Slow Motion Messier Marathon

It’s been a long-time goal of mine to do a Messier Marathon. I missed my window of opportunity again this year, and the reality is that the time investment required during the month of March is probably not realistic for me in the coming few years.

So I’ve decided that instead I’m going to try to photograph the Messier Catalog over the next year — it’s like a marathon, only stretched out to 12 months.

I’ve already started, although not by intention, with the following:

Clearly I need to step up the pace a little bit. It’s not every object that will put a second one in the same frame, after all. But it will be nice because there are still quite a few I’ve never taken the time to actually look at.

I will be trying to use Tony Cecce’s Twelve Month Tour as a guideline, with modifications because of the tall trees that get in the way of some of them.

Watch this space (the puns!) for updates!

Just Because You're Paranoid...

In his interview with Charlie Rose, President Obama is quoted saying:

…They’ll say … when you start looking at metadata, even if you don’t know the names, you can match it up … and you can yield all this information. All of that is true, except for the fact that for the government, under the program right now, to do that it would be illegal. We would not be allowed to do that.

Of course, telephone and internet metadata are useless to intelligence or law enforcement, that’s why their acquisitioncollection is (or, was) such a zealously guarded secret and why the reaction to their collection being made public was so ferocious. I mean, who wouldn’t be outraged at the revelation of a secret mass surveillance program of absolutely no intelligence value?

Telephone metadata is useless, as German politician Malte Spitz has demonstrated:

Malte Spitz's telephone metadata

No useful information there at all. Your recurring travel habits, both everyday and out of the ordinary, are of no value, obviously. And that’s before you get to who and when you called and how long you talked.

And neither is your email metadata:

Jacob Goldstine's email metadata

And it hardly matters that this information will be retained “not in perpetuity”. It wouldn’t be useful in the future, of course, even if the government has a reason to use it.

This is assuming — since Obama made the distinction between what is legal and what is illegal — everything about the program is legal. And we have no need to doubt that, do we?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I have created an eBook, in ePub format, of the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hopefully it can be useful as a reference to have handy. It includes both the full declaration as well as summaries of each of the articles.

  • Download UDHR.epub
  • Last Modified: March 29, 2013
  • For: Any ePub 3-capable eReaders (iBooks, Nook, Kobo)

The Orphaned Children of War

On the Natural History of Destruction, by W G Sebald.

Very few writers could approach this book’s subject matter and deliver such a powerful, methodical damnation of a generation. W G Sebald asks a simple question in the first essay: how is it that the near-total destruction of Germany by allied bombing in World War II has been so completely ignored by the survivors, and particularly by German culture and writers?

Although he never calls it by this term, the core of Sebald’s anger is directed at the moral relativism that is used to justify evading the topic: German crimes during the war were so horrible (and they were) that the wanton destruction of the entire nation was justified. Sebald is angry that the experience of living through such atrocities was so thoroughly repressed by the survivors that the memory was not passed on the future generations. Instead there seems to have been a near-unanimous cultural suicide. Sebald describes growing up feeling as if a secret were being kept from him, like a part of his identity as a German was being denied. It was an Etch-A-Sketch end to the past, without context or meaning.

Although Sebald doesn’t really mention it (his critique is aimed directly at the German people), American and British writers have had the moral courage to broach the subject, and it has given us fantastic and disturbing books like Slaughterhouse-5. These help us to center our moral compasses; we can recoil in horror at the firebombing of Dresden (and Tokyo) while fully maintaining our outrage at the Holocaust. The morality of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is still a heated subject for debate today.

It is this that Sebald finds lacking in German culture, and, in the remaining essays, he singles out writers who contributed to this collective evasion. It is not, as one so often sees it referred to, amnesia. Sebald is quietly, methodically angry, and his prose has never been better than it is in these essays.

Minima Moralia, by Theodor Adorno

I have created an eBook, in ePub format, of Theodor Adorno’s magnificent, haunting book, Minima Moralia, using the Creative Commons-licensed translation by Dennis Redmond.

This relatively small book (as Critical Theory texts go) consists of aphorisms, written during Adorno’s exile from Naziism and his return to post-World War II Germany. This form is especially well-suited to Adorno’s critique of the paradoxes, illusions, and alienation that constitutes modern civilization — a critique centered on culture. Most disturbingly, Adorno, in many of these aphorisms, connects aspects of modern society to the rise of totalitarianism. He does this with an unrivaled lucidity and skill for distillation of complex notions and observation — an abilitiy to, as Orwell phrased it, face unpleasant facts.

  • Download MinimaMoralia.epub
  • Last Modified: December 12, 2012
  • For: Any ePub 3-capable eReaders (iBooks, Nook, Kobo)