A List of Environmental and Telecommunications Events and Issues

January 16, 1998 to January 23, 1998

Published, Edited and Written by George Mokray for
Information Ecologies
218 Franklin St #3
Cambridge, MA 02139

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Sunday, January 18

2 pm - 4 pm
Listening Skills Workshop by Nightline
contact 253-8800
MIT Building 6, Room 120

Monday, January 19

1 pm
Terraforming and Planetary Engineering
Jason Goodman
contact 253-7967 or goodmanj@mit.edu
MIT Building 54, Room 322

2 pm - 4 pm
Hot Topics in Transportation
Joseph Sussman
contact 253-4430 or sussman@mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 350
Meetings every day until Friday, January 23.

7:30 pm
Zero Population Growth of Greater Boston (munchies provided)
contact 225-8905, breinan@ortho.bwh.harvard.edu or http://web.mit.edu/hbreinan/zpg-gb/
100 Lexington St #B10, Belmont

Tuesday, January 20

12 pm
Evolving Diagrams of Brains, Minds, and Computers
Joseph Dumit
contact 253-6989, please RSVP
MIT Building E56, Room 100

12 pm - 1:30 pm
A Michigander in Africa: One Person's Peace Corps Adventure
Brian Arbic
contact 253-2922 or arbic@mit.edu
MIT Building 54, Room 915

12:15 pm
Odor Encoding by the Olfactory System: From Biology to an Artificial Nose
John Kauer, Tufts
Harvard Medical School, Goldenson Building, Room 122, Boston

12:30 pm
Profit Seeking and Quality: Are They in Contradiction?
Steffie Woolhannder, Harvard Medical School
Harvard School of Public Health, Kresge Building, Room G-2, Boston

1 pm
Current Trends in the Workplace
Thomas Kochan and George Maverick Bunker
contact 258-8321 or people@mit.edu
MIT Building 10, Room 250

1 pm - 2:30 pm
Make Your Engineering Ideas Marketable
contact 253-9368 or dhelman@mit.edu
MIT Building E53, Room 220

1 pm - 3 pm
Manufacturing With Particles, Fields and Waves
Larry Stelmac and Nannaji Saka
contact 641-0847 or lstermac@lynx.neu.edu
MIT Building 35, Room 225
Meeting every Tuesday and Thursday till January 29

2 pm
Air Pollution and Health
Robert McCunney
contact ciam@med.mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 150

Bafa-Bafa - a cross-cultural simulation
Cristina Gordy
contact 253-8930 or gordy@mtl.mit.edu
MIT Building 34, Room 401A/B
second session on Tuesday, January 27

2 pm - 3:30 pm
Flirting 101
contact ciam@med.mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 190

3 pm - 5 pm
Wetland Hydrodynamics: How water Movement Affects the Fate of Chemicals
Heidi Nepf
contact 253-3726, voelker@mit.edu, 255-6269, or lnichols@mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 390

4 pm
How a Scientist Understands Shamanism
Fanya Montalvo
contact 599-7805 or montalvo@ai.mit.edu
MIT Building 10, Room 280
Environmental Consulting
Laura Green, Cambridge Environmental Inc
contac hannahb@mit.edu
MIT Building 2, Room 105

International Litigation of Indigenous Peoples' Rights
James Anaya, Univ of Iowa
Harvard Law School, Pound Hall, Room 401

Organizing to Rebuild Workers' Power
Tom Woodruff, SEIU
contact 495-9265
Harvard, Kennedy School, Belfer Building, Starr Auditorium

6 pm
Anna Deveare Smith, playwright and actress
contact 495-0740
Harvard, Longfellow Hall, Askwith Lecture Hall

8 pm
Wallace, Gromit and Friends - the Best of Aardman Animations
contact 255-1769 or stephane@mit.edu
MIT Building 6, Room 120

Wednesday, January 21

9 am
Currency Crises
Ricardo Caballero
contact 253-0489 or caball@mit.edu
MIT Building E51, Room 372

11 am
Why Have Infectious Agents Emerged in the Era of Antimicrobial Drugs?
Arnold Weinberg
contact fitz@mit.edu

11am - 1 pm
Information Technology Fair
contact 253-9370 or csirna@mit.edu
MIT, Science Library

12 pm
18th Annual Paper Airplane Contest
contact 235-7564 or cmhowell@mit.edu
MIT Lobby 7 (under the main rotunda)

What is Depression? How Do You Treat It?
David Henderson
contact ciam@med.mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 135

12 pm - 2 pm
Medicine Outdoors
Michael Wiedman and John Pikula
contact ciam@med.mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 150

1 pm
How Will We Find the Quark Gluon Plasma?
Stephen Steadman
contact 253-4155 or sgs@mitlns.mit.edu
MIT Building 4, Room 370
Editorial Comment: Just for the name alone.

