Web links related to the Back of the Book program of January 25, 2010

It's Sunday night, February 7, 2010 20:10, and this Web page is finished. I've added some more about the topics we got to on this program. After the arrow is the original top of this page. ⇒ We plan to get to the below topics and more tonight, and we also plan to get through some of the mail.

Did you know that I've got a brief synopsis of many of the WBAI LSB meetings? Well, I do, and I've recently updated this stuff a tiny bit.

There was a sudden Town Hall meeting held on Monday, April 13, 2009, at 7:00 PM at The Fortune Society, 630 Riverside Drive at 140th St. in Manhattan. Here's a flyer that was passed out at the event.

The next regular WBAI LSB meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 10, 2010, at 7:00 PM at The Soho Gallery of Digital Art, 138 Sullivan Street, between Prince St. and Houston St. in Manhattan.

The second regular meeting of the Fifth WBAI LSB was held on Wednesday, January 13, 2010, at 7:00 PM, at 388 Atlantic Ave. in downtown Brooklyn, New York.

At this meeting the independent members of the LSB were less scattered, and not all of the faction operatives showed up.

There was a Delegates' Assembly first. And at that meeting the WBAI Directors for 2010, were elected. They are Jennifer Jager, Alex Steinberg, Kathy Davis (Staff) and Nia Bediako (faction operative).

At the previous meeting the faction had succeeded in preventing Staff representative Delphine Blue from taking her seat. But the Pacifica National Board took up the issue and ruled that Delphine was in fact entitled to represent Staff on this LSB and at the Delegates' Assembly.

The FoBs disrupted the meeting, of course, and grumbled about the PNB deciding that Delphine blue was to be seated, instead of a faction operative from two years ago who isn't even Staff anymore.

This night's meetings will go down in history, literally. A reporter and photographer from the New York Times were there. The reporter was supposed to be doing an article on WBAI's 50th anniversary as a Pacifica radio station. But the craziness of the Delegates' Assembly and LSB meeting just caught his attention more than half a century of alternative radio broadcasting did. That article is here.

The article has a couple of photographs in it, and Pickles of the North and I are in the background in one. The other photograph shows faction operatives voting, one of whom seems intent on showing how nuts she is.

The reporter did talk about some of the past accomplishments of WBAI, but his main focus was on the meetings and the crazy stuff that happened at them. I think that the most comical exchange he quoted was this one between LSB Chair Mitchel Cohen and nutty faction operative Lisa V. Davis, “Lisa, you are out of order.” “Point of order, Mitch — this is nothing but a fascist dictatorship!” The FoBs don't begin to realize how nuts they sound. Unfortunately when election time comes around they're handled by their leaders so that their so called Justice and Unity Campaign slate sounds almost sane.

The faction was still trying to waste time by putting a motion to run “important matters” brought to the LSB past the incarcerated Lynne Stewart. They would have her voting by proxy, and that would violate the bylaws. They don't care, they just want to keep the LSB from doing anything. And it's really so cynical of the FoBs to exploit Ms. Stewart's situation like this.

And then we got around to a motion to rescind the election of the Treasurer. At the previous meeting the faction had gotten its choice in as Treasurer because they'd been able to keep one non-faction Staff member from voting and had dragged the meeting on for so long that another member had had to leave before the votes were cast. Previous notice was given at that meeting that the motion to rescind would be brought.

The faction objected, refusing to acknowledge the fact that just two years ago they had set the precedent for doing this sort of thing. They'd removed a non-faction member who'd gotten elected Vice Chair then. They have one set of rules for themselves and another for everyone else.

The motion to rescind passed. And there was an immediate election for Treasurer.

So the candidates got to speak. The faction's candidate got up and spoke about being a CPA. And everyone listened. Then I, as a candidate, got up to speak and the faction started to disrupt. Former Program director Bernard White came to the meeting. He didn't say anything, he let his FoBs act out on his behalf. And while I tried to say why I should be Treasurer, things like wanting realistic budgets, not the fantasy budgets my opponent in this election had supported when he'd been Treasurer for more than 3 years, Mimi Rosenberg, sitting next to Bernard White, wouldn't stop hollering. She really has gone off the deep end.

The LSB voted and I was re-elected Treasurer by a vote of 13 for me. 7 for my opponent and 1 blank ballot. It's possible that the blank ballot was the result of one person who'd previously voted for my opponent being influenced by Mimi Rosenberg's antics to not vote for Mimi's choice.

