Fetter-Vorm – Trinity

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Date read: 11 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016nfc

Cover image of Fetter-Vorm's Trinity

Hardback, 154 pages
Published 2012 by Hill and Wang
Source: Deschutes Public Library

An excellent and well-researched book that details the Manhattan Project and the Trinity test. From there it goes on to discuss Little Boy and Fat Man and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with some side excursions into events like the firebombing of Tokyo and many other Japanese cities.

We get the usual cast of characters and locations: Gen. Groves, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Lawrence, Szilard; Hanford, WA; University of Chicago; Oak Ridge, TN; and University of California, Berkeley.

Groves, then a Colonel, was given the task of overseeing the Manhattan Project after earning his reputation for overseeing the construction of the Pentagon (17). The logistics involved, not to mention the ridiculous sums of money or the secrecy, were incredible and the author tries to give the reader an appreciation for them.

The graphic novel leads the reader through the scientific and technical advances required to pull the off in a clear and understandable way. It then goes on to raise the question of whether it should have been done. It was understood by those at the top that if it was built it would most likely be used.

Bert the Turtle in “Duck and Cover” makes an appearance. If you are unfamiliar with “Duck and Cover” then YouTube that shit [or read about it at Wikipedia]. It is the kind of thing they were still indoctrinating kids with in the mid-to-late 60s when I was in grade school. It was my first introduction—at least that I remember—to the surreal. It would be years before I knew the word and its definition but there it was: a mind-boggling mixture of fact and fantasy, of hope gone awry. There I was under my desk, with my head down and hands on the back of my neck, somehow, knowing full well this was utterly batshit insane. Knowing that we could not survive this. I was 5 or 6-years old.

The book is not heavy-handed in any of its questioning, makes clear the scientific and technical details, and tries to give a sense of the immense scope of the project and its aftermath. There’s Teller and the 1st hydrogen bomb, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), “Duck and Cover,” and the permanent weapons industry which grew out of it. The US government alone has detonated more than 1,000 nuclear weapons (143). As we still do [from today’s newspaper].

Highly recommended.

This is the 2nd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 1st book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

DigiWriMo 2014

I have committed to participating in Digital Writing Month 2014, more commonly known as DigiWriMo, this November. I did it its first year in 2012 and made my goal of 50,000 digital words. Most people who know November as a writing month know it as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. There is also Academic Writing Month, AcWriMo. Wikipedia says there’s an Academic Book Writing Month, AcBoWriMo but that’s a new one on me. Well, on Twitter there is no #AcBoWriMo but there is plenty of #AcWriMo.

I have been driven to write lately—perhaps driven by the mysterious and as yet undiagnosed illness; which is neither here nor there. I have so many ideas and there are tons of old ideas not finished, or ever even fleshed out, to work with.

Preparation has involved recording these ideas as they occur and corralling old recorded ones too, prepping my Scrivener project file (my writing tool), and spending more time learning to use it well.

This year my goal is ≥ 1k words/day, with a total of ≥ 25k words/November. Yes. I am aware of the missing 5 days. I am trying to be gracious with myself. [If this illness can possibly help teach me that idea then, OK, I’ll take the rest. I’m not counting on this being an actual lesson, though.]

I do not know how much I will do with the, thankfully, re-expanded DigiWriMo folks’ official efforts but I will be “playing along at home” at a minimum. I certainly hope and plan to interact a fair bit. I just have to manage my stress triggers and adding a #digiwrimo twitter search window to my already overflowing two twitter accounts for a month ….

I also recently acquired a new phone making the leap from an iPhone 4S to a 6. I had been eligible for an upgrade for well over a year and $200 was the most they were ever going to give me anymore for my 4S. Or that anyone was going to give me. For a lot of hoops and a delay of several weeks, I got to pay roughly $100 and a $35 activation fee to move from a 16GB 4S to a 64GB 6. I took that deal.

It was particularly tempting as I use both TextExpander and 1Password on my computer. They have also both been on my phone but were basically useless. Finally iOS 8 allows them both to be useful. [Sadly, I will not be putting iOS 8 on my iPad 2. It is struggling already.]

