Archive for July, 2012
30 Jul 2012

These Days You Can Just Print Your Own Gun

, , , , , , ,


AR Lower Receiver

Whenever a murderous shooting spree like the recent movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado hits the news, liberals don their tall, pointed thinking caps and start prescribing more gun control.

It escapes the liberal thought processes that disarming peaceful law-abiding citizens is pointless, and anyone prepared to violate laws against homicide is going to be willing to ignore laws prohibiting firearms possession as well. Liberals theorize in an imaginary setting, completely different from the real world, in which it is only necessary to adopt a regulation or pass another law, and “So let it be written, so let it be done!” Pharoah’s will is totally effective and accomplished. No one simply ignores it.

In the real world, of course, banning things that people want, liquor, drugs, gambling, prostitution, cheap immigrant labor, or guns, never works at all because people then go and buy the illegal good or services on the black market. Large American cities with the strictest gun control laws typically also have the highest crime rates.

People like NYC Mayor Bloomberg believe that the problem is that their authority just isn’t wide enough. If their gun bans could only be spread across the country, then there wouldn’t be any guns. It escapes Mayor Bloomberg’s attention that drugs are banned across the country, and you can still find plenty of illegal drugs in NYC.

A universal gun ban would be widely resisted and evaded. People would hide guns in their houses and bury them in their backyards. You’d have to invade and search every house, office, factory, and garage in the country to search for and confiscate guns, and you’d still never successfully get them all.

Liberals do not seem to realize that you can make a primitive gun which will actually fire from an old automobile antenna, a board, a rubber band and a couple of nails. In Afghanistan, in primitive village operations, people successfully fabricate working copies of bolt action Mausers and Enfields, full-auto-capable M-16s and AK-47s, grenade launchers and full-sized machine guns using simple hand tools, producing most parts by hand filing. An American with a garage workshop and Dremel tool set could do even better.

Mark Gibbs, in Forbes, however, reports that notions of restricting access to guns by fiat have just lately become even more preposterous and out-dated than ever. We have reached the tipping-point of technology in which the ability to produce physical objects like the receiver of the AR assault rifle will soon become effectively within everybody’s reach.

A fellow writing as Have Blue used a readily-available and not-terribly-expensive 3D printer to produce the lower receiver (the part that counts as the machine gun, the part that you have to register and pay tax on to the BATFE) of an AR in plastic resin. His example was scaled down in size to .22 caliber, and he may only have printed the semi-auto version receiver not requiring the full-auto federal registration and tax, but the principle has been demonstrated.

We are momentarily going to be living in a world in which it will be perfectly possible for the private individual at home to produce the same fully automatic weapons which once required factories to manufacture using a personal computer, a 3D printer, and a few dollars worth of materials.

Hat tip to Glen Reynolds (who is still the best in the business).

30 Jul 2012

New Book Reveals: Obama Cancelled Killing Bin Laden Three Times

, , , , , ,

The Daily Caller has gotten an inside look at Richard Miniter‘s new book, and has some bombshell details.

At the urging of Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions before finally approving the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission, according to an explosive new book scheduled for release August 21. …

In Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him, Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the “kill” mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March. Obama’s close adviser Valerie Jarrett persuaded him to hold off each time, according to the book.

Miniter, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, cites an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.

Obama administration officials also said after the raid that the president had delayed giving the order to kill the arch-terrorist the day before the operation was carried out, in what turned out to be his fourth moment of indecision. At the time, the White House blamed the delay on unfavorable weather conditions near bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

But when Miniter obtained that day’s weather reports from the U.S. Air Force Combat Meteorological Center, he said, they showed ideal conditions for the SEALs to carry out their orders.

“President Obama’s greatest success was actually his greatest failure,” Miniter told The Daily Caller Friday. ”Leading From Behind,“ he said, traces the arc of six key Obama administration decisions, and shows how the president made them — and, often, failed to make them.

When I tried to open the Daily Caller link this morning, Firefox initially blocked access, warning that this site had been reported as a site distributing malware.

