mm224: Dec. 17, 1903: A seminal date in world history

December 17, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

MUDGE grew up at a time when everyone knew who the Wright Brothers were. Indeed, I believe that the one who survived beyond 1912 actually died the year I was born. And I just looked it up — Orville died exactly nine days after I was born, at the age of 76.

I’m wondering how many people care anymore that the first flight ever anywhere of a heavier than air powered airplane was made in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on Dec. 17, 1903, 104 years ago today.

I’ve been thinking about it all month, like I have every December since I was about eight years old.

Does anyone remember Landmark Books? I think I may still have some of those left from my childhood somewhere in the dungeon below the house, together with others picked up second hand for the next generation of MUDGElets.

Thanks to Google (where else?) found an interesting page on a site I’d never encountered before, Valerie’s Living Books with this description:

Landmark Books (American history) and World Landmarks (world history) are accurate, in-depth stories for young people nine to fifteen years old. These living histories were written by award-winning authors or by men and women who experienced the events first-hand. Written during the 1950’s and 60’s and illustrated either with two-color drawings or clear photographs, the books are informative, enjoyable, and well worth collecting and reading.

Reading level and content vary from book to book. Some are relatively simply written and are very appropriate for middle to upper elementary children. Other books, because their reading level is higher and the subjects they cover require a mature reader, may be best suited for young adults.

Explanation for the digression: I first learned about the Wright Brothers and their amazing achievement from one of the Landmark Books, “The Wright Brothers, Pioneers of American Aviation,” by Quentin Reynolds; I read and reread it countless times. What a tremendous inspiration. And what a terrific series of books, on so many fascinating and important topics.

Ironically, Valerie’s did not have a copy to show you, so I went to my trusty old/rare books destination, Alibris, for this:

wrightbros

Don’t remember the dust jacket, but this hardbound book and many others in the series were in aggregate one of the pillars of my childhood.

In this age of videogames and Nickelodeon, a parent could do worse than to find some Landmarks at a local used book emporium, or Valerie’s or Alibris, and put them in the way of your 8-14 year olds. A world full of important people, events and things existed for several billion years before they were born; they could get a clue…

Okay, though, back to the Wright Brothers. So, I always think about the first powered flight around this time and date; was even noodling around thinking that it might be a topical lead-in to a further discussion of one of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s current concentrations, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles — we’ll get to it another day, thanks), when I encountered this story today at Wired.com.

Dec. 17, 1935: First Flight of the DC-3, Soon to Be an Aviation Legend

By Tony Long  | 12.17.07 | 12:00 AM

A Douglas DC-3 shown in flight.  | Photo: Corbis

1935: The Douglas DC-3 makes its maiden flight at Clover Field in Santa Monica, California. Despite a production history lasting only 11 years, it will become one of the most durable, long-lived and beloved aircraft of all time.

While it may be a legendary plane today, the Douglas Aircraft Company wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about getting the DC-3 off the ground. The impetus came from American Airlines, which wanted a plane that could provide sleeper berths for 14 passengers.

So if Orville and Wilbur were inspirations of my childhood, so then the Douglas DC-3 was an icon of that time also.

For they were still around when I first began looking up in the sky in the early 1950s; I dimly remember flying in one somewhere (or maybe I just hope I so remember! — I flew in piston-powered airliners several times in my youth), and during my childhood built more than one plastic scale model of that aircraft.

And Wired told me something I didn’t know:

The first DC-3 flew Dec. 17, 1935, 32 years to the day after the Wright Brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It was a good omen for an extraordinarily good plane. The DC-3 entered commercial service flying coast to coast, with an overnight stop, across the United States.

Talk about synchrony…

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Dec. 17, 1935: First Flight of the DC-3, Soon to Be an Aviation Legend

How absolutely, astonishingly, completely the world changed after December 17, 1903. Not quickly, at first. The Wright’s motorized, manned kite only flew 120-feet, less than the wingspan of many modern aircraft and, secretive and paranoid perhaps, the brothers took their time getting out the word, enough so that there were challenges through the years for the unprecedentedness of the achievement.

