Architecture complicit in Disaster: According to this article by a phusicist at Swarthmore College, there were three sources of energy that contributed to Tuesday's devastating event in New York. The first was the jet fuel contained in both planes, estimated to total 6.9x10^10 metric joules. The second was the kinetic energy of the speeding planes, which he estimates at 1.9x10^9 metric joules in total. The third source of energy was the arrangement of the structure, specifically the positioning of a great deal of mass at great distances from the ground, a potential energy estimated at 6.8x10^11 metric joules, or by far the largest contributor to the furious unleashing of terror.

Even while architecture is guilty, engineering saved hundreds of lives. This article in New Scientist magazine discusses how the particular structural solution used to achieve the evil architectural scheme prevented an even worse catastrophe.

Microsoft has announced that they will remove the towers from future versions of Flight Simulator. It is unclear whether this is to make the game more harmless or more realistic. Also it is unclear whether they will remove potentially threatening language from Word's dictionary.


"They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety."

- Benjamin Franklin


"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."

from George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, (1949)

This is what they're telling you to believe. You can't accept it.
Two things you never want to see made:

The chaos of war is reflected in the semantic history of the word "war". "War" can be traced back to the Indo-European root "wers-", to confuse, mix up. In the Germanic family of the Indo-European languages, this root gave rise to several words having to do with confusion or mixture of various kinds. One was the noun "werza-", confusion, which in a later form "werra-" was borrowed into Old French, probably from Frankish, a largely unrecorded Germanic language that contributed about 200 words to the vocabulary of Old French. From the Germanic stem came both the form "werre" in Old North French, the form borrowed into English in the 12th century, and "guerre" (the source of "guerrilla") in the rest of the Old French-speaking area. Both forms meant “war.” Meanwhile another form derived from the same Indo-European root had developed into a word denoting a more benign kind of mixture, Old High German "wurst", meaning “sausage.” Modern German "Wurst" was borrowed into English in the 19th century, first by itself (recorded in 1855) and then as part of the word "liverwurst" (1869), the liver being a translation of German Leber in "Leberwurst."

from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

In all this confusion, I would like to reflect on the use of "war" to characterize the situation in which we are caught up.

A criminal act and an act of war are often the same act - what is different is the context. An act of war involves a relationship between powers in which one seeks to assert its dominion over the resources of another outside the rule of law. A criminal act also seeks to redistribute power, but it takes place within a legal framework for resource distribution.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was an act of war not because it was a surprise, nor because people were killed, nor because of the scale of the destruction. It was an act of war because no legal system encompassed the relations between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

The attack on New York and Washington is a criminal act not because it failed to meet some standard for ferocity or loss, but because international law provides a way to enforce justice without resorting to lawless violence.

To characterize Tuesday's tragedy as an act of war, and to further frame our response plans in terms of waging war is to release the criminals from the rule of law and to insist that they operated from a position of sovereign power. Given the nature of the likely perpetrators, this can only result in an unwinnable campaign (e.g. the war on drugs or the war on poverty) or a tragically misguided attack on people who should have recourse to the rule of law before they are executed.

Our leaders claim that Tuesday's attack was waged against freedom, against openness, against civilization, against our way of life. The only way this attack can be successful is for us, through our fear, to betray our guiding principles and to aid the enemy. If we value America's freedom, openness, and way of life, then we must honor those principles centrally in our response to deplorable terror and lead the way toward a world united under the same values, enforced through the civilized rule of law.

Now is the time to rally behind our leaders: we the people, created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; having established a government of the people to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. I hope that George W. Bush is remembered as the best president we've ever had. I don't think that the intentions he has already outlined could lead to that future assessment. We can hope that wisdom and compassion will prevail over poll results and chest thumping. More than ever the world needs the leadership of a people devoted to human liberty - and yet already our representatives are tellng us outright that the terrorists will succeed in their "cowardly attack on freedom." -- that we can expect to sacrifice more of our personal liberty in order to expand an illusion of security. It is already a cliche, but I think it encapsulates the only reasonable approach to a "war" on terrorism. If you want peace, fight for justice.

cc: my representatives in congress


I'm worried about the practicality of using Israel's anti-terrorist policy as a model for a global campaign of retribution. I don't see that it is either morally justified or at all successful...


Twenty three years ago today, President Carter was at Camp David working with Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel and Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. This treaty called for the return of Sinai by Israel to Egyptian control and promises to negotiate for autonomous government in the West Bank and Gaza. The meetings concluded on the seventeenth of September, 1978. The warring ceased, as planned, before Christmas of that year, and the agreement was officially signed on March 26, 1979. Here is the text of that agreement.

Out of curiosity, I checked the home page of that site and found the following passage from the Talmud:

If you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles, go forth and examine the judges of Israel, for all retribution that comes to the world comes only on account of the Judges of Israel, as it is said, Hear this, I pray you ye heads of the house of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord, etc. (3) They are wicked, but they place their confidence in Him Who decreed, and the world came into existence. (4) Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring three punishments upon them answering to the three sins which they cultivate (5) as it is said, Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. (6) And the Holy One, blessed be He, will not cause His Divine presence to rest upon Israel until the wicked judges and officers cease out of Israel, for it is said, And I will turn my hand upon thee, and thoroughly purge away thy dross, and will take away all thy tin.


While my heart is out for all who are suffering, I must take a minute to disagree with Mr. Bush's appraisal of today's terror as an attack on freedom by cowards. I don't think such a scenario is possible. Far more frightening, I think, is the likelihood that these were planned as attacks on oppression by brave - though obviously inhumane and evil - people. Our congressmen are likening today's attacks to Pearl Harbor. Perhaps there are similarities, but in this case, the question of where to direct our unified outrage and collective resources is less clear. (Perhaps it was TOO clear in 1941.)

It would be a nice gesture to the lost to use this day to seek peace rather than war.


"Americans died so I could have
this right to speak in public on this street and no one is going to
take it from me without a fight!" I told the Sargent. He told me that
I was pushing it.

From the battlefield reports of someone who has managed to sustain bravery and motivation enough to actually exercise her rights when everything is against her. Of course the actual substance of her protest is difficult to extract from the jubilation and drama of fighting the good fight.


Not long ago a great meeting was held in this city, of all denominations of religious faith, to discuss the question how to lay hold of these teeming masses in the tenements with Christian influences, to which they are now too often strangers. Might not the conference have found in the warning of one Brooklyn builder, who has invested his capital on this plan and made it pay more than a money interest, a hint worth heeding: “How shall the love of God be understood by those who have been nurtured in sight only of the greed of man?”

From the introduction to Jacob Riis' 1890 publication, How the Other Half Lives


Someday. Probably when I reach retirement age, or if I become desperate to meet women, I will buy a hot-air balloon. I was going to a hot air balloon show today in Sint-Niklaas, but it rained all day. Instead I learned a little bit about how they work. Here's a wee bit more on their history. Also, a team of French researchers based at the Ecole des Mines in Saint-Etienne has designed a new balloon called OVMI to take advantage of solar heating to reduce fuel usage from 35kg/hour to only 7. Not having to torch so much propane appeals to me as a future balloonist. Maybe by the time I'm flying them, they'll use only smoke and mirrors.

Anyway, the thing that I never really thought about which seals the deal as far as loving ballooning goes is that, because you're moving with the wind, you fly in total calm.