It is evident that someone on the left was sufficiently angry and alarmed by the Daily Caller’s scoop that a false malware complaint was filed to deter traffic.

29 Jul 2012

Olympic Gold Medals May Glitter, But…

, , , ,

Inflation is almost as old as the modern Olympic Games (revived in 1896). Boing Boing informs us that the Olympic Gold Medals we are watching being awarded are only gold-plated, and that Olympic Gold Medals have not really been made of gold since a century ago.

The amount of gold in an Olympic gold medal has fallen to 1.34 percent, thanks to gold prices that recently peaked at $1,895 an ounce. At current prices, a pure 400g medal would cost about $25,000 to make, with a total bill of about $50m for the games.

“The last time the Olympic Games handed out solid gold medals was a hundred years ago at the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden,” writes gold brokers Dillon Gage. “Gold medals were in fact only gold for eight years. …

The 2012 gold is 92.5 percent silver, 1.34 percent gold, and 6.16 copper, with IOC rules specifying that it must contain 550 grams of high-quality silver and 6 grams of gold. The resulting medallion is worth about $500. For the silver medal, the gold is replaced with more copper, for a $260 bill of materials.

The bronze medal is 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin. Valued at about $3, you might be able to trade one for a bag of chips in Olympic park if you skip the fish.

28 Jul 2012

Jonathan Chait: “Using ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Against Obama Is Racism”

, , ,


Jonathan Chait
reacts as liberals always do when conservative arguments prove effective. Why is Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That” Roanoke speech hurting Obama? Racism!

The entire key to the rise of the Republican Party from the mid-sixties through the nineties was that white Americans came to see the Democrats as taking money from the hard-working white middle class and giving it to a lazy black underclass. Reactivating that frame is still the most mortal threat to the Democrats and to Obama. That is why Obama is reacting so urgently to reestablish himself.

In essence, people like Chait believe their own views to be so morally obligatory that you cannot prefer personal responsibility to redistribution and hand outs without thereby manifesting a negative attitude to certain groups stereotypically on the receiving end of the same.

What Chait is really saying is “If you don’t like welfare, you hate Negroes.” Which, really, if you think about it, is a perspective less than complimentary to African Americans. Who then really is the racist, Mr. Chait?

27 Jul 2012

Episcopalians Decide That God Makes Mistakes

, , ,

Bookworm has news of a theological breakthrough by the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church in America.

On July 9, 2012, the Episcopalian Church officially banned discrimination against transsexuals. …

What makes the decision to do so funny is that, as one of those who opposed the proposal pointed out, those advancing this successful viewpoint about gender identity issues were explicitly arguing that God erred:

The Rev. Canon James Lewis, Deputy from South Carolina, said that while “gender identity and expression” may have meaning for the proposers, “to be honest I would be hard pressed to explain the boundary between identity and expression.”

    “No explanation of these terms or a theological explanation has been offered,” he said, adding that the arguments put forward by supporters were incoherent and contradictory. Canon Lewis said that the arguments put forward for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church was that as God had made them that way, and that God did not make mistakes, so the church should not exclude them.

    However, the argument put forward by the supporters of the transgendered resolution said in effect that God had made a mistake when he made transgendered people, who by seeking surgery or other means to change their gender were correcting God’s error.

It seems to me that an official resolution that is predicated on God messing up sort of negates the whole God thing. It’s one thing to revisit what He’s said and reinterpret it in different ways (making the Bible the religious equivalent of a Living Constitution), but doesn’t it take things to a whole new level to go out to ones congregants and say that God is as fallible as anybody else, and that it’s up to the Church to take proactive steps to shield individuals from the consequences of God’s errors?

What the Episcopal Church obviously has done is simply correct the old medieval notions of Ontological hierarchy, preeminence, and omniscience.

In the bad old days, people believed that God was perfect, the supreme ruler of the universe, and omniscient. We now know that the elite community of fashion possesses superior insight and moral understanding and consequently outranks God.

