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Friday, December 30, 2005
A week with Rootoukies

This warm weather we've been having on the mid atlantic coast is taking me out of the season. I come from the new england area. I like my Christmases cold. I haven't written a post in 10 days. I could say I've been reading not writing, but that's not best description. I've been writing like I've been reading and vica verca. Vaugley and unfocused, with an eye on the prerogatives of vacation, accomplishing nothing. I've been visiting the niece and nephews. My days are spent surrounded by Rootouki pellets, by which I mean Bionicle detritus. Entropy cuts a wide swath through the entire Lego world.

Bionicles or Biological Chronicle ( BIONICLE The Official Web Site) concern the Mata Nui's: Your Toa's, Visoraks, Rahi beasts, Roodaka, Keetongo. Rhotuka Spinners, kanoka discs, and a whole lot more. Bionicles, an outgrowth of the Technics line, are Legos with a back story. Trying to wrap my memory and tongue around these phrases my nephews were tossing over at my ears. I began to refer to them all as Rapanuies. "Isn't that Easter island?" my sister said. So I switched to Rootoukies. Easter Island; though, is exactly where all these critters come from. All this back story is cribbed from Maori and Polynesian (Easter island) mythology: Bionicle - Wikipedia. So much so that the CEO of Lego once made a trip out to Auckland with a big wad of cash, which he had to hand over to a group of Maori who were disturbed that Lego was trying to brand and trademark significant words in the Maori language. Wikipedia has links to two BBC stories from 2001 outline how Lego re-leased Tohuga back to the Maori people BBC News | ASIA-PACIFIC | Lego game irks Maoris and BBC News | ASIA-PACIFIC | Lego agrees to stop using Maori names.

Before learning this I had been trying to imagine how the Lego people came up with all this. I had conjectured that that they had some poor wretch with a comparative literature degree chained to a desk in a windowless room somewhere in Denmark with only used paperbacks of Hesiod, Frazer and some Pink Fairies albums (or Hawkwind) as company.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Songhua river

I wrote a post Green China several months ago around a Christian Science Monitor article on what appeared to be a genuine environmental initiative: A move to assess a large number of energy projects for their environmental impact. This and the various arguments and commentary outlined in the article seemed consistent with the sector transitions of an industrialized society. Some of the ways this manifests itself include greater awareness of the sources of the epidemiological threats to personal and family health. As well a greater awareness of the existence of these threats in the industrialized landscape. A greater per capita wealth and increased availability of work exists that mitigates the need to engage in a previous generation's tradeoffs and compromises. China of this current generation is a significantly more educated and more informed society.
A picture named omc_map4398aa9653925f62.jpg What meaning can be ascribed to the serious events surrounding the Benzene spill in the Songhua River Chinese toxic spill official found hanged - Times Online .  To bring it to a focused if oversimplified question: does it represent the greening or the graying of China? Will democratic environmental awareness become a political force in China or will the people continue to be subordinate to industrial progress? Here it matters little if it is done in the name of state enterprise or private enterprise.
A brief chronology of events. The Benzene spill occurs 13 Nov 05 after an explosion in a processing tower in Jinin. The spill plume arrives at Harbin about a week later. Word Leaks out on computer message boards, telephone, word-of-mouth, and becomes general knowledge circa 21 Nov 05. At this time there is an absence of official notification from provincial Government. When it becomes clear to officials the Benzene will contaminate the water supply water is shut off in Harbin, capital of Heilingjiang Provence. The Government makes a formal disclosure at this time 23 Nov 05., and responds with water trucks. Amid officious pronouncements that everything was under control, there are calls for investigation of the spill and its aftermath. The senior manager and others at Petrochemical China are removed from their posts. The Chinese 'EPA' head resigns. The director of the state agency of worker safety warns that false information provided in course of investigation will be prosecuted.
"Any move trying to cover up the cause of the accident and any passive attitude toward the probe are deemed deception and a defiance of law."-- China warns of Harbin penalties - Asia - Pacific - International Herald Tribune.
On 07 December Wang Wei, the Vice Mayor of Jilin was found hanged in his home. (This is the point where I began to save and fully read articles on this). With the toxic plume continuing to spread down river approaching the border with Russia and the point where it will become an international incident Chinese pursue suit as toxic slick reaches Russia, a group of Harbin businessmen form a lawsuit BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Businessmen sue over Chinese leak.

The way it seems to be playing out is with considerable openness, adequate if not abundant information, and calls for accountability. On the other hand; is it being allowed to expand without impediment to better facilitate a latter deflation and whitewash? Is the Chinese press covering this as studiously as the foreign press. How transparently is foreign press coverage getting back into China. This quote from the London times article indicates it is being covered
"The death of Wang follows the sacking of at least three managers in the China National Petroleum Corporation, which runs the chemical plant. Last week, the head of China's environmental agency also resigned over the accident, which has attracted unusually critical coverage in China's state-owned media."