The point of all this is that having those 2 programs actually doing good work on my phone may let me use it to do just a couple more tasks than I would’ve before. Also, the bigger screen isn’t to laugh at with my old eyes. They will also allow me to more productively write digitally even though what I “write” on my phone will still be pretty damned minimal.

Some of what I write will be public, much as now although even more will be. Much will be kept private. I really want to start doing a better job of journaling, in a couple senses of ‘journal.’ I hope DigiWriMo will spur me to do so, or at least take advantage of the illness’ urging me to do so. I hope to get a few more blog posts up here and definitely more written on By the barrel.

Poetry, 2015 goal planning, book reviews, tweeting, and all sorts of other writing endeavors are on the docket. Some of the topics I hope to address, whether public or not, include Facebook, gender labels (as language), gender on labels (as in depiction of on beer labels), sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, body image, altered consciousness, and many others. We will see what happens.

If any of you are participating in some kind of writing month in November let me know if you would like some support and hopefully we can find a mutual venue.

Some things seen around the Internet lately

Drinking with the Troops

From a local blog, Urbanagora, comes “Drinks with a Soldier.” I just love how some jackass commentor tries to hide behind the shield of anonymity and call the post author a liar. Certainly there are all sorts of views on this war, including those of the troops fighting it.

Perhaps if you ever get the chance—you could try arranging the chance—you, too, should have drinks with a soldier (or sailor, airman or marine) and find out a bit about what it is like on the ground in this war.  Of course, don’t forget the millions of servicemembers still living who served in our previous wars. A patient, caring ear would do many of them a world of good.

The value of a liberal arts education

For an interesting discussion on the value, or lack thereof, of a liberal arts education and liberal arts colleges see “On Liberal Education” at the Academic Librarian blog. Wayne Bivens-Tatum critiques the views of the author of a new book on the subject, as presented in The Kansas CW.

A spirited back-and-forth between Bivens-Tatum and the book author follows in the comments. I should state up front that I agree entirely with all of Bivens-Tatum’s points and his larger argument. The book author tries to point out some flaws in Bivens-Tatum’s arguments which simply are not there. I found that rather humorous.

But the one point I was hoping Bivens-Tatum would take up was the author’s insistence that some immediately practical subjects should get substituted for liberal arts classes because students are incurring too much debt, can’t pay their student loans, have to take high paying jobs vs. the job of their dreams, have to move back home with mommy & daddy, etc. because colleges are financially predatory.

So the solution is immediately practical vocational training? Wouldn’t better financial counseling for students, laws barring credit card companies from preying on students, educational finance reform, and so many other things be helpful, too, and perhaps even more ethically important? Have a look and see what you think.

Early Mike Wallace interviews with “important people”

Via Resource Shelf comes The Mike Wallace Interview.

In the early 1960’s, broadcast journalist Mike Wallace donated 65 recorded interviews made in 1957-58 from his show The Mike Wallace Interview to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. The bulk of these were 16mm kinescope film recordings, some of the earliest recordings of live television that were possible, and that survive today. Many of these have not been seen for over 50 years, and they represent a unique window into a turbulent time of American, and world history.

See interviews with jockey Eddie Arcaro, stripper Lili St. Cyr, actress Gloria Swanson, Steve Allen, Frank Lloyd Wright, birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, novelist Pearl Buck, and many others.

Doing the dirty fictionally

Via 3 quarks daily we get a book review in the New York magazine of Robert Olen Butler’s Intercourse: Stories. Find it in a library near you via WorldCat.

Robert Olen Butler’s new story collection, Intercourse, is, as its title suggests, totally about doing it. It imagines the thoughts of 50 iconic couples as they knock the proverbial boots, beginning with Adam and Eve copulating on “a patch of earth cleared of thorns and thistles, a little east of Eden,” and ending with Santa Claus blowing off postholiday steam in January 2008 by doing the nasty with an 826-year-old elf in the back room of his workshop. But, as the clinical tone of Butler’s title also suggests, Intercourse is very much not a work of erotica. It tends to ignore messy fluids and crotch-logistics in favor of wordplay and psychological nuance.

