Category: History

“Take picture now of what we have…”


Illustration by Tom Bachtell

In June, 2001, Konstantin Petrov, an immigrant from Estonia, got a job as an electrician at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower of the World Trade Center. He was given a little office without cabinets, and after he built a shelf there, by bolting a steel plate to an exposed steel girder, he sent his friends a photograph of himself lying across it, and boasted that if the shelf ever collapsed the building would go down with it…

Petrov worked the night shift. This suited him, not only because he had a day job, as the superintendent of an apartment building at the other end of Manhattan, but because he was an avid photographer, and the emptiness of the Trade Center at night, together with the stunning vistas at dawn, gave him a lot to shoot, and a lot of time and space in which to shoot it. In the summer of 2001, he took hundreds of digital photographs, mostly of offices, table settings, banquettes, sconces, stairwells, kitchen equipment, and elevator fixtures. Many shots were lit by the rising sun, with the landscape of the city in the background, gleaming and stark-shadowed, more than a hundred floors below.

This past summer, Erik Nelson, a documentary filmmaker, was trying to finish cutting a film called “9/10: The Final Hours,” for the National Geographic Channel. He’d dug up all kinds of footage shot the day before the September 11th terrorist attacks, but very little of what the buildings had looked like inside. Amid a desperation for interiors, there was talk of abandoning the project. Then one of Nelson’s film researchers came across a trove of Petrov’s pictures, on an Estonian photo-sharing site called Fotki.

Nelson felt as though he had stumbled on the tomb of King Tut. For whatever reason, this Petrov had turned an archivist’s eye on the banalities of an office building and a sky-top restaurant, which, though destroyed in one of history’s most photographed events, had hardly been photographed at all. The pictures were beautiful, too. Devoid of people, and suffused with premonitory gloom, they made art out of a site that most New Yorkers, at the time, had come to think of as an eyesore. Petrov seemed to be a kind of savant of the commonplace, as though he’d known that all of it would soon disappear down a smoking pit. Inadvertently or not, he left behind a ghostly record, apparently the only one, of this strange twentieth-century aerie, as though he’d been sent here for this purpose alone.

Another Estonian named Dmitri Don developed one of the first photo-sharing sites – for Estonians to share photos from America with friends back home. Fotki is where Petrov’s photos live. RTFA for the whole tale.

Petrov died less than a year after 9/11 in a motorcycle crash on the West Side Highway.

“It’s a big lesson to all of us,” Dmitri Don said. “Take picture now of what we have.”

Thanks, Mike

Republican whines about early voting – too many Black voters!

A Republican state senator in Georgia has vowed to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County due to the fact that the area is “dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches.”

…State Sen. Frank Millar rants that…”Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election,” Millar wrote in an email. “Per Jim Galloway of the AJC, this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist. Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea…”

Millar’s vow comes in response to news that DeKalb plans to reserve Oct. 26 for early voting…

“I have spoken with Representative Jacobs and we will try to eliminate this election law loophole in January. Galloway summed it up, ‘Democrats are showing their hand on how they might boost their numbers…”

This creep’s racist buddies may be callow enough to try to deny their bigotry saying they’d reverse their demand if there was the slightest chance Georgia Republicans might acquire a significant number of non-white voters.

Anyone holding their breath waiting for that to happen?

Thanks, Mike

Scottish Independence — Vulgate Opposition

If Scotland gains its independence in the forthcoming referendum, the remainder of the United Kingdom will be known as the “Former United Kingdom” …….or FUK.

In a bid to discourage the Scots from voting ‘yes’ in the referendum, the Government has now begun to campaign with the slogan “Vote NO, for FUK’s sake

They feel the Scottish voters will be able to relate to this.

If I was hanging out with my old mate, Morris, in his favorite pub in Greenock – that might get me nothing more than severely pummeled!

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Scientists retrieve sea ice imagery from dawn of satellite observation

Images from the onset of the satellite age, long languishing in storage, have been recovered by University of Colorado researchers, shedding light on sea ice variations going back 50 years.

David Gallaher and Garrett Campbell have succeeded in digitizing more than 750,000 long-lost images off data tapes and black-and-white film from NASA’s early Nimbus satellite series, focusing on changes in sea ice extent in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Both scientists work in CU’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is part of the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Their project was fueled by $550,000 in NASA funding.

The Nimbus satellite series consisted of seven spacecraft launched over a 14-year period, its primary mission to capture clouds and other atmospheric features to aid the forecasts of hurricanes and other weather events. But now the satellites’ decades-old harvest is yielding further insights for contemporary study…

The modern satellite record of sea ice goes back only to 1979.

Gallaher learned about the stored data from the early years of the seven-satellite Nimbus series — Nimbus 1 launched Aug. 28, 1964 — during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union at San Francisco in 2009.

“We found out that it was sitting down in this warehouse in Asheville, North Carolina (at the National Climatic Data Center),” Gallaher said. “We called up and said, ‘Gee, could you send us the data for the Arctic and the Antarctic?’ And they said, ‘No.’

“They said there was no way, that it was truly ‘dark data.’ It was only on these giant rolls of film, and the only way to get what we really wanted was to scan all of it,” Gallaher said. “We asked, ‘How much are we talking about?’ And they said it would fill at least a pallet and a half.’ What? Really?”

From the efforts of Gallaher, Campbell and about eight CU students logging countless hours over the past three years — working with a $40,000 Kodak scanner picked up “dirt cheap,” according to Gallagher — more than 250,000 of the recovered Nimbus images have now been made public. The painstaking process involved having to consult NASA metadata to determine the orbit of the satellite at the point each image was recorded, and from that, identify the geographic location for each image.