But then, men and women took to the air, eventually outer space, and the planet simultaneously grew smaller and larger as a result.

All because a couple of bicycle mechanics in the town of Dayton, Ohio read everything they could on the subject of heavier than air flight, thought they could do it better than the lavishly funded formal scientists of the day, applied their self-taught mechanical skills and creative problem solving abilities, including finding a safe but out of the way venue for their experiments, and, somehow, leaped into the sky.

The U.S. Air Force has an amazing museum of flight at Wright-Patterson Air Base in Dayton, the site honoring, of course, Wilbur and Orville. (By the way, if you and your kids have any interest in the subject, you can easily spend an amazing day wandering around more than 300 aircraft. Been there, with my then-17-year-old son; we opened the museum one Sunday morning, and closed it that evening. And, free admission! Thanks, taxpayers!)

Kitty Hawk, an otherwise unremarkable bunch of sand dunes, is memorialized by a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, (USS Kitty Hawk CV-63) the second to carry the illustrious name, soon to be decommissioned and in the news recently when the Chinese government turned it away from a ceremonial Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong, and then objected when it transited back to home port at Yokosuka, Japan (been there! gaped at that huge ship there!) by way of the Taiwan Strait.

kittyhawk

Finally, while we’re showing useful photos, have to share this one, the magnificent capture of that first flight, that first day of the current era of manned flight, from Wikimedia Commons.

wrightfirstflight

A stunning portrait of a stunning, global civilization altering day.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the links to Valerie’s Living Books, and Alibris used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. It’s an artifact of Sequitur Service©. Deal with it.


mm198: GM foods — Wrongheaded opposition is starving the developing world

November 18, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Prospect magazine of the UK has a compelling piece, from the European viewpoint on genetically modified food and its wrongheaded opposition.

prospectuk

The real GM food scandal

by Dick Taverne

GM foods are safe, healthy and essential if we ever want to achieve decent living standards for the world’s growing population. Misplaced moralising about them in the west is costing millions of lives in poor countries

Dick Taverne is the author of The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism (OUP)

Seven years ago, Time magazine featured the Swiss biologist Ingo Potrykus on its cover. As the principal creator of genetically modified rice—or “golden rice”—he was hailed as potentially one of mankind’s great benefactors. Golden rice was to be the start of a new green revolution to improve the lives of millions of the poorest people in the world. It would help remedy vitamin A deficiency, the cause of 1-2m deaths a year, and could save up to 500,000 children a year from going blind. It was the flagship of plant biotechnology. No other scientific development in agriculture in recent times held out greater promise.

Seven years later, the most optimistic forecast is that it will take another five or six years before golden rice is grown commercially. The realisation of Potrykus’s dream keeps receding. The promised benefits from other GM crops that should reduce hunger and disease have been equally elusive. GM crops should now be growing in areas where no crops can grow: drought-resistant crops in arid soil and salt-resistant crops in soil of high salinity. Plant-based oral vaccines should now be saving millions of deaths from diarrhoea and hepatitis B; they can be ingested in orange juice, bananas or tomatoes, avoiding the need for injection and for trained staff to administer them and refrigeration to store them.

Your correspondent has long been more aware of this complex issue than the average blogger on the street. Some years ago, MUDGE logged a five-year stint at a science-based organization whose parent was one of the foremost corporate proponents of this world-changing technology. Indeed, I probably would be there still, had not the forces of creative destruction, i.e., capitalism, broken up that good old gang of mine through “merger” and acquisition.