Go and make trouble about any of this, and they’ll take your historic church and sell it to the Muslims for a mosque.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

26 Jul 2012

Possible Wreck of German U-Boat Found 60 Miles Up Labrador River

, , , , ,


Sonar image thought to be a sunken German U-Boat.

Toronto Star:

Rumours of a World War II German submarine at the bottom of the river have been around for years, but a sonar image may prove that it’s more than just a bump on a log.

Brian Corbin, a diver from Happy Valley Goose Bay, and others were searching the river bottom with side-scanning sonar for three men lost over Muskrat Falls back in 2010 when they came across what appears to be a submarine.

“We were looking for something completely different, not a submarine, not a U-boat — I mean, no one would ever believe that was possible,” Brian Corbin told CBC News.

It certainly wasn’t unheard for German U-boat to be operating off the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during the war targeting convoys to Great Britain. One reached as far upriver on the St. Lawrence as Rimouski, some 300 km from Quebec City.

“I think it is possible,” Wyman Jacque, town manager for Happy Valley Goose Bay, told the Star Thursday.

Jacque said the U-boat could have quite easily made the trip inland on Labrador’s largest estuary to the shipping port of Happy Valley Goose Bay from the coast and he added the Churchill River before it was dammed back in the 1970s might well have been deep enough to allow the Germans sailors to get to the area of the Falls.

The Churchill River empties into what is known as Lake Melville, a salt water body of water where Happy Valley Goose Bay is located. Muskrat Falls is about 26 kilometres from Lake Melville.

“I can tell you that I have seen the sonar and the outline . . . and you can actually see an outline of what appears to be . . . a submarine,” Jacque said.

The German Embassy in Ottawa, which has been contacted about the possible find, has confirmed that as many as 50 U-boats were unaccounted for when the war ended in 1945.

———————

UPI:

[S]earchers believe they’ve found a World War II German submarine at the bottom of a Canadian river, 60 miles from the ocean.

What appears to be a German U-boat was first spotted at the bottom of the Churchill River in Labrador two years ago by searchers using sonar to locate three men who had gone over Muskrat Falls, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday.

“We were looking for something completely different, not a submarine, not a U-boat — I mean, no one would ever believe that was possible,” Brian Corbin told the CBC. “It was a great feeling when we found it.”

Corbin said the object appears to be a 150-foot-long vessel.

The German government says it would be “sensational and unusual” for one of its submarines to have ended up so far inland, though it concedes it’s possible, the CBC reported.

“We do know that German U-boats did operate in that region,” Georg Juergens, deputy head of mission for the German Embassy in Ottawa, told the CBC. “We must brace ourselves for surprises.”

Juergens said the whereabouts of more than a dozen WWII U-boats may still be unknown. He said it would be “against our tradition and our naval customs” to raise the wreckage if it does prove to be a German sub.

“This site then would be declared a war grave at sea,” he said.

———————

The loss of German U-boat personnel in WWII was something like 75%.

U-Boat losses

26 Jul 2012

International PC Regime Strikes Again

, , , , ,


Paraskevi Papachristou

Before the Olympics have even officially opened, a member of the Greek Olympic team, triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou (disrespectfully referred to in hostile news accounts by the nickname “Voula”), has been removed from the team for posting a joke on Twitter.

News reports seem to indicate that her membership in an “extreme right-wing” Greek political party [highly prejudiced Wikipedia article] was an additional factor in her expulsion from the team.

The offending tweet read: With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!

The international press, including such relatively conservative British papers as the Telegraph [quoted below] and the Daily Mail, fell into PC-lockstep, describing the young lady’s private joke as “racist” and “offensive.”

[T]he Hellenic Olympic Committee came under pressure from within Greece to take action against 23-year-old Papachristou, who had also publicly supported the Golden Dawn politician Ilias Kasidiaris, when he criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s immigration position.

She had previously retweeted promotional videos from the political party, which gained seven per cent of the vote in the recent Greek elections.

