Friday, August 31, 2007

As reported on Molly's Blog on August 25th two St. Petersburg anarchists have been held in prison in Novogorod on suspicion of participation in a bomb attack on the Moscow to St. Petersburg rail line last August 13th. The anarchists arrested are suspected of collaborating with Chechen separatists in planting the bombs, an act of stupidity that so gross that its like has only been seen amongst anarchists in the USA who collaborate and support minor Maoist criminals in order to satisfy their guilt ridden 'politically correct revolutionary angst'. To date such nonsense hasn't been seen in the civilized world outside of the USA, though certain 'Autonomists' while not really anarchists trend towards such nonsense in Europe. The anarchists of St. Petersburg have declared in unequivocal terms that their comrades are innocent and that such acts are contrary to the central premises of anarchism. Even the Russian authorities have much more likely suspects as laid out by First Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Bastrykin on August 24th in The Moscow Times where he blamed "nationalists" ie fascists for this provocation.
Yet the two anarchists, Andrey Kalyonov and Denis Zeleniuk, are still held in prison in Novgorod. Kalyonov has ended his hunger strike due to the deterioration of his health as of August 29th. The anarchists of St. Petersburg held a solidarity demonstration on August 26th, and photos of this action are available at . About 50 people participated. This action was followed by another picket in Moscow on August 28th where 6 people were arrested and spent the night in detention. On the 29th of August Moscow police prevented anarchists from holding another picket to publicize the case. Another action is planned for St. Petersburg on Sept 2nd.
For further information on this case see:
Russian contacts that may be able to provide info are:

Molly has blogged previously (see Aug. 29 'The Aurigid Meteor shower' and Aug 11 'The Perseids are Coming') on the subject of the "possible" meteor shower that will occur later this night, towards dawn tomorrow morning. If it does occur the shower will appear to originate from the constellation Auriga with a peak time at about 11:36 GMT. This will translate into a peak time of 4:36 PDT and slightly earlier in the central Pacific and Alaska. Auriga will be about two thirds up in the northeastern sky on the west coast at this time, but in Alaska and the central Pacific it will be considerably lower towards the horizon. This means that the shower will not be visible in east Asia because Auriga will not have risen at the peak time of the shower- and because the shower has a very short viewing time as compared to other annual meteor showers.
The possibility of an outstanding sight during this year's Aurigid time frame was first proposed 7 years ago by California astronomer Peter Jenniskens and Finnish amateur astonomer Esko Lyytinen. Jenniskens has since collaborated with Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech to produce a forecast of an extraordinarily intense meteor shower this night. Another forecast by astronomer Danielle Moser of NASA agrees with the timing but predicts a much less intense number of meteors observable. Only the event will tell which one is right.
The meteors from long period comets which are irregular in appearance are rather unique. Because the comets that produce them are such infrequent visitors to the inner solar system the meteors that they produce contain rather "pristine" materials from the early days of the solar system. They are low in sodium, often penetrate deeper into the atmosphere than usual and at higher speeds (producing more brilliant displays) . The colour of the meteors produced will give clues to their elemental composition. Past observations suggest that the remnants of "pristine cometary crust" will give a greenish hue to many of the meteors observed.
On August 11th Molly mentioned the 'Aurigid Meteor Shower Observing Campaign' that astronomers on the west coast of the USA are mounting to observe this once in a lifetime event. The people involved in this research are looking for the collaboration of amateur astronomers to supplement their own observations. To learn more about this campaign, to participate in the research or to generally learn more about the Aurigid meteor shower go to or see our August 11th post.
Happy viewing. Molly won't see this event, but good luck to all the people out in BC.
See also on this blog:
August 29: 'The Aurigid Meteor Shower'.
August 11: 'The Perseids Are Coming'

Many amateur observers of the night sky can be more than slightly frustrated by the local weather forecasts available to them. The usual Environment Canada forecasts, for instance, lack both specificity and accuracy. It does you little good if you want to see if an event that will happen around 5:00 am to know that the forecast for that night is "variably cloudy". Very nice. Molly has mentioned a website previously that provides a much better forecast for those who are interested in viewing conditions. This is the ClearDarkSky site. It is the creation of two Ottawa amateur astronomers, Attilla Danko and Allan Rahill. The latter works for the Canadian Meteorological Centre in Ottawa and has put his weather forecasting talents to work on this website. Danko created the computer programs that allowed Rahill's weather maps to be translated into viewing forecasts for specific localities. To read a general overview of their collaboration and the result see .
Stated succinctly the ClearDarkSky site is a web resource that can give amateur astronomers very specific, hour by hour, forecasts for 48 hours of a number of viewing conditions that affect you ability to see what is in the skies. The data provided is much more specific than that provided by the usual weather forecasts. There are a total of 3188 'Clear Sky Clocks' for various locations across North America, 547 Canadian, 14 Mexican, 1 Bahamian and 2626 American sites. In many cases the data presented has a very much finer "resolution" than that presented by the usual weather forecast. Forecasts are delivered for points as close as 25kms apart. The forecast is also arranged as an "hour by hour" presentation.
What is presented in the forecasts ? Once more a lot more than the usual weather forecast. The colour coded bar presentations present forecasts for cloud cover, transparency, seeing (a composite measure that depends on many conditions), darkness, wind, humidity and temperature. All of these may affect either what you can see or your simple comfort in observing. All that Molly could think of adding would be a biting insect forecast. The only complaint that Molly has about the site is that the colour coding can be a little hard to read. I find myself sticking my face about 8 inches in front of the computer screen to try and see exactly what colour each hour block is, particularly in the "cloud cover" row. But that quibble is minor in light of how valuable such a well defined forecast is.
The ClearDarkSky site is not just a viewing forecast aid, though that would be a treasure in itself. Each locality listed has links to Sun and Moon data, road, topological and satellite maps, a star map link and even a "Clear Sky Alarm clock" that can alert anybody at that locality about upcoming clear sky viewing conditions. The main site has links to North American astronomy clubs, planetariums, museums, observatories, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and its various branches, star parties and other things that might be of interest to the serious amateur astronomer such as dark sky preserves, astronomy villages, campgrounds and wildlife centres.
There is even an invitation to participate in Allan Rahill's ongoing project to improve the "seeing" forecast with more and more real data from collaborators across the continent. This is the North American Seeing Observation Program. Astronomy is an area of science that actually has a large input from the non-academic amateur, and this is one of the many projects that are ongoing in the field.
So...drop by ClearDarkSky for a real treat.

