Saturday, April 30, 2005

Tiger Party--Mission: Win Something

Last night my kids and I converged on Crossgates Mall, Albany, NY, to see if we could win either an iPod or the Powerbook laptop. My daughter came first and got inside during the first half hour. At the door they were handing out scratch off lotteries and she called me on her cell phone to tell me winshe won...but not the best prizes, alas. It was fourth prize which she gave to me for Mother's Day. (Geek kids are awesome)

So I stood in line for a long time waiting my turn.students Behind me were a group of SUNY students. Two of them owned Apple computers already and two were considering it. There was also one who owned an iPod and the others were there to look at them and perhaps win a computer or something.

It was really crowded in the store but I took a picture crowd thinnedwhere the crowd thinned out a tad. Finally I got to the "Genius Bar" where my daughter was collecting her prize. Her cell phone rang. These phones are useful since my family was separated and yet we could track each other. My son just arrived from his college job and told us he was outside so we crossed our fingers because as per usual, mom's luck was rotten.

I won one song for an iPod. Great.

Meanwhile, the SUNY students who didn't win anything much better, were checking out iPodsthe goodies at the iPod station.

My son burst in with his laptop open. "Just as I got started, they moved us into the store," he said, trying to shut it. Truly, he is uber geek.

He won only a song. "Give me your song card and I will give both to the guy downstairs," he said. Never waste anything.

He told me a guy walked past the long line of Apple fanatics yelling, "Microsoft rules" and they all laughed at him and he got mad. Wow. A computer riot. Guess it will be fought in online forums later! Slash and burn text! Way to go!

buyI bought the Tiger and took it home. My husband who is tech support when he isn't feeding the horses or looking for eggs installed it and immediately began to play around with it and grumble when things didn't appear obvious. But he clicked away until all the hidden goodies were found. Seeking eggs from hens is good practice! He also chops firewood. Dangerous. Could be the "solution" with computer glitches!

I am still exploring the new systems. So far, it is working. If only blogger worked better....

NYT Article About Los Alamos Bloggers


Alamos, home of the most hideous WMD ever concieved: the nuclear bomb, is in the news.

A blog rebellion among scientists and engineers at Los Alamos, the federal government's premier nuclear weapons laboratory, is threatening to end the tenure of its director, G. Peter Nanos.

Four months of jeers, denunciations and defenses of Dr. Nanos's management recently culminated in dozens of signed and anonymous messages concluding that his days were numbered. The postings to a public Web log conveyed a mood of self-congratulation tempered with sober discussion of what comes next.

The Dr. Wen saga gripped the nation for a while until it was discovered he was innocent and not sending our "secrets" to China (they get their secrets directly from the top, this is why they funnel so much money to the extended Bush clan). Not it seems the new director is making everyone unhappy with his demands for super security.

This leads to a tale about my childhood at a sister secret base....m

In the fifties, the China Lake facilities was where the rocket testing grounds were located. Supersonic military jet research was done there as well. The scientists were watched very closely, this was the McCarthy era, after all, and everyone was super paranoid afterthe Rosenberg spy trials. We lived on the base surrounded by barbed wire and guards. This amused us, being children, we would pester the guards who of course humored us.

But it was a hassle for my mother. One day in summer she drove us back to the base after shopping in the nearest town (Barstow, I presume) and she forgot her identity tags or maybe we kids hid it. She drove up to the gate with six rambunctious children and the guards said, "We can't let you in". She argued with them heatedly. "You know who we are!" The guards said, "You might be a spy" and my mother said, "What spy in their right mind would drive around in the desert in summer with six small children???" We cheered mom's logic.

Eventually they found my father who let her in. She was pretty ticked off at that point.

Back to Los Alamos security: if someone wants to sell secrets they will be sold. Making life miserable for everyone isn't going to protect anything at all. Indeed, disgruntled and annoyed employees just might sell secrets just to get back! This is why you have to assume all secrets will be known by one's opponents so the point is to be secure by having your side be happy and honorable. Not ticked off and scared.

According to the NYT, many people are plenty ticked off, scared and annoyed to death! This is very bad. They will all lose their jobs in the end but this merely means they scatter to the four corners of the earth.">At the unofficial LANL website where anonymous bloggers bellyache there is this posting:

Hanging Separately

Each staff member is risking their career and approximately $200,000 in benefits on the recompete. The potential bidders in the recompete are spending millions on their bids to run the place; politicians are winning the hearts of voters by bad mouthing LANL; and, yet, we are trying to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our town, and our Lab, not by savvy collective action but by separate, no cost, posts on blogs.