The head of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Isidoros Kouvelos, said Papachristou had “showed no respect for the basic Olympian value” in her latest tweet.

“She made a mistake and in life we pay for our mistakes,” he told Skai TV.

Papachristou took to social media sites Facebook and Twitter to apologise for the “unfortunate and tasteless joke”, adding she was sorry and ashamed for the negative responses, especially to her family and coach George Pomaski.

“I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights,” she said.

Papachristou said she dreamt of doing well in London and argued that she respected the Olympic values and apologised to friends and athletes whom she may have insulted.

“My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values,” she said. “Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races.”

Pomaski said the expulsion from the Olympic team was harsh and out of proportion, especially as she had apologised.

This is the way we live now. There is no freedom of speech on social media. We all live under the supervision of an international authority representing the consensus of the elite community of fashion empowered to punish any case of speech or expression it finds objectionable. Europeans additionally can be punished for affiliation with inappropriate political parties. Unelected bodies like Olympic Committees and the NCAA can apply whatever punishments and penalties they like without appeal.

I’m not myself precisely sure just when it was that we were actually subjugated and occupied and lost our freedom of thought and expression as well as our right to due process and democratic institutions, but it certainly has happened, hasn’t it?

26 Jul 2012

2008 Obama Supporter Interviews 2012 Self

, , , ,

25 Jul 2012

Chromosomal Evidence That Mankind Nearly Went Extinct

, , , ,


A leading causal candidate for the human genetic bottleneck is the volcanic supereruption that formed Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Sam Kean, in Slate, explains that the number of human chromosomes suggests that modern humanity emerged from a small, inbred population.

Humans have 46 chromosomes. Our closest primate relatives have 48. So where did those extra two disappear to? …

Let’s go back a million years, when most proto-humans had 48 chromosomes, and follow a hypothetical Guy who has 47. Again, a chromosome fused at the tips won’t affect Guy’s day-to-day health. But having an odd number of chromosomes will cripple the viability of his sperm. (If you prefer to think of a female, the same is true of her eggs.)

Say the fusion left Guy with a normal chromosome 12, a normal 13, and a 12-13 hybrid in each cell. During sperm production his body has to divide those three chromosomes into two cells, and there are only a few possible ways to divvy them. There’s {12} & {13, 12-13}, or {13} & {12, 12-13}, or {12, 13} & {12-13}. The first four sperms are either missing a chromosome or have a duplicate, practically a cyanide capsule for an embryo. The last two cases have the proper amount of DNA for a normal child. But only in the sixth case does Guy pass the fusion on. Overall, then, two-thirds of Guy’s children die in the womb, and just one-sixth inherit the fusion. And any Junior with the fusion would then face the same terrible odds trying to reproduce. Not a good recipe for spreading the fusion—and again, that’s still only 47 chromosomes, not 46.

What Guy needs is a Doll with the same two fused chromosomes. Now, the odds of two people with the same fusion meeting might seem infinitesimal. And they would be—except in inbred families, where the chances of finding a cousin or half-sibling with the same fusion don’t round down to zero so easily. What’s more, while the odds of Guy and Doll having a healthy child remain low, every 36th spin of the genetic roulette wheel (because 1/6 x 1/6 = 1/36), the child would inherit both fused chromosomes—giving him 46 total.

And here’s the payoff: Junior and his 46 chromosomes would likely have an easier time having children than his 47-chromosomed parents. Remember that the fusion itself doesn’t ruin you—lots of healthy people have fusions. It’s only reproduction that gets tricky, since fusions can lead to an excess or deficit of DNA in embryos. But because he has an even number of chromosomes, little Junior wouldn’t have any unbalanced sperm cells: Each would have the right amount of DNA to run a human, just packaged differently. As a result, all of his children have a good chance of being healthy. And if his children start having their own children—especially with other relatives with 46 or 47 chromosomes—the fusion could start to spread. …

How did having 46 chromosomes then spread worldwide? It’s possible that having two fewer chromosomes than everyone else gave Guy and Doll’s family a whopping evolutionary advantage, allowing them to out-compete the 48-chromosome sluggards. But probably not. More likely, they happened to be living at a point when the human race nearly got wiped out.