A MetaFilter thread on this last month contained comment from a westerner living in China indicating that information was generally available through informal channels in Harbin 24 hours after the spill.

The apparent suicide of the vice mayor of Harbin is an indicator not only that it is being taken seriously, but that it is even a matter of career ending - life ending shame. Which it can be only if environmental damage of this magnitude is already understood to be beyond the realm of acceptable industrialization.

One key to possible outcomes from this is in this last event; the lawsuit against Petro-China the state owned company responsible for the original spill. The articles that mention this note its unprecedented nature so much so that the government seems unsure how to respond to it. Allowing this to be (one of) the mechanisms - the process by which settlements are apportioned will certainly chart new territory in Chinese culture if it goes through. A additional toxic spill in southern China also seems to be getting prominent media treatment BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Toxic spill in second China river.At the same time there are reports in todays news that the Chinese government has responded to the recent series of mining disasters with mass firings of upper level managers. This while still a positive move is an example of more comfortable and less forward approaches. The possible roads to justice or redress of wrong are Administrative Law, bureaucratically adjudicated; Criminal Law by statute, and civil law. Only when the latter and due process of the law is followed does any of it exist.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

I got a call from my sister, giving me a heads-up on a documentary that was being shown on a local PBS station. The film is called "Three faiths One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam". The film is a testament to cross cultural understanding and continuity Documentary Explores Similarities and Differences of Three Major Religions, so if that sort of thing bothers you then this post is probably not for you. Really this whole web log may not be for you. It is a long documentary - two hours - but most of last half hour was shot in our church (First Church UCC, Washington DC). John and Barbara, our ministers, both have short interviews.

That was not the (entire) reason for the call. Rather it was that the cousins are in it. When my younger sister and I say "the cousins" we mean by that our niece and nephew, who are her two boys cousins, its simpler that way. Nicole is featured in several shots and gets actual talking parts, along with Emily M., being the oldest of the kids there. My nephew Lucas is also in several shots. He is also in the photograph in the 15 Dec (Th.) Washington Post tv section listing of the program. In one pan you can see my sister, Ann. This was filmed two years ago. I vaguely remember this happening, and attaching little significance to it at the time. No telling where I was that Sunday. It was funny seeing the younger versions of Nicole and Lou.

In this particular segment of the film the Imam Yahya Hendi, a prominent local preacher, came to our church to deliver a guest sermon. Hendi is a Chaplin at Georgetown University and the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. In preparation for this Imam Hendi led the Sunday school children through the daily ritual prayers Salah - Wikipedia, one of the five pillars of Islam Five Pillars of Islam - Wikipedia. Glancing through the paper I saw the Washington Post has a good feature article on Hendi Muslim Leader Forges Interfaith Accord in Sunday's paper.

To all the people irate over my having used wikipedia links in this post or that I named it after an old Joy Division song: sorry.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005
Herndon's day without a Mexican.

Immigration has come barreling back into the national agenda. At the end of last month President Bush gave a policy speech at Davis-Monthan AFB that laid out his current thinking on this President Renews His Campaign to Overhaul Policies on Immigration. I think the White house has been willing to avoid this issue since his last proffered initiative on immigration. Now an Immigration bill is winding it way out of congress Immigration Pushes Apart GOP, Chamber. Everyone who has something to say now must say it Bloomberg Columnists. A brief check through the news coverage I made earlier (Google_news: using the string Immigration + policy or speech or bill) show this to be a regional issue 'Return every illegal entrant we catch' | ® and patchwork at that in its treatment HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE - Conservative News, Views & Books.

What set me off was a news piece that ran on the 13th and 14th on the radio. Local news segment during NPR's morning edition Herndon, Virginia's Minutemen December 14, 2005, Bill Redlin, WAMU . A Minuteman group is photographing the license plates of trucks picking workers up from the Herndon Virginia labor pick-up site to give to police and IRS. This is the official worker pick-up site Herndon built which made the national media briefly last summer Day-Labor Centers Spark Immigration Debate when the the city of Herndon was first forming the idea for the center (which made its vote and did open). So these gentlemen will sit out there all day long and take pictures, but it doesn't occur to them to take those jobs. That, by some calculation they possess, is not the best use of their time. Latter in the broadcast the spokesman of the Herndon Urban Minutemen came on to give their view, , (I'm hoping this one link has the whole story). He admits he is explicitly attacking the contractors, and tangentially intimidating the workers. For this he referred to their being exploited "working below minimum wage", hastily corrected within the same-breath to "working below the prevailing wage" as his half thought out free-market ideology caught up with him. This is just it, they are working for the prevailing wage. They work for the wage American contractors would desire to pay American workers, If all latin american workers were chased away. What is the motivation of the Urban minutemen for desiring essentially regulation (how true free-marketeers like to refer to law as) to affect this.

In the closer corner of my daily world I recall a movie A Day Without a Mexican (2004) that came through the University earlier this fall. Set in California it is a tongue in cheek look at what would happen if all our favorite day labors suddenly were no longer there. In my neighborhood about three block up the street there is a well used informal pick-up site by a 7-11 Google Local - New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20903 (white roofed bulding next to a red roofed bulding which is a pizza hut . I wonder how long it will be before we get our own complement of Jr. G-men to lurk about and report in on it.

Steering this back to the whole, there was a good article in last Sundays Washington Post outlook section Who's trying to cross our southern border? Everyone. There is a message in there for all those that protest that Mexico is writing our immigration policy - in efforts to deal with national and transnational migrations Mexico may have a voice Mexican official calls House immigration bill 'wrong,' calls for ... and there be diplomatic quid pro quo's to that effect - that fall short of conspiracy. In the academic sort of books I see - in my job as a cataloging clerk - the phrase migration crops up on covers often. If you use the phrase immigration it almost makes it a matter of individuals - something you could stop. With borders, checkpoints, policy, and cards of color. Migration is another level of abstraction, a movement of peoples. Beyond the reach even of princes. Something that happens in the course of human events, inevitable. Something that not with your guns, your fences or your cameras you are going to change. As well there will come a day when Americans will not want the southern wall to be so high and so well guarded. The day they want to pass through it, to get to jobs on the other side. That day will come.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Whole step forward, an interval of a second back

I read a post up on Dim Sum Diaries. I suppose this was a week or more ago. She (Mir) was trying to answer a question  on music scales for her daughter, and realized she couldn't. I can relate to that. My niece Nicole takes piano lessons, her brother recently traded in violin lessons for drum lessons from somebody named Sven, and persuded his father to pop for a drum kit, sweet. My other nephew now wants to take bongo lessons not guitar lessons. Is there such a thing as bongo lessons? None of them ask me music questions. I never took music lessons on any instrument as a kid. I was considered 'unmusical.' Years later in college when I bought my friend Nancy [Micaela]'s guitar so she could pay her campus parking fines and register for classes I discovered not knowing anything about music was somewhat of a drawback. I thought of this little thing I made for myself and my guitar (a kramer acoustic-electric hollow body) back then so I could try to figure out what key I might be playing in. It was never that clear, but I still use it anyway. For some reason I can't find that post of Mir's now or I would link it. Maybe I'm losing my mind.

Take a 4x6 index card and fold it in half. Take a piece of graph paper the same size as the folded index card. Along the middle rows write out the chromatic scale, you have to write the half steps as either flats or sharps. Write it out two or so times across the sheet. Do this again below skipping a row between. I do one for the major scale with a minor scale below it. Take an ordinary one hole punch and punch out holes that will line up with the scales in the form [whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, whole-step] for the major scale and [w-h-w-w-h-w+h] for the minor scale respectively. Each individual box on the graph paper is a half step - so you simply skip a box for the whole steps. You can label the holes for their place in the scale Tonic, Subtonic third forth fifth supertonic etc if you want. Then you slide the graph paper back and for to read the vairous keys. I drew the circle of perfect fifths on the back. For extra credit you can make another for the other minor keys.

Then I got to thinking, I did this in the days back before they invented computers. Now there must be java applets all over the web that do this for you; and there are: The Scale Cruncher!, and others that test you on key signatures practice and the like. I feel superseded.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Place of Origin

I am sensitive to how well the war in Iraq plays out. How it will impact on American influence and prestige. On America's moral authority. Not that that rests on Iraq entirely or even the middle east. I hear the criticism - of the criticisms. I take them seriously, even as I don't take their messengers seriously. We went into Iraq on a bizzare enterprise of dubious provence. We broke the Iraq that existed unveiled a model of a new Iraq and forced people to take sides. That places an obligation on us. Some take that obligation as justifying the whole. That if the current objective is right then criticizing any part of it is wrong, that it weakens the effort. A line the administration and its supporters suggest: that the fortunes of this state impeded allows the use of anything to contain any perceived threat. That no further legitimacy is needed than this need and the power to compel it by force. Also that however and wherever our soldiers stand. Standing behind them, supporting them, requires we acquiesce to, even explicity sign on to the policies of current administration.

I feel a pang of conscience for how the Vietnam war ended. It did not end well. I remember thinking that at the time. I should not like to see South Vietnams fate replicated in Iraq. I don't want us to hold on through another U S election cycle then back out leaving the government in Iraq to be cut to shreds by baathist's and theocrats. This sense has been sharpened by knowing my friend Tran, my smart and lovely friend Tran, these last few years. She remembers the end of the war too, her family was ordered out of their home in Saigon back to to her fathers town of origin. She grew up in a system that never stopped telling her that families like hers were bad people possibly in need of comprehensive "re-education". She of course was a wee tiny little thing back then.

  I am very aware that in her view of things republicans are the defenders of freedom, undercut by the weak willed democrats, who would then be its enemies. This is an oversimplification. But you can't help how you feel. I believe one of the first things she did as an American citizen is join the republican party.

Tran's Vietnam is the original Vietnam, the decisions of those days still live in some lives. I see the example of her life cutting across this debate both ways. On one hand Vietnam exists as a stark example of a shameful broken trust. On the other the quality of living in Vietnam after armed re-unification, should be a retort to rallying in on a simplistic patriotism: "My country right or wrong." "[Country x] love it or leave it, ingrate." Calls for automatic and uncritical support for the designs of the few or even of the many (I know of no "peoples" government which actually consist of the many, but either way...) beacuse anything less than a guarded unaniminity is a threat, ought to be brushed off and ignored.

The fall of South Vietnam left the Catholic and American associated populace locked out of the prevailing culture. Patriotism belonged to the Viet minh. Nothing to the rest. Tran could not rationalize her countries behavior. Equate it with right exercise of power. Could not justify its ways and allotment of privilege. Could not accord it legitimacy. She became unreconcilably alienated from it. The part of her family that stayed, learned that when the government knows your have relatives in the west you cannot get work. They essentially force the family to remit the livehood of those remaining. A few weeks ago she was part of a group that stood downtown in a cold November rain to protest a group from Vietnam that was in the U S raising money for Vietnamese victims of Katrina. They had no use for Hanoi's hypocritic grandstanding - no common cause - and were inclined to say so. They wanted the delegation out of the country.

Leaving her homeland can be read as an explicit admission that home, home being land plus a people and how they live on it, is not the ultimate depositary of truth and feeling. The emigrants of this world for better or worse in the slender baggage of their motavation, show by getting up and walking away from a place, their place, a desire for greater justice than coercion and mere order. Greater autonomy than obedience.

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Monday, December 5, 2005
Wasting time with Satellite Google: Ra5c edition

This is a follow on to the last post because I forgot to include it even though I had the idea in mind earlier that day. I was using google earth to look at an airplane mothball site in Arizona a few weeks ago and had noted a Ra5c on the ground. Over the week end after I remembered I had forgotten to include this. I used google local (formerly google map - Google Earth doesn't come in Macintosh flavor) on a dial-up connection to try to find it again. I would not recommend this approach. I did find it; though, and today over lunch I set about filling in some detail. I'm all about added value.

Here Google Local - TUCSON - Davis Monthan AFB + AMRC you will see a facility called the Aerospace Maintenance and Rehabilitation Center (AMRC). Part of Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson Arizona. There is a Ra5C down there somewhere. I should offer a prize or something if anyone can actually find it. To be fair I suspected when I first saw it that it was part of an off-base facility - there are many private scrapyards ajoining the base, but this didn't seem to be a scrapyard Google Local - TUCSON Pima Air musuem . It is in fact the Pima Aerospace Museum and they do have a vigi in their collection AAF/PASM: North American RA-5C (A3J-3P) Vigilante. If you crank google down to the smallest possible scale Google Local - TUCSON Pima Air Museum - Detail you should be able to see it. This web site Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (Global Security.Org) gives some background on AMRC at Davis Monthan.

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Thursday, December 1, 2005
My version of that smashing pumpkins' song

A minor change from the usual. I still get a lot of hits from people looking for Ra5c Vigilantes. Unfourtunetly I haven't scanned any additional pictures since my ancient iMac died and my scanner became its attendant paperweight. I should just go out and get a new scanner, but I'm stubborn. The old scanner still works I just need it to work with OS X. I haven't put any photographs up on this web log since I started to have to sFTP everything up to the server by hand, back in August. I hadn't wanted to deal with sorting out Radio web logs way of dealing with pictures [post - posting analysis: awkward but managable]. In the meantime this is among the last of the photo's I scanned previously. There are no Ra5cs here, three members of a Ra5c squadron though.
A picture named CV61_1979_ cvic_s
In this picture is my friend Mark Edmunds who I have written of previously. Yes he is an actual person. He is the person in this photograph who most looks like he belongs where he is. And he was. I am in this picture too. I'm the person who least looks like he belongs there, yet I did belong - more so than some of the others in this picture. The assembly here was all the junior enlisted people in our unit. This was on the USS Ranger CV 61. No Officers no Chiefs no First Class petty officers. An assortment of ratings are included: DPs Photographer Mates, Draftsmen, ISs, possibly a Sonar Tech or two.

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