Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nuclear Leaks 29: Billions of Bequerels of Radiocesium Per Litre at Fukushima

"Workers in the rain install underground walls to prevent contaminated groundwater from flowing into the ocean on July 22 [2013]." Image Source: Asahi Shimbun.

A trench along the seawall at Fukushima with 5,000 cubic metres of water may be leaking - or be on the verge of leaking - into groundwater and into the Pacific. The water, which appears to be coming from, or did come from, under Fukushima Daiichi reactor #2, contains astonishing levels of radioactive material. After a 26 July test, TEPCO's published results from 27 July 2013 are translated from Japanese at EX-SKF here. Workers are building a wall of liquid glass between the trench and the sea to prevent extreme contamination of the Pacific Ocean.

The situation had already begun attracting growing external criticism in April. Pity the brave workers, who are struggling with this monster:
The water keeps increasing every minute, no matter whether we eat, sleep or work,” said Masayuki Ono, a general manager with Tepco who acts as a company spokesman. “It feels like we are constantly being chased, but we are doing our best to stay a step in front.”...

The situation is worrisome enough that Shunichi Tanaka, a longtime nuclear power proponent who is the chairman of the newly created watchdog Nuclear Regulation Authority, told reporters after the announcement of the leaking pits that “there is concern that we cannot prevent another accident.” ...

A growing number of government officials and advisers now say that by entrusting the cleanup to the company that ran the plant before the meltdowns, Japanese leaders paved the way for a return to the insider-dominated status quo that prevailed before the disaster. 

Even many scientists who acknowledge the complexity of cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl fear that the water crisis is just the latest sign that Tepco is lurching from one problem to the next without a coherent strategy. 

“Tepco is clearly just hanging on day by day, with no time to think about tomorrow, much less next year,” said Tadashi Inoue, an expert in nuclear power who served on a committee that drew up the road map for cleaning up the plant.
Today's reports:
  • WSJ:  "Radiation of 750 million becquerels a liter of cesium-134 and 1.6 billion becquerels a liter of cesium-137 was recorded, Tepco said. The normal limits for the two potentially harmful isotopes are 60 and 90 becquerels, respectively. In April 2011 a combined 1.8 billion becquerels was recorded. 'The level of radioactivity is potentially serious but the impact would depend on where it is found,' a Tepco official said. The sample came from a trench near the No. 2 reactor turbine building, the utility said. Water with much lower radiation—around 9,000-18,000 becquerels a liter--has leaked into the sea from groundwater, Tepco said earlier this week after the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it suspected seepage. This radiation was at 'far lower levels' than found in the trench samples, the Tepco official said. Tepco is searching for the water source. It is probably from one of the damaged reactor cores. It is trying to stop the water leaking into the sea, it said." 
  • EXSKF: "5,000 cubic meters, or 5,000 tonnes of this water is in the trench. Note: 5,000 cubic meters of water is equal to 5 million liters. One liter was found to contain 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium. If this concentration is consistent, the total amount would be nearly 12 quadrillion becquerels of cesium in this one trench."
  • Japan Times (hat tip: ENE): "Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that the trench problem at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has cropped up again and is sending highly radioactive water into the sea. The water in the underground passage, which runs under the turbine building of reactor 2, contains 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium per liter, roughly the same as that measured right after the crisis began in spring 2011. The latest sample, taken Friday from a trench, contained 750 million becquerels of cesium-134, 1.6 billion becquerels of cesium-137 and 750 million becquerels of other radioactive substances, the utility said. A sample from April 2011 contained 1.8 billion becquerels of both cesium-134 and cesium-137 per liter. Cesium has a half-life of about 30 years. The trench is believed to be the source of the groundwater problem that’s been baffling Tepco’s experts for months. Their current theory is that the highly radioactive water found and left in the trench in 2011 is now leaking directly into the groundwater, which is seeping into the sea.Tepco finally admitted Monday that contaminated water was getting into the Pacific. The admission came after the Nuclear Regulation Authority pointed out that highly radioactive water was 'strongly suspected' to be seeping into the ground under the site and making its way to the sea." 
  • Asahi Shimbun: "According to TEPCO, 2.35 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium were detected per liter of water that was sampled July 26 from a cable pit on the ocean side of the No. 2 reactor. The breakdown was 750 million becquerels of cesium-134 and 1.6 billion becquerels of cesium-137. A liter of the water was also found to contain 750 million becquerels of radioactive substances that emit beta rays, such as strontium. Those concentration levels are almost the same as measurements taken during the early phases of the disaster, TEPCO said. 'We believe the highly radioactive water is staying within the pit,' a TEPCO official said, adding that the utility will nevertheless check carefully for possible leaks into surrounding soil and seal the ground to block such leaks from reaching the sea. ... The utility hopes to halt the problem by building a wall out of liquid glass between the reactors and the sea and removing the contaminated water from the underground passage."