Proximity to the technology, and a modicum of intellectual curiosity resulted in slightly more than superficial awareness of the issue and its controversies. And the controversy has been noisy enough to make one believe that distribution of such technology has been suppressed. But,

Seldom has public perception been more out of line with the facts. The public in Britain and Europe seems unaware of the astonishing success of GM crops in the rest of the world. No new agricultural technology in recent times has spread faster and more widely. Only a decade after their commercial introduction, GM crops are now cultivated in 22 countries on over 100m hectares (an area more than four times the size of Britain) by over 10m farmers, of whom 9m are resource-poor farmers in developing countries, mainly India and China. Most of these small-scale farmers grow pest-resistant GM cotton. In India alone, production tripled last year to over 3.6m hectares. This cotton benefits farmers because it reduces the need for insecticides, thereby increasing their income and also improving their health. It is true that the promised development of staple GM food crops for the developing world has been delayed, but this is not because of technical flaws. It is principally because GM crops, unlike conventional crops, must overcome costly, time-consuming and unnecessary regulatory obstacles before they can be licensed.

And the demonizing of GM technology has no foundation in science.

The fact is that there is not a shred of any evidence of risk to human health from GM crops. Every academy of science, representing the views of the world’s leading experts—the Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Brazilian, French and American academies as well as the Royal Society, which has published four separate reports on the issue—has confirmed this. Independent inquiries have found that the risk from GM crops is no greater than that from conventionally grown crops that do not have to undergo such testing. In 2001, the research directorate of the EU commission released a summary of 81 scientific studies financed by the EU itself—not by private industry—conducted over a 15-year period, to determine whether GM products were unsafe or insufficiently tested: none found evidence of harm to humans or to the environment.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

‘The real GM food scandal’, Prospect Magazine issue 140 November 2007 – Printer Friendly Article

In the analysis considered here, the thesis is proposed that the large agribusinesses planted the seeds, as it were, of their own difficulties promoting this technology due to their own public-relations (rather than science) based caution.

And MUDGE remembers distinctly the emotional and distracting case of the supposed endangerment of monarch butterflies due to GM corn.

And what has always grabbed this non-scientist observer is that, throughout the history of agriculture (which encompasses the development of modern humankind) farmers have cross-bred and otherwise genetically modified their crops. What modern technology offers the process is predictability and repeatability.

So, as we hope you’ve taken the trouble to read to the end, the author expresses some hope that people are finally coming to their senses regarding the issue of GM crops.

There can be little doubt that GM crops will be accepted worldwide in time, even in Europe. But in delaying cultivation, the anti-GM lobbies have exacted a heavy price. Their opposition has undermined agrobusiness in Europe and has driven abroad much research into plant biotechnology—an area in which Britain formerly excelled. Over-regulation may well cause the costs of the technology to remain higher than they need be. Above all, delay has caused the needless loss of millions of lives in the developing world. These lobbies and their friends in the organic movement have much to answer for.

So, once again, seemingly well-informed people are proven to be misinformed. Hardly shocking anymore, but very, very disturbing.

Africans and others in the developing world are starving, people! GM crops can be engineered to use less pesticide, less fertilizer, less water (the last great resource battleground), to get more, and better, food into the empty stomachs of the world.

Wake up and pay attention, you enemies of science!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm195: Edison gets the glory — Tesla won the war

November 15, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Every schoolchild, at least of MUDGE‘s generation, knew the name of Thomas Edison, America’s genius inventor. Not nearly so well known today is the reputation of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current technology offered stiff competition to Edison’s direct current at the time when the nascent electric utilities were battling for the privilege of revolutionizing civilization.

That first battle ground, New York City, finally just yesterday, November 14 2007, after 125 years of service, converted the last direct current electricity service to alternating current.

Can you imagine any industrial artifact built today still being around in the year 2132, 125 years from now? We just don’t think that way any more. Ask the survivors and grieving families of those lost when the I-35 bridge at Minneapolis collapsed this past summer, at the youthful age of 40.

Back to New York:

By Jennifer 8. Lee

Consolidated EdisonCon Edison’s original power plant on Pearl Street. (Illustration: Consolidated Edison)

Today, Con Edison will end 125 years of direct current electricity service that began when Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street power station on Sept. 4, 1882. Con Ed will now only provide alternating current, in a final, vestigial triumph by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Mr. Edison’s rivals who were the main proponents of alternating current in the AC/DC debates of the turn of the 20th century.

