal to a world conscience.” A third signatory, after beginning her career exploring "postmodernist theory about the individual and the body," is now "working on a new project critiquing animal rights from speciesist perspective."

This is a potentially rich field for someone brave enough to scrutinize their fellow academics' unexamined prejudices.

Jay Manifold [9:57 AM]

Science vs Journalism, part MDCCCLXXXVIII (a rough estimate)

Graze on over to Rhetorica for Journalism sometimes covers science badly -- a dog-bites-man headline if ever there were one, but this dog's bite could screw up an entire civilization.

So much stuff feeds into this that I could easily write a whole series of posts, given the time and emotional energy (which is unfortunately being monopolized by my employer at the moment). Some of the major elements are:

But ultimately, it all comes down to attitudes:

For living proof that it can be done right, read Science News.

Jay Manifold [6:09 AM]

[ 20060717 ]

Mars Again (Not)

It's the e-mail that won't die. If you get one -- and if you're an amateur astronomer, and any of your friends know that you're an amateur astronomer, you probably will -- here is my recommended response, the final point of which you may wish to customize for your locality:

Please forward the following information to all recipients of the original e-mail.

  1. This e-mail has begun to circulate every (Northern hemisphere) summer. It is now three years old and quite inaccurate.

  2. The close approach of Mars on August 27th happened in 2003. At no time did it appear "as large as the full moon to the naked eye" -- it looked that big only in a telescope at 75x magnification.

  3. There was another close approach of Mars in early November of 2005 (a listing of these events is at Mars Oppositions), though somewhat farther away than the 2003 apparition.

  4. In late December 2007, Mars will approach to within 88 million km = 55 million miles of Earth. This is about 60% farther away than it was in 2003, so it will appear about 5/8 as large as it did in 2003.

  5. Specifically, Mars will next be at "opposition," that is, 180° from the Sun and therefore visible all night, on Christmas Eve, 2007, in the constellation Gemini. See Mars 2007 for complete information.

  6. For actual summer-sky wonders, see Five things you didn’t know about... The Summer Sky, written by comet-discoverer David Levy.

  7. KC-area recipients interested in further opportunities in amateur astronomy should visit the Astronomical Society of Kansas City.

As for the senders of the e-mail, whatever your immediate reaction upon seeing it for the hundredth time, be patient with them all. Face it: this is going to become a summertime ritual.

Jay Manifold [12:12 PM]

[ 20060715 ]

The Matter With Kansas (XIV) - Upcoming Primary Information

Graze on over to Josh Rosenau's Thoughts from Kansas for Dodos. Also, I encourage Kansas voters to take note of the KCStar's Kansas primary election: Polling place changes.

(Previous member of series here.)

Jay Manifold [11:47 AM]

[ 20060713 ]

Arcturus in Poynteronline

I am now indebted to Amy Gahran for picking up the "situational citizenship" meme I tried to start on the first anniversary of 9/11 (see the mildly narcissistically titled On Rediscovering Myself as an American for the overwrought attempt in question). The vector in this case was Dr Cline of Rhetorica, who plugged my idea in The audience awakens to play the media game; Ms Gahran picked it up in Refining the "People Formerly Known as The Audience". To excerpt from (and edit) a comment I just left over on Poynter ...

My model was inspired by, to the extent of being a near-exact copy of, Ken Blanchard's work on "situational leadership," and if I had it to do all over again, I'd probably leave out the "TQ" stuff -- it was just top-of-mind as a result of a couple of decades of being around very technically inclined people who were also politically active.

Anyway, there's a fairly decent Wikipedia entry on Situational leadership theory; see "Development levels." It occurred to me that the same progression could apply to civic involvement, or the lack thereof.

One nit I have with Dr Cline's description is his "C1s, C2s, and others so apathetic ..." -- C1s aren't apathetic; in fact, they're probably the largest population of highly-motivated people, politically speaking. They are relatively naive, sometimes touchingly so, sometimes annoyingly so. The apathetic are the C2s and "low" C3s, who are more knowledgeable than C1s but are also, to varying degrees and for a near-infinite variety of reasons, disgusted by politics.

I've already mentioned unconferencing to Dr Cline and would refer my readers to it also, by way of a possible conceptual framework for feedback from the people formerly known as the audience. I note that the very latest post on Rhetorica includes the line: "For a practice to be called journalism it must include an editing process by people other than reporters." Indeed.

Jay Manifold [6:19 PM]

I Am Not Making This Up

There is an actual wildfire burning in California which has been named the For Sure Fire. From InciWeb: Millard Complex Wildland Fire: "The For Sure Fire is also burning in Hell For Sure Canyon." Anywhere near the Valley, perhaps?

UPDATE: Previously known reader and several-time correspondent Ed Hahn, last heard from inadvertently helping me adjust the brightness and contrast on my monitor, writes:

I could see the smoke yesterday, from Edwards AFB, but hadn't bothered to look up what was burning. It was a good sized cloud on the southern horizen, ten or twenty miles long.

Summer wildfires are pretty common around here. Below 5000 or 6000 feet the mountains are covered with dry thick brush easily ignited by lightning, powerlines, tossed cigarettes. Above that level are a lot of pine forests, usually dry by this time of year.

Indeed, when I was coming back from the San Francisco area to the high desert last Sunday, the Interstate 5 was closed due to a different wildfire, which meant a fifty mile detour added to the usual 350 mile drive :-(

It's probably fifty+ miles from "the valley" though.

By the way, I meant to compliment you on the Heart of America Star Party Report. Lyrical. It made me want to visit Missouri...

Flattery will get you anywhere on Arcturus (at least, when I'm paying attention to my e-mail). Californians are advised, however, that Missouri's considerable virtues do not include darker skies than their own: my lifetime three-way tie for greatest limiting magnitude is among: the trans-Pecos (specifically the Davis Mts, where I now own land; and not to overlook the obvious, Big Bend NP); the north shore of Lake Superior (specifically the area near Grand Portage, just south of the Canadian border) -- and the Los Padres National Forest (specifically the area near Sta Margarita, in SLO County). Get thee to the Coast Ranges ...

Jay Manifold [5:28 PM]