After a while I gave a Treasurer's report, consisting of the latest information and incorporating the report I hadn't been able to give at the previous meeting due to the disruptions. The defeated candidate, who'd been Treasurer for the previous three weeks, was allowed to give a report too. He got up and ranted against the current WBAI Management. Of course he's ranting against them, they're saving the station and Pacifica from bankruptcy. I'm sure he was grandstanding for his faction boss like a good FoB.

Lisa V. Davis started shouting about a figure that had been in the first draft of the WBAI FY10 budget. The figure was for the net surplus in September 2009, and it was $85,000,000. The mistake had been corrected and I'd explained it in an E-mail months ago, but I explained again that no one in their right mind was going to imagine that WBAI was actually showing an eighty five million dollar surplus for a month! And I again explained that the problem had been a misplaced asterisk in the formula that had filled that cell in the spreadsheet, a typo in the very complex spreadsheet document made by Management personnel. I bet the FoBs will still bring this up for the rest of the year.

The finances are really in dire shape. If the Winter 'thons at all of the Pacifica stations don't do well then all of these meetings could be academic.

At its January 21, 2009, meeting the LSB voted to hold its meetings on the second Wednesday of every month and/or the last Thursday of that month, subject to change by the LSB, which gives us the following schedule:

All of these meetings are set to begin at 7:00 PM.

WBAI 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.

WBAI has an official Web stream of what's on the air at any time! You can go here and pick which type of stream you want! If this stream isn't working let me know. The stream was working at 9:11 PM last night.

WBAI is archiving the programs! Just go here and you'll be able to listen to the program any time for the next couple of months. When you first go to the Web page you'll only see the WBAI programs for the past 7 days. If you want to see older programs you can click on one of the “See ALL Shows” buttons.

As an experiment try clicking here to go right to the archive entry for this radio program. You may need to scroll up one line to see the audio archive. Let me know if you find this feature useful.

You can also go here to subscribe to the podcasts of Back of the Book and Carrier Wave.

Back of the Book is now one of the programs that you can download, as well as listen to on line.

NOTE: A listener reported that the archive for the January 11, 2010, program was truncated at 91 minutes. So I reported this to the person doing the archives and he fixed it right away. So the archive for this program in intact now. Thanks to Michael for fixing it so soon, and thanks to the listener for pointing it out.

I'm glad to announce that the archives have seen some positive changes. In the table on that Web page Back of the Book and Carrier Wave are both in the Show column. The “Date and Category” column shows the date of the program. After the program I go in and write the details of the program and say which program it is. Of course I'd recommend that you just listen to both programs in this time slot!

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in New York City from Friday July 23, to Sunday July 26, 2009.

The meeting was held at the Beekman Towers Hotel, 3 Mitchell Place, in Manhattan, a couple of blocks north of the United Nations.

There's an election going on in Pacifica, so there were a few candidates attending and speaking during the public comment sessions. Some disrupted the meeting.

Here's the Web page I did about this PNB meeting and the amazing things that went on at it.

And the PNB has also met in Houston from Friday October 9th, through Sunday October 11th. The official audio archive of that meeting is here. It was not disrupted as the New York meeting was, although some of the same miscreants got out there to say stupid things.

The new Executive Director of Pacifica, Arlene Engleheart, has appointed a new interim General Manager of WBAI starting February 1, 2010.

On our next program, February 7/8, Back of the Book will be participating in the WBAI 2010 Winter 'thon which begins on Wednesday February 3rd.

WBAI is in financial trouble and we hope that you'll help out. There is hope for WBAI now that some important changes have been made. The Winter 'thon is one of the big ones here and the station needs to make money to stay afloat until the Spring 'thon.

We hope that you'll pledge to WBAI while Back of the Book is on the air in the wee hours of February 8.

If you listen to the radio program on tape or via the archives you probably won't be able to pledge during the program, but you can send us a check ahead of time. A regular one year membership is $25. If you want to send more than $25 that would be great. So, if you can, please send a check made payable to “Pacifica/WBAI” and send it to:

R. Paul Martin
120 Wall St. 10th floor
New York, NY 10005

And we hope that everyone who listens pledges or sends in a check.

I should also point out that we'll need help answering the phones. In order to answer the phones you'll have to get into the building. The building Management now requires that you get your name added to a list so you can enter 120 Wall St. So if you want to volunteer to answer phones for this 'thon you should call the WBAI switchboard at 1-212-209-2800 during business hours and let the folks in charge know you want to volunteer so they can put your name on the list. We always need more folks to answer the phones so if you want to volunteer to answer the phones for another program during this 'thon the above procedure is the way to do it.

Of course the big news item of this past fortnight was the major earthquake and the terrible series of aftershocks that have devastated Haiti.