New York, more than most of our old Atlantic coastline cities, is this mesmerizing blend of the state of the art and trendy, and the downright obsolete. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that direct current is still in use in pockets of the city — not economically viable to install new today (or even 80 years ago!), but installations like the one retired yesterday weren’t broken, so weren’t fixed.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Off Goes the Power Current Started by Thomas Edison – City Room – Metro – New York Times Blog

The really fascinating part of the story, beyond the implications noted above of industrial artifacts usefully lasting 95 years beyond a conservative depreciation schedule, is the mention of Tesla. The story actually links to this Wikipedia article, worthy of one’s attention.

What was it about the 19th Century that spawned so many giants? That by itself is the subject of a Ph.D. dissertation, so you’re not likely to find the answer in this space! But Nikola Tesla was undoubtedly one of those giants, a scientist and inventor who

… contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics. In 1943, the Supreme Court of the United States credited him as being the inventor of the radio.

What an amazing man, setting a very high bar for future men of science, practical inventors and eccentric personalities.

I hope that future school children will learn his name — perhaps the new electric car named, one guesses, to commemorate his amazing contributions to the science and engineering of electricity, will help.

teslaroadster

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm175: "Islamofascism" – Deal with it!

October 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention

“Islamofascism” – Deal with it!

We have stated before in this space that we’ll accept a good idea, regardless of its source, in this case, the diffident and soft-spoken Christopher Hitchens in today’s Slate.

In that spirit, we present: Islamofascism.

It’s a valid term. Here’s why.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, at 11:33 AM ET

The attempt by David Horowitz and his allies to launch “Islamofascism Awareness Week” on American campuses has been met with a variety of responses. One of these is a challenge to the validity of the term itself. It’s quite the done thing, in liberal academic circles, to sneer at any comparison between fascist and jihadist ideology. People like Tony Judt write to me to say, in effect, that it’s ahistorical and simplistic to do so. And in some media circles, another kind of reluctance applies: Alan Colmes thinks that one shouldn’t use the word Islamic even to designate jihad, because to do so is to risk incriminating an entire religion. He and others don’t want to tag Islam even in its most extreme form with a word as hideous as fascism. Finally, I have seen and heard it argued that the term is unfair or prejudiced because it isn’t applied to any other religion….

… The most obvious points of comparison  [between Islam and Fascism] would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Defending the term “Islamofascism.” – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

So, anyone reading this with access to one of the events on a nearby campus this week — go listen.

shortattention

Free my phone!

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and his All Things Digital blog states a cogent case for demonopolization of the cellular telephone industry.

Suppose you own a Dell computer, and you decide to replace it with a Sony. You don’t have to get the permission of your Internet service provider to do so, or even tell the provider about it. You can just pack up the old machine and set up the new one.

Now, suppose your new computer came with a particular Web browser or online music service, but you’d prefer a different one. You can just download and install the new software, and uninstall the old one. You can sign up for a new music service and cancel the old one. And, once again, you don’t need to even notify your Internet provider, let alone seek its permission.

Oh, and the developers of such computers, software and services can offer you their products directly, without going through the Internet provider, without getting the provider’s approval, and without giving the provider a penny. The Internet provider gets paid simply for its contribution to the mix: providing your Internet connection. But, for all practical purposes, it doesn’t control what is connected to the network, or carried over the network.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Print : Free My Phone

Monopolies of all kinds are unpleasant. This writer rails against his monopoly cable television / Internet Service Provider that also (heaven help us!) wants to be our telephone company!

Walt, at least with cell phones, I’ve got choices.

shortattention_thumb[5]_thumb[2]

Innovation Nation: Losing our edge

This Business Week book review is definitely worthy of attention.