Credible plans that I have seen to protect irreplaceable staff and weapons knowledge require quick, collective action. Such plans would thwart people who would mistakenly destroy the Lab. Such destroyers are not malevolent just uninformed. They do not fathom the need for LANL nor the workings of LANL. Yet, we dither.

Could someone explain to me why acting only as individuals and only by whining on blogs is the right thing to do in the face of an aggregate loss of $1,000,000,000 to LANL employees and in the face of the potential death of the Lab as we would like it to be? We come across as a bunch of kids showing up to play in the Superbowl against the New England Patriots. We, the scientific heart of the country’s weapons program, are showing up in cutoffs with a soccer ball, no coach, and no game plan; yet we expect to win. Do we have a fairy godmother who is protecting us and whom I have not met?

I love the Lab and, especially, its people. Behind the press releases, we constitute a necessary national treasure. I would like us, employees and former employees, to start acting as a professional team, playing a winning game, for real, for ourselves, and for the defense of the nation. Hanging separately does not seem that appealing.


Eric Fairfield

And this is what it is all about: the military/industrial complex makes oodles of money producing things that will ultimately lead to all of us dying in a huge fireball of death. These innocent jobs are really the doom of humanity. Those working in these jobs think they are defending America. Even as our President and his sidekick spend multi millions on nuclear proof bomb shelters the Los Alamos nuclear weapon crew tries to come up with ever cleverer ways of using nukes to kill humans. The "bunker busters" are most amusing. Of course, the Chinese will have them soon enough, too. Plenty of people are eager to pass on secrets and they will be passed on, as usual. All governments throughout history tried in vain to stop this activity. And throughout history, it failed for the same reason...the remedy causes the problem.

Nukes won't save or even protect America. Good diplomacy and good relations with ourselves and the world is the key to security. But try telling that to nuclear mad America.

Back to yelling about North Korea or Iran developing that which we make here so blythly.

One of our readers, Daliwood, has a very interesting story about his brush with security clearances and being investigated:

I worked at a national laboratory for 22 years. Next door were (1) a facility that fabricated components for nuke weapons and now serves as a weapons-grade uranium storage facility and (2) a uranium enrichment facility, now mothballed.

I have never understood the profound disconnect between what passes for security measures and what actually would make us secure. After 9/11, employees became the enemy. There were random searches, mirrors on wheels were run under cars, visiting scientists had to jump through more hoops than a circus lion, and so on. I repeatedly remarked that the security measures took on a life of their own. It was an Orwellian world in which having security measures was more important than having security.

And, as you note, it's always been going on. During the years (1980's) that I had a clearance to work on a classified project, my clearance became an issue. It was like something out of a 1950's spy movie. I was taken into an uncomfortable room, dimly lit, where 2 or 3 "investigators" asked me questions about my sex life. They asked about specific sexual positions and activities. Twice they asked if I had been photographed having sex. I am not making this up, as bizarre as it sounds. The whackos were on the other side of the table, believe me.

When they found out I was gay, they threatened to take my clearance away because I could be blackmailed into giving away the secrets I knew. "The whole fuckin' world knows I'm gay!" I said loudly. "Do people often get blackmailed over something that is common knowledge?"

It all ended badly. When they asked me for the names of my three most recent sexual partners, I refused. I said, "Look, I have answered your every question about myself. I have left no part of my life hidden from your perverse and pointless curiosity, but those people deserve their privacy. I have no privacy left now, but they may not want me to give their names in this context." I was told that if I didn't give the names, I would lose my clearance. I didn't give the names.

The g-men never saw the irony. I was willing to lose my job to protect information that I felt I needed to protect as a matter of principle. They took my clearance away because they thought I couldn't be trusted.

As it turns out, I didn't lose my job. When I lost my clearance, I was transferred to an unclassified area, where I was no longer a threat to motherhood and apple pie.

This reminds me about the insane media/GOP attacks on Kerry when Kerry asked Cheney to treat his gay daughter as an equal instead of hiding her. The screams of outraged indignation were deafening.

Long Live Hubble!


Good news...for once! Looks more and more like our pressure to save the Hubble has succeeded. Instead of using the Space Shuttle to simply fly up and down uselessly they are going to do what the Shuttle crew was trained to do: work in space! And the Shuttle is superb for this purpose and is one of the reasons why I supported the program in the first place.

Whew. By the skin of our teeth! Of course, this wasn't trumpeted by our leader in DC nor did our press make a big deal about it, too busy worrying about the old Pope dying of old age or a brain dead woman dying or brides running away. But let's be grateful they aren't actively trying to stop this from happening.

Oh, glorious day!