blog-O-rama archive
january 2003

ann maria bell

31.01.03

What would a U.S. occupation of Iraq look like?

Nothing like the Allied occupation of Japan, according to a group of Japanese and international experts. In a concise and clear statement delivered at a press conference in Tokyo on January 24, they demonstrate the flaws in Bush's oft-repeated analogy between the Japanese post-war experience and the likely outcome of the occupation of Iraq.

The statement details the critical factors that enabled the occupation of Japan to "proceed peacefully and in a spirit of relative good will," for example, the broad-based consensus in the international community and the cooperation of Emperor Hirohito. The cooperation of neighboring countries also eased the task of occupation: "Japan's Asian neighbors, victims of Japanese wartime aggression, supported the Allied occupation. Some, such as China and the Philippines, also participated in the Far Eastern Commission, the Allied policy-making body for post-defeat Japan." These key elements are lacking entirely in the case of Iraq.

In classically understated academic prose the statement also reviews some potential problems with the occupation of Iraq that do not require a background in Japanese history to anticipate:

An occupation of Iraq seems destined to fail for another reason. Whereas Japan possessed few natural resources, Iraq has the world's second largest proven reserves of petroleum. Iraqis may well conclude that the U.S. invasion and occupation are designed mainly to gain unrestricted access to their oil fields. Few are likely to collaborate with an occupation authority that is believed to covet this prime resource for its own use.

The two situations are so incongruent that the scholars refer to Bush's analogy as a "reckless and self-serving misreading of history," and conclude that:

As students of the Japanese occupation, we believe that the Bush administration's plans for war and occupation in Iraq are a historical mistake and strongly urge the United States to seek a peaceful solution to the present crisis.

read the full statement here --- my thanks to Cheryl Crowley for sending it to me.

26.01.03

"outwitting gravity since 1835"

our long delayed pilgrimage to the house on the rock is on hold again --- it's closed until march 15. our previous attempt in november was foiled because we chose the weekend that they close it in order to put up their christmas decorations (over 6000 santas!) and to switch their soundsystem to "heart warming christmas music." that was enough to keep us away through december.

the house on the rock is one of two key locations in neil gaiman's novel american gods. the other is kitsch tourism's southern mecca, rock city, voted the "best place in the southeast to drop LSD" 27 years in a row.

early pioneers in the development of visual spam, the founders of rock city paid farmers throughout the south a small amount to have the slogan "see rock city" painted on the roofs of their barns. the slogan started appearing on the roofs of bird houses (you can still buy one in the giftshop). now rock city advertises via highway billboards, which, in a paradigmatic example of the post-modern pop-culture-eats-itself aesthetic, feature a large illustration of a bird house with "see rock city" painted on its roof.

it was too cold for our usual strategy of driving around in the car until we find something that looks interesting then getting out of the car and looking at it, so we decided to check out discovery world in milwaukee. discovery world is in a larger complex with an imax theater and the milwaukee public museum, which focuses on natural (and cultural) history. discovery world itself is on the small size, although there is an exhibit permanently closed to the publice (area 51) and there we some demonstration areas that were not being used while we were there.

the best exhibit by far was "milwaukee muscle" --- simple demonstrations of different types of levers, pulleys and gears. all of the "muscle" exhibits had a great tactile feel to them and a cool slogan from exhibit sponsors briggs & stratton: "outwitting gravity since 1835." the various hydraulic exhibits, a steam shovel (without steam --- what are they called these days?), an elephant's trunk and a t. rex wannabe were fun to play with, and we arrived early enough so that there weren't hordes of children competing for the controls. the electricity exhibits were less satisyfing, all interactive, but each gave a little snippet of information about electricity without any attempt to integrate them into a larger perspective. the weather exhibit featured very large glossy photos of 4 local weathermen (& yes they were all men) and a few computer terminals with weather websites and tiny low resolution quicktime movies of storms. the human body exhibit was downright disappointing: the digestion/nutrition area focused on the 4 food groups without even an attempt at a broader picture. bill says one of the exhibits let you see your own eye, which like any other part of the human body, looks distressingly ugly at high magnification.

meanwhile, my email at NASA is still down, presumably because of the DDoS attacks caused by an internet worm that exploited a security hole in microsoft's MS SQL software. I don't really need any more reasons to dislike microsoft, but they keep providing them anyway.