Civilization and cultures

Also via 3 quarks daily we get Tzvetan Todorov in the Pakistan Daily Times thinking and writing to his usual standard of quality.

But if you look at this line of argument more closely, the flaw in Barnavi’s argument is immediately apparent. The meaning of the words civilisation and culture is very different when they are used in singular and plural forms. Cultures (plural) are the modes of living embraced by various human groups, and comprise all that their members have in common: language, religion, family structures, diet, dress, and so on. In this sense, “culture” is a descriptive category, without any value judgement.

Civilisation (singular) is, on the contrary, an evaluative moral category: the opposite of barbarism. So a dialogue between cultures is not only beneficial, but essential to civilisation. No civilisation is possible without it.

[There, S, I did it. And no, neither linking to the Academic Librarian nor WorldCat invalidates my effort. 😉 ]

Productively non-productive

Thanks to all my friends for sending their condolences in various venues. I am uplifted by your care. I’m a right proper heathen but if your views run differently and you can spare a thought for my aunt’s family right now that’d be awesome.

She was a rock for that family. For a very long time.

[I apologize for any odd paragraph formatting below as WordPress is screwing with me relentlessly on this.]

I think or, at least, I hope that I was productively non-productive yesterday. I didn’t do anything directly related to my bibliography, although, perhaps, that could be argued.

I read lots of my own stuff (and comments) from this blog over the past year. While I did, I did lots of electronic annotations in Zotero, copied and pasted anything useful written about articles or books by Hjørland or Harris (or related) into my draft bib, noted blog posts that will be useful when I come to write my bib essay and the CAS paper as a whole in my wiki, and other minor related tasks. This morphed out of the books read in 2007 delaying tactic I was on primarily Saturday.

Late in the evening, I took the content of my 2 posts on Hjørland’s “Semantics and Knowledge Organization” ARIST chapter [part 1, part 2]and got them re-formated into a Word doc with any redundancies removed and internal and external citation lists merged for both at the end. Printed out it’s 11 pages solid. Now I’ve got to put that work—and an awful lot of unanswered questions, some very big—to even more work. Still. This is mostly CAS paper stuff primarily; although, this is the paper with the one Harris reference. Hmmm. Definitely bib material.

I’ve been varyingly unhappy, perhaps unsatisfied is better, with my blog for quite a while. Can’t quite put my finger on what exactly about it that bugs me. But I do know that it’s various, and varying.

Part of it is not being able to cover everything I’d like as deeply and/or as broadly as I’d like. But that’s just life. I do wish that my “Some things read this week…” posts were better. Better in the sense of more fleshed out entries for far more of the things read. Some wrap-up thoughts, etc. “Progress” is important but this is a prime area where I could employ some goals towards Slow Reading. [Please ignore that “progress.” I wrapped way too much up in that term.]

Speaking of John Miedema, there was an interesting post and comments at a recent post, “Have you set an end-date for your blog?” [BTW, there are frequently interesting things to read at Slow Reading.]

Have you set an end-date for your blog? Interesting question, and idea. For the right reasons, it is a grand idea.

In a comment, John writes:

Hi Peter, I’ve put one blog to “sleep” so far (http://johnmiedema.wordpress.com). It was my first public blog, had the usual first blog characteristics — wandering mission, odd mix of personal and professional — and was a real learning experience.

Well, I guess—nope, didn’t put it to sleep but gave it a new manifestation and expression, and name—that is fairly similar to me. It explains my 1st blog pretty well, and it explains this one, too.

wandering mission, odd mix of personal and professional — and was a real learning experience

Well, my mission wanders no more than I do so not really applicable, although all output probably evidences differently as far as appearance to others. But an intentional “odd mix of personal and professional,” certainly. And it remains forever—hopefully—a learning experience.

I know John wasn’t implying that these “usual first blog characteristics” are anathema to every blog. Perhaps just those he’d prefer to write. 😉

Hell, I’d love to be able to write a highly focused topical blog or two. And that’s also a part of my non-satisfaction with this blog. But writing those blogs is not me. Or, at least, not me right now.