I'm glad that WBAI participated in the Hope For Haiti Now Telethon on January 22nd. I hope we made a difference.

We talked about the geology of Haiti and why this earthquake happened, and why another one is possible in the not too distant future.

Haiti occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. There are actually two geological faults running through Hispaniola and Haiti, the fault in the south, the Enriquilla-Plaintain Garden Fault, was the one that slipped and caused the earthquake with its epicenter only 10 miles from Haiti's capital city Port-au-Prince. The last earthquake of this magnitude in Haiti had occurred along that fault line in 1770.

There is another fault line in the north of Haiti. This is the Septentrional Fault.

Basically, this is all about tectonic plates either grinding past each other or subducting one another.

At the Septentrional Fault there is a complex geological situation where the North American Plate is being subducted under the Caribbean Plate, and there are also some smaller plates involved. Most of Haiti is on one of these smaller plates. The Enriquilla-Plaintain Garden Fault is a “stick-slip” fault, where the Caribbean Plate and the small plate that Haiti is on are slowly grinding past one another.

In a stick-slip fault the land masses are being pushed past each other, but the solid rock of the plates doesn't slip very well. So nothing appears to move much for quite a while. But the pressure on the rocks in unrelenting so a lot of force builds up. Eventually there is enough force built up that the solid rock gives way and the pent up energy moves one or both plates. This is what an earthquake is, the moving of the plates past each other all of a sudden.

Also, earthquakes, like the faults that cause them, operate in three spatial dimensions. So it's not like there's just horizontal motion. The deep underground orientation of the part of the fault that's slipping can add to the damage caused by an earthquake.

So the tension in part of the Enriquilla-Plaintain Garden Fault has been relieved, but that fault runs the length of Haiti, and then some. So there are concerns about other parts of that fault now having extra pressure applied to them because of the recent movement from the earthquake and having another big earthquake in one of those areas. The Septentrional Fault in the north may also be affected by the recent earthquake and it might also slip.

So there are possible dangers in the future for Haiti from another large earthquake.

We also talked about a report that architects who'd gone to Haiti last year were aghast at the building practices there. Building codes either don't exist or are not enforced, and from design to construction materials most of the buildings were found to be seriously flawed. And of course this contributed to the high death toll when so many building collapsed upon their inhabitants when the earthquake struck. This is a tragic illustration of how it's important to pay attention to details, and how bad things can happen when details like building safety are ignored.

Now that the rescue phase is over Haiti remains devastated. The recovery for the island nation is going to take a long time. Given the overall poverty in Haiti, and the corruption and incompetence shown by its governments over the decades, recovery could take a very long time and there is the potential for a non-natural disaster to unfold there in the coming years.

On our previous program I talked about the white dwarf star T Pyxidis and the discovery that it's closer than had previously been thought. I also said that I didn't think that the doomsday language used in an article about it in the Web version of Astronomy magazine was justified.

I said that while T pyxidis will explode at some point in time when it reaches the Chandrasekhar limit it is too far away to really destroy life on Earth the way the article said it would.

I posted a query to the scientists who did the paper on T Pyxidis which was presented at the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C. and I've gotten a reply from Dr. Patrick Godon, here it is below.

Subject: RE: T Pyxidis
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2010 09:20:14 -0500
From: Patrick Godon
To: R. Paul Martin

Dear Mr. Paul Martin,

Thank you for contacting us for clarifications.

(please note below, the abbreviation: WD=white dwarf star). You are correct that the a supernova would have to be much closer to actually produce a mass extinction, something like 30light years (10 parsec) could destroy the ozone layers for hunderds of years. This is taking into account the energy that is observed to be radiated away as gamma rays and cosmic rays (e.g. this is explained in a paper by John Ellis and David Schramm from 1995, Proc.Natl.Acad. Sci.USA).

However, some recent work (by Hoeflich and Schaefer 2009) indicates that during a Type Ia supernova intense X- and Gamma- ray flashes (lasting of the oder of 1sec or a fraction of 1sec) can be produced with an intensity up to 10,000 times larger than inferred from observations. The reason for not being observed is possibly because of the shielding of the X- and Gamma- rays by the disk of material around the exploding WD. However, if the disk is seen almost face on then it is bellieved that the intensity of the radiation will be as expected from the theory, namely up to 10,000 times more than 'usually' observed.

Our present work on T Pyx indicates that it is closer than initially thought. T Pyx was thought to be at 3,500parsec and we found that it is possibly around 1,000parsec away (or even closer) - 1,000 parsec is a little more than 3000 light years. Previous works indicate that the disk around the WD in T Pyx is inclined at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees (the "inclination" of the system, where zero degrees means face on, and 90 degrees means edge on for the disk). We find that the inclination is rather 15 degrees, which means that if T Pyx goes supernova, then the intense flashes of X- and Gamma- rays will possibly not be shielded by the disk (since the disk is not masking the WD) and would reach us. Since these flashes would be episodic and would last only in the very early phase of the supernova, their effect would be mainly to affect satelites (their electronic components).

So, while the "continuous and normal" radiation from T Pyx going Supernova will not affect us, brief intense flashes of Gamma-rays and X-rays released in the very early phase of the Supernova could potentially knock down electronics in satelites.

The mass of the WD in T Pyx is 1.37 that of the sun, and it is accreting matter from its companion star (the "secondary" star in T Pyx) at a rate of about 0.00000001 (that's 10 to the power -8) solar mass per year. When the WD reaches 1.4 solar mass it will go supernova. So the WD needs just 0.03 solar mass, and at the above rate (10 to the power -8) it will take 3 million years (3 times 10 to the power 6). So a simple estimates shows that it will take 3 million years to go supernova. Of course all this depens on some theoretical works and observational works and our knowledge is limited, for example some other researchers do not believe that T Pyx will go supernova, however if its distance is indeed that close, then it would change their theory (so it is all a field of research which is not 100 percent certain for the moment).

Now it is believed that the chance of having a supernova exploding at only 10 parsec (30 light years) happens about every few hundred million years (based on previous work by Ellis and Schramm 1995, for example). So there are plenty of astronomical and cosmological events that could alter the life on this planet, and it seems they will all happen in the distance future when human race might have evolved such that they will be able to cope with that, unless we have self-destruct before.

Dr. Patrick Godon
Research Assistant Professor
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Villanova University
Villanova, PA 19085

So this clarifies the situation. The white dwarf star is probably not going to go supernova for another 3,000,000 years. And if T Pyxidis were to blow in the near term, which looks unlikely now, we might lose all of the satellites around the Earth, but we're not going to see all of civilization get obliterated. I thank Dr. Godon for clearing that up.

Mid-Winter will occur on Thursday, February 4th, at 12:39 AM (ET). Click here for more details about the seasons and sub-seasons.

The planet Mars is right overhead during our program! Of course no one in our signal area could see it during the program because we were under a thick cloud layer that would within hours produce a deluge of rain.

But Mars will be in pretty much the same position for several more nights. It makes its closest approach to us of the year on January 27th, and it reaches opposition, where it's directly opposite the Sun from Earth's perspective, on January 29th. These two things combined make it so bright. The fact that the Earth is in mid-Winter right now also helps to elevate Mars in the sky, from our point of view.

There are new claims for fossil evidence of life on Mars. We also talked about this on the program.

We also talked about the government of the so-called People's Republic of China shutting down the “Mr. Gay China” event that some gay groups were trying to stage there.

An hour before the event was supposed to have started eight cops came in and shut the whole thing down, saying the people running it did not have the proper permits. The real reason why the event was shut down was the homophobia of the Chinese government.

The organizers of the event knew they didn't have the permits (what kind of a permit do you need for a beauty contest sort of thing anyway?) but they also knew that if they'd applied for official permission to stage the event they'd have been denied that permission and it would have guaranteed that the government officials would have shown up to make sure that the event didn't happen. So instead they tried to fly under the government's radar and stage the event on the QT.

Well, their efforts at a low key event got dashed when a couple of Communist Party run newspapers published articles about it.

There were eight men who showed up to be contestants for the event, and from those the organizers will pick the one who will become “Mr. Gay China” and he will go on to the “Worldwide Mr. Gay” competition in Oslo, Norway.

Despite the decriminalization of homosexual acts in China in 1997, homophobia still abounds. Last Summer was the first time that gay pride events were held in China, and the police shut some down and let others go on. So there's really no telling what might be shut down in China these days.

New research has shown that the Y chromosome, the one that plays a very large role in making some people males, is not rotting into oblivion but is instead evolving!

Natural selection is acting on the changing Y chromosome and these changes will probably affect the rest of the genome. Exactly where the Y chromosome seems to be heading is not known at this time.

For many years it had been thought that there was a crisis in the Y chromosome, in both human and chimpanzee males, and that it might deteriorate to the point where males wouldn't be born anymore. Well, that could dampen the population explosion in a hurry. But now it just appears that males are all mutants and will soon be different from what we are now. Well, I guess that's better than extinction.

We talked a bit about the Supreme Court ruling this past fortnight that corporations can contribute as much as they want to political campaigns. On the one hand they've been getting around those laws for years already, but on the other hand this may open the floodgates to total corporate fixation on such campaigns. In the future we could see things like, “This President of the United States is brought to you by Microsoft,” or some other company. Hell, Fox is already trying to do this.

And what of multinational corporations? Will huge foreign companies blatantly try to elect politicians who will do their bidding? What happens when the so-called People's Republic of China, through its state owned corporations, starts putting huge gobs of money behind candidates for public office? They might say, “Hey you're already in debt to us for trillions of dollars, why not get Management and ownership combined?” Oh, what a future.

We talked about a survey that showed that the most popular passwords among almost one million social network users are horribly insecure.

The top 5 passwords in order of popularity were: “123456,” “12345,” “123456789,” “password” and “iloveyou.”

The accounts that are protected by such simple passwords get easily broken into by malicious hackers. I explained how passwords don't get stored on servers, but that a thing called a hash is stored instead. Lots of sites still use MD5 hashes, which is a 32 digit hexadecimal number. When you log in and give the server your password it creates an MD5 hash of it and checks that against the MD5 hash it has stored. I talked about how hackers are using a new database of MD5 hashes to just look up the original password, if it's 15 characters or fewer.

I suggested that people could actually generate their own MD5 hashes and use those as the passwords. You could get the MD5 hash of an entire file on your computer and use that hash for the password. The database for the 15 character passwords is huge, and no group that doesn't have governmental level resources is going to be able to store a database of all of the possible 32 bit hexadecimal numbers.

A couple of free programs that will generate MD5 hashes, and some other hashes as well, are MD5 Summer and Hashcalc.

Annoying blinking light in Master Control!
The bright, blinking light

So at the beginning of the program we came out of our intro music and I turned on the microphones and as soon as I did there was this bright, green light blinking away just on my left. This was new, and annoying.

In addition the adjustable track lighting was beaming right in my eyes. Pickles of the North was going to get up on a chair and adjust the lights, but Uncle Sidney came in to do it. He can just reach up and adjust them without standing on anything. Sidney also gave us a demonstration of how he could touch the ceiling.

So Sidney got the track lights adjusted better, and then we had a little discussion about the light. Sidney was in back of it and he said that there was apparently a siren associated with it that could be turned on! Oh, this is sounding more and more like a device that belongs in a radio studio — not!

Sidney told us that the blinking green light was there to come on whenever the microphones were turned on. That blinking light was quite a surprise and I found it very distracting. When you're doing a live radio program sudden surprises can interrupt things, and the blinking green light certainly got my attention.

I have since heard that this device is there to alert producers to the fact that the microphones are on and that that's why they can't hear anything coming out of the speakers, which we call monitors. I don't see how that's going to work unless someone tells them what that annoying blinking green light means. And in the time it takes to tell them that they could instead be clued in to the fact that when the microphones are turned on the monitors are disabled. And that way such people would actually learn something useful.

Eventually Pickles of the North took the hood off my Winter coat and put that over the blinking light. So that covered it up, until we left, and I guess that other producers will have to deal with it in their own way.

A plastic rock in Battery Park
A plastic rock attached to a litter basket

So after the last radio program Pickles of the North and I wandered down to Battery Park. We saw Zelda the wild turkey roosting in a tree near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, as usual. But while wandering through the park we noticed these odd looking things next to the litter baskets.

We looked and found that they're plastic rocks! What are these things about?

They appear to be connected to the littler baskets by wires. The wires appear to be there to anchor the plastic rocks to the litter baskets.

Another plastic rock
What are these things?

We'd thought at first that they were rat traps. We have seen rats down at Battery Park, all right. But there are no obvious holes for the rats to go in. We wondered if maybe they were putting out some noise that's too high pitched for humans to hear but which can drive the rats away.

The rocks are all the same and they are obviously plastic. The rats aren't going to care what they look like, so the camouflage must be a ruse directed at human observers. Somebody doesn't want us to notice these things, whatever they are.

We didn't dare to try turning one over. Maybe it's the latest Homeland Security "Terrorist Detector" or something. Maybe space aliens put them there to trap people who are slightly more observant than average. Maybe if you turn one over to examine its underside you get beamed up to the mother ship and abducted.

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. UPDATE: The bleepin' blue board has had to add a step for folks to get onto it because it's under attack by spambots. When you click on the above link you may be asked for a username and password. Type in Username: poster Password: enternow

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

Our very own Uncle Sidney Smith, whose program Carrier Wave alternates with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

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

You can also send me E-mail.

WBAI related links

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

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The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2010, R. Paul Martin.