Take your pick for the cause of our near-extinction—ice ages, plagues, Indonesian gigavolcanoes. But humans have far less genetic diversity than most other species, and the most reasonable explanation for this is a genetic bottleneck: a severe reduction in the population of humans in the past, perhaps multiple times. One study suggested that our population, worldwide, might have dropped as low as 40 adults. (The world record for fitting people in a phone booth is 25.) That’s an outlandishly pessimistic guess even among disaster scientists, but it’s common to find estimates of a few thousand adults, below what some minor league baseball teams draw.

Read the whole thing.

25 Jul 2012

Grace In Adversity

, ,

The embarrassing little accidents of life afflict even royal persons. Above, King Albert II of Belgium finds his sword stuck in drain cover on his way to attend mass at St. Gudule-Cathedral in Brussels.

National Post coverage

As we see below, however, a king is able to be be a good sport and laugh over his own discomfiture

Hat tip to Rafal Heydel-Mankoo.

24 Jul 2012

Ivanhoe Gap Persists

, , ,


Bayeaux Tapestry: battle of Hastings

Steve Sailor, doubtless ruefully, quotes an article from last year by Richard Savill.

In Britain, there is still a small but measurable difference in social metrics between people on different sides of the Ivanhoe gap after nearly a millennium. From The Telegraph in 2011:

    People with Norman names wealthier than other Britons

    People with “Norman” surnames like Darcy and Mandeville are still wealthier than the general population 1,000 years after their descendants conquered Britain, according to a study into social progress.

    Research shows that the descendants of people who in 1858 had “rich” surnames such as Percy and Glanville, indicating they were descended from the French nobility, are still substantially wealthier in 2011 than those with traditionally “poor” or artisanal surnames.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

24 Jul 2012

How the Media Misreported the Penn State Scandal

, , , , , ,


detail, former Paterno memorial

John Ziegler described how misreporting and media sensationalism destroyed the reputation of Joe Paterno and the nation’s most admired football program.

Regardless of what the final facts eventually say about what Joe Paterno knew and when he knew it about Jerry Sandusky’s criminal behavior (contrary to what the media has told you, they aren’t in yet and I have confronted very anti-Paterno “reporters” who admit this privately), the media coverage of him has been as unfair as any I have ever seen. In some ways, the media coverage of Joe Paterno has combined some of the worst elements of both the reporting of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 presidential election. …

After the grand jury presentment was made available at a Saturday press conference which announced the Sandusky indictments last November, the initial media coverage was, in retrospect remarkably, and tellingly, rather muted.

ESPN, who would later the next week drive most of the narrative of the overall story, limited most of their coverage over the weekend to a passing news mention and a perfunctory place on the ubiquitous scroll on the bottom of the screen. After all, they had actual college and pro football games to broadcast/cover and no need to interrupt those ratings winners for the story of some guy who hadn’t coached football in over a decade.

The first edition of Sports Illustrated (which went to press about 48 hours after the indictments) after the news broke does not make mention of the Sandusky story in even one news article. Sandusky didn’t even make the “For the Record” section under “Arrests.” The story is only cited in an opinion column on the back page which reads somewhat like the “last word” on a story which is horrible but which may not provide much opportunity to write about in the future.

By the next week, Joe Paterno was somehow on the cover of SI along with multiple banner headlines, including one indicating that this was the biggest scandal in college sports history.

What changed in the ensuing week? Well, Paterno was fired, but not because we learned anything significantly new about the scandal during that time. Instead, what happened was that ESPN, with the help of popular website Deadspin (which was the first outlet to jump all over the story and predict Paterno’s demise), decided that they could change the rules of this game and make what was an otherwise dead sports week into a dramatic, ratings winning, passion play.