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Sad Story

Gerald Bales (1919-2002). Image Source: Canadian Music Centre.

One day can change a whole life. It is a cliché, the kind of idea that comes up in movies like Dog Day Afternoon (1975). There are millions of stories which prove every day how true that cliché actually is. A small corner of someone's reality becomes tragic, magnified at an awful turning point. The story that follows struck me as a microcosm of the conflict between art and brutality, between people who try to find a creative solution and those who seek a destructive answer. It reminded me of the ways that conflict seems to be everywhere today, and how brutality seems to be winning. This story also depicts two societies: one mostly preserved a small town innocence to the end of the 20th century, while the other struggled with crime and violence.

This story was related to me by someone who studied under a Canadian musician and composer named Gerald Bales. A child prodigy born in Toronto, Bales was at one time considered to be the best organist in Canada. He taught music and held a number of Canadian church appointments, until he moved to the United States.

The organ at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Image Source: OHS Pipe Organ Database.

From 1959 to 1971 Bales served as the organist and choirmaster at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Minneapolis. The Canadian Music Centre remarks:
In that post, he established the Cathedral Music Series and conducted many first performances of compositions by American, Canadian and British composers. His organ recitals there became a vital contribution to the Minneapolis music scene - attracting numerous guest recitalists of international fame.
One day, while Bales was practising at the organ, robbers came into the church, hit him on the head and mugged him. He fell into a coma and never fully recovered. The head injury he suffered ruined his motor skills and made it impossible for him to perform at the organ again.

The organ at St. Mark's. Image Source: Mark Manring.

After the robbery, one of Bales's compositions, commissioned by St. Marks, premiered in 1974. It was called Song of Creation.

The centre of Minneapolis began a slow decline in the decades after the 1950s. The Whittier community of the city, not far from the cathedral, had once been affluent and began to suffer rising crime by the 1970s. You can see a story (here) in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the high crime rates in the city in the 1970s compared to today. On 18 October 1988, authorities demolished Block E in downtown Minneapolis, which had become a focal point of peep shows and porn shops. There is a Facebook page devoted to Old Minneapolis, before and during the rise of crime, here; the affiliated photo page is here. A 2004 article (here) discusses why crime fell across the United States by the 1990s; the article mentions Minneapolis.

You can hear one of the compositions which Gerald Bales wrote during the early part of his stay in Minneapolis below the jump, and variants by him here. One Youtuber comments: "I believe Bales to be a highly under-appreciated composer of the 20th century."

Kremlin Postscript

The Kremlin, bringing back antiques, one diktat at a time. Image Source: Wiki.

Like many, the Kremlin likes freedom of information only when it serves its own purposes. Russian officials have lately supported WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden because these men embarrassed US authorities. But Putin and "the ruling Russian ... siloviki, a powerful faction comprising former and present security servicemen," are less enthusiastic about local whistleblower and blogger Alexy Navalny. And now the Kremlin is worried about ... leaks.

