|Three terrific acronyms from
the nuclear power industry: "TMTC" (Too Many To Count),
"GKW" (God Knows
What), and "unk-unks" (unknown unknowns).
Picture at right: The "sarcophagus" that has been built over
the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, to try to contain its danger:
"A chief engineer stated 'no one can tell you what will happen to
the sarcophagus in the next half hour'"*.
(Click on picture to see it full size.)
Tour Chernobyl area ("Ghost town")!
|"A fifth of all the world's reactors and nuclear
fuel is concentrated around the Kola Peninsula,
home to Russia's Northern Fleet of submarines.... The Russian port of Murmansk, the biggest city
in the Arctic, is the world's biggest nuclear
dustbin.... [Up to 100 nuclear submarines here] still have their reactors and nuclear fuel on
board.... In a cash-strapped world, the Russian navy is reduced to shuffling the decaying hulls from
mooring to mooring.... Their country simply does not have the money to remove and reprocess the radioactive fuel
which threatens a vast area of northern
Europe.... [A] 60 year-old ship, the Lepse... is used to store spent nuclear fuel. Inside the Lepse, there
are 642 bundles of fuel rods, two-thirds of
which are apparently damaged and still hot.... What appals international nuclear
scientists is the fact that the Russians have crammed so many
nuclear fuel rods into this one vessel. When they could not get more rods in, they
simply hammered them into the superstructure causing it to buckle."
(James Robbins, "Russian nuclear dustbin threats", The BBC Online,
Monday, 14 August, 2000, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK)|
story in the 08 Dec 99 New York Times, described
Russian efforts to suppress the ongoing rebellion in
Chechnya, by application of massive military force:
"Russian commanders boast about their use of maneuver and
deception. But the most enduring impression from a three-day visit
to Chechnya was of massive firepower. It was as if Gen. Colin
L. Powell's doctrine of overwhelming force as the key to
victory, used so efficiently in the American war against Iraq, had
been transferred to the Caucasus and applied Russian-style." The photograph
accompanying the story (right), however, showed something different: Two
Russian soldiers looking at a burning Chechnyan oil well. The caption said
the rebels had set fire to the well during their retreat, in October, but
that the Russians did not have the resources to extinguish the fire. The
tragic contrast between Russia's continuing power to
destroy, and Russia's impotence to construct, struck me as a powerful symbol of
that sad country's condition at the end of the 20th century.
(Read about: Soviet nuclear submarine disasters.)
[Lest the reader think I am singling out Russia for unilateral reprobation, let me also note that
many of the news reports about the 1999 Russian intervention in Chechnya sound to me
like replays of news stories from the 1960s, but with the word
"Russia" substituted for "United States", and "Chechnya" for "Vietnam"....]|
|National Public Radio
evening news ("All things Considered"), 10 Dec 99, interviewed
an analyst from the Institute for Strategic Studies (London), Anatole Levin. They
asked Levin why the Russians seemed to be so concerned to minimize
casualties among their soldiers in this war, when, for centuries, Russia had not been noted
for caring much about casualties. [Ed. note: I recall the
cliché that World War II was won with American technology and Russian
replied that, in past, Russian families had
many sons, but now a family often had only one son -- which, Levin noted, makes
people feel somewhat differently. This idea struck me as the most powerful argument
for population control I have ever heard, even though, in general, I have long
been aware of the principle that the more there are the
less each matters.|
|On the light side:
Diagram of the succession of Soviet space stations (NYT Science Times, 13Mar01, p.1). Fascinating visual
composition, in part because the silhouette of each space station looks like a Japanese Kanji.
Check it out!|
ever became of Dr. Caligari's descendants?
||What oil company
was incorporated by the First Council of Nicea (AD325)?
of my favorite automobile models:
Dodge Objet D'art,
Mercury Marquis de Sade (Brougham).
Lincoln Caprice (Oops! That's a Chevy...).
Other models that didn't quite make it (besides the
Toyota Forerunner...): Ford Fungus, Packhard Caliban, Nissan Altamont,
Plymouth Voyeur, Dodge Dingo, Chevrolet Tacoe (SUV -- "Like a stone"),
Toyota Tora Bora, GMC Yukon XL Den|alial,
Chevrolet Monad sport-station wagon (in honor of Gottfried von Liebnitz;
Ever see a Muntz Jet?
Most automatic transmission Toyotas have ECT
(which Toyota says means: "automatically controlled
electronic overdrive", or: Electronically Controlled Transmission;
The more expensive Lexus have
"ECT-i": ECT with intelligence!).
(Cadillac Eldorado Touring
|Detroit downsizes to help America conserve gasoline?
The 2003 Chrysler 300 (300M...) has 255 horsepower.|
|Model year creep:
Mercedes-Benz advertisement received 08 February 2006:
"The 2007 S-Class is finally here." (Source: "The latest Mercedes-Benz news and information" mailing list)|
last great French touring car: Facel-Vega (1954-64).