23.01.03

"He ate the whole ranch."

Tucson's answer to those multi-colored cows that keep on wandering onto the sidewalks in various cities is a herd of ponies that is being rounded up in the downtown area. My friend Mary Lucking was selected to do one of the ponies, and she has an online diary showing the whole process, from the original proposal to the pony's debut last week.

Most of the designs that I've seen decorate the outside of the cow only, but Mary's design start from the inside out --- there's a scale model of an historic Arizona ranch inside the pony, visible through peepholes set in its side and back. The outside of the pony is painted with a gorgeous deep blue desert-at-nightfall scene, with colors similar to this page. Mary's title for the project is "Inside Every Pony Beats the Heart of the Old West."

Making dioramas in shoeboxes was one of the coolest parts of elementary school. I remember one I did of an ocean beach, with the edge of the beach made from beige sandpaper and a tiny figure of a seagull that I had gotten on vacation perched on a small post. I also remember a model of an adobe village I made in the sixth grade, using clay-like soil I found in the neighborhood and sawdust from my father's table saw. I used small forms to shape the bricks, dried them in the sun, then constructed the buildings on a piece of wood.

Mary gets to make cool dioramas even though she's not in elementary school anymore. In fact, she's a public artist and this is her job. Why-o-why did I study economics?

22.01.03

one dream remembered, the last dream before I woke up:
a loose group of people milling around outside, working for a good cause, a charitable project involving seeds and constructing things out of scraps of wood. scattered dream images, a partly blind man with a partly blind dog, a bag of beautiful beans, the tea ball I use in my room. I wanted to work on the project, but they didn't seem to want my help. I tried again, offering to take pictures of them working (I had my digital camera with me) but the camera strap got tangled up with some mud from the ground. I approached them in turn, but no one would even look up at me. I felt really bad --- what had I done wrong? what could I do different?

their indifference seemed to be deliberate, even downright rude --- these people are in my dream, they only exist because of me, and still they ignored me.

but I showed them. I woke up.

20.01.03

it's 10 F here in madison, and I just got back from ice skating.
at 11:00 AM on monday morning (a holiday), with the temperature just eeking its way into the double digits, there were 25-30 hockey players, a smaller contingent of skaters including 2 babies in strollers and a couple more being dragged along on sleds, and 6 jugglers on the ice. (evidently, juggling clubs can also be used as hockey sticks, for a rousing game of ice polo.) my favorite was the guy with a hockey stick in one hand, chasing a 10 year kid with a hockey stick around the ice, while talking on his cell phone.

I lasted about half an hour ---
most of it spent wondering how it's possible to sweat and get frostbite at the same time.

yesterday's attempt to do a vulcan mind meld with my simulation failed. instead I flailed around, painfully plotting and replotting variables sampled at different locations, until I located the problem --- using a comparison with an empty array in an if statement, the comparison used to return false, now it returns nothing. unfortunately, my working hypothesis, based on the previous errors created by the upgrade, was that it was an indexing error. grrrrr.

19.01.03

my goal for today is to achieve programming mind,
to become one with my simulation of a generic water revitalization system...

the port of matlab and simulink to mac OS X is klugey --- it requires a separate X windows, oroborOSX, which makes the graphics for the simulink model small and cheezee, and there's lots of switching required with no menu driven way to get back and forth from oroborOSX to matlab. the whole environment feels cluttered. some matlab functions have different syntax for the input arguments in the new version, and I still haven't gotten the simulation to run correctly even after getting rid of all the errors. simulink changes some of the signal lines to wide in the new version, and leaves others alone. if I change the wide ones to match the originals, matlab changes them back when I run the simulation.

as if that weren't enough, the only way to navigate between the various boxes on the pop-up parameter menus for simulink is the tab key, and even that doesn't always work, so some parameters will just have to stay at their defaults. I can navigate into the file name box for sending output to the workspace or a file, but I can't use the letter 'f' in a variable or phile name. really. bill points out that there are twenty-phive other letters in the alphabet, so what's the problem?

we (me and my NASA pals julie & richard) have had two conference papers that use the WRS simulation model to examine different aspects of system resilience accepted for the spring and summer. the larger goal is to present the results in a journal paper, but that would require getting some results first.

if only whining about bugs fixed them, I'd be all set. as it is, I'm looking at a long day of bug tracking.

