Sunday, October 9, 2011

Titan after Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur has come and gone and Titan, Pollyanna and I have broken our fast and are back with the world.  Titan wishes you all a Chatima Tova (to be inscribed in the Book of Life) since, although Yom Kippur has past, the Book is still open for alterations and emendations and the Editor is still accepting repentance until Hoshanna Rabba, which this year falls on October 19.  That is the day when we Jews make it clear that we want rain this year by pounding on the floor with willow branches, just in case the message is not getting through, as you can see in the image.  When I was a kid I thought this was great fun.

 Titan has had a hard week and has much to complain about as usual.  First however, he owes you a picture of himself.  To make it interesting, he is showing himself as a radar image, with an impact crater.  As you can see, it is not easy being a moon of Saturn.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL
This image was acquired by the Cassini radar instrument in synthetic aperture mode during a Sept. 7, 2006, flyby of Titan. The image is centered at 70 degrees west longitude, 10 degrees north latitude, and measures about 150 kilometers high by 190 kilometers wide (93 by 118 miles). The smallest details in this image are about 500 meters (about 550 yards) across. Full resolution image.
This image from Cassini's radar instrument shows an impact crater with a diameter of 30 kilometers (19 miles) on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
Cassini data have only revealed three definite impact craters on Titan so far, so each new discovery adds significantly to our body of knowledge. Impact craters are particularly important, as their shapes give scientists insight into the structure of the crust beneath Titan's surface.
The difference in overall appearance between this crater, which has a central peak, and those without, such as Sinlap, indicates variations in the conditions of impact, thickness of the crust, or properties of the meteorite that made the crater. The dark floor indicates smooth or highly absorbing materials.
Titan is pleased to congratulate the winners of the 2011 Nobel Prizes in  Physics and Chemistry. The links lead to the Nobel page where you can send a congratulatory note to the laureates.  The Chemistry prize went to Prof. Daniel Schechtman of our own Technion for his discovery of quasicrystals in solids.  He took a lot of flak for the idea back then, but he stuck to his guns and long has had vindication for his views.  The Physics prize went to three people for the discovery of the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.  In Israel we have ten Nobel Laureates, although I only count seven, four in Chemistry, two in Economics (a related prize) and one in Literature.  I discount the Peace Prizes for none of them have brought real peace, although you can make a case for Menahem Begin whose peace treaty with Egypt is still holding, albeit barely.  Danny Kahanman who won the Economics prize has not lived in Israel for many years, but he was educated here.

We also wish to congratulate the three women who share the 2011 Peace Prize for their unflagging and courageous efforts on behalf of women and peace.   In particular, Tawakkul Karman from Yemen, serves as a shining example of what can be achieved by a woman leading a nonviolent struggle.  While on the subject of women's rights, Titan would like to refer you to a compelling blog posting by Diana Russell, on the killing of women, qua women and a proposal to use the name "femicide"  to define the crime more clearly.
Women's Terror Is Not "Just a Movie" image by the late graffiti artist, photographer, and anti-femicide activist Chris Domingo, of Berkeley, California
Titan, Pollyanna and YandA are all very sad at the loss of Chilik, our dog of the last decade.  She was old and ill, living with a malignancy,  but we were keeping her alive on steroids and she seemed happy enough.  A few weeks ago she wandered off at the beach and simply vanished as if into thin air. We have searched high and low, posted notices, phoned the pound, but no sign of her has shown up.  We miss her very much.
Chilik being kept out of trouble

Congratulations to the Berlin Zoo on the birth of Indochinese tiger cubs quadruplets

  recently.  Read more and enjoy the pictures and video.

Steve Jobs(1955-2011) has just died after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer.  He started from scratch and built one of the greatest technology companies in the world and revolutionized the world of computing and communication.  His creativity and innovative genius were without peers.  I am writing these lines on a PC, but I am well aware of the world of MAC and what impact it had on society.  I think the CNN obituary is quite comprehensive about his life and work.  I am also appending a link to a site that contains the commencement address that he gave at Stanford in 2005 along with a detailed biography.  It has some good points along with a healthy dose of egomania.  This man enjoyed abusing his employees and parking in the handicapped slots.  Nonetheless, he left a major impact on our society.