Innovation Nation

Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing
Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters,
and What We Can Do to Get It Back

By John Kao; Free Press; 306pp; $26
The Good An insightful, and scary, account of the innovation challenges faced by the U.S.
The Bad A key issue gets little space: the role of global corporations in innovation’s changing geography.
The Bottom Line A very useful book that punctures America’s complacency about innovation.

In a Sept. 7 speech before a World Economic Forum meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced his country was “pursuing an innovation-based model of development.” Why should America care if China puts innovation at the center of its next five-year plan? In fact, why worry about Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Korea, or other countries whose government policies push innovation? After all, Google (GOOG ), Facebook, the iPod (AAPL ), and the Boeing (BA ) 787 Dreamliner all have “Made in America” stamped on them. Right? And we have Silicon Valley. They don’t.

Well, actually they do. In fact, as John Kao, an innovation consultant, points out in his new book, Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back, all the key advantages once enjoyed by the U.S. are going, going, nearly gone. In a scary, insightful, and ultimately very useful book—written to inform the 2008 Presidential primary agenda—Kao punctures America’s smug self-congratulation.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

America’s Fleeting Edge in Innovation

Innovation has been a key theme at BW for some time, and one wants to hope that the message is getting through to business leaders. One wonders, actually, whether any corporation near you ever has hired the likes of Mr. Kao, an innovation consultant.

Can’t happen soon enough, apparently.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm159: Sputnik | Spacemen are from Mars

October 2, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Last post, we linked to a story from Wired magazine observing the 50th anniversary of the launch of the modern space age.

As frequently happens, the Economist, the best magazine on the planet, treated this subject this week, and most eloquently.

economist

Sep 27th 2007
From The Economist print edition

Half a century of space exploration has actually served to illuminate the Earth

FIFTY YEARS ago the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite. Sputnik burst into orbit on October 4th 1957, in the midst of the cold war. It was a surprise to the world, a shock to many Americans, and the starting gun for the space race between the superpowers. Thereafter, America vied with the Soviet Union for supremacy in aerospace’s equivalent of “mine’s bigger than yours”, as successively taller rockets lobbed larger payloads further afield.

MUDGE is an amateur. These guys are the real deal.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Sputnik | Spacemen are from Mars | Economist.com

I shared those reveries about the future of space exploration.

I used to disdain the environmentalists. I’d proclaim: Let’s use this planet up; rather than wring hands and waste time on saving Earth, it’s the human race’s manifest destiny to expend the intellectual and financial capital to find new planets to exploit.

A young man’s conceit.

The old man that survives still believes that the young one was correct.

He’s just not certain exactly what Earth species will indeed explore and exploit the solar system and beyond.

Probably not his.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Technorati Tags: ,

mm158: Miscellanea, or, this and that

October 1, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention

Short attention span blogging: Item 1:

Mike Garibaldi Frick: Elect the U.S. President with the Popular Vote – Politics on The Huffington Post

It’s time to elect the President and Vice President of the United States by direct, popular vote.

In addition to being given greater proportionate representation in the Senate, individuals living in states with smaller populations are given more political influence than those people living in larger states. That’s simply undemocratic. Electing the President by popular vote might also increase voter turnout and most certainly would extend the power of third party campaigns.

We’ve looked at this topic previously several times; it won’t go away… Take a look at the full post, and the comments.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Mike Garibaldi Frick: Elect the U.S. President with the Popular Vote – Politics on The Huffington Post

MUDGE is beginning to think that the Electoral College can be characterized in the manner that Winston Churchill characterized democracy:

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

The Electoral College is a lousy system, whose latest inadequacies have led this country to an abysmal seven years and counting, but I fear that it may be better than any other system for this country.

Short attention span blogging: Item 2:

Space Race Turns 50 With Sputnik Anniversary

MOSCOW (AP) — When Sputnik took off 50 years ago, the world gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, watching what seemed like the unveiling of a sustained Soviet effort to conquer space and score a stunning Cold War triumph.