Triumph Adler TWEN 180 typewriter. Image Source: The Telegraph.

Just when we thought old-fashioned typewriters were only good for making Steampunk sculptures, Russian authorities are returning to using typewriters as a secure method of preparing documents. The Telegraph:
A source at Russia's Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is in charge of safeguarding Kremlin communications and protecting President Vladimir Putin, claimed that the return to typewriters has been prompted by the publication of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website, as well as Edward Snowden, the fugitive US intelligence contractor.
The FSO is looking to spend 486,000 roubles – around £10,000 – on a number of electric typewriters, according to the site of state procurement agency, zakupki.gov.ru. The notice included ribbons for German-made Triumph Adle[r] TWEN 180 typewriters, although it was not clear if the typewriters themselves were this kind.
The service declined to comment on the notice, which was posted ... [in the first] week [of July 2013].
However an FSO source told Izvestiya newspaper: “After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the exposes by Edward Snowden, reports about Dmitry Medvedev being listened in on during his visit to the G20 summit in London, it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents.”
Unlike printers, every typewriter has its own individual pattern of type so it is possible to link every document to a machine used to type it. ...

Nikolai Kovalev, the former director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, told Izvestiya: “From the point of view of security, any means of electronic communication is vulnerable. You can remove any information from a computer. There are means of defence, of course, but there’s no 100 per cent guarantee they will work. So from the point of view of preserving secrets the most primitive methods are preferable: a person’s hand and a pen, or a typewriter.
Below the jump, some of the nicer vintage typewriters currently on eBay. It's sad to see them lined up in this elephants' graveyard, some still with their silk ribbons, of interest only to collectors. How many of today's gadgets will still function in 100 years?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Time and Politics 9: WikiLeaks Turns Political

Assange's Interpol wanted page (2010). Image Source: Interpol via The New Observer.

In the 21st century, global media ensure that you don't have to be anywhere near your constituents to be elected locally. On 23 March 2013, Julian Assange founded the new WikiLleaks political party. Assange is running for election to the Victorian seat of the Australian Senate in Rapunzel-esque fashion from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The elections will be held in mid-September and the Wikileaks party is fielding 7 candidates, including their silver-haired leader. In April, the Sydney Morning Herald cited early polls which indicated that Assange's party enjoys a high level of support:
Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks Party are in the running to win Senate seats in Victoria and NSW, according to research by the Labor Party's pollster.
A national poll conducted by UMR Research found 26 per cent of voters said they were likely to vote for Mr Assange and his political party.
UMR found support for Mr Assange and WikiLeaks is highest in NSW, with 36 per cent of people interviewed saying they are likely to support the new party in the Senate.
Support in Victoria is 23 per cent, in Queensland 22 per cent, and in Western Australia 18 per cent.

UMR managing director John Utting said that while he expected the eventual vote for Mr Assange and WikiLeaks will be significantly lower than the latest figures, the polling ''clearly shows the potential of what [Mr Assange] can do''.
Assange's main aim is to "keep the bastards honest":
Spokeswoman for the WikiLeaks party, Samantha Cross, said that ... Assange spoke about the party's platform of transparency and how they have very highly skilled candidates with academic, social justice, legal and journalistic backgrounds and were 'not your traditional politicians' having interest in transparency and scrutiny, who want to bring the Senate back to a house of oversight.
The party is run through a Skype link from London to Melbourne's Fitzroy library. If WikiLeaks' leader wins a seat and cannot return to Australia, a running mate will physically take his seat for him. However, this would embarrass Australia:
WikiLeaks Party national council member Sam Castro said that if Mr Assange wins a seat but cannot return to Australia by then, the party can choose a replacement. But she said the onus is on the Australian government to ensure an elected senator could sit in Parliament. The situation would be unprecedented, she said. “Wow, what would that mean if the Australian government did nothing to assure the safe passage of an elected representative who has been granted asylum?”
Getting elected? That's a very clever way to get out of that embassy! This is another example of the ways in which members of Generation X are changing the political landscape through the use of social media, new communications media, and online networks. They are hybridizing the old system with the new and coming up with curious ways to counter conventional power plays.