[Fellini's film 8-1/2 begins with Marcello Mastroianni stuck in a huge traffic jam,
in a Facel-Vega. The stopped cars are packed together like
sardines in a tin. Mastroianni has a panic attack, but escapes by rolling down the driver's side window,
squeezing himself out, and walking away over the hoods of the other cars.... I wish I could have walked over those
same cars and crawled in that same window....]
|BMW 318ti: Another car I'd like and could more afford
(it seems still to be made, but the new version
is not sold in the U.S.A.:
Click here to see one...).
Even better would be:
BMW 2000CS (ca. 1966;
BMW 3.0CSi (ca. 1971)....|
|My new car: A 2003 Toyota Corolla
LE, which I like so much it's almost a cure for "BMW envy".|
||Whose is my body?
Around 1979, there used to be a radio program for children about 6PM each
weekday afternoon on New York Public Radio, WNYC: "Kids
America". For a long time, the program featured a song, which
began and ended with: "My body's my body, nobody's but mine.... You've got your own body,
let me run mine." I forget most of the middle, but I think it included
such lyrics as that my body was mine to do
with as I pleased.... After a while, the program stopped playing the
song. I was convinced that it was because the song
not only urged children to ward off undesirable approaches by
strangers (which everybody thinks is a good idea...), but it
also encouraged children both: (1) to find pleasure in their
bodies, and (2) to reject unwanted (but not
"illegal" or "immoral"!) impingements and controls by their
-- both of which ideas are definitely not approved of by many "conservatives".
I was never able to verify it, but I always suspected that
"conservatives" pressured the station to remove the
song. I believe the song was replaced by something that
told children to report to their parents and teachers whenever any
stranger tried to approach them in a suspicious way (etc.).|
As a child, I attended an all-male "prep school",
where there were no doors on the toilet stalls for
the students, and where, in the seventh grade, two students were expelled for getting caught having oral sex in
one of them. I work in a place where there are no partitions between the urinals in
the men's room. Public showers are prevalent in "locker rooms" throughout our society.
It seems to me that such coerced public same-gender nudity constitutes a continuing
affront to personal dignity, social decency and civility.
I think it presents each individual
with unnecessary temptations (e.g., the two students in "my" prep school). But maybe
that's the whole point of it: to test people's character,
and to give them opportunities to feel discomfort about "themselves". (If
"society" thinks public self-exposure is so good, why is "flashing" a crime? Why
is nudity at public beaches generally prohibited?) [To explore public urinals of
America and other countries, Please click here!
March 2005: Read more about this issue of restroom decency in public places.]|
|The most horrifying sound human beings
can make may be a hoard of North African (e.g., Algerian) chadors ululating ~
a high-pitched wailing more piercing than an air raid siren, arising from
the (probably infibulated...)
women cocooned inside the chadors ~ a resonating howling that grows ever more penetrating ~
as if plague of the progeny of the matings of men and carrion birds was
coming to rip you to pieces with their talons and their beaks to avenge their
own riven life.[fn.45]|
example of Bedouin women ululating Apr06: The BBC seems to have
removed this audio clip from their website
(Download Real Audio -- There is
a free version of Real Player there, but you have to look for it...).
|Crowds and Power
:: Masse und Macht (ref. Elias Canetti).
See mass movement at Islamic Hajj, from Al Hajj website:
Click here to see
crowd crowding. See also:
The ultimate praying machine.|
art project: Cover all minarets with chadors
(even "better": burqas!). Also: The
Statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Sphinx,
(Pictures: Left: 2 Saudi women at a scenic overlook. Right: burqas --
click to buy online.)
See: comparative pictures of different Islamic women's attire:
Hijab, khimar, chador,
|"A Muslim woman who says the state is violating her religious rights in
demanding that she remove her veil for a driver's license photograph will be in court this
week to try to regain her driving privileges."(NYT on the Web, 27Jun02)
Click here to see her current ID photo,
28May03: 11 months later, she's still at it....
||[The Annals of Prudery:
Did "The Annunciation" go something like this?]
Knock! Knock! "Who's there?" "I am Angel Gabriel, representing
Y-w-h, your G-d. May I come in?" "I'm sorry, Sir, but
my parents are out, and they told me never to let strangers in."
"Well, I can understand that. Can you hear me through the door?"
"Yes, Sir." "Are you Mary, daughter of Anne?" "Yes, Sir." "I
have a message for you, Miss Mary." "Yes, Sir?" "By the order
of Y-w-h, your G-d, I hereby inform you, Mary, daughter of
Anne, that, in eight months' time, you will give birth to
The Messiah." "How can that be, Sir? What was your name, again,
please, Sir?" "Gabriel: Angel Gabriel, representative
of Y-w-h, your G-d." "Yes, Sir." "Do you understand, Miss Mary,
daughter of Anne, that you have been appointed to give birth
to The Messiah, eight months from now?" "Yes, Sir. But -- I don't
see how that is possible...." "Don't worry, Miss Mary,
it has already all been taken care of." "Well, I guess it does
explain a small concern I had...." [Ed. note: Mary had noticed
that her period had not yet come this month, with no apparent
explanation why it was late.] "Don't worry, Miss Mary, everything will be
fine. But the science is pretty complicated." "Yes, Sir. I am only a girl, and
I know there are many things I do not understand." "I have
to be going now, Miss Mary. Don't worry. It will all be
alright. Everything has been taken care of. Be of good cheer!"
