Back of the Book — February 4, 2012

It's Tuesday morning, February 21, 2012, 07:37, and I've updated this Web page with the segment about the warm Winter days, and I've added some to the description of what we did after the last program. In the previous update I'd added more about what we did on this program. I'd also gotten the photographs of our sojourn in the snow storm after the last program posted here. Previously I'd updated the site with our tally total, and I'd fixed some typos. More to come. The original top of this page follows the arrow. ⇒ We are pitching on this program. We hope that everyone will pledge. There is no telling what will happen during a pitching shift, so I don't have much up here yet. I will update this Web page as soon after the program as I can.

Did you know that I've got a brief synopsis of some of the WBAI LSB meetings? Well, I do, and I've recently updated all of that.

The next regular WBAI LSB meeting will be held in executive session on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012, at the Local 1199 MLK Center, 310 West 43rd St. between 8th & 9th Aves. in Manhattan. As per the official announcement, “The meeting will be reviewing the proposal by the Management Search Committee vis a vis Program Director. .... This meeting will not be open to the public. However, all members of the MSC are invited to participate.”

The LSB had planned to meet on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. Well, that didn't work. We were able to hold a Delegates' Assembly which elected the Directors below, which are the same Directors we'd elected. Here's the Web page I did on this meeting and the various events around it.

These are the WBAI Directors elected for 2012

At a previous meeting the WBAI 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. And you can see the status of the streams at any time by clicking here. The stream was working at 02:47 this morning. The station has a Flash stream here, make sure you enable Javascript so it can work for you.

New WBAI stream! WBAI has just put up an experimental stream for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. This is a brand new, experimental stream. So if you have one of those devices you might try the link out. And let us know how it works for you one way or the other. That way the folks implementing it can iron out any kinks in the system.

WBAI is archiving the programs! Just go here and you'll be able to listen to this program any time for the next couple of months. You may need to scroll up one line to see the audio archive. Let me know if you find this feature useful.

If you want to listen to any part of the WBAI archive click here to go right to the archives. 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. Or to see only the two shows in this time slot click here.

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

In the table on the archive Web page Back of the Book and Saturday Morning With the Radio On 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!

In the Summer of 2009, there was a Pacifica National Board meeting held in New York. 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, 2009. 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 Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Manhattan the weekend of October 1-3, 2010. The audio has been posted for the first day of the meeting, the second day of the meeting and the third day of the meeting.

We are pitching on this radio program! If you can please call 1-212-209-2950 during the radio program and pledge some amount of money to help keep Back of the Book on WBAI and help keep WBAI on the air.

wbai premiums packed on camel
WBAI Premiums on Their Way!

If you want to pledge to the program via the Web it's best to do so while we're on the air, you need to go here and be sure to pick Back of the Book as the favorite show. Otherwise your pledge won't be counted towards the program.

UPDATE: We ended up raising $445 on the air during this program. We have not yet been able to find out if anyone pledged via the WBAI Web page. We'll update this information as things develop. Thanks a lot to everyone who pledged, and thanks to those who were answering the phones for us in the Tally room.

I should also point out that WBAI always needs help answering the phones. In order to answer the phones you'll have to get into the building. The building Management 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.

We had an odd development during this program. I nearly lost my voice! At about 40 minutes into the program I was jabbering away when I suddenly heard myself becoming very hoarse. I didn't feel anything, clearing my throat didn't work, there didn't seem to be anything to clear, and so my voice just got really thin all of a sudden. By the end of the program it had almost fully recovered, but if you listen to the archive of this program you can hear that I'm having quite a problem.

It's mid-Winter. The exact minute of mid-Winter will occur mere hours after we get off the air, at 12:22 PM this afternoon. At that moment we will be as close to the Vernal Equinox as we are to the Winter Solstice. You can find out more about the seasons and sub-seasons here.

We will enter late Winter on Sunday, February 19, 2012, at 8:19 AM (ET). After that we'll certainly be looking forward to Spring which will commence at 1:14 in the morning on Tuesday, March 20, 2012.

On this program we talked about Alexander Aan who works as a civil servant in Indonesia. He has a Facebook page and on it he posted that, “God does not exist.” This is, of course, something I've posted to this Web site, and said on the air, for years. Unfortunately, Indonesia does not have a First Amendment.

indonesian's coat of arms
Indonesia's Coat of Arms

Mr. Aan is now facing a five year prison term for the crime of blasphemy. Wow.