Images they have recovered reveal that in 1964, Antarctica showed the largest sea ice extent ever recorded there, and that just two years later, in 1966, it registered a record-low maximum sea ice extent…

“If we had information about the winds and sea surface temperatures down there, we might be able to better interpret it,” said Campbell, a project scientist. “We have not had the time and energy to look into that. We’re still in the details of extracting all the information from these images.”

An interesting by-product of the scientists’ work is that they learned of a University of Tasmania study creating a 150-year proxy record of Antarctic sea ice change, extrapolating data from methanesulphonic acid concentrations drawn from the Law Dome ice core, south of Cape Poinsett, Antarctica. That study had indicated a 20 percent sea ice decline since about 1950.

“We’re able to validate (the Tasmanian study) with 1960s Nimbus (images),” Gallaher said. “Is it the end all? We don’t know, but if you look now at their record, validated by our records, it turns out the Antarctic started a major decline in 1950s.”

Such an interesting search. You’re tired of hearing this; but, given back, say, the last thirty years, I’d get serious about a new career in computational analysis. Though I think the craft can be used with broad strokes down to the finest, narrow quizzing of scientific data, I’d probably focus on work like this.

Of course, if you want to daydream, you could end up working for Craig Venter on genomics. Woo-hoo!

Thanks, Mike

Surface Mining At Ground Zero

trinity2

Wind-blown sand still uncovers sun-bleached bones of men and mules dead for centuries along New Mexico’s Jornado del Muerte, the waterless hell where Spaniards died traveling between Santa Fe and Chihuahua. Few large areas in the United States can match its barren, flat desolation.

Near the center of this vast expanse lies man’s first great insult against the earth – – Trinity Site.

Ground Zero, where a massive steel tower holding the first atomic bomb was vaporized at 5:29 a.m., July 16, 1945, was a slight depression in the silent flatness. For a radius of more than 100 feet melted sand in the form of green glass covered the desert like a splotchy carpet shining in the light from above, dull by night, bright by day. This monument to man’s inhumanity to man, the largest blur on the landscape, was surrounded by a high fence, tight strands of barbed wire, a locked double gate and multilingual warning signs.

The gate was chained shut. Three padlocks served as links in the chain in 1951, any one of which permitted entry when unlocked. A large steel lock was stamped AEC, for the Atomic Energy Commission. A heavy brass padlock was stamped War Dept. The third padlock, a new one hardly larger than the links it secured, replaced one of these links recently melted in two by Jesse Petty’s gas torch. Jesse, my best friend and fellow draftee army buddy, from Carrizozo, New Mexico, had snapped the chain back together wit the little lock during his trip to the site.

Jesse had volunteered, I’ll go out there and cut the chain for you and put on a new padlock, but I won’t go in there, not for anything,”

He had given me the keys when we each returned to Guided Missile School at Ft. Bliss, Texas, from our weekend trips to different home cities.

My plan was to drive a truck to the Trinity atomic bomb site, use my keys to pass through the unguarded US Government gate remove the radioactive glass called Trinitite and transport it close to Los Alamos for a proper burial at its spiritual origin…

…While living in the remote desert of northern New Mexico I had seen an aerial photograph of the radioactive site in a popular magazine. It looked like a giant scab. It was an impurity waiting to be taken away. Writers wrote about it. I was determined to remove it without a trace of publicity. My self-appointed task was to gain entry to the government glass and haul it off for burial, to repair the desert, clean away this radioactive afterbirth.

And so it goes. I’ve never heard this story before. Our online compadre, Mike, just suggested it. I read it – and it is fascinating.

When I was still on the road I’d drive by Trinity site every week or so and think about getting in on the annual visit. Always figured my years of pissing off the FBI, CIA, every piece of alphabetized fascist crap-mentality in government would probably get me arrested and thrown out. Never have visited.

Dr. Pray’s story is fascinating. The Feds let on that the Trinitite, the atomic glass burned from molten sand at that first test site disappeared over years of tourists taking souvenirs. Ralph Pray’s story makes a lot more sense.

He died May 30, 2014.

Thanks, Mike

Latest Snowden revelations piss off Turkey


“Do you think Snowden will ever go away?”

Turkey’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires, currently Washington’s most senior diplomat in Ankara, over a media report that the United States had spied on Turkey…

Here we go with 2 x stupid!

1. The Turkish government can’t summon the US ambassador because Republican do-nothings in Congress blocked that appointment. They would rather we have a dysfunctional government than to give in to the fact that Americans elected a non-white president.

2. The Democrat in the White House proves to be as dumb as his Republican predecessor – holding his hands over his eyes and hoping the NSA digital goon squad won’t be noticed by our “allies”. Somehow, hoping Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing will go away as if by magic.

German magazine Der Spiegel said in an article on its website on Sunday that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency had carried out “wide-scale spying against Turkey“, citing documents from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“For the reasons that the United States’ name was mentioned, and such claims were made … the charge d’affaires has been called to the foreign ministry and information has been received from him,” Arinc told reporters after the first meeting of Turkey’s new cabinet following a presidential election.

Der Spiegel said the U.S. intelligence services had also worked closely to support Ankara in its efforts to battle Kurdish militants, who waged a three-decade insurgency for greater Kurdish rights in the country’s southeast.

Yup. The United States cares so deeply about minority rights that we turn over whatever info our spies discover – to the heads of state who have dedicated their political careers to the suppression of minorities.

Then, the folks in the White House who rely on wishful thinking to manage foreign relations skip blithely past all the corruption previously made public by Edward Snowden and ignore the rest of the bad news waiting to come out. With half a brain, someone might have contacted the rest of our “friends” and let them know in advance how the paranoid policies of George W. Bush have been continued by “nice guy” Obama.