"Yes, Sir, Mr. Angel Gabriel...." "Bye, now, Miss Mary...." "Goodbye,
|Lorenzo Lotto painted an Annunciation in which the Virgin "Like her skittish cat,
turns away from the angel and almost recoils in
fear"(National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
Click here to see Mary trying to flee from
German speaking reader has taken something I have said and translated it
on his website:
"Je schneller man in die falsche Richtung hastet, umso länger wird es
dauern, wieder auf den richtigen Kurs zu kommen, wenn man überhaupt das
Glück hat, noch genügend Zeit dafür zu haben!" (The faster a person makes progress in a
wrong[headed] direction, the longer it will take them to get back to where they can begin to proceed along a
constructive path -- presuming one has the good fortune to have the time left in one's
life to get that far.) ~ Go: Slow food!|
being polite can be hazardous to your health!
Example: The great astronomer Tycho Brahe died because of a urinary blockage brought on by being
too polite to leave the dinner table to heed the call of nature.
[Note (13Nov00): I have received email from someone who appears knowledgeable,
telling me that Tycho died of mercury poisoning, and that the "politeness"
story is just a myth -- but, if it is a myth, it still epitomizes much of our social life:] I have found
people are more offended by hearing me floss my teeth than by the prospect
of what would happen to my teeth if I did not floss, and they are more offended by the smell of garlic after I have
eaten a lot of it than by the possible detriment to my health of abstaining
from this food which can help protect us from getting ill.|
|Another example of politeness taking precedence over
substantive social and personal benefit: How people
were offended by a proposal to use Princess Diana's image in public service
highway safety ads to encourage using seatbelts. Presumably it is less bad for persons to die in
automobile accidents because they don't use their seatbelts, than for the people to be motivated to
buckle up by being reminded what failing to do so did to one of their role models....
|And flying "coach" on long
commercial airplane flights can be, too:
"'[E]conomy-class syndrome' is a real term given to what some
medical experts claim is a... serious consequence of long
airplane trips: a circulatory problem known as deep-vein
thrombosis, which is essentially a blood clot.... [L]ast week... a 28-year-old
British woman collapsed and died at London's Heathrow Airport
following a 20-hour, 10,000-mile flight from Australia (with a
single stop in Singapore). An autopsy attributed her death to a
[/] Deep-vein thromboses caused by immobility, a condition first
widely diagnosed among Londoners jammed into air-raid shelters
during World War II, has been increasingly reported among air
travelers in recent years as airplane seating became more cramped
on ever-longer domestic and international flights.... [Another
problem is] the possible transmission of
infectious diseases in poorly ventilated cabins...." (Jow Sharkey,
"When 'Just Sit Tight' Is the Wrong Advice", NYT Week in Review,
September thru early October, 2000, we vacationed in French Canada, Montréal and Québec City.
I very much liked the "Old World" atmosphere of the old parts of these cities. I especially liked the slogan
on the automobile license plates: "Je me souviens
To see some pictures of the architecture (which reminded me of my trip to Brussels, 1985...),
please click here.
|Je me souviens
has a complicated provenance which I have not yet figured out.
It likely derives from a poem by Eugene Tache (ca. 1883?):
"Je me souviens que ne sous le lis je fleuris sous la rose." --
"I remember that born under the Lily, I have prospered under the Rose."
It seems these words may have been
used by all Canadians, but that the Francophiles, as their resentment against Anglophone rule
grew over time, eventually read into these words a denial of their identity in
a nominally assimilationistically "united" Canada, in which the
French assimilated and the English ruled....
The Francophiles then adopted these words in accusatory irony against their perceived adversaries' view:
"I remember? Damned right I remember!"
--Contemporary Canadians interpret the phrase in all sorts of ways, some of
which have nothing to do with Tache's words
for examples). I (BmcC) pair the phrase with: "Never again."|
|The only time I have been to Europe was
a one-week trip to Brussels (1986), to present the project on which I was working
to a symposium of IBM Europe systems engineers. I really
liked Brussels. It was mid-July. Around 11PM, the row of houses directly
across from my hotel
was in darkness while the sky above them was still luminously bright -- just like in
Magritte's painting (actually, he did 2 or 3
similar paintings on this theme...): "Empire of Light".
[See also: Postage stamp
from mail I received from Synex Information AB, Sweden.]|
|Why is René Magritte hiding his face behind his hand?|
||Also from Montréal: A Winter's Tale:
walk under or park next to edge of building roof, because
snow and ice can slide off and hit you in the head or smash your car.|