There is also a dark side  to Apple and by association Jobs.  The factories in China that make the goodies that Apple sells have been hit in recent year by a rash of worker suicides, to say nothing about abuse, illness from substance exposure and more.  The conditions in these factories are worse than appalling, but Jobs and Apple, as well as the people who buy their goods, chose not to notice.  Mike Daisy ,who is putting on a one man Steve Jobs show, gave an interview in which he lashed out at the company for its indifference to basic human rights.   Titan and Pollyanna have both lashed out at companies that buy from Third World suppliers who abuse their workers, but in general, indifference is the mode when there is money to be made.  We consumers have little leverage in these matters, alas.  The film China Blue by Micha Peled gives you an idea.
Micha Peled showed this picture at various venues including the Cinematheques around the country.  It was also shown here on television.  He won a human rights award from the Dutch section of Amnesty International for the film.

Bullying in schools  is a terrible thing especially when the victim is particularly vulnerable.  I had my share as the only Jewish kid in my class in elementary school.  In junior high and high school, our numbers were greater and there was enough solidarity to generate counter pressure.  Titan is pleased at a story of how the bullying of a girl with Asperger syndrome backfired because some high school kids showed a social conscience.  Cheers for the Poway CA High School students!
A recent study has shown that racism and prejudice are imbued into us by our cultural environment. The new study finds that while people are quick to associate word pairs that bring to mind stereotypes (think "black - poor" versus "black - goofy"), this tendency is rooted not in the social meaning of the words, but in the likelihood of the words appearing together in literature and media. In other words, this implicit prejudice is driven more by culture than by any innate horribleness in the person, said study researcher Paul Verhaeghen, a Georgia Tech psychologist.  Read more.

The Japanese whaling fleet is going off again on its "scientific" whale hunt..  Last season they were hampered by activists from the group, Sea Shepherd, that has pledged to follow the fleet again this year and obstruct its hunt.
Sea battle ... crew member Laurens De Groot hurls a bottle of butyric acid at a Japanese harpoon whaling ship / Pic: Sea Shepherd
We wish them good luck and all success.  Japan also kills dolphins indiscriminately as can be seen in the film  The Cove.  We own a copy of the film and will be happy to share it.  Maybe we should stop buying Japanes cars.

This rant deals with a vicious form of racism, segregation and discrimination practiced against the poorest and most disadvantaged citizens in Roumania.  Titan calls upon all of you to sign up and take action against the new housing law that  makes no provision for marginal minority groups.   It just takes a few clicks to get your message across.
Romania’s poorest and most disadvantaged citizens cannot access adequate housing
There is so much to rant about that Titan would run out of silicon if he took on everything.  We do want to complain bitterly about the POGROM  that took place in Anatot on September 30.   (The dictionary definition is an organized massacre of helpless people; specifically : such a massacre of Jews. )
What do we call it when the perpetrators are Jews?  Please read the description in the link and then take action.  What is most frightening is the passive complicity of the police who took no action to protect the victims of settler violence.  This couples with the burning of a mosque   in a northern village
Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
An Israeli Arab boy in a burned mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangari
and the desecration of Muslim and Christian cemeteries in Jaffa 
"Death to Arabs" sprayed on a grave in Jaffa, October 7, 2011
Photo by: Team palestina
all part of the "price tag" violence campaign of West Bank settlers. The failure, because of either lack of will or incompetence, of the Israel Police to deal with the phenomenon of settler violence is leading to dire consequences.  Let us hope that the leaders of the Arab community in Israel will be able to restrain their hotheads and avoid playing into the hands of the instigators of the violence.  It is most pathetic also that the left in Israel seems to be unable to mount an effective counterattack.  The right has a propaganda rag called Israel Today that is handed out free in railroad stations, malls, wherever and the brainwash is total.  The message of peace, conciliation and the values of liberal democracy does not get across to the public. It is relevant, therefore, to read a similar complaint from the US by Phil Rockstroh, who  is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City.  He  points out that we on the liberal-left side are rendered impotent by our very trait of being nice and amiable.  His posting Running from Right Wing Clowns should be read carefully.  It is about the USA, but it fits Israel like a glove.  In particular I want to quote his ending statement--"At present, among the things we can ill afford are fantasy-prone kids, duped into believing modern soldiering bestows nobility and involves heroic sacrifice.  Instead, the times call for brave misfits, encouraged to embrace rejection by a dysfunctional society and primed to endure the inherent bumps and buffeting inflicted from a culture that has gathered into the formation of a flying wedge of self-destructive, crash-fated crazy. "
Gene Weingarten whose humor graces our blogs has turned 60.  Both Titan (4.6 Billion) and I (80) regard him as a mere youngster, but we will share his thoughts on aging and ultimate mortality.

His friend and fellow blogger Joel Achenbach has some nice thoughts on Gene's birthday that we will also share with you.   In his comments, he notes one of Gene's greatest blogs about The Great Zucchini  from 2006, which is indeed beautiful.  There are countless gems in the Weingarten archives.

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