------------------

postscript:
the washington post's coverage of yesterday's protests.

18.01.03

best slogan from today's anti-war protest in madison:

WAR ON IRAQ =
A WEAPON OF MASS DISTRACTION

from the economy, corporate scandals, the environment, the 2000 elections. . . .

17.01.03

There is no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy.
There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.

Abraham Lincoln

this just in: CNN.com has a short article about the nationwide anti-war protests scheduled for tomorrow. the CNN article interviews Ron Kovic, a disabled Vietnam veteran who the inspiration for the movie Born on the Fourth of July. the article running on CBSnews.com gives the nuts & bolts of the planned demonstrations.

very much contrary to trend, there were two pieces of good political news recently, both coming out of illinois.

the chicago city council voted (yesterday) 46-1 for a resolution opposing a pre-emptive strike against iraq. here's the text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION OPPOSING A PRE-EMPTIVE U.S. MILITARY ATTACK ON IRAQ

WHEREAS, the issues between Iraq and the world community have not proven to be irresoluble by traditional diplomatic efforts;

and WHEREAS, while Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who should be removed from power, both for the good of the Iraqi people and for the security of Iraq's neighboring countries, it is not at all clear that a unilateral U.S. military action would result in the installation of a free and democratic Iraqi government;

and WHEREAS, U.S. military actions would risk the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians without guaranteeing the safety and security of U.S. citizens;

and WHEREAS, a pre-emptive and unilateral U.S. military attack would violate international law and our commitments under the U.N. Charter and further isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world;

and WHEREAS, the Congressional Budget Office estimates a military action against Iraq will cost our nation between $9 and $13 billion a month, likely resulting in further cuts in federally funded projects and programs that benefit our city and its residents;

and WHEREAS, a U.S.-led war in Iraq would compromise our current action in Afghanistan, and require years of nation-building activities in Iraq;

and WHEREAS, the Bush administration has failed to articulate a clear strategic objective or outcome of a military attack against Iraq, and such an attack fails to enjoy the support of many of our important allies;

and WHEREAS, we give our unconditional support to U.S. military personnel serving at home and abroad in their tireless battle against global terrorism, and should our military forces be sent to Iraq, we give our unyielding support to our young men and women serving in our nation's military, even if we oppose the policy that sent them there;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the members of the City Council of the City of Chicago, oppose a pre-emptive U.S. military attack on Iraq unless it is demonstrated that Iraq poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States;

and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, enhanced by sufficient police support to guarantee unfettered access to all targeted sites;

and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the U.S. to work through the U.N. Security Council and reaffirm our nation's commitment to the rule of law in all international relationships;

and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Illinois congressional delegation and the President of the United States.

more good news: on saturday, just before the end of his term, republican governor george ryan commuted the sentences of all 156 prisoners on death row in illinois to life in prison.

the text of gov. ryan's speech reveals, in surprisingly candid language, the shoddy, uneven, and manifestly unfair application of the death penalty in illinois.17 death row prisoners have been exonerated through careful research of a handful of professors and undergraduates at northwestern university. some of those innocent men spent decades falsely accused on death row --- one was 48 hours from execution before being proved innocent. other statistics in gov. ryan's horror show include: 33 of the death row prisoners were represented by lawyers who were later disbarred or who had been previously suspended from practicing law; 46 prisoners were convicted on the basis of testimony by jailhouse informants who were rewarded for their "cooperation."

gov. ryan points his finger at the legislature repeatedly, but seems to be sincere in describing his evolution from supporting the death penalty (he voted in favor of reinstating the death penalty in the general assembly in 1977) to his ultimate conclusion that the current system represents a grievous miscarriage of justice. ryan concludes that "Many people express the desire to have capital punishment. Few, however, seem prepared to address the tough questions that arise when the system fails."