And based on what I read yesterday, it has been highly focused for a while now. It’s just highly spotty, and not really intended to be so focused.

End date? Sure. It’ll definitely have one. I’m just in no position to set one right now, unsatisfied as I may be. Let’s hope I don’t just disappear it, though. :)

Opportunities come … and go; just as fast

A couple hours ago I wrote and sent off an email that I found very difficult to write.

This weekend I received an email asking me to sit on a panel at ALA to help discuss a topic of current concern to some. But, unfortunately and for various reasons, I decided early in the year not to go to ALA. I chose to go to NASIG instead (June), along with ASIST (Oct.). I have since added ISKO-NA/NASKO in June.

Despite having lodging in the DC area, there is simply no way I can decide to go at this late date. I most certainly cannot afford it, nor can I afford to miss even more days of work.

But how is one to turn down such an offer? This is certainly the highest level invitation of any kind I have received in my so far short library career; probably even of my whole life.

I know some of you turn down these sorts of things frequently. But did you turn down the 1st one? “They” say “timing is everything” and so much about the timing(s) of this is perfect. But bounce that timing off the reality of life and it skews real poorly on one or more axes. OK, one axis. Money.

Several people of importance to me are encouraging me to accept and I am grateful to them for that wisdom. But it simply is not to be. <sigh>

But. Tomorrow I start a(nother) new job and will become a Rapid Monographic Cataloging GA (well, hourly for the summer; GA in the fall). Yay, me!

I am seriously looking forward to actually making some forward progress each day (as in number of titles cataloged). My serials gig is anything but rapid. It’ll be hard to remember that I can only do copy cataloging with the monographs, though. 😉

Life is full of trade-offs it seems. And some of them are even good ones.

P.S. I was reasonably OK with my decision a few hours ago, but now I am finding it hard to fathom that I said “No, thank you.” I can certainly believe the reality of it, though. Oh well. “Buck up, kid! You get to learn something new tomorrow.”

No IM and other things

Computer

To my few IM buddies I will not be available the next … days. I took my laptop to the shop this afternoon. The trackpad had been locking up a lot lately, and last night the whole machine just got stoopid! I’m really worried and praying that it is still under warranty. I believe it is; but my beliefs are not exactly relevant.

I’m also pissed because I was going to do a full backup before taking it in. I have a fairly current almost complete backup, but I really would have liked to be able to just dump the whole thing to the external drive first.

They won’t even be looking at it until tomorrow. <sigh>

Life ….

You know, we’re just going to leave that one alone for now.

I have “arrived”

I guess by one scale I have finally “arrived.” I made it into American Libraries Direct for my reporting on the LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control meeting. I really don’t even have a problem with their claim that “Blogger Mark R. Lindner offers extensive notes on the session, which featured a controversial presentation by University of Chicago cataloger David Bade….” Some do consider it thus, although I do not.

I just really wish they had linked to the first post. It seems to me to be more like yellow journalism to link to the one post that reports on the presentation that might be considered controversial, or that they have labeled as such. It also does not help that it is the only presentation that I questioned in any true way. As it has already become abundantly clear to me, many people fail to see the labor of love and actual respect that I have for David Bade’s views in my questioning.

I wrote what I did there, and in my follow-up, because I care deeply about his message being heard and, more importantly, being understood by those who need to hear it. I fear even more will now only see my questioning. For that I am especially sorry to David Bade.

The “system” is once again poised to shut down dialogue.

Conferences

I am now officially registered for both NASIG and NASKO. Here we come June, Louisville and Toronto. Woohoo!

Is the replication of information a form of activism, and can it even be so?

I am assuming that most of you are aware of the current flap over the posting, printing, displaying, and reproduction of the 16-byte hexadecimal number that is one of the cryptographic keys that—with some more knowledge; the number is not in itself magical—can unlock the encryption of HD and Blu-Ray DVDs and, thus, allow for the copying of them. [See Wikipedia article.]

Some of my friends have even participated by posting the number on their blogs, perhaps even ordering a t-shirt.

