Back of the Book — September 13, 2014

It's Friday night, October 10, 2014, 21:27, and I've updated this Web page with an expansion of what we talked about in terms of the Laniakea supercluster, and I've put in some more information about why we saw so many kites at Coney Island when we were there. Previously I'd put in more on the solar flare and coronal mass ejection we'd talked about on the air. More updates to come. The original top of this page follows the arrow. ⇒ This is our 28th Anniversary radio program! We plan to do the usual stuff, and cover current topics as well. It's a time for feeling good. And we hope that Uncle Sidney can be brought back very soon. More about that in the future. So we should read the usual Kafka story and get at starting season 29 of this very strange radio program. Check back for updates.

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 some of that.

I have also posted a whole lot of the minutes of the Pacifica National Finance Committee. I'm a member of that committee because I'm the WBAI LSB Treasurer.

The next WBAI LSB meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, at 7:00 PM at a location to be announced.

The WBAI LSB met on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, at 7:00 PM at The Theater for the New City, at 155 1st Ave. between East 9th and East 10th Sts. on the lower east side of Manhattan. Yes, we met in “the Community Space room.”

The meeting started a mere half hour late. We were supposed to pass a motion regarding a Management Evaluation Committee and then hold elections to populate it. Well, all sorts of stuff was going on at the meeting.

Once again the LSB did not get to a Treasurer's Report at this meeting; in fact there wasn't even a Treasurer's Report on the agenda. But I put out a written Treasurer's Report for all to read.

The faction had some members show up for this meeting who usually don't show up. And we all got into voting during the “excused absences” portion of the meeting, where the LSB routinely excuses the absence of everyone who hasn't attended. At the last meeting we voted and not all of the faction operatives got excused. This time the faction had the majority for this part of the meeting and they excused all of their members, but they didn't excuse one of the non-faction members who wasn't there. If you have three unexcused absences in a row you're off the LSB. Maybe this stuff about excused absences isn't just people venting. Maybe this will become a bone of contention now. What a way to spend time.

After the LSB meeting there was a Delegates Assembly to consider a proposed amendment to the Pacifica bylaws. The amendment would have allowed the PNB to try to amend the bylaws twice a year rather than the current once per year. I got to chair this meeting. What fun. The meeting did not pass the bylaws amendment. The meeting lasted an entire five minutes. Well, that's good, I think.

At a previous meeting the WBAI LSB voted to hold its regular 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.

Because WBAI was forced out of its studios by the flood waters' destruction of the building's electrical system we still have this alternate, temporary stream for the radio station! I do not know how long this emergency stream will be up for. If this stream isn't working let me know.

WBAI has put up a stream for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. 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. There is also another version of the archive here.

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 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!

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.

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Washington, D.C. February 7-10, 2014. The big news is that they have mandated that there be no negotiations with the four candidates for the PSOA for 60 days.

Given that the PNB has had a change in its membership that has affected the balance of power, this postponement of any negotiations may actually be a ploy by the people who want to sell WBAI to make that sale more likely. It is possible that a PSOA would allow WBAI to come back after a few years, but it would also not result in a big cash influx to the rest of Pacifica, and that is what some people at other Pacifica stations want. Well, things are pretty much up in the air with WBAI right now.

You can listen to the public parts of the quarterly PNB meeting by clicking on the below links:

The Friday session
The Saturday session
The Sunday session
The Monday session

Chaos and fighting continues on the PNB and at the Pacifica National Office a number of workers have quit their jobs in disgust. The people who want to sell off WBAI started on their destructive path with the firing of the Executive Director at a critical time. The Executive Director, Summer Reese, said she had a contract with Pacifica and that the PNB can't just violate that and fire her the way that they did. So the Executive Director barricaded herself and the National Office workers in the National Office along with some supporters. Yeah, Pacifica got some great publicity from all of this.

The disputed Executive Director issued a press release giving her side of this episode. Here is her press release. Luckily for the Pacifica stations Ms. Reese worked to get the CPB filings done by the March 14, deadline despite having been fired the day before. Had she not done this work Pacifica, and all of its radio stations, would have been ineligible for CPB funds, which have been a significant part of every station's budget.

UPDATE: There have been lawsuits filed, and judgments rendered in the cases brought by the minority PNB members against the actions of the majority PNB Directors. I'll keep this running battle updated on the appropriate Web page.

This is the 28th anniversary program of Back of the Book! We will be reading “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka, as is our tradition, and we'll talk a bit about the program over the years.

The Middle Third of 2014, is over. It ended not long after our last radio program. The Autumnal Equinox will occur on Monday, September 22. 2014, at 10:29 PM (ET).

The Great Attractor
The Center of the Great Attractor
photo credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

We talked about the discovery of a whole lot of stuff that has put us in our place.

Astronomers used the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope and other instruments to figure out what the “Great Attractor” is about and they have also discovered a new supercluster of galaxies that, it turns out, we're a part of.

The Great Attractor has been an astrophysical mystery for years. It's basically a region of space that a whole lot of galaxies appear to be gravitationally bound to, more or less. Figuring out more about it is difficult because of its enormity. The galaxies and galaxy clusters that are affected by the Great Attractor cover such a vast expanse of intergalactic space that they are all moving away from each other at varying speeds owing to the expansion of the universe.

But the astronomers have discovered that the Great Attractor is the center of a huge galactic supercluster, an amalgamation of galactic clusters. Part of what made it so noticeable to astronomers was that we reside in the supercluster that centers on the Great Attractor.

The newly defined supercluster has also been named. The name that's been chosen is Laniakea, which means “immense heaven” in Hawaiian. The name was suggested by Nawa’a Napoleon, an associate professor of Hawaiian Language and chair of the Department of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature at Kapiolani Community College.

This supercluster really does deserve the prefix “super.” It's about 500 million light years across and weighs about 1017 times the mass of the Sun. It is estimated that there are about 100,000 galaxies in the Laniakea supercluster.

So a mystery has been cleared up, although I'm sure that the crazies who had latched onto the mystery will continue their silliness. The Great Attractor has also been featured in some works of science fiction.

But the discovery that we are on the very outskirts of a huge supercluster also gives us a new perspective on where we are. Here, for example, would be the new address of WBAI's offices:
Third floor
388 Atlantic Ave.
New York
United States of America
North America
Solar System
Orion Spur
Milky Way
Local Group
Laniakea Supercluster

Postal rates for delivery to this location will vary by point of origination.

The Sun
The Sun on September 10, 2014
Image Credit: NASA/SDO

We talked a bit about the solar flare and the resulting coronal mass ejection (CME) that was still hitting the Earth while we were on the air. Actually, there were two CMEs from this very energetic solar flare, which was rated as a class X1.6 on the solar flare scale. The “X” indicates the most energetic type of solar flare, although the 1.6 indicates that it was not that big of a big one.

This solar flare peaked at 1:48 PM EDT on September 10, 2014, but the CME typically takes a couple of days or so to cross the 93 million miles of space between the surface of the Sun and the Earth. The charged particles from the CME began to hit the Earth and its magnetosphere the day before this program, but it was still tailing off while we were on the air.

Solar flares happen all the time, but most of the time they are headed off in some direction other than directly at the Earth. When they do hit us they react with the Earth's magnetosphere and cause a geomagnetic storm. Without the magnetosphere we'd be toast.

In the photograph from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on the left the solar flare is that bright spot just above the center of the image of the Sun. On the left and right limbs of the Sun you can see some solar material blasting out into space. We're viewing the subject solar flare from above, so we can't see how far out from the sun it's projecting, but if we could it'd be pretty impressive.

solar_flare_2014-09-10_closeup (19K)
A Closeup of the Solar Flare - the Green Dot is the Diameter of the Earth
Image Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun's diameter is currently quoted as being about 865,374 miles. The Earth's diameter is currently considered to be about 7,917½ miles. So the Sun is about 109 times the diameter of the Earth, and its volume is about 1.3 million times that of the Earth. On the right I have cropped an image from NASA of the site of that solar flare, and I've placed a green disk near it that represents the approximate diameter of the Earth as it would look if our little planet were on the surface of the Sun. The solar flare we're talking about is many times the size of the entire Earth.

As I said above, most solar flares do not come towards the Earth. But when one does it can cause all sorts of problems. On March 9, 1989, there was a CME that struck the Earth about three and a half days later. The brunt of the force hit the northern hemisphere, and the electrical circuit breakers of the Quebec, Canada hydro-electric facilities were all tripped by the resulting geomagnetic storm, taking down their electrical grid. Quebec's geology played a role in this. The result was a big blackout for Quebec.

It is thought that the largest CME to hit the Earth in historic times was one that was observed on September 1, 1859. Known as the “Carrington Event” the geomagnetic storm produced by this CME registered as one of the largest events ever recorded by the ground based magnetometers of the day, and the Aurora from the geomagnetic storm was seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. Electric telegraph systems in Europe and America failed, with some telegraph operators getting shocks even after their system's power supply was turned off.

Recently, NASA released a study that showed that a “Carrington Event” class CME had come roaring out of the Sun in July 2012. Luckily, this one didn't hit the Earth. It went off into space, crossing Earth's orbit at a point where the Earth wasn't. One of the scientists who conducted the study, Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado, told NASA, “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire,” and the amount of damage done by the geomagnetic storm and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) would have fried most of the electronics in use on Earth at that time. Imagine every consumer device, cell phones, TV sets, radios, computers, etc. just going permanently dead all at once. The Internet would be gone in a flash, the power grids would all be shot. Most cars and trucks would be immobilized because their electronics would have been destroyed. Aircraft that were in the air at the time would have rained down. Basically, had that CME hit the Earth in 2012, most of us would have died soon thereafter through starvation (no way to feed the dense populations of the cities) or some other consequence out of a Mad Max movie.

Yeah, the universe is not a safe place, so let's enjoy what we can of it.

Kites at Coney Island
Kites at Coney Island

More and more we've been seeing kites being flown on the beach, and even from the Boardwalk, at Coney Island for the past few years.

We have now found out that when we were at Coney Island on September 5, we were there for the annual Coney Island National Kite Festival which is organized by the Kites In Motion Club at Coney Island. Wow, they've got an organization for this stuff.

In this photograph we have a couple of the larger kites. To the right is some sort of squid or just a kite with a lot of tails. On the left is a very brightly colored, and smiling, fish kite. The fish kite was really large, on the order of 15 or 20 feet long. It was complicated for the folks flying it to get going, too. First it had to be faced into the wind so that the air could fill up the body of the kite, and that was not so easy to do. Parts kept collapsing, and of course every whim of the variable wind knocked the entire thing one way or another, frequently spilling air out of it and collapsing some part or another of it. The tail tended to have a particularly difficult time staying inflated.

Eventually they got it flying though and everyone on that part of the beach enjoyed it, especially some small children who were chasing it and whooping it up underneath it. Nice to see this sort of thing.

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 mid-2011, has 687 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.

We like to stay interactive with our listeners. Here are the various options for you to get in touch with us.

You can also send me E-mail.

And now you can even reach me on Twitter Twitter logo

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 © 2014, R. Paul Martin.