15.01.03

--- news from madison & blog-0-rama updates ---

  • still no snow, but it was 2 F this morning when we got up, cold enough that I drove bill to work because he was worried that the 20 minute walk would be bad for his laptop. the cold streak was the modal topic of conversation as I ran post-road trip erranads like getting the oil changed. it warmed up into the 20's, with no wind, by midday so I tried out my new ice skates briefly at one of the parks. figure skates take some breaking in, that's for sure.

  • if the australian movie rabbit-proof fence is playing in your area it's worth seeing. based on the true story of three 'half-caste' aboriginal children who travel 1500 miles through open country to get back to their mother, rabbit-proof fence indicts the cruel and ethically bankrupt australian policies that reduced the aboriginal population to wards of the state. the cinematography and pacing are lyrical & the understated performances by the three child actors brilliant. the movie closes with footage of two of the main characters, now old women, telling how they hid in the desert after they made it back home. I really wanted the white bureaucrats to come to their senses, to see the injustice and tragedy they were inflicting on other human beings. but at the end of the movie molly tells how she was captured again as an adult with her two children and taken back to the same facility --- she escaped and made the journey home a second time. the policies were finally repealed in 1970.

  • I reinstalled wilma's operating system when we got back to madison and she boots just fine now (not so earlier this year) from her own harddrive. amen.

  • when I wrote my blog entry for world AIDS day I couldn't any info on the new AIDS ride in wisconsin (the heartland AIDSRide is defunct, as is palotta teamworks, the original organizers). here's the missing link: www.actride.org. the event is called AIDS NETWORK CYCLES TOGETHER or ACT I, and will benefit the AIDS network. ACT I starts and ends in madison (august 4-9, 2003) with 400+ miles of scenery, and hills, in between. the event is largely volunteer run, which should help keep costs down, and it looks like they are aiming for a manageable 300 participants. the minimum pledge requirement is $1500, significantly below the $2500 price tag on similar palotta teamworks organized events.

12.01.03

dear diary,

today I sat in a car. for the first part of the day I sat in the driver's seat and drove the car. for the rest of the day I sat in the passenger's seat and did not drive the car. I listened to many lectures from the teaching company's superstar teachers series, the "great ideas of psychology." some of the ideas were great, others did not seem so great to me.

the car vibrates when it is moving. all of the objects in the car also vibrate when the car is moving. I am one of the objects that vibrated inside the car when it was moving today, for approximately nine hours. I did not vibrate during lunch or dinner. I ate blueberry pancakes and homefries for lunch at the kopper keg in cuba, ny. I ate a baked potato with grilled vegetables, salad, garlic bread, and fresh fruit at bob evans somewhere in ohio. although bob evans has a large selection of desserts, including a new oreo cake, I did not eat any.

the motel bed is not moving or vibrating. it is not that sort of motel. nonetheless, my brain continues to vibrate inside my skull. I hope these vibrations will stop before tomorrow morning, when I plan to sit in the car some more.

your friend,
ann

11.01.03

I watched my friend Samantha play indoor soccer this morning. The field is enclosed with plexiglass and netting and the ball is played off the walls, which makes for a fast moving game. Samantha's team made some really nice plays (and won both games) --- it's great to see 10 and 11 year olds out there playing with skill and determination. This year indoor soccer is Sam's only winter sport, but in past years she has also been on a ski team and played ice hockey. Naturally, Sam asked me what sports I played when I was little.

Let me think --- that would be none.

And that would be because there were no sports leagues for little girls then. No soccer, no softball, no basketball and certainly no ice hockey. There were lessons, ice skating, horseback riding, dance, if your parents were willing to pay for them (mine weren't), but no teams. By the time school-sponsored teams were available in junior high and high school my interests had already wandered in a different direction --- I threw in my lot with the drama geeks and intellectual pretenders.

I was 9 years old in 1972, the year everything changed for women in sports. (Okay, things changed some more in 1973 when Billie Jean King kicked Bobbie Riggs butt, but that's a different story.) 1972 was the year that Title IX passed, prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities which receive federal financial funding. The effect of Title IX on women's opportunities in sports was immediate and dramatic: in 1971 there were 294,015 female high school athletes, in 1978 there were 1,854,400. The Women's Sports Foundation reports that 1 in 27 high school girls played on a team in 1971, while more than 1 in 3 girls did in 1998. In the 30 years since Title IX, participation rates for women in sports have increased 403 percent in college and 837 percent in high school.