But 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West. Instead, the first artificial satellite in space was a spur-of-the-moment gamble driven by the dream of one scientist, whose team scrounged a rocket, slapped together a satellite and persuaded a dubious Kremlin to open the space age.

And that winking light that crowds around the globe gathered to watch in the night sky? Not Sputnik at all, as it turns out, but just the second stage of its booster rocket, according to Boris Chertok, one of the founders of the Soviet space program.

MUDGE was a kid when Sputnik launched the world into the space age. It’s been a long time, but I dimly remember stepping outside to peer at the city-light polluted sky for something winking up there.

Eerie.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Wired News – AP News

Reflecting years later, one can’t help remember that, not mentioned in this story, in the end the Soviet Union’s captured German World War II rocket scientists (those wonderful folks who brought London the destructive power of the V-1 and V-2) beat the U.S.’s captured German rocket scientists into space. At least the first couple of steps.

It took a visionary John F. Kennedy to define an inspiring goal for our Germans and their mentored U.S. colleagues to focus on, and the U.S. won the war of which Sputnik was the first overt battle.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

They don’t build presidents like that any more.

Speaking of which…

Short attention span blogging: Item 3:

If Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, will he run for president?

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Sept. 24, 2007, at 12:00 PM ET

Al Gore. Click image to expand.Al Gore

I am occasionally asked why it is that so many Europeans display reflexive anti-Americanism, and I force myself to choose from a salad of possible answers. One of these is the resentment that I can remember feeling myself when I lived in England in the 1970s: the sheer brute fact that American voters who knew nothing about Europe (and cared less) could pick a president who had more clout than any of our elected prime ministers could exert. America could change our economic climate by means of the Federal Reserve, could use bases in Britain to forward its policies in Asia or the Middle East, and all the rest of it. Americans could also choose a complete crook like Richard Nixon, or a complete moron like Jimmy Carter, and we still had to watch our local politicians genuflect to the so-called Atlantic alliance.

Love him, hate him, respect him as one (somewhat reluctantly) might, Christopher Hitchens is always interesting.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

If Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, will he run for president? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

In this very, very long presidential election season, most anything can happen.

And most anything probably will.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm151: Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta

September 24, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

As we’ve noted lately (here and indirectly, here), fewer and fewer corners of the planet are immune from that pesky virus: information.

Even North Korea has been .0015% more reasonable of late, and the bright lights of media exposure can claim at least a bit of credit (a persistently starving population gets a lot more, of course).

So, Myanmar, as repressive a tyranny as can be found (sorry guys, we’re not going to forget about you just because you changed your name; a Burma by any other name…) is once again experiencing civil unrest, and due to the pervasiveness of both MSM and alternative media, this time they can’t hide it or minimize it or freely crush it.

The photo that accompanied the NYTimes story is ample evidence of this, in and of itself.

myanmar

By SETH MYDANS

BANGKOK, Monday, Sept. 24 — The largest street protests in two decades against Myanmar’s military rulers gained momentum Sunday as thousands of onlookers cheered huge columns of Buddhist monks and shouted support for the detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Winding for a sixth day through rainy streets, the protest swelled to 10,000 monks in the main city of Yangon, formerly Rangoon, according to witnesses and other accounts relayed from the closed country, including some clandestinely shot videos.

It came one day after a group of several hundred monks paid respects to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi at the gate of her home, the first time she has been seen in public in more than four years.

And here’s the nub of the argument:

Myanmar’s military government has sealed off the country to foreign journalists but information about the protests has been increasingly flowing out through wire service reports, exile groups in Thailand with contacts inside Myanmar, and through the photographs, videos and audio files, carried rapidly by technologies, including the Internet, that the government has failed to squelch.

“… photographs, videos and audio files, carried rapidly by technologies, including the Internet…”

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta – New York Times

There’s that pesky Internet again, screwing up the generals’ private party.