The initial take of the mainstream media was that this was not really a Joe Paterno story because, while Sandusky had been his assistant coach and there was a major allegation which occurred on campus, it was after he had already left the program. Paterno had testified but had not been charged. The prosecutors said that Paterno had done what was legally required of him, though they did raise the issue (in the response to a leading question from the media) of whether Paterno had fulfilled his moral responsibility with regard to making sure the allegations were properly followed up.

Seemingly lulled into a false sense of security by the relative rationality of the initial coverage (which was neither as intense nor as insane as it soon would be), Penn State made a couple of critical errors. The first was that they failed to make it clear that when Paterno had made sure the Mike McQueary allegations were reported to Gary Schultz, that he was doing so to the person in charge of the campus police. The media, either out of incompetence, deceitfulness, or both, never made that clear and in fact often reported that Paterno “never went to the police.” This omission created a huge hole in Paterno’s ship, which should have been easily plugged. Instead, it was an unnecessary leak in his story which still exists in public perception today. …

Now the media had what they wanted. They suddenly processed all the excuses they needed to turn a story about a likely child molester who hadn’t coached at Penn State for twelve years, into a tale of whether a legend had failed in his moral responsibility to protect children he may or may not have even known were ever in danger.

The public wouldn’t care much about Sandusky, but everyone knew Joe Paterno. The tearing down of a pious legend makes for incredible copy and it transformed that week from a remarkably slow sports period (the NBA was still on strike, baseball was over, and football was in a midseason lull) into a ratings bonanza.

Now it should be noted that one of the primary weapons which drove the deep passion and anger on this story at the outset was the misuse of one key phrase in the grand jury presentment. The prosecutors brilliantly (though deceitfully) claimed that Mike McQueary had witnessed Sandusky having “anal intercourse” with a ten year old boy in the Penn State showers.

Quite simply, there is very little in the human condition which makes our brains turn off their logic mechanisms faster than the concept of a child being anally raped by an old man. Like the color red to a raging bull, this phrase turned what would have been reasonable outrage into a communal blind fury. It also made it nearly impossible to discuss the actual facts of the matter because people understandably don’t like talking about the subject.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that had the grand jury presentment not used the words “anal intercourse,” that Joe Paterno would not have been fired the way that he was and likely would have coached out the season. I also have little uncertainty that the phrase was purposely misused in the grand jury presentment because prosecutors knew exactly what kind of public reaction it would provoke.

I also believe that part of the reason that the phrase “anal intercourse” was placed in the grand jury presentment was because, at that time, contrary to public perception, the legal case against Jerry Sandusky was actually remarkably weak.

Incredibly, despite a huge civil settlement being there for the taking, somehow there was/is no known victim in the McQueary episode (Don’t tell the media that! They still don’t realize it!), and, though somehow no one knew it at the time, McQueary had inexplicably testified incorrectly about which day, month and year the incident he supposedly witnessed took place.

Few people, and fewer media members, realize that at the time of the indictments there was only one allegation of actual “sex” from a known witness, and that person’s story had been disbelieved by officials at his own school (interestingly that boy’s mom doesn’t blame Paterno or Penn State). The prosecution needed a big explosion in order to blow the case wide open and bring in other accusers they had to be sure were still out there. Their tactic worked perfectly, but it also had the side effect (one with which it seems they weren’t unpleased) of making it impossible for Paterno to get a remotely fair public examination.

As it ultimately turned out, the “hanging” jury in the Jerry Sandusky case actually rightly acquitted him of “anal intercourse” in the McQueary allegation (for the record, I believe the evidence indicates that McQueary did not witness an assault, but rather a botched “grooming”). But by that time it no longer mattered and this inconvenient fact was almost universally ignored by the media.

Read the whole thing.

He has a terrific article which makes vital points on this sad affair. I think it is, however, too long and needed a bit of editing which it did not receive.