"if you build it, they will come"

The record shows that increased opportunities for girls to participate in sports increased girls' participation in sports. Yet Title IX applies mainly to schools --- it has no jurisdiction to mandate community soccer and ice hockey leagues for girls. I don't have statistical evidence for this, but the timing suggests that a trickle down effect from the increased opportunities for older girls co-evolved with wider changes in perceptions about what activities are healthy for young girls. Watching girls today, as they run down the ball with absolute determination and go for plays without holding back, is inspiring, but makes me feel a little wistful as well. Sam asked if I would have played sports if there had been leagues back then --- I think the answer is yes, if other girls were doing it too. I had neither a burning desire to be an athlete, nor any obvious natural ability. But equality of opportunity means that mediocre women (& girls) have the same chance and get the same encouragement to participate and succeed as mediocre men (& boys).

As it turns out, mediocre is a generous description of my athletic abilities.I made my team sport debut at 26 years of age, playing right field for the Who-Ha's, a women's fast pitch softball team composed of grad students in department of economics at UW Madison. The selection of potential players was pretty thin that year and the position I played indicates my relative rank on the team (dead last). I seemed to have a particular talent for getting hit by wild pitches, during games that was usually good for a walk to first base, during practice it was only good for black and blue marks. (Do not be fooled by the name "softball" --- the ball is quite hard, and the faster it's moving the harder it feels, I believe this is one of the lesser known implications of the theory of relativity.) The first game out we were the classic charlie brown team. I ran hard to get one of the few fly balls that made it into right field, keeping my eye on the ball the whole time. Unfortunately, the woman playing center field was doing exactly the same thing. We collided at full speed, and I went sprawling onto the field, having been clocked on the jaw by the other player's shoulder. I now have much better idea how a knockout punch to the jaw works.

Although no awards were given at the end of the season, I think I would have been a shoe-in for "most improved", if only because the level I started at meant there was no where to go but up. I played a second season, even though the new crop of econ grad students filled out the roster with several talented players and plenty of warm bodies. One of the better players pulled me over in practice that year and tactfully pointed out that because I throw the ball with my right hand I should step forward on my left foot as I throw. I am happy to report that as result of this sound advice and diligent practice I no longer throw like a girl. And I still wear my purple Who-Ha's shirt sometimes when I work out at the gym.

In a spirited defense of Title IX, actress Geena Davis speculates about how her life might have been different if she had been encouraged to pursue sports as a girl, and recounts the benefits of her serious pursuit of archery as an adult. In her testimony, Davis noted that "Becoming an athlete has changed my life utterly." While being on the Who-Ha's was not a life-changing event for me, here's my take on some important life lessons that can be learned from participating in team sports, even if, or maybe especially if, you suck:

1) no matter how bad you are when you start, you get better with practice
2) no matter how overmatched or behind you are, you play to the end of the game
3) even if you happen to be winning, you still have to pay attention.

For adults and children, participation in sports helps combat two of the afflictions of modern living in the United States: loneliness and obesity.

1972 was the year that Title IX passed, but if the Bush Administration has its way 2003 will be the year that Title IX is gutted. Opponents of Title IX are attempting to blame cuts in less popular men's sports like wrestling and gymnastics on the athletic opportunities for women required for compliance with the law. Julie Foudy, captain of the U.S. national women's soccer team, points out the fallacy of this kind of scapegoating:

"People familiar with the law know that Title IX doesn't make athletic departments cut men's sports. It lets them allocate funds as they see fit. A lot of schools decide that it's easier to cut wrestling than to reexamine their budgets. That's not Title IX. That's an athletic department saying, 'Here are our priorities.'"

The blame-the-victim rhetoric put forward by opponents of Title IX draws attention away from the real reasons college athletic departments are in the red. As the Women's Sports Foundation points out: "it is bloated expenses for football and men's basketball, and the athletics arms race in general, that are the biggest culprits for losses of men's minor sports opportunities. Men and women need not be pitted against each other; sensible budgeting can enhance opportunities for all." (from this article)

Write the Title IX commission in support of equal opportunity for women and girls in sports. The commission will issue its recommendations on January 31, 2003.