After two previous talks in Hamilton and Toronto comrades from the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland are expanding their speaking tour to include Ottawa and Sudbury. This is part of a project to build a new anarchist organization in Ontario, one that will step outside of the "scene" and attempt to present anarchism as a rational choice for the average person. The speakers will be presenting the story of the WSM in Ireland in the last decade and how it moved anarchism from a marginal current to a prominent force on the left. For news of this project see the Anarkismo article at .
Upcoming is a meeting in Ottawa, Sunday, September 16th from 1:30-3:30 pm at the Jack Purcell Community Centre, 320 Jack Purcell Lane (off Elgin near Gilmour), Ottawa, Ontario.
The next meeting will take place in Sudbury, Ontario at 6:30 pm, Monday, Spetember 17th. It will be held at 'Myth and Mirrors' (Victory Park), Frood Road, Sudbury, Ontario.

On April 1 2007 Fremantle Trust cut low paid care workers pay be up to 30%. The workers were told, "accept these terms or be sacked". The members involved in the dispute provide residential and day care to the elderly and vulnerable residents in Barnet's old peoples' homes in north London. Fremantle Trust is a not-for-profit company that took over care home contracts five years ago. The cuts include lower wages, increased hours, no sick pay, shorter holidays and reduced payment for working unsocial hours. Even pensions to which contributions have been made during the workers' service are to be dramatically cut by more than one third. In response to these attacks our members voted to take strike action. Care workers need to be properly trained, decently paid and most importantly, valued members of society. This is an all too familiar story of privatisation, where companies pledge to keep delivering the same service but undercut the in-house provision by attacking the conditions of the workforce. UNISON is asking for the widest possible support for the Fremantle workers. it's not just about pay and conditions-it's about dignity and respect.
The Labour Start on line solidarity site has taken on the task of asking for solidarity for the Fremantle workers worldwide. To learn more about this campaign and to help out go to .

Christie Books, an on line provider of films, documentaries and shorts has added two new titles to its 369 items available. All items are down loadable free of charge from the site. The two new items are:
Las Fosas del Silencio (Montse Armengou & Ricard Belis)
(The Graves of Silence)
Libertarias (English subtitles-1996)
The complete list of the 369 items available from Christie Books can be viewed at
PS: Christie Books is looking for copies of Costa-Garvas' 'State of Siege' and 'Z' to upload to their site. If you have a copy that they could borrow contact them at . Also do so if you'd like to make a donation to their work.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

One day President Bush decided to call all his top generals together for a high level briefing on how the War on Terror was going.
"How are we faring ?", asked the President.
"Very well", said all the generals at once. "Just last week we opened a new front against the Islamic terrorists. After 5 days of intensive bombing we destroyed the infrastructure of Iowa in our latest shock and awe campaign. Soon after coalition troops rolled in and occupied all major population centres. Now we have a tank on every street corner, and the ringleaders are all in custody. We expect to begin trials for war crimes soon. The terrorists will never be able to use Iowa again as a base."
"What,what,what !", sputtered the President. "There are no Islamic terrorists in Iowa."
"Oh no...., " said the generals. "Well there are now."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

There may be another meteor shower heading our way in the early hours of Saturday, Sept. 1st. I say "maybe" because the Aurigid meteor shower, also known as the alpha-Aurigids, is not one of the regular annual meteor showers produced generally by "short period" comets. The parent body of this "perhaps" shower is a long period comet called Comet Kiess after the astronomer who discovered it in 1911. There is some dispute about the orbital period of this comet. NASA says that the appearance prior to 1911 was in 83 BC (plus or minus "a few centuries"). Others say that the previous appearance of Comet Keiss was in 4 BC plus or minus 40 years. This later reference is to the 'Aurigid Meteor Shower Observing Campaign' that Molly briefly mentioned in a post titled 'The Perseids Are Almost Here' on August 11th. More on this later. The Aurigids are a rare event because the dust trail from long period comets is extremely narrow and it is usually pulled away from the Earth's orbit. Only on occasion does the orbit intersect the dust trail. Jenniskens and Lyytinen have predicted that this year will produce an Aurigid meteor shower that may even eclipse the Perseids earlier this month in intensity.
Molly has seen quite a few people dropping by her blog trying to find out the time of this event and the possibility of viewing it. Will you be able to see it ? Throughout most of North America and all of South America the answer is unfortunately NO. If the predictions of Jenniskens and Lyytinen are right the meteor shower will have a duration of about 1 and 1/2 hour centred on about 4:33 AM Pacific Daylight Time. This is 11:33 AM in GMT. In most of Asia, Europe, Africa and most of the Americas the Sun will be up at the predicted time. If you want to find what time 11:33 GMT translates into in your time zone refer to the trusty old Time And Date website. This will also give you times for such events as sunrise,sunset, moonrise and moonset. The map pictured above gives a visual of the advance of dawn across North America at the predicted time of the Aurigids. Sunrise here in Winnipeg in the Central Daylight Time zone will occur 6:43 AM, just 10 minutes after the predicted peak time of the shower. Most meteors would be obscured by the gathering light of dawn, though it is theoretically possible that you might catch a few if you began observing at say 5:48 AM. For points east it simply won't happen. The best locations for viewing the Aurigids, if they occur, would be on the Pacific coast, in the Pacific Daylight Time zone. People in the southern hemisphere will be unable to view the event because the constellation will be above the northern horizon.
As mentioned above the Aurigids are quite a rare event. In previous appearances of this shower over Europe (1935, 1986,1994) poor viewing conditions and the poor timing of the shower meant that few people were able to observe it. It is estimated that there are only three people alive today who have ever seen this event. If you are lucky enough to see it you will be in a rather select group.
More on the Aurigids later on molly's Blog. Stay tuned.

No Molly is not making up what follows here. The following were entrants in a 'Dlibert quotes' contest for examples of the sort of "higher management thought" that Dilbert loves to lampoon. Enjoy...
*"As of tomorrow employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks" (From the Microsoft office in Redmond, WA)
*"What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter" (Lykes Lines Shipping)
*"E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business"(Electric Boat Company)
*"This project is so important that we can't let things that are more important interfere with it" (UPS)
*"Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule. No one will believe you solved the problem in one day ! We've been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them." (3M Corp)
*"Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say" (Citrix Corp executive)
*"We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees" (AT&T)
*"We recently received a memo from senior management saying,"This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the memo mentioned above"" (Microsoft)
And now Molly's favourite:
*"As director of communications I was asked to prepare a memo reviewing our company's training programs and materials. In the body of the memo in one of the sentences I mentioned the "pedagogical approach" used by one of the training manuals. The day after I routed the memo to the executive committee I was called into the HR director's office and told that the executive vice president wanted me out of the building by lunch. When I asked why, I was told that she wouldn't stand for perverts (paedophiles ?) working in her company. Finally he showed me her copy of the memo with her demand that I be fired and the word "pedagogical" circled in red. The HR manager was fairly reasonable, and once he looked the word up in his dictionary and made a copy of the definition to send back to her, he told me not to worry. He would take care of it. Two days later a memo to the entire staff came out directing us that no words which could not be found in the local Sunday newspaper could be used in company memos. A month later I resigned. In accordance with company policy I created my resignation memo by pasting words together from the Sunday paper." (Taco Bell Corporation)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Over the approximately a year that Molly's Blog has been in operation she has observed a certain trend. The majority of those who drop by this blog come here for the amateur astronomy posts. Of course Molly will continue with her posts on matters astronomical as she loves this aspect of reality. It is regular, predictable and beautiful, and Molly believes that people should be alerted to the beauty that is available to them every single day. So...she keeps on posting on this hobby of hers.
Yet, "theoretically" this is an "anarchist" blog. The majority of the links on the left refer to anarchist references. I am pleased that about 3% of those who check in here for the astronomical posts check out on one or the other of the "anarchist links". Molly would like to make the percentage much higher. This is actually a higher percentage than I expected, especially as some of my anarchist "comrades" do their best to make anarchism as unattractive as possible, as an excuse for childish fights with the cops or as a bizarre cult that wants to "abolish civilization". I hope that Molly's Blog will continue to be an introduction to a "rational anarchism" for those who check in here for other reasons. The very fact that you have decided to "look up at the sky" says two things. One is that you have an appreciation for the beauty of the real world that should make you immune to the lure of cults such as "false anarchism", let alone other more popular cults. The second is that you can both judge for yourself and WANT to judge for yourself. This is really the essence of anarchism. May you believe your own judgement of the sky in the same sense as you believe your own judgement of society. They are really the same, and may you be able to detect lies in the sky as well as you detect lies on Earth. NO... an eclipse or a constellation will NOT appear to be different no matter how much someone in power may tell you otherwise. Social reality is the same. Government is crooked. The corporations have no morality, they are usually the exact opposite of moral.
Molly's hobby and her politics actually have a connection. Look it up if you want.

I hate my watch !. It's an instrument of evil placed on this Earth for no other reason than to torment me. Why ? Let me explain.
Molly lives in a very high speed way. You might say that, if she had studied the martial arts under a master in Japan that she was urged to "follow the way of the ant". In other words everything in this world, from quasars to protozoans can be divided into at most two categories- "done and not done". Yes Sensei I will follow the way of the ant.
Living this way for too long can warp your view of reality. I actually (I'm not kidding !) listen to the NRC time signal to time how many seconds my watch is off. The last timing was 51 seconds fast. I also memorize the timings so I can determine the rate at which my watch loses or gains time. I never bother to try and "set" the bastard. By the time you fumble enough with a digital watch you have lost seconds that puts you off anyways. This obsession with time is appropriate for anyone who is a perpetual rush. I only get a wake up call from interactions with those for whom time has a totally different meaning. For instance, when I tell somebody that I will be at their place "between 2 and 3" and they are phoning me at 2:00:01 to "see where I am", thereby making me somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes late if I actually answer the page and bother to phone back or about 5 minutes late if I simply pull off the road to answer the page and forget about phoning them back. Most people are actually quite pleasant about their anxiety. The only people that I meet that are genuinely abusive are from the "helping professions" ie social workers who are so used to giving victims orders that they can't exist in an atmosphere of free economic interaction. The price goes up for you buggers. Then there are those who want to argue about time as in "how much time does it take to come by and do X,Y or Z". They are usually totally uncomprehending when I snap back "negative 45 minutes". In other words if they would use the immense psychic power that they devote to arguing with me about my schedule to reverse the laws of the Universe and travel back 45 minutes in time...yes I would be able to drop by (or sometimes it's up to 2 hours). I never see people like this. They will also argue about price and every other thing under the Sun, and not getting them off the phone as quickly as possible is an occasion of guilt for "wasting life".
Yet, most of the anxiety in my life is not from an external source but rather from some sort of internal clock by which I run my life. I've learned over the years to be insistent on "time zones" rather than exact times so I can plan my day, and planning from time spent with patient to time driving is an absolute necessity in what I do. the clock is governed by the watch that I wear, and I've learned to hate it with a deep passion.
Lately this evil metallic demon has been cutting into the flesh of my wrist. NO this is not a psychosomatic reaction. The wristband is falling apart, and it takes surgical skill to put it back on. But I take it off the minute that I am "off the pager" and at home. The sensation is wonderful. My whole body seems lighter. The world has much more immediacy and brighter contrast and colour. When I finally do get a new wristband I will continue to shed this millstone at every chance and not just in the bath.
Hey, you think I'm bad; let me tell you the story of one of my nephews. The man put in his dues as a vice president of the New Democratic Youth (long after I had left the Party in disgust). When he finally graduated he went to "collect his dues" ie a soft easy government job with the provincial government that would pay him a large salary for doing very little and accomplishing absolutely nothing. The problem was 1)the "job" was much too obviously a do-nothing pay the hack back job and 2)his years in the Party hadn't extinguished morality in him totally (after all he squealed to me about his "job interview" where the first question posed was his relationship to me) . The "job" bothered him. He actually-I shit you not- developed an "allergy" to government documents. This wasn't the sort of bullshit that you get from new-age trendies who claim "chemical sensitivity". It was real. I saw the deep fissures in his hands that he developed from handling government nonsense. NO, it was not fakery. the fissures were deep and often bleeding, something like the "stigmata" that Catholic saints develop ( not the vague complaints of the new Agers). Yes, his immune system was being influenced by his psychological state. He simply could not stand the degree of lying that the job demanded. This was not a permanent disruption of his immune system. He quit working for the government and became an accountant and manager for private business where at least the dishonesty is simple, clear and not so ulcer producing. He could handle any document or ink in the private sector. All that I can say from this is that in the judgement of history he was a far better anarchist than I have ever been-even if he never claimed the label. The most dramatic reaction that a government statement can produce in me is gut pains. Not even nausea. Let alone a dermatological reaction.
Very few people are under the time pressure that I am day to day. Some, however, are under even worse pressure, and most people today are under a sort of pressure that is contradictory to the way that we evolved. NO "psychoboo" will eliminate this bad fit. there is no "yap yap"-counselling that can go against objective biological reality, no matter what the hubris of the "technicians of the mind". Humans are not meant to live their lives "by the minute". It's a violation of the nature of the species.
So...I urge readers to read George Woodcock's 'The Tyranny of the Clock' for the classical anarchist view on this. See also Molly's 'Texts' section for the link. Someday maybe we can all toss away our watches. Liberty means freedom from the tyranny of time as well as the tyranny of people.

Last night didn't get off to a good start. The alarm failed to go off at 3:45 like I (thought) I set it to. Goddamn 5:00 AM !! Curse, swear, run. At least I caught the Moon during totality, and the cloud cover drifting in from the west didn't get too bad until close to 6:00 AM. "Close to" I say. Molly and mornings don't get along well together. I zipped out the door with only the thought of grabbing a jacket. Damned if I remembered to take my watch(see a planned post coming up soon-Why I Hate My Watch), let alone the binoculars. My usual morning "wake-up" is what I call 'nuclear coffee'. This consists of a heaping TABLESPOON of instant coffee, along with three heaping TABLESPOONS of sugar lightly nuked for 1 and 1/2 minutes in the microwave. Bolt it down and I can think again before the crack of noon. No chance to do this last morning.
The run was actually worth it. My own estimate of the Moon on the Danjon scale was somewhere between L2 and L3. There was some haze or high cloud in the air that obscured viewing to some degree so I can't be too sure of this estimate. The Moon appeared to be a dark red colour, but I have to give allowance for the viewing conditions. The left (east) rim of the Moon seemed to have more of a glow than it should given the theoretical stage of the eclipse.
What was really interesting was that at "about" 5:35 AM (see above for the Molly watch story) a meteor passed above the Moon (about 1 degree) moving from southwest to northwest. It was actually quite bright and slow moving. Only a few seconds later there was a bright flash from the rim of the upper left quadrant of the Moon (northwest in Lunar directions). Obviously they weren't the same meteor, but the coincidence says that I was quite privileged. It'll be interesting to see if anyone else observed what I did. Once more I have no exact time for this sighting. It was when the Moon was about 10 degrees above the horizon by the "fist method". that's all that I can say.
By the way to Stephanie from Ontario...the next lunar eclipse will be on February 21st of next year. Don't feel too bad about being a "beginner". Amateur astronomy is not a competition. Molly is very much of a beginner herself, and she won't be finding any new comets soon (or ever ?). If you want a table for the next few lunar (and solar) eclipses up to 2010 go to the NASA page at . I'll try and answer your comment on the page that it was posted to as well.
What did others see ?

After a two year long study the National Science Foundation announced the following results on Corporate America's recreation preferences:
1)The sport of choice for unemployed people is BASKETBALL.
2)The sport of choice for maintenance level employees is BOWLING.
3)The sport of choice for front line workers is FOOTBALL.
4)The sport of choice for supervisors is BASEBALL.
5)The sport of choice for middle management is TENNIS.
6)The sport of choice for corporate officers is GOLF.
CONCLUSION: The higher you are in the corporate structure the smaller your balls become.

According to the global union federation for building workers (BWI) one Panamanian worker, Osvaldo Lorenzo, was shot and killed and two others seriously wounded during an August 14th confrontation between the Panamanian union SUNTRACS and a company union sponsored by the Norberto Odebrecht construction company. For years now this company has viciously resisted real unions for its employees, not just in Panama but in various other countries. The BWI is asking for support to pressure the Panamanian government to investigate not just this one incident but the long track record of the company as well. The online labour solidarity group Labour Start has seconded this campaign. To read more or to help out go to




Second Life, the bizarre online world where you can live again in whatever form you may choose, has expanded by leaps and bounds in the past few years. According to the website it now has 9,143,091 "residents", more than many countries. (Molly found only 1,598,598 logged in in the last 60 days when she visited her ghostly presence on the site, and only 40,755 on line at the time of the visit. Perhaps the company is playing with totals that obviously include many who have visited and found the vicarious experience wanting- never to return) Second Life supports an actual economy which is convertible into US dollars in the real world. The company claims that millions of US dollars (expressed as 'Linden Dollars' in the simulation) pass through its marketplace every month. There are several online exchanges in the world where US money and Linden money can be converted each to each.
Whatever this may seem like to the taxman many companies have seen Second Life as a wonderful marketing opportunity and have established online presences there. One of these is IBM, and sometime this September the Italian employees of IBM , represented by the Rappresentanza Sindicale Unitaria IBM Vimercate (RSU) are planning a "virtual strike" at the IBM presence on Second Life. The union representing about 9,000 IBM employees in Italy is keeping the exact details of the strike under wraps for now, except for the fact that they have extended an invitation for Second Life avatars from around the world to join them on the "virtual picket line". The mind boggles at what sort of representations will show up.
While the profits of IBM have soared the company has been most reluctant to share any of its windfall with its employees. When its Italian workers asked for a small salary increase in the latest round of negotiations IBM responded with an "offer" that would have meant a drop of about 1,000 euros per year per worker. The Italian workers are hoping that their actions will gain publicity for a world wide effort to build a multi-union coalition of IBM employees from over 16 countries.
To read more about this strike see the article in 'The Register' at
The matter has also been discussed over at the LibCom site under their news section.
Molly is more than slightly leery (more,more,more,more) of the whole idea behind the ersatz life being sold by Second Life. Still, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Presently here in Winnipeg it's 10:37. At the present time the Moon is shining brightly with good visibility in the East. One can locate Jupiter in the southern sky easily, but most of the western sky seems to be obscured by clouds that have drifted in during the past two hours. Hopefully this will change by early morning when the eclipse is due to occur.
The forecast from the folks at the Clear Dark Sky clock is good for the duration of the eclipse except for its beginning hour from 4:00 am to 5:00 am. where they predict an extensive cloud cover. Other than that the cloud cover is supposed to be less than 30%. I guess it's which 30% that is covered which counts.
The Clear Dark Sky Clock, by the way, is a great tool for anyone living in North America. It gives viewing conditions for hundreds of sites spread across both Canada and the USA, along with other relevant data such as temperature, wind speed, air transparency, etc.. It's also a great portal to other info for the amateur astronomer. Take a gander while waiting for the eclipse.


Tonight-well actually early tomoorow morning- the second lunar eclipse of 2007 will occur. Viewing conditions are 'ify' to say the least as a band of cloud and rain seems to be moving in from the west. Forecasts say "variable cloud" for tonight and clear tomorrow. If you want to follow the forecast go to the Environment Canada weather office at . Molly has had a lot of hits that are simply looking for the time of the eclipse. To help with this she repeats below the times in both Central Daylight Time and Greenwich Mean Time. You can convert to your local time zone by using the Time and Date website. I leave the penumbral part of the eclipse out of the following. If you want this go to the post on this blog dated August 21 and titled 'When Will It Occur?'.

Partial eclipse begins : 3:51 AM CDT///8:51 AM GMT
Total eclipse begins: 4:52 AM CDT///9:52 AM GMT
Mid-totality: 5:37 AM CDT///10:37 AM GMT
Total eclipse ends: 6:22 AM CDT///11:22 AM GMT
Partial eclipse ends 7:24 AM CDT///12:24 PM GMT
The Moon has already set here in the Central Time Zone before the entire eclipse is completed, but residents of this zone will be able to view both the beginning and end of totality. Further to the west the entire sequence of events will be visible. The further east you go the earlier the Moon will be setting and the less of the eclipse you will be able to see. As you can see from the above it will be daylight at GMT during the eclipse. If you don't want to use the Time and Date website there is a map in the post titled 'Will You Be Able to See It ?' on August 16th. As a service to all those who are checking in here looking for the time of the eclipse in the UK or Ireland....the eclipse will NOT be visible in western Europe. The next one next February will be visible there. For those people who have dropped by here from the Middle East...the eclipse will NOT be visible in the Middle East either. Please see the map on the August 16th post.
For more on the eclipse on this blog see the following posts:
August 26: 'Basic Explanation of an Eclipse'
August 24: 'Double Moons and Double Eclipse:The Rest of the Story'
August 24: 'What's All This Double Moon Stuff?'
August 21: 'When Will It Occur ?'
August 18: 'How dark Will It Be ? The Danjon Scale'
August 16: 'Will You Be Able to See It ?'
You might also be interested in the following posts about last March's eclipse:
Feb 16: 'Lunar Eclipse March 3'
March 2: 'Lunar Eclipse Factoids'
March 2: 'More On Tomorrow's Lunar Eclipse'
March 3: 'The Moon and the Last Minute'

Sunday, August 26, 2007

There's a recent post over at the Anarkismo site entitled 'Some Considerations About Collective Responsibility' by Marco Montenegro. The article is a quite poor translation from a Portuguese original. Molly reproduces her "retranslation" into comprehensible English below. The original translation can be accessed above. Molly's comments follow the article.
"As opposed to the Marxist-Leninist authoritarian communists, we frequently affirm that means have to be in accordance with ends. That is, if we want a classless society, where everybody is equal, where everybody has the same rights and duties, where self-management predominates and where an equilibrium exists between individual and collective, then the anarchist organizations that struggle for this society also have to be in accordance with these principles and, thus, contrary to the Marxist-Leninists, we have to reject bureaucratic organs, organized vertically and centralized as we also have to reject "followerism", the leadership cult and critical passivity. "
Thus the practice of acting under the responsibility (orders ?-Molly) of an individual has to be condemned and rejected in the ranks of the anarchist movement. This not only for the reason discussed above, the compatibility between means and ends, but also because the individual alone cannot obtain anything without the help of everyone else. Not even the most solitary writer would be able to write without those who cut trees, who fold the paper, who supply them with ink. An individual acting alone will never obtain anything complete and would be easily decontextualized (I am unable to translate this word into good English-Molly). The areas of social and political action are profoundly collective in their nature, given that you can never base social and political activities under the responsibility of an individual.
Logically then we have the principle of 'Collective Responsibility', a principle that, despite the condemnation of the solitary act, has, however, a strict link with individual moral responsibility. What does this say ? In an anarchist collective praising 'horizontality' and self-management all its members have to be active and participate in all of the decisions of the organization so that such decisions are the fruit of the most possible 'general will', the fruit of a discussion open to all members. Because we don't admit that leaders and subordinates exist, nor do we want conditions for such to exist, and because we want that everyone should have an unlimited critical capacity based on the rationality of practice and not on a process the same as being 'swept along' we believe that this will only happen if this individual moral responsibility exists, this moral predisposition to be active and critical. Collective responsibility will not exist without individual responsibility and vice-versa, individual responsibility will not exist without collective responsibility. it is not only the individual who has the duty to improve themselves and their critical capacity. the collective also has the responsibility to stimulate the critical practice of all the individuals.
The anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker has in his memoirs a curious citation about the individual responsibilities that each one has that determine the collective responsibility that made up the strength of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT. "One of the things that surprised me most, was the attention with which the public listened to the orators(audience in the original-Molly), as if they identified with them, but, contrary to what happened in other countries, nobody applauded in order to state their enthusiasm (the applause was not vigorous in the original-Molly). Durruti himself, who spoke in rude terms, calling without euphemism things by their proper names, did not receive a single ovation, despite the fact that it was visible that the public (audience in the original-Molly) was sensitized. Everybody thought about what they had heard in the act of reflection. I asked Durruti afterwards why it was that the public (audience-Molly) did not applaud. He laughed and said to me, "But my friend Rudof, you know perfectly well that we, anarchists, do do engage in the cult of personality. Applause and ovations that are directed to the orators are the music made to awaken the worm of vanity and, finally, "the leader". It is good that you recognize the ability of your friend who exposes your position, but to believe that they are superior, that is to practice the cult of the master, and that is not the norm between anarchists."
Molly notes,
All that is said above is well and good, but it misses the point entirely. The whole debate about "collective responsibility" is not about putting limits on the "leadership principle", valuable as that may be given the history of not just Leninist parties in the last century but other things much more removed from the concerns of anarchism. Yes, the tendency of people to fall in behind "leaders" in lock step and agree with everything that "individual" leader (or leaders) say is both repulsive and destructive. Most of modern politics is build on the 'Fuhrer principle', however much it might like to disguise its pedigree. But...the concept of "collective responsibility" has another meaning that was clearly expressed in the writings of those who formulated the concept of "platformism" back in the 1920s. It was very much akin to the 'democratic centralism' of the Leninists, and good Leninists will find no difference between the 'collective responsibility' of the platformists and their own 'democratic centralism' . I say "good Leninists" who actually believe in the lies of their parties.
The whole concept comes from seeing the role of the Party/revolutionary group etc. as akin to an army at war. Good "democracy" say that the strategy and tactics of such an army should be determined by the widest possible debate, but once settled on should be followed without question by the members of the army/party/revolutionary group. This means in its extreme version that the members of the army/party/revolutionary group are required to lie and pretend that they agree with the "line" of the organization even if they fought against it tooth and nail. The originators of 'The Platform' expressed this opinion in clear language. In Spain the FAI operated under similar "emotions" without ever being clear about it. The CNT, however, NEVER made such a requirement of its members. Like any union it would demand that, if a strike was agreed upon, that its members would observe the strike, but it was never so foolish as to try and dictate to its members the idea that, if they disagreed with the strike, that they should lie and say that they agreed with it. That would be idiocy in a mass movement. Certainly there was social pressure to "seem" to be in agreement with a given action, but the option was always open to be honest and say that one was acting in a given way out of the interests of "solidarity" even if one disagreed with the course of action.
Now, Molly is of the opinion that clarity is a virtue. She is of the opinion that the rise of "neo-platformism" is a great "plus" for modern anarchism simply because she sees the need for organizations of explicit anarchists that hold to the original goals of anarchism rather than some cultish perversion of it to influence much more important organizations that have a general libertarian thrust, whether these be a "synthesist" anarchist organization or "mass organizations". What she does not see is the need for an organization that is modeled on underground cadre organizations. she thinks an anarchist organization should be more like an ordinary political party in the modern world where membership is dependent on agreeing with the 'general policy' of the organization (not each and every 'theoretical pronouncement') and not on saying/lieing that everything the organization adopts as policy (or worse theory) is right as if it was pronounced Ex-Cathedra by the Pope. Molly is of the opinion that such an organization- with due rules for expulsion for those who violate the 'general policy' of the organization- is MUCH more applicable to modern conditions in the industrially developed world where parliamentary "democracy" holds sway.
Times change. Both the platformist alternative and the similar FAI way of organizing were put together in situations where autocracy was the order of the day. It is not an alternative for most of the modern world. It is also not a way that has any future in the modern world. Not that everything about the way that either the FAI organized or the original platformists proposed (but failed) to organize was wrong. Just that "collective responsibility had a clear meaning that should never be lost sight of- and should equally be rejected by a modern anarchism that hopes to be popular rather than a sect.

An eclipse is basically a celestial event when one body moves into the shadow of another. While the term is used mostly to describe either solar or lunar eclipses on Earth it could just as well be used to describe other events such as a planet moving into the shadow cast by one of its moons (or vice versa) or the transit of a moon on another planet as it moves into the shadow of its home planet or when it crosses between that planet and its parent star. In our solar system the relatively large size of our Moon means that Earth is the only planet where "total" solar eclipses can occur- if you exclude the Pluto/Charon system of course. On other planets, however, there would be any number of lunar eclipses as their moons passed into the shadow of the planet. The larger term for such events is "syzygy" which refers to the alignment of three or more celestial bodies in the same gravitational field along a straight line. A "transit" is a syzygy where the nearer object appears considerably smaller than the further one. Examples would be the transit of Venus or Mercury across the Sun or the transit of Earth across the Sun as seen from Mars. The term transit is also used loosely to describe the passage of an extrasolar planet across its star as seen from Earth. Such transits are useful in the discovery of extrasolar planets. An "occultation" is where a celestial body is hidden by the passage of another body which passes between it and the observer. Unlike an eclipse the further body doesn't necessarily enter a shadow.
The Earth/Moon system is actually quite "privileged" in terms of eclipses because of the relatively large size of the Moon as compared to the Earth. The Sun is about 1.4 million kilometers in diameter and is generally about 150 million kilometers away from Earth. The Moon is about 3,500 kilometers in diameter and lies about 380,000 kilometers away from the Earth (on average). The ratio of the Sun's distance to its size is about 110/1. So is the ratio of the Moon's distance to its size. This means that the two objects appear to be about the same size in the sky. In terms of a solar eclipse when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun the Moon appears to just exactly fit the disc of the Sun. Well mostly. The orbit of the Moon is an ellipse rather than a circle. this means that sometimes the Moon is further away from the Earth than at other times. If the Moon is closer to the Earth, its perigee, the shadow of the Moon will be larger than the apparent diameter of the Sun and the eclipse will be "total". If the Moon is near its far point from the Earth, its apogee, the Moon will not entirely cover the disc of the Sun and a halo of the Sun will appear around the Moon. This is called an "annular eclipse".

The Moon is actually receding gradually from the Earth, mostly due to "tidal friction" whereby some of the Earth's angular momentum is being transferred to the Moon's orbital momentum. This also results in a gradual slowing of the Earth's orbit which means that the days get longer and longer. Sort of a cosmic daylight savings time. The Moon pulls away from the Earth at a rate of about 38 millimeters per year, and the length of a day increases by about 17 microseconds per year. This means that our day is longer than it was in the past. Sixty five million years ago when the cometary hit man bumped off the dinosaurs the day was only about 23 hours in length. It also means that the apparent diameter of the Moon has varied. Hundreds of millions of years ago it would have seemed considerably larger than the Sun. In the future all eclipses will be annular eclipses. Presently slightly more solar eclipses are annular rather than total.

A lunar eclipse happens when the Moon travels through the shadow of the Earth in its orbit. This can only happen when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, hence only when the Moon is in its Full Moon phase. But, you may say, the Moon obits the Earth every month, about 29.531 days from one phase of the Moon to the recurrence of the same phase. This is known as the "synodic month". There are other ways to describe a "lunar month". The "sidereal month" is the time it takes the Moon to return to its previous position in respect to the fixed stars. This "month" is about 27.322 days.This is shorter than the sinodic month because of the motion of the Earth/Moon system around the Sun. It is also the explanation for why each full Moon is in a different sign of the zodiac. There are three other "lunar months". The "anomalistic month" is the time it takes the Moon to go from perigee to perigee (or apogee to apogee) . This "month" is about 27.555 days. The "tropical" month is the time it takes the Moon to go from two passes of the same ecliptic longitude (about 27.322 days-about the same as the sidereal month). The "draconic month" is the time it takes the Moon to go from one ascending mode to another (or from one descending mode to another). See below for more on this. If this confuses you, as it should, look into the Wikipedia article on 'Orbit of the Moon.

But, you say, after all that yabba yabba you still haven't answered the question, "Why isn't there an eclipse of the Moon every month when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun?". The answer is that the Moon doesn't revolve about the Earth on 'exactly' the same plane as the orbit of the Earth about the Sun- the ecliptic. It is inclined about 5 degrees away from this plane. See the diagram above. This means that the path of the Moon is such that it crosses the ecliptic only about twice a year at points called the "nodes". The "ascending node" is when it crosses the ecliptic in the "up" direction and the "descending node" is when it crosses this path in the "down" direction. Only when the Moon is at or near one of its nodes is it in direct line with the Earth/Sun, and only then can there be an eclipse. How close it is to an exact nodal position determines the type of eclipse that can be seen.
Lunar eclipses are divided into three basic "types", 'penumbral', 'partial' and 'total'. A total eclipse has three phases that include partial and penumbral along with the period of totality. The Moon will actually only be covered by a full shadow when it crosses the 'umbra' of the Earth. The 'penumbra' is an area of lesser illumination that still receives some direct sunlight. When the Moon experiences a "penumbral eclipse" the difference in illumination can be quite difficult to perceive with the naked eye. Some argue that the surface of the Moon nearest the umbra seems a bit darker when there is a "total penumbral eclipse", a rare event because the penumbra is narrow as compared to the umbra. Unlike solar eclipses where the area of totality is quite narrow, at the best, about 250 kilometers wide and lasting only 7 minutes, 40 seconds, a total lunar eclipse can be viewed anywhere on Earth where the Moon is above the horizon for the duration of the eclipse , and the totality phase of the eclipse may last up to 107 minutes (one hour,47 minutes). A total lunar eclipse is when the Earth's shadow totally obscures the Moon. A partial lunar eclipse is when only a portion of the Moon is covered by the shadow. A penumbral eclipse is when the Moon enters the area of only partial shadow. Previous posts on this blog have given times for when the August 28th eclipse will enter and leave these phases of the eclipse (see below). When the Moon is in total eclipse its luminosity may be only 1/10,000 of its regular brilliance. The actual darkening of the Moon is measured by a scale called the 'Danjon Scale' (also see below). There are always at least two, and sometimes more, lunar eclipses per year, but not all will be total eclipses. This year has two total eclipses. 2008 will have one partial and one total eclipse. In 2009 there will be 3 penumbral eclipses and only one partial eclipse and so on. See the SunEarth page from NASA for more information. Thus we are quite privileged to see two total lunar eclipses this year. This won't happen again until 2011. The next total eclipse will be February 21st, 2008, and it will be visible not just in the America but also in Europe, Africa and the Central Pacific.
Also on Molly's Blog the following posts were put up during the last Lunar eclipse on March 3rd:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The upcoming long weekend (Sept 1 to Sept 3) will feature yet another round robin at the Carnival of Anarchy. The subject this go around will be 'Anarchism and Labour' or 'Anarchism and Work'. Go on over to the Carnival site to see what all the fuss is about on the best site for anarchist debate on the internet. Join up and contribute. See you there. PS BYOCF - bring your own candy floss.

On August 13th a bomb exploded on the rail line from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the Nevskiy Express, near Novgorod. Sixty people were injured, six of them seriously, and 800 meters of track was destroyed. The response of the Russian authorities was chaotic. At first they blamed Chechen groups, then Russian nationalists (ie fascists). Eventually they arrested a key suspect, a Chechen named Khasan Didigov, but their confusion didn't end there. They reviewed who this man had been in contact with and found that he had visited anarchists in the St. Petersburg area. Two St. Petersburg anarchists, Andrei Kalyonov and Denis Zelenyuk, were arrested on August 16th and accused of participation in the attack. One of the accused, Kalyonov, has been on hunger strike since his arrest to protest the unjust accusation. The pair are being held in jail in Novgorod.
The Anarchist Initiatives of St. Petersburg group have issued a statement categorically denying any anarchist involvement in the bombing. They say that, "anarchist views do not allow violence against innocent people" and they provide witnesses who state that the two comrades were elsewhere when the bombing occurred. The Russian comrades suggest that the police may have planted items that could be incriminating in Kolyonov's home, and they also suggest that there may be other suspects in the bombing ie the Russian security force, the FSB. As in many other situations, both in Russia and elsewhere (here in Canada, for instance, at Montebello), the secret police of a country have either encouraged or actually carried out violent acts for political purposes. The story was old when the first vertebrates crawled onto land in the Devonian Age. The full statement of the St. Petersburg anarchists can be read at the link above. This has been published in the English language section of the Russian anarchist website Avtonom. Stay tuned there for further developments.
This incident is particularly relevant as it comes at the time of an anniversary of another famous frame-up, the Sacco and Vanzetti case (see yesterday in this blog). The potential involvement of the Russian security forces is something that will never be mentioned in the "official press" in Russia unless there is 1)overwhelming proof and 2)the providers of such proof are not murdered before they can make it public. If you want to read a mass media account of the bombing see and also . As mentioned above the statement of the St. Petersburg anarchists can be seen on Avtonom. For an informative information piece on the situation see the Australian anarchist blog Slackbastard. This blog gives further information about the case.
There are a couple of A-infos items about the arrests. One from today, August 25th, tells of an initiative to set up an Anarchist Black Cross of St. Petersburg for the expenses of their defense. It also announces a picket that will occur tomorrow in downtown St. Petersburg. Another one from yesterday tells more about the circumstances of the arrests. From reading this Molly has formed an opinion that the only thing the two anarchists were guilty of when they were approached by the police was arrogance and showing off. Molly is, of course, very much against such play-acting, but it is hardly a criminal offense. The "connect the dots" method of police "investigation" often leads to a wildly wrong conclusion if you merely follow the lines. It is entirely possible to implicate a large majority of the world's population if you follow simple chance meetings. But sometimes such diversion is exactly what is wanted by the powers that be. stay tuned to Avtonom and A-infos for further news.