While obviously wrestling with questions that just about all monotheists ponder at some point in their lives Mr. Aan posted, “If God exists, why do bad things happen?” He also is reported to have posted, “There should only be good things if God is merciful.”

Well, it's a good thing that Mr. Aan has decided that the god he referenced does not exist because otherwise he'd have to conclude that said god is not at all merciful. Mr. Aan was attacked by a mob when he want to work, and the police arrested him on that blasphemy charge.

The local Chief of Police said that Aan had lied on his job application for saying on it that he was Muslim. I suppose that that might also be an extra charge brought against Mr. Aan down the line.

Indonesia recognizes six organized superstitions but is dominated by the one founded by Abul Kasem Ibn Abdullah. Indonesian Muslim intolerance for other superstitions, even other Abrahamic superstitions, has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of decades.

In Indonesia you have to state a religion on your application for an ID card. And it has to be one of those six organized superstitions; atheism is actually illegal in Indonesia! So besides the blasphemy charge Mr. Aan could face a revolving set of new charges based on his not being superstitious at all.

And since the program aired we've heard that some Muslims are demanding that Mr. Aan be beheaded for not believing in their merciful and loving god. The local cops are claiming that he now wants to not be an atheist and wants to be a Muslim. Well, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith scored a lot of “converts” in the same way, using the same tactics.

Yeah, it's not the 21st Century quite everywhere just yet.

A group called the Atheist Alliance International has sent a letter to the Indonesian government in support of Mr. Aan, and calling upon that government to drop the blasphemy charges against Mr. Aan and repeal the blasphemy laws.

On this program we talked about the scary topic, for those of us who are at a certain age, of Alzheimer's Disease.

One recent study has shown that people who exercise can stave off the onset of Alzheimer's Disease longer than those who are sedentary, like me.

This study involved a somewhat small number of individuals. At first the researchers saw only a slightly better trend towards delaying Alzheimer's Disease for the group that exercised over the group that didn't. But then they looked at the people who have the APOE-e4 gene variant, which alone makes one 15 times more likely to get Alzheimer's than those without it. They found that among those with that gene variant the exercising group had about the same amount of amyloid plaque in their brains as the people in the study who didn't have the APOE-e4 gene variant, while the sedentary group with the APOE-e4 gene was already progressing through the stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

Well, Pickles of the North does keep at me to go out for more walks. Maybe I should do that.

The second study that we talked about was done by researchers at Columbia and Harvard Universities. They were looking to see why it is that Alzheimer's Disease seems to spread through the brain like a communicable disease.

It has been known that Alzheimer's Disease involves amyloid plaques and a misshapen protein called tau. The amyloid plaques are found outside the brain cells that get destroyed by Alzheimer's Disease, but they are not inside those cells. The tau protein is found inside the cells. So the scientists genetically engineered mice to produce human tau proteins in their entorhinal cortex, which is where the disease tends to start in humans.

So in the mice the scientists observed that the tau proteins were indeed produced in the entorhinal cortex, which was the direct result of gentically engineering the mice to do so, and those cells began to degrade and then die. Over the next two years the scientists observed that the cells near the entorhinal cortex also began to degrade and die off. And this phenomenon was seen to spread out from the entorhinal cortex, and tau proteins were observed in those cells.

The mice were made to only produce the tau protein in the one set of cells. Once the cells beyond that area began to experience the same degradation and death from the tau protein it showed that the destructive protein was able to proliferate like a pathogenic disease. The only way the tau proteins could get beyond their original place in the mouse brain was for the tau proteins to proliferate from one nerve cell to the next.

The progression of the disease in the mice looked just like what is seen in the brains of humans with Alzheimer's Disease.

So the scientists figure that if they can somehow block the creation and/or the spread of the tau protein they may be able to stop Alzheimer's Disease from doing more damage in brains where it's already being produced. And maybe they can prevent it it from being produced in the first place in healthy brains. They suspect that the amyloid plaques may play a role in this too, possibly by creating conditions outside the cells that induce the cells to start producing that deadly tau protein.

So some mysteries that have surrounded this awful disease have been solved. Maybe in the not too distant future scientists will come up with ways to slow, stop or even prevent Alzheimer's Disease. I just hope that they come up with the great discovery in time to help me out!

We talked a little bit about the group calling itself “Anonymous” having released on the Internet a 15 minute excerpt from a teleconference between the FBI and Scotland Yard this past fortnight. The topic of the teleconference was how to arrest members of the hacking group Anonymous!