The New Observer, a right wing outlet, takes a dim view of Assange, an "alleged rapist ... [and] confirmed hacker." It is certainly true that public virtues are now media-driven and any larger social or political consensus on what constitutes those virtues has disappeared. Assange's fitness to act as a self-appointed Millennial arbiter of justice enters grey areas, depending on which press report you believe and what your personal attitudes are. Assange claimed in 2010 that right-wing supporters of the US military threatened to kill him and his family for 2008-2010 Bradley Manning leaks which embarrassed the military. Then again, Assange turned around and aligned with Russia Today in 2012, a deceptively Anglo-Americanized online news mouthpiece of the Russian government. That year, Forbes wondered about "The Breathtaking Hypocrisy of Julian Assange, Kremlin Pawn."

Assange asserts that his party will be most attractive to female voters. The Wikileaks party Website (here) announces that it is "shining a light on injustice and corruption"; its motto is: "Transparency, Accountability, Justice: It's Time for a Real Change." Assange promises that "one of the party's first [post-election] action[s] would be to insist on full disclosure of the current refugee arrangement with the Papua New Guinea government." Further, the party will address "a gradual decline in Australian democracy during the past 30 years."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cybermoney and the Age of Immaterialism

Image Source: Telegraph.

Last week, CNN and other media outlets ran a little story about a PayPal error, wherein a minor eBay seller found his PayPal account credited with USD $92 quadrillion:
When Chris Reynolds opened his June PayPal e-mail statement, something was off. The Pennsylvania PR executive's account balance had swelled to a whopping $92,233,720,368,547,800.
That's $92 QUADRILLION (and change).
Money that would make Reynolds -- who also sells auto parts on eBay in his spare time -- the richest man in the world by a long shot.
Rich, as in more than a million times richer than Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim. And he's worth $67 billion.
Oh, if only.
"It's a curious thing. I don't know, maybe someone was having fun," Reynolds said.
So he logged online, and reality bit back. His account balance read $0. The correct amount.
PayPal admitted the error and offered to donate an unspecified amount of money to a cause of Reynolds' choice.
"This is obviously an error and we appreciate that Mr. Reynolds understood this was the case," PayPal said in a statement.
Before this incident, the most Reynolds ever made on PayPal was "a little over $1,000" selling a set of vintage BMW tires on eBay.
So what would the would-be quadrillionaire have done with all that cash? "I probably would have paid down the national debt," he said.
Image Source: CNN.

In February of 2013, there was an equally curious article about PayPal at the neoconservative Website, World Net Daily (WND). The article was written by Jerome Corsi, a Boomer conspiracy theorist who has been accused of bending facts in his criticisms of the Democrats. The source is odd, and so is the report:
A former employee of one of the world’s largest international banks who has provided WND with more than 1,000 pages of evidence alleges the Internet giant PayPal and American Express are implicated in an international money-laundering scheme involving hundreds of billions of dollars. The whistleblower, John Cruz, was a relationship manager in the southern New York region for the London-based global bank HSBC.
“I found many accounts where PayPal and American Express were used as conduits through which hundreds of thousands of dollars were deposited or withdrawn from HSBC customer accounts in a pattern of suspicious transactions that should have been reported to legal authorities under various banking statutes, including the Patriot Act,” Cruz told WND. Neither PayPal nor American Express responded to WND email and telephone requests for comment.
Image Source: Socialist Unity.

A piece on HuffPo from May 2011 remarked that prepaid credit cards are commonly used to launder drug money and are reloaded with PayPal and similar services:
No one knows how big a role the cards play in moving the more than $20 billion in drug earnings that U.S. authorities estimate crosses from the U.S. to Mexico annually. Yet while anyone crossing that border with $10,000 or more in cash must declare it, prepaid cards are legally exempt.