23 Jul 2012

Coming Soon: Libraries Without Books

, ,


One winces when one reads: “Recently the Yale University library unceremoniously junked its old card catalogue drawers, filling a large dumpster with them.”


David A. Bell
, in the New Republic, describes how cataclysmic change is coming to libraries everywhere and discusses what all this is likely to mean.

For how long will providing access to physical books remain a central mission for libraries? Even as reading on screens becomes more and more common, the number of books easily available in electronic form seems likely to increase, and a consensus for allowing some form of free access to “library copies” of digital files seems likely to emerge. True, the legal wrangling over Google Books has shown worrisome signs of stretching out, Bleak House– fashion, toward the next century. But with the digital files of copyrighted books already in existence, and with money to be made from their distribution, it still seems probable that within twenty years or so, it will be possible to download virtually any book ever printed, anywhere, to any device. The chances will be better for readers with access to some sort of subscription service—most often through universities where they study, or have faculty positions. But even for those without this sort of privileged access, some form of free access may very well emerge. And then, what future for libraries?

One nightmare scenario is all too easy to imagine. The year is 2033, and the Third Great Recession has just struck. Although voters have finally turned the Tea Party out of office in Washington, the financial situation remains dire across the country. New York City in particular faces skyrocketing deficits as a result of the most recent Wall Street wipeout, and the bankruptcy of Goldman Chase. In City Hall, a newly elected mayor casts a covetous glance at the grand main branch of the New York Public Library. Think how much money the city could save by selling it, along with the thirty remaining branch libraries scattered throughout the five boroughs. After strenuous negotiations, the mayor announces a deal with Googlezon, under which the company will make fifty electronic copies of any book in its database available at any one time to city residents, for two-week free rentals on the reading device of their choice. Two years later, where the main branch library once stood, the mayor proudly cuts the ribbon at the opening of the Bryant Park Mall. As for the services once performed by actual librarians, these have now been replaced by a cloud software package, with customer service representatives standing by online in case of technical difficulties (most of them physically located in suburban Manila).

In truth, such a turn of events would hardly rank with the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria in the annals of cultural vandalism. If it came to pass, readers would still enjoy, between the new electronic “lending library” and the public domain titles accessible through the Digital Public Library of America, a larger and more complete library at their fingertips (literally!) than exists today in any single locality. It would not be the barbaric destruction of knowledge. It would be the democratization of knowledge on a scale unimaginable in the pre-Internet age. The benefits are not to be discounted.

Yet the sacrifices entailed—the loss of physical libraries, and of librarians—would still be massive and culturally tragic.

I don’t personally give a rat’s ass about those “library communities” of his, but I certainly agree that the transition is going to be revolutionary and not without losses and pain.

From my own viewpoint as a researcher and regular user of major libraries, I wonder if the experts and planners managing the Great Revolution transitioning us from printed paper to electronic files sufficiently appreciate the crucial importance of preserving and maintaining access to serial publications.

It is very common for enormously larger quantities and much more detailed information on many subjects to have been preserved in ephemeral articles and letters in newspapers and magazines than ever actually made it onward to be preserved between the covers of actual books.

Serial publications are additionally characteristically cheaply printed on rapidly deteriorating acid-filled paper and weekly publications are typically folio sized. Not only are serials prone to be overlooked as a relatively insignificant afterthought by professional librarians. Their preservation is more costly and more difficult than that of most books.

—————————-

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

23 Jul 2012

Meteora Monasteries

, , , , ,

Greek Orthodox monks built 20 monasteries atop rock pillars at Meteora overlooking the Thessalian Plain, from the 10th to the 16th century, in order to get away from Byzantine politics and raiding Turks.

Wikipedia says:

Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the words of UNESCO, “The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.” In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed. Many art treasures were stolen.

Until the 17th century, the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of baskets and ropes.

Six of the monasteries remain today. Of these six, four were inhabited by men, and two by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants. The monasteries are now tourist attractions.

Trek Earth slide-show

From Fred Lapides.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted for July 2012.















Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark