Web links related to the Back of the Book program of April 12, 2004

It's Sunday evening 4/25/2004 21:12:00 and this Web page is done. We got to the below stuff and more. The E-mail we read on this program is below. Here's to more of the same.

The Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI and four other radio stations, has started to re-make itself. WBAI has already had its first Local Station Board meeting. The next WBAI LSB meeting will be held this Thursday, April 15th at 6:30 PM at the Musician's Union in Manhattan. The address is 322 west 48th St. in Manhattan. This meeting will include Public Comment and is wheelchair accessible. The public is invited to attend, and you can even record the proceedings if you want.

WBAI now has a program schedule up on its Web site. The site has gotten many of the individual program pages together to provide links and such, so check it out.

Our colleagues from Off the Hook now have both a RealAudio streaming web cast operating, and a new MP3 stream both of which were working at 9:22 PM last night. The MP3 feed is now the preferred feed.

The Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI, has revamped its Web site and now has something called the Pacifica Lounge where you can post messages about Pacifica, WBAI and other Pacifica radio stations. This may be a good thing, and of course there are other, long term fora in which to participate.

WBAI also has a forum on its Web site now. You have to register to post messages, but anyone may read the messages.

Jury Duty Notice

So after the last program I came home and had to just stick around for a couple of hours before reporting for federal jury duty. What a drag!

I was supposed to get there at 8:30 AM. In fact I got there about ten minutes late, but that wasn't a problem. There was a long line to get in and there were a lot of other potential jurors in the line as well. I was directed to one place, and they had someone outside the jury room I'd been directed to whose job it was to send me someplace else. Good thing I wasn't supposed to report to that room though because they'd already started one of those lectures they give sometimes about jury duty.

Eventually I got directed to some folks sitting outside a courtroom. They marked me as present on their list and had me take a pen and go inside.

This was one enormous courtroom. Cavernous, I call it. The sign outside said it was a courtroom that dealt with immigration. It was set up with quite a number of large, plush chairs that the federal judges must sit in when they're all assembled and deciding some big thing, like what to have for lunch.

I got directed to an area of seats and noted that although there were quite a number of people already sitting there the place had a lot of seats. Well, we waited for another half hour or so before they told us that the judge would be in to talk to us “shortly.” All this time people were still coming in and filling up the spectator seats in this big courtroom. At 9:30 AM, a full hour after we we all supposed to have gotten there, some people were still straggling into the courtroom. It didn't matter. No one said anything to them about being an hour late. And here I'd been rushing and worrying about being something like ten minutes late.

The judge didn't talk to us until about 10:10 or so. Turns out they're choosing people to sit on a specific trial. The defendants, their lawyers and the prosecutors were introduced and then they all left. We were required to fill out a 39 page questionnaire!

I don't know that they're going to like some of my answers to their questions. At one point they ask for a list of the newspapers and, magazines I read along with the radio programs I listen to and the TV programs I watch. I simply refused to answer those questions, or any like them. So if I'm in jail for the next program you know why!

Between the judge's speech and the distribution and filling out of that questionnaire I didn't get out of there until something close to noon. From the numbered questionnaires it looks like there were 200 potential jurors in the room. From this number they're going to have to pick 12 jurors and, I guess, two alternates. I don't know, maybe for federal juries they pick more than two alternates.

I let them know on the questionnaire that I have diabetes and that if they wanted me to sit on a jury I'd need to drink a lot of water and go to the can every half hour or so. They have us calling a phone number where they give us instructions. The last instructions we got were to call again in a week for more instructions! We'll see how this works out in the long run.

A new study is suggesting that life could be ubiquitous in the universe. Some scientists have suggested that as many as 5% of the stars we see in the night sky might have planets supporting life orbiting them.

This doesn't mean that the little green men are going to be hanging out on those planets though. Most of the life would probably be single celled microbes. But even that would change our view of the universe!

Of course if you get enough planets with microbial life on them you stand a good chance of multicellular organisms evolving on those planets. And would evolution keep on going until sentient life existed on some planets?

These numbers are interesting because of what they do when you plug them into the Drake Equation, which is supposed to guesstimate how many civilizations which could communicate via radio might exist in the milky Way galaxy.

Of course, we haven't actually heard from any of those civilizations even though people are diligently listening for their signals.

I'm glad to see that some folks are challenging this “Homeland Security” crap that prevents some folks from being able to fly on aeroplanes! To me it's clearly a case of denial of due process, and very likely in some cases just another means of political harassment as well.

It now appears that pussycats have been around people for a lot longer than anyone had previously known. Archeologists are getting more information about the past and the origins of some institutions are getting pushed much farther into the past.

The Mistakes we Make

On this program we once again read from that 1898, book named The Mistakes we Make edited by Nathan Haskell Dole.

As usual, quotations from the book are set off by a green background.

Is Death Painless? — Dr. Roberts Bartholow, formerly dean of Jefferson Medical College, declared that he had seen persons die in all manner of ways, and he firmly believed that dissolution itself was not only painless, but in most cases blissful. Even where features are distorted it is by involuntary muscular contraction, and usually where suffering has preceded death the features take on a pleased expression as if the body were at perfect rest. Freezing to death is generally imagined to be the least painful of deaths, but the great Russian painter, Vasili Verestchagin, says of the prisoner defenders of Plevna, who fell by ones and twos in the road through the forest: “I closely examined the faces of the corpses lying in every imaginable position along the road, and convinced myself that every face bore the impress of deep suffering.”

Editor Dole is hedging his bets in this one. But then this was all total guesswork 105 years ago.

Dr. Roberts Bartholow (1831-1904) published a number of books in his lifetime including one in 1881, titled Medical Electricity A Practical Treatise on the Applications of Electricity to Medicine and Surgery. Oh my. Well, in those days electricity was a new thing and the doctors of the day had to experiment and get experience with it before they could cut through the crap and figure out what was really going on, and the table of contents for this book indicates that it isn't a totally wacky treatise, especially for the 19th Century.

At the actual moment of death, of course, everything shuts down. The brain is, by definition, no longer functioning and without brain function there isn't going to be any pain, nor is there going to be any consciousness to feel the pain.

Right up until the actual moment of death, however, pain is known to be a frequent companion of those who are about to die. The “pleased” expressions on the faces of the dead are the result of the muscles relaxing. People who have died in very painful, or terrifying, circumstances frequently have horrible expressions frozen on their faces. In such cases the final signals from the brain probably were still making these facial contortions happen and circumstances kept the muscles from going limp right after death.

The reference to “the prisoner defenders of Plevna” is about the Turkish soldiers captured at the Battle of Plevna in December 1877. The Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were having another of their many wars in 1877, and the town of Plevna was an important bastion that the Russians needed to take.

The Russians finally did take it and ended up capturing something like 45,000 Turks. The Ottoman commander of Plevna, General Osman Pasha, was shipped off to Russia to be a prisoner for less than a year. His ordinary soldiers, however, didn't fare so well. The Russians kept them in an open field and they were not given food or medicine, the local river was contaminated by all of the corpses that were in it. Three thousand prisoners of war died before the forced march to the POW camps began. Of the 42,000 who set off on that march only 15,000 arrived at the camps. These would be the men whom the painter Verestchagin was describing.

Fountain Pens and Typewriters — The fountain pen is not a recent invention. In 1824 Thomas Jefferson saw one in use and wrote to General Bernard Peyton to get him one. The first English patent for a fountain pen was granted in 1809; the first American one in 1830. The first recorded patent for a typewriting machine is by an Englishman named Henry Mill and is dated 1714. In 1841 a Frenchman named Pierre Foucalt invented a practicable machine. He was blind. The modern machine is due to an American named Sholes, who brought it to perfection in 1873.

Well, this is, of course, something I know about, having a fascination with writing instruments of all sorts, especially old and/or “obsolete” ones.

A couple of years ago I saw one person around WBAI wearing a T-shirt proclaiming that individuals the wearer identified with had been the sole inventor of the fountain pen and the typewriter, along with almost everything else ever invented. Well, the truth is that no one person invented with the fountain pen or the typewriter. Both evolved over time.

The fountain pen started its evolution right after the “steel pen”, which is usually called a nib today, was invented in the 18th Century. Prior to this various brushes, reeds and feathers had been used to write with ink. After a short while someone realized that if they could get more ink stored in the nib they would have to dip the pen a lot less. So the shape of the nib was changed a bit and we got what was called a “reservoir pen.” There are some who say that this sort of pen is mentioned in a manuscript from the 10th Century, but of course that would not have been made of steel. In any case, the fountain pen evolved from the reservoir pen.

Throughout the 19th Century fountain pens were improved and patented, and the patents were fought over. No one person invented what can be called the fountain pen.

The same is sort of true for the typewriter. Various people tried to invent machines that would allow an individual to produce a manuscript with a standard typeface rather than the longhand that folks were restricted to. Henry Mill did invent a typewriter, but it wasn't something that was really practical. Obviously it did not revolutionize the mechanics of writing because we have no record of general use of Mill's typewriter in the rest of the 18th Century. However, those of us who used to have to take Morse Code back in the 20th Century called the typewriter we write the letters on a “Mill” after Henry. There were a lot of folks who tried to invent the typewriter over the next couple of hundred years. The person who finally invented a model that could just begin to be usable was Christopher Latham Sholes(1819-1890) who brought out his machine in 1873. For more information than you probably care to know about the history of the typewriter you might consult a book titled The Wonderful Writing Machine by Bruce Bliven, Jr. Random House, 1954, Library of Congress Catalog Number 54-5955. Yes, I have read this book and I liked it.

Moses had no Horn — The Hebrew for “shone” is qâran, to emit rays; for a horn, is qeren. The early translators confused the two by translating the passage in Exodus describing Moses on his descent from Sinai as facies cornuta, “his face was horned,” instead of “his face shone.” Hence artists have represented Moses with a horn, as if it referred to his power symbolized.

I read this mostly because this was a program I started out wishing those who care about such things a “Hopping Oyster and a Merry Underpass.” The Ten Commandments had also been on TV, as usual, the week before.

Artists did used to represent Moses with horns and a whole lot of people actually used to think that Jews had horns. No kidding, people really thought this. Of course I don't know that the Moses cited in the Bible ever really existed. His details seem an awful lot like various other religions' myths. I don't know that Emmanuel (aka Jesus H. Christ) ever existed either. Of the founders of the three most prominent branches of the Abrahamic superstitions only Abul Kasem Ibn Abdullah( aka Mohammed) is actually known to have existed and his life story is seriously mythologized too.

We got to some of the mail on this program. We present the E-mails now. Our first one had been postponed from an earlier program due to length.

Subject: found cell phones.
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2004 16:02:18 -0500
From: Toure
To: rpm@glib.com

Hello R.Paul and Pickles. Since you guys seem very knowledgeable about technical things I thought I would email you in the hope that you could answer my questions. By the way I emailed an almost identical email to Emanuel Goldstein at “Off the hook.”

Last week I found a cellular phone on the highway. The battery was dead and the phone was covered in mud. I took this phone home and cleaned it. I also was able to charge it’s battery with an old 6 volt lead acid battery charger and a set of alligator clips. When I pressed the power button, the phone came to life. I tried to dial a phone number, but as to be expected, the phone’s service was disconnected. I then dialed 611 to speak to an AT&T operator since the phone had the AT&T logo on it. When I called AT&T the operator told me that the previous owner’s information popped up on their computer when I called them. I explained to the operator that I found the phone and wanted to give it back to the owner. The operator told me to hold on the line while she attempted to dial the owner’s home phone number. Minutes later, the operator then told me that the owners number had been disconnected and she had no way of contacting him; she advised me to turn the phone into the police and perhaps they could return it to the rightful owner (laugh).

I decided to give the owners phone number that was displayed on the phone a call because I didn't know what else to do. By some strange luck, the owner had left a message informing any callers that he now has a new phone number. I then called this number and spoke to the owner (Joe). Joe told me that he lost the phone while wiping snow off of his car during the recent big snow storm and dropped it on the highway. I was also told that he reduced his service from a 60 dollar per month bill to a 20 dollar per month bill and that he had 2months left on his contract. He then told me that he has gone through 2 other phones since then and now has a different service provider. Joe also said that he has no need for the phone anymore.

I told Joe that I did some research on cell phones and found out that lost and stolen phones are places on some kind of ban list, this list registers the phone’s IMEI number, and when the phone is taken to a cell phone provider, they check it up against this ban list and will deny your request to activate the phone. I was also told by AT&T that the phone was indeed on such a list and that the only one who could remove the ban was the owner.

I then asked Joe if he could do me a small favor and give AT&T a call and remove the phone from the ban list; his reply was “I will see what I can do, and I will call you back.”

My question is this: will Joe be able to release the phone even though he technically still has a contract with AT&T? He also expressed to me that he was worried that if he did allow me to activate it, he might be billed for all of the calls. I also would like to know if there are cell phone service providers that would still activate the phone for me regardless of the ban by AT&T and who are these companies? I would like to know this because Joe didn't sound too enthusiastic about calling AT&T and I don't want to have to keep calling him and reminding him only to have him turned off to the idea by my pestering.

Finally, I have discovered in my research that it is sometimes possible to change the IMEI number. How difficult is this to do? I happen to have an Ericsson cell phone that has a perfectly good history, it was given to me by a friend who upgraded to a new phone after his contract ended; Is it possible to take the Ericsson’s IMEI number and put it into the phone that I found? By the way the phone that I found is a Motorola 60i (t) and I think its digital.

I understand that this subject is probably best for Emanuel Goldstein, but I thought you might know something about the subject also.

One should always be careful about trying to charge batteries with devices that are not specifically intended to be used for charging those particular batteries. You can cause a small explosion if things go wrong.

From the description above I just don't know if Toure can get any use out of that cell phone. If it has an identifier that can be swapped out then maybe, but if it's manufactured with its identifier as a part of the actual chips that make up the phone then I don't think it's going to be possible to reset it for use by another person on another network or anything like that. I am, however, no expert in this field so others may have better data about this than I.

Subject: Couple of items
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004 20:39:10 EST
From: Seth
To: rpm@glib.com


It was good to see you at the Local Board meeting. On the one hand, I found it boreing--but, as you pointed out, it was an historic event, so it was worth being there.

Re: your last show, two items:

When speaking of an early steam engine, I think you were referring to Hero's Engine. Here are two nice little websites about them. The first shows the classic illustration of such a device:


the second site shows various interesting recreations of it:


You also mentioned me volunteering on the phones during Sidney's show. Althought I'd be glad to do so, he had others volunteering. I did want to get the ball rolling for his fundraising, so I did call in with a good-size pledge.

Regards to you and P.O.T.N.

By-the-way, sometimes I drop by The Center, and see--from the schedule posted at the front desk--that a Bi meeting is in progress. Do you ever attend them any more?


Seth is a regular listener, correspondent and contributor to Back of the Book, Carrier Wave and WBAI. Yeah, I guess the first WBAI Local Station Board meeting was pretty dull for the folks sitting in the audience. It was fraught with stuff for those of us on the LSB though!

Yes, Hero, or Heron, was the guy. And nobody did anything more with his invention for another 1700+ years.

I haven't been to a meeting of the bisexual group in quite a while. maybe I should go though.

Subject: the Passion
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2004 03:45:12 -0800
From: __________________________
To: rpm@glib.com

Ayn Rand's Objectivists have denounced doctrines of altruism as patently destructive for decades but Now You SEE!

Um, Okay, cell phone correspondent.

Subject: question
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2004 23:12:40 EST
From: Mark
To: rpm@glib.com

dear r paul-

can you tell me why horses have tails?

your new friend- mark

The same reason why humans sort of do and sort of don't have tails: evolution. Horses' tails aren't really all that long, but they grow a copious amount of hair. This is something that evolved from previous ancestors of the horse, as is the case with we humans as well. You'll note that the horse's tail is mostly hair which makes it useful to flicking away flies and other insects from the animal's hindquarters and yet it's lighter than a flesh and blood tail would be. This latter feature is useful in an animal which primarily survives by being able to outrun its predators.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even now that the gag rule has been lifted. However, there is the Internet! There are mailing lists which you can subscribe to and Web based message boards devoted to WBAI and Pacifica issues. Many controversial WBAI/Pacifica issues are discussed on these lists.

Probably the most popular list that's sprung up is the “NewPacifica” mailing list. This one is very lively and currently includes over 400 subscribers coast to coast.

Being lively, of course, it sometimes also gets a bit nasty. All sorts of things are happening on this list and official announcements are frequently posted there.

You can look at the NewPacifica list here, and you can join the list from that Web page too. If you subscribe to the “NewPacifica” mailing list you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list.

There is the option to receive a “digest” version of the list, which means that a bunch of messages are bundled into one E-mail and sent to you at regular intervals, this cuts down on the number of E-mails you get from the list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

This list also has a Web based interface where you can read messages and from which you can post your own messages.

There is also the more WBAI specific “Goodlight” Web based message board. It is sometimes referred to on Back of the Book as “the bleepin' blue board,” owing to the blue background used on its Web pages. This one has many people posting anonymously and there's also an ancillary “WBAI people” board that's just totally out of hand.

When the computer in Master Control is working we sometimes have live interaction with people posting on the “Goodlight Board” during the program.

And then there is the historic “Free Pacifica!” list, which has been used to help organize resistance to Pacifica Management hijackers since the mid-90s. It's become a low volume mailing list because it's been eclipsed by some of the newer, more technologically advanced, lists. Just click on this link and follow the instructions, and you'll be subscribed. This is a mailing list only, it doesn't have a digest option nor does it have a web interface.

My voice mail number at WBAI is 212-209-2996. Leave a message.

You can also send me E-mail.

WBAI related links

Free Pacifica Web site

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

Back to the Back of the Book page

Back to my home page.

The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2004, R. Paul Martin.