Our best, maybe only, hope for an end to tyranny:

  • the retro Myanmar variety (and our Chinese, North Korean (and Cuban) friends would fit in this bucket);
  • the more au courant Middle Eastern style as found in places like Syria and Iran;
  • and even such New Age (and retro) tyrannies as practiced by Putin and his ex(?)-KGB brethren throughout Russia and its former empire;

… is the pervasiveness of information, as exemplified by the liberator of Eastern Europe, CNN, and maybe the liberator of the rest of the shackled world, the Internet.

And, let’s give credit: perhaps the (admittedly looking more spurious) Congressional revolution of 2006 wouldn’t have happened at all without the blogosphere.

Not the infinitesimal nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© that we ruefully acknowledge as this weblog’s permanent fate, but certainly the heavy hitters like Daily Kos blogroll2 that help keep the kettle aboil, always a good state for the democratic process.

Small “d” democracy at work around the globe, powered by electrons.

Ben Franklin, Alessandro Volta, Nikola Tesla and all: the free (and hopefully soon to be freer) world owes you a monumental debt.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm119: Creating the sequitur

August 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Had this thought yesterday.

Any of you regular reader of this nanocorner of the blogosphere are aware that MUDGE often is slightly link-crazy.

I believe I learned this style best from one of my most regular reads, Slate.com, and good teachers they’ve been.

What linking does for yours truly, and here comes that flash of insight –drum-roll please — linking sequiturizes.

We all think we know what a non sequitur is. My new toy WordWeb says that it’s “A reply that has no relevance to what preceded it.”

So, when MUDGE pops out a comment, like this one from a recent posting…

An ambitious plan, to be executed of course by the lowest bidder.

… you don’t have to be in the dark about what I might mean by that.

Because I’ve provided a handy hyperlink to let you know exactly what I had in mind.

Wikipedia’s article goes a bit into the history of the hyperlink:

The term “hyperlink” was coined in 1965 (or possibly 1964) by Ted Nelson at the start of Project Xanadu. Nelson had been inspired by “As We May Think,” a popular essay by Vannevar Bush. In the essay, Bush described a microfilm-based machine (the Memex) in which one could link any two pages of information into a “trail” of related information, and then scroll back and forth among pages in a trail as if they were on a single microfilm reel. The closest contemporary analogy would be to build a list of bookmarks to topically related Web pages and then allow the user to scroll forward and backward through the list.

Ted Nelson was a genius — I remember reading him in the fondly remembered Byte Magazine (I was a near-charter subscriber, of course), and thinking “this man is a way out futurist.”

So, the non sequiturs will keep on coming, gang, sequiturized (must be the process of negating a non sequitur, right), by Ted Nelson’s (and of course Tim Berners-Lee‘s) marvelous hyperlinks.

New motto for this nanocorner:

proudhome

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm104: There She Blew: Books: The New Yorker

August 17, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Danger! Literary Content!

Run Away!

For centuries, American whalers’ basic method of capture and killing remained remarkably unchanged.

ILLUSTRATION: JACQUES DE LOUSTAL

For centuries, American whalers’ basic method of capture and killing remained remarkably unchanged.

It is only appropriate that a posting on Starbucks be followed by a story about the whaling industry. Go ahead, ask me why. In the analytic spirit of the week, that just shed important light for me about why I so enjoy the coffee boutique chain: I’ve never ever gotten over “Moby-Dick.”

It wasn’t that long ago that L-HC discussed reading (all right, listening) to books on tape. One of my recent pleasures was to revisit Melville’s “Moby-Dick” this summer for the first time in 32,264 years, since a senior in high school (then it was the rare cave-painting edition).

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Arts and Letters Daily blogroll2 should have found this review a month or so after its publication; it’s their style. And, it is probably the nature of the Internet that everyone is writing about everything every moment, so encountering this topic was absolutely not a coincidence. I imagine that any subject I can think of is out there, 4,387 times today alone, 5,100 times tomorrow.