I would like to ask you to read this [i d e a n t: “Rebellion by Numbers“] before finishing this post. It is not required but it is what shifted my thoughts in this direction. It is also more elegant that I can be, and links to several other writers.

Prime caveat: I do not mean to criticize those who have publicly reproduced this number. In fact, in some way, I applaud you. I, too, do not believe that numbers should be generally ownable property. But it is far more complex than that.

Having worked on a nuclear missile site in my earlier days I do not even want to think about this kind of “activism” getting hold of the PAL keys and spreading them around because someone thinks the military should not “own” these numbers. Now, while I don’t think they would actually claim to own these numbers, that delicacy would not prevent your swift removal to a detention camp or, perhaps even, your execution as a traitor to your country.

“Ownership” is only a small part of the issue here. Nonetheless, that is not my concern.

My concern centers around the last several and, in particular, on the last paragraph of Mejias’ post.

When activism is defined solely in terms of the exchange of information, we are reducing the options available for acting. That is how an encryption key (information in its purest form) was easily converted into a “subversive message” whose replication and dissemination was seen as a revolutionary act. As long as we’ve had media —and I’m afraid emerging “social” media don’t pose a significant alternative— we’ve seen this dynamic: the replication of information has itself come to define what it means to act, has become the source of meaning. The individual goes from being a social actor to an intersection of information flows. She possesses more information than ever before (about global warming, about genocidal poverty, about the false pretenses under which wars are started), but all she can do is replicate and pass on this information. The purer the information (09 F9 …), the more efficient the activism.

I feel that this may be one of the biggest [sets of] questions for our age and, particularly, for librarianship.

When is the replication of information activism?

Can it even be activisim?

If so, is it efficient?

It seems that the replication of information may [or should be] be a necessary condition for activism, but it does not seem to be sufficient to me. Perhaps there are some (small?) sets of circumstances where the simple act of replication of information constitutes activism; perhaps this current case is even one of them. But it seems to me that further action [of certain sorts] would clearly magnify the efficacy of the activism. Perhaps actual letters to your elected representatives, letters to your local newspapers to attempt to bring the issue to the attention of more of the citizenry, …?

Is this form of cyber-movement primarily a way to make people feel good about themselves? “I did something. I participated.”

Please. I do not mean to point fingers. I include myself in this—or even a lesser “active” group—as I have done nothing.

But truly—as Mejias and others ask—what other causes are there? What other issues of importance? Perhaps even of far more importance? In some ways this is a “free speech” issue, among others. But what about active police suppression of peaceful protesters for the last several years? Poverty, hunger, lack of medical care, wars of aggression in the name of democracy? All of these seem far more important to me than some DVD encryption key.

I’m not sure I’m even up to the task of engaging in this question; certainly not as well as I’d like. Someone like Rory Litwin or Jessamyn West are far better qualified than me. Nonetheless, I believe that these are some of the fundamental questions of our age, and that as librarians we have a responsibility to honestly and seriously—in a nuanced and critical way—ask, “Is the replication of information a form of activism?”, along with its associated questions.

Smoke-free and I’m missing it…

Besides the many reasons being sick sucks … my town just went smoke-free a couple nights ago and I’m not able to go out and support my local establishments.

Actually, Urbana went smoke-free at the beginning of January and I have been enjoying the $2 pints of fresh Guinness (natch!) the last couple of Mondays at Crane Alley. Although last week some jackass was in the bathroom smoking. I don’t care if it’s cold out, dude; it’s the law! I let it slide and didn’t turn him in because I wasn’t in the mood, and I’m not a narc either.

But I really want to go support a few places in Champaign. Blind Pig, for instance, and a few others. I cannot wait to experience these places smoke-free!

It’s about time we entered the 21st century on this one. To all my smoking friends or even non-friends, I am sorry for you. But, really, too bad. You never did have a right to pollute the public environment and make others stink and, worse, sick. You only had the privilege. There are things tha others must remain at home and do. Now it’s your turn.

Thank you Champaign-Urbana for becoming an even better place to live!

Now if we can only make it through this dumbass Super Bowl thing. :(