Visually, the cards are barely distinguishable from credit or debit cards and the most versatile let users reload them remotely without having to reveal their identity, using cash, moneygrams, PayPal and other online payment services.
Some cards can process tens of thousands of dollars a month. Just load them up in Connecticut or Texas with, say, the proceeds of cocaine sales and collect the cash in local currency from an ATM in Medellin, Colombia or elsewhere in Latin America.
"I'm not so sure we have a sophisticated understanding of how to deal with this," said Richard Stana, who oversaw a report on prepaid access for the General Accounting Office, the U.S. Congress' research arm. "It's just a whole new way of doing business."
Then there was the PayPal goes to space idea, which I mentioned in a recent post:
“As we travel through space and explore new planets, we will still need to pay for life on Earth and out there…” There is no indication that he stopped ... to ask the obvious. Explore new planets? What new planets?
What new planets, indeed? Does it matter? The sooner we stop expecting to connect with reality as far as the economy is concerned, the clearer we will be about what is happening. It is not surprising that incidents like PayPal's clerical error occur behind the scenes in financial circles. Who can say what they really signify? What are three extra zeroes, or fifteen extra zeroes, on a computer ledger? None of it is real.

This is why the conspiracy theorists' ideas about the economy are wrong. For example, to believe a potential conspiracy theory about PayPal and $92 quadrillion, you would have to be very literal-minded and assume that there was something out there worth that amount of money that needed securing. To its credit, the Silicon Valley Mercury News actually realized this. What, out there, is worth $92 quadrillion? Perhaps the most sensible of its suggestions was that with $92 quadrillion, you could buy - or create - 1.37 million Bill Gateses.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nuclear Disinformation

"Workers use heavy machinery to remove waste in an area near two dormant nuclear reactors on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., May 6, 2004." Image Source: AP / Jackie Johnston via CTV.

Today, the BBC confirmed that the steam which continues to rise from reactor #3 at Fukushima One is a cause for concern. Water should not be boiling if a reactor is in cold shutdown. Histories of Things to Come also recently covered a series of photographs (here) of Fukushima's mutated vegetables. These photos are now being debunked online as an Internet hoax. How much of a hoax they are is debatable.. About.com dismisses the latter report as a Millennial urban legend, since the vegetables were photographed before the Fukushima accident, or were grown too far from the Fukushima site to have been effected. One could always ask whether the fallout from the accident was more widespread than has been acknowledged to the public.

Meanwhile, the American Department of Energy dismissed another major cause for concern, the Hanford nuclear waste repository in Washington state. The Department assured the public on 22 July 2013 that the contents of a leaking tank have not reached the soil, although an elevated radiation reading was found in the leak detection pit. The feds say there is no immediate threat, but state officials want to pump the tank out anyway:
Tank AY-102 holds more than an Olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of toxic radioactive waste. Federal managers say video and water tests found no leaks so-far outside of the tank. But Washington State officials aren’t convinced this tank will stay sound. That’s why they are asking the Department of Energy to pump out all the liquid it can from AY-102.
Other reports state that the leak is indeed reaching the soil.  Another nonscientific report observes an increase in birth defects among inhabitants near the area.

Photo of the Day: Entering the Path of Knowledge

"Iniciatic Well, Entering the Path of Knowledge - Regaleira Estate, Sintra, Portugal." Image Source: Kristen Fox.

From Flickr: "Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the 'Cultural Landscape of Sintra'. Along with other palaces in this area (such as the Pena, Monserrate and Seteais palaces), it is one of the principal tourist attractions of Sintra. It consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. The palace is also known as 'Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire', from the nickname of its first owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro." More information on Quinta da Regaleira is here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Full Moon and a New Prince

Gif. source: Telegraph via Perez Hilton.