Here's a link to the recording on YouTube.

The group posted a message on Twitter that said, “The FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now.” Yeah, I bet that they might be interested!

The FBI has been notorious for quite a few years for being behind the times when it comes to modern technology. They apparently can't even keep their own E-mails which send out the details for getting into their teleconferences secret.

premature cherry blossoms in January
Premature Cherry Blossoms Wilting in Cold Air

The weather this past fortnight has been all over the place. We've had cold days, but we've also had a number of nice enough days when it's been “unseasonably” warm.

I really like it when it warms up a bit in the Winter. But this has an effect on other things. To the right is a photograph of a phenomenon we've seen this Winter. It's a cherry tree that had blossomed as soon as a couple of warm days came around, and then the late January frost got to it.

Well, trees have evolved to be able to deal with such weather variations. So this young tree will probably blossom again when Spring really does get here. And it'll survive a premature blossoming, or two.

Pickles of the North finds this sort of weather puzzling. They just don't have anything like it where she comes from. She does get her cold enough Winter days, however. She figures some good, cold Winter days will help her to deal with the sweltering Summer days we've sometimes been getting in the past few years.

In New York City, over the decades of global warming, we have experienced what we've come to call mid-Winter thaws. These usually involve a sudden infusion of warm air from the south some time in January or February. These are usually the weather systems that have produced the record high temperatures of past years that you see in weather reports during the Winter months. Mid-Winter thaws tend to be longer than the short sets of warm days we've seen so far this Winter. A mid-Winter thaw, while not precisely defined, should last close to a week or more to really be a thaw. But I'll take a couple of warm days in a row.

I much prefer warm mid-Winter days to the sort of Winter weather we had after the last program, which you can see a sample of below.

Pickles of the North in the snow
Pickles of the North in Her Element

After the last program we walked around in Battery Park, as usual. And there was a snow storm going on!

Here's Pickles of the North enjoying the weather.

Pickles is also holding my bag while I take photographs. I really was freezing my hands off during this little excursion. It was cold and the wind chill made it a lot worse out there. I also can't work our little camera with gloves on, so I was bare handed when it was not a good idea to be anything other than fully bundled up.

snowy battery park looking south
Looking Toward the Battery Park Promenade

We came in through the usual entrance to Battery Park. This photograph was taken just past the flagpole there. Ahead of us are the steps down to the promenade. Beyond that is the Upper New York Bay, which is completely obscured by the snow storm.

snowy battery park promenade looking east
Looking East on the Battery Park Promenade

Here's what it looked like to the east on the promenade. A mechanized snow plow had gone through some time earlier in the morning.

Nobody's been sitting, or sleeping, on any of these benches overnight.

If you look very closely you can see the slight silhouette of a crane on the Brooklyn waterfront. Nothing else in Brooklyn can be seen through the snow storm.

That's the Staten Island Ferry escaping through the right side of the photograph.

snowy battery park promenade looking west
Looking West on the Battery Park Promenade

The view to the west is similarly obscured by the storm. Usually you'd see the business towers of Jersey City across the Hudson River in this view.

You would also usually see joggers in their yuppie jogging outfits bounding up and down the promenade at this hour, and you usually see tourists, lots of tourists, heading down this way to get to the boat to Liberty Island. Not in this storm though.

slip #1 in the snow
Slip № 1 at the Southern End of Manhattan

I thought that Slip № 1 was looking particularly forlorn in this storm.

This is the southernmost official way into the Upper New York Bay from Manhattan. It's not used much now, and on this day it was just one more deserted looking part of Battery Park.

After we got done going through the park I had to go pee at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. While washing my hands there I found that I couldn't feel things very well with my hands, and when the hot air dryers warmed them up all of my fingers from the second joint to the tip were in pain. It seems I was flirting with frostbite on this little walk.

woman walking west in batter park show storm
This Was the Only Other Person in the Park

We hadn't seen anyone else in the park that morning, until we saw this one person walking west. I don't know where she came from. She hadn't walked past us, so I think that she may have walked from the west side of the promenade and then turned around part way across it and walked back the way she'd come.

At any rate, she was the only one we saw in the park besides ourselves on this snow storm morning.

It was in some ways one of our more interesting walks in the park after a program.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even though the gag rule was lifted in 2002. 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.

One popular list the “NewPacifica” mailing list. Founded October 31, 2000, this list is sometimes lively and as of early 2012, has 685 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 Saturday Morning With the Radio On 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 © 2012, R. Paul Martin.