07.01.03

after days of low hanging gray mist and formless clouds, the sun sparkled through the ice-covered trees and reflected pure white off drifted blankets of snow this morning. I headed for podunk, 10 miles north of ithaca, through hills and fields frosted with another layer of light snow. (ithaca, of course, is located 10 miles south of podunk.)

in podunk, I did some cross country skiing, quite a bit of lumbering through the snow with long narrow boards attached to my feet, and a few pratfalls, not to mention a lot of sweating and heavy breathing. not bad, really, given the 10 year hiatus since my last attempt at cross country. I figure I better get my winter sports in while I can, as the ice is getting thin and the snow is nonexistent in madison.

the trail edged through corn fields and alongside a swift gurgling river, clouds and blue sky traded places above the trees, snow and ice outlined the world with clean white details --- it's hard to describe the amazing beauty that surrounded me today without sounding like a complete dork.

06.01.03

ithaca is still a winter wonderland, and I keep taking more pictures. one of these decades the photos will migrate to the web.

we went to see the two towers again this afternoon --- that makes 3 times so far. I still think the fellowship of the ring was better, but I've liked the two towers more and more with each viewing. for example, while the score isn't as dramatic some of the new themes introduced are really quite lovely.

we watched the extended of version of the fellowship of the ring the night before last, with surround sound speakers. the scene in moria where they fight the cave troll had very cool 3 dimensional sound effects.

03.01.03

oneonta, new york. we're on our way to ithaca. a serious snow storm set in around williamstown ma and turned the scenic backroads and even the interstates, into a long white tunnel paved with ice and snow drifts. the snow continues to fall, fast and relentless, with 10 inches on the ground already. according to the weather map, there's not even an inch of snow back in wisconsin -- I'm not sure if that should make me feel better or worse.

the new year didn't get off to an auspicious start on the technology front either -- no go when I tried to start wilma (my long running G3 powerbook) on new years day. fortunately, we have farbleX, a 120gb external hard drive with OS X installed, along for the ride. wilma not only booted from farbleX but we could also see wilma's hard drive, which had an "invalid key length" error according to the onboard disk utility. a quick google search suggested that norton disk utilities might fix the problem. we ran it multiple times (I'd say 20 or more) until it thought it had fixed all the errors. alas, wilma still won't boot from her native version of OS X -- I did notice that one of the repairs that norton disk utilities attempted was on "root". I'm hoping that re-installing the OS when I get back to wisconsin will fix the problem. if the hard drive really has gone south I'll have to reinstall a lot of software. one of the big strengths of OS 9 was that you could copy any file, including the operating system, to another drive and then back to the original, and it would work as before -- this made it very easy to back everything up and restore the machine in case of a failure. unfortunately, OS X does not allow this wanton (and extremely convenient) wholesale transfer of files.

in any case, wilma is fully functional, if not exactly portable, tethered to farbleX. bill had backed up both powerbooks just before we left, and the first thing we did when wilma's disk appeared was to recover the new files that I had created since then (like all my christmas photos). the moral of the story is:

the road to revolution is paved with hard disk failures -- always make a back up copy.

that's an actual quote from the acknowledgements section of my phd thesis.

01.01.03

new year's confession: I'm actually writing this on january 6.

but at least I started the year off with a good excuse for not writing a blog entry, the wonky hard drive described above. in fact, I was starting up the computer to make the last entry in and do the end of the year tally of my book list. for the past 15 years I've been keeping track of all the books I read --- the requirements for inclusion on the list are 1) that it be an actual book (no audiotapes, though I've been tracking them separately) and 2) that I read the book completely (occasional exceptions made for irrelevant sections of computer books).

in 2002, I read 74 books, bringing my yearly average to 45.4, up from 43.36 at the end of 2001 (42.3 at the end of 2000, 41.66 at the end of 1999). at this rate, it will take quite a few more years to reach my goal of an average of 52 books per year --- at least the trend is in the right direction.

memorable books of 2002 include:

2002 books on deck for future blog-0-rama commentary

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