Some are less enthusiastic about a succession to a royal line in this day and age. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see very old conventions, myths and traditional attitudes about birth and power renewed in Millennial times. The latest addition to the British royal family was born today at 4:24 p.m. The baby boy was born after several countries amended the rules of succession, allowing a girl - and not just a boy - to succeed to the throne through the whole Commonwealth.

Considering that there was some wild talk of genetically altering the gender of a royal baby prior to a 2006 male birth in the Japanese Chrysanthemum family (when the imperial family was weirdly swamped with princesses), this Commonwealth amendment - ratified by the leaders of 16 countries - shows just how close to being benighted royal authorities can be, even today. In these circles, it does not take much to be cutting edge. Prince Charles, interestingly, cautioned against 'rushing' the amendment to allow female succession earlier this year.

The announcement today, outside Buckingham Palace. Image Source: Guardian.

Image Source: LOLZ Parade.

There are even odd references to celestial involvement in the Prince of Cambridge's birth. Kate Middleton's labour began right at July's full moon in Aquarius the UK. Astrologers claim that this full moon supposedly involves a gushing of emotion which clears the air and puts the past to rest. Cafe Astrology suggests a blending of a cool House of Windsor with a warmer, accessible characteristic for which Princess Diana was known:
On Monday, a Full Moon occurs when the Leo Sun opposes the Moon in Aquarius. The Full Moon is a time of culmination and the promise of fulfillment of that which was started at the New Moon. It is an emotional time--a time of romance, fertilization, and relationships. The Leo-Aquarius polarity deals with the balance between all that is personal (Leo) and all that is impersonal (Aquarius).

Princess Diana with her sons. Image Source: Mode Aim.

Dark Star Astrology wrote of the influence of the star Altair on this full moon which "is somewhat heroic, but not in a brash Martian way. It is more refined, like a chivalrous knight. I’m thinking 3 parts Sir Galahad to one part Sir Lanc[e]lot.'" What is that myth about Arthur and his knights returning from Avalon in England's greatest time of need?

Sir Galahad, noblest of King Arthur's knights and one of the achievers of the Holy Grail. Sir Galahad - The Quest of the Holy Grail, by (1870; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK). Image Source: WikiPaintings.

There is an old wives' tale that the full moon induces births. There are also semi-mystical theories on the Internet that somehow the heavens pulled this new prince into the world with a full moon or an electrical storm. Belfast Telegraph:
Some believe Kate's labour was influenced by the lunar cycle and the arrival of a full moon.
The suggestion is that the moon's gravitational pull affects the amniotic fluid in the same way it affects the water in the sea and rivers.
Maternity wards are said to be busier during a full moon, although there is debate in the medical world about whether the moon does encourage women to go into labour.
Mervi Jokinen, of the Royal College of Midwives, said midwives often talk of how the full moon makes for a busy spate of deliveries.
"It's always sort of been an old wives tale saying that the full moon brings women into labour. Midwives usually do say 'I'm on call. It's a full moon. I'll be busy tonight'," she said.
"There was a study about 20 years ago at a hospital near the River Thames which is a tidal river and it showed that on the full moon they did have more births. "The idea is that because the baby is surrounded by water, the time of the full moon and the high tide causes the waters to break. "But there's not enough scientific evidence to show it's proven."
Birth doula Zara de Candole, of Doula UK, said: "As a doula (birth coach) who has supported many women in labour, there does seem to be some link between labour kick starting and a full moon."
As in times past, an important royal birth is surrounded by oracles' proclamations about the future. The baby was born under the sign of Cancer, with Scorpio rising. In astrological parlance, this implies that the baby will grow up to be an inwardly sensitive, caring and appealing personality who will be outwardly perceived as a guarded, deliberate, yet magnetic and seductive figure. (James Bond is considered to be a classic Scorpio male characterization.) If this new prince had been born half an hour later, he would have been a Leo. The cusp birth, Cancer on the verge of Leo, indicates a personality who will privately oscillate between water and fire. For astrological predictions of the baby's future, go here, here, here, here and most ominously, here.