And I used to think it was a challenge to keep up with my daily newspaper!

To the whales:

newyorker

There She Blew

The history of American whaling.

by Caleb Crain July 23, 2007

If, under the spell of “Moby-Dick,” you decided to run away to the modern equivalent of whaling, where would you go? Because petroleum displaced whale oil as a source of light and lubrication more than a century ago, it might seem logical to join workers in Arabian oil fields or on drilling platforms at sea. On the other hand, firemen, like whalers, are united by their care for one another and for the vehicle that bears them, and the fireman’s alacrity with ladders and hoses resembles the whaler’s with masts and ropes. Then, there are the armed forces, which, like a nineteenth-century whaleship, can take you around the world in the company of people from ethnic and social backgrounds unfamiliar to you. All these lines of work are dangerous but indispensable, as whaling once was, but none seem perfectly analogous. Ultimately, there is nothing like rowing a little boat up to a sixty-ton mammal that swims, stabbing it, and hoping that it dies a relatively well-mannered death.

After a short diversion that I’ll leave to faithful reader to enjoy without tipping it in advance, the review continues:

It is difficult to follow in Melville’s footsteps if you can’t tell when he’s fibbing, but there is no shortage of whaling histories for a Melville aficionado to turn to. (“Though of real knowledge there be little,” Melville wrote, “yet of books there are a plenty.”) In the latest, “Leviathan” (Norton; $27.95), Eric Jay Dolin offers a pleasantly anecdotal history of American whaling so comprehensive that he seems to have harpooned at least one fact from every cetacean text ever printed. “Leviathan” is a gentle book about a brutal industry. By ending his story when America stopped whaling, Dolin omits the most gruesome years of international whaling history, when new technology increased killing capacity approximately tenfold. He presents whaling in a more innocent age, when it was the fifth-largest industry in America and a source of national pride—in the time before ecology, as well as before steamships, as it were.

The review is here:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

There She Blew: Books: The New Yorker

I must admit that, listening with 17,000 year old ears is astoundingly different than reading with 17 year old eyes. Melville captured in quite glorious and infinitely descriptive detail the brutal business that is whaling, brutality that weighs much heavier on MUDGE that is than on fetal MUDGE of 78,325 years ago.

The review discusses the decline of the American whaling business; my instinct had always been that it was a matter of declining stock due to overfishing, as this seems to be a growing tragedy in our oceans. But not so:

In 1838, a whaler wrote in his journal:

There was a time, (so says my rhyme,
And so ’tis prosed by many)
Sperm whales were found on “Japan Ground,”
But now there are not any.

But the economists tell us that whales are innocent of having damaged the whaling industry by becoming scarce, and nineteenth-century whalers had to keep searching for new grounds because whales in much-hunted areas grew more canny. Americans never caught enough sperm whales to throw them out of equilibrium. They did harm the populations of grays and bowheads, it seems, and maybe of right whales, too, but too late to have contributed to the decline of American whaling.

No, it was economics — the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania just before the Civil War was only one of the last blows, the war itself providing further harm to the business.

But, what an incredibly modern novel “Moby-Dick” is, for 1851 (where it must have seemed like science fiction to Victorian sensibilities), for 1965, for 2007. Melville was an absolute genius. This opinion has been firmly held since those cave painted days, and has not changed a whit. Indeed, having read a few things in the interim, MUDGE‘s belief in the astonishing modernity of Melville has been reinforced by a few orders of magnitude.

Read “Leviathan,” I plan to because the history of technology is one of my major avocations. Had I found an educational institution as interested in the topic as I was, then, my own personal history might read differently. Now, it’s an in subject. Then, zilch. Sigh.

But then please go re-read “Moby-Dick.” Makes this poor slob’s attempts at putting his thoughts out in front of a nanopublic seem blunderingly, comically crude in comparison.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the links to bookstores used in the final paragraphs above are for the convenience of faithful reader and represent no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.