1:30 pm
Chinese Medicine
Chun Han Zhu and Elaine Shiang
contact ciam@med.mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 190

2 pm - 4 pm
Understanding Your Work Style
Karen Rancourt
contact 449-1269 or KLRan@aol.com
MIT Building W20, West Lounge

Political Equality: The Problem of Money and Politics
Josh Cohen
contact 253-2649 or bis@mit.edu
MIT Building 37, Room 212

4:15 pm
Albie Sachs, Constitutional Court of South Africa
Harvard Law School, Pound Hall, Room 204

6:45 pm
Benefit Screening of Martin Scorsese's _Kundun_
contact 491-9106
Nickelodeon Theater, 606 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
$20 ($15 tax deductible)

7 pm
_The Heat is On_ (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0201132958/alistA/)
Ross Gelbspan
contact 965-1995
Newton Free Library, Walnut and Homer Sts, Newton

7:30 pm
Remedial Math with Crayon
Ingrid Ulbrich
contact 734-9211 or sesamest@mit.edu
MIT Building 66, Room 148

Spirituality and Economics
Brian Aull
contact 981-4676 or aull@ll.mit.edu
MIT Building 24, Room 121

Thursday, January 22

8:30 am - 10:30 am
Northeast Business Environmental Network Breakfast Meeting: Measuring Environmental, Health & Safety Program Performance
Benchmark Your Practices
Lee Wilmot, HADCO and Tom Burns, C.R. Bard
Learn What Regulators Expect
Bob Bois, Mass. DEP and David Webster, EPA New England
contact (978)557-5475 or execdirector@nben.org, http://www.nben.org
UMass-Lowell, Wannalancit Conference Center, 600 Suffolk St, Lowell, MA
Seating is limited. Please respond by Jan. 19, 1997
NBEN Members: $20 Non-members: $40

9 am - 4 pm
Introduction to Online Searching for Chemists
contact lippertm@mit.edu
MIT Building 14, Room 0645

10 am
Aquaculture: Engineering and Environmental Challenges
Cliff Goudey
contact 253-7079 or cgoudey@mit.edu
MIT Building E38, Room 300

11am - 1 pm
Information Technology Fair
contact 253-9370 or csirna@mit.edu
MIT, Barker Engineering Library

12 pm
All the Breakfast You Can Carry
Linda Antinoro
contact ciam@med.mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 150

12 pm - 1:30 pm
Retiring on Your Terms
Bruce Wedlock and Douglas Bezio
contact 253-4652 or wedlock@mit.edu
MIT Building 34, Room 401A (Grier Room A)

Mac OS 8 Quick Start
Jay McSweeney
MIT Building E40, Room 302

1 pm - 3 pm
Resumes in the 90's/Building One's Portfolio
Alyce Johnson
contact 258-7208 or alycej@mit.edu
MIT Building W20, Mezzanine Lounge

2 pm
Choreographic Topology
Jim Propp
contact 253-6544 or propp@math.mit.edu
MIT Building 4, Room 145

3 pm
Biotechnology: From Science to Market
Philip Sharp
contact fitz@mit.edu

3 pm - 5 pm
Experimental Modelling of Contaminate Transport and Soil Remediation Problems
Patricia Culligan
Pollutant Transport in Groundwater: Portly Plumes in Mississippi
Charles Harvey
contact 253-3726, voelker@mit.edu, 255-6269, or lnichols@mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 390

Friday, January 23

10 am
Making the Library Catalog Work for You
Jennie Sandberg and Stephen Skuce
contact 253-9349 or jssandbe@mit.edu
MIT Building 14, Room 0645

10 am - 11:30 am
The Role of Activity and Neurotrophins During Pattern Formation in the Developing Nervous System
Sonal Jhaveri
contact 253-5717 or sonal@mit.edu
MIT Building E10, Room 013

10:30 am - 12 pm
A New Economic Game With Different Rules Requiring New Strategies to Win
Lester Thurow
contact 253-2932 or lthurow@mit.edu
MIT Building E51, Room 345

11 am
Why Does a Motor Turn, and What Does This Have to Do With Fusion?
Jeffrey Freidberg
MIT Building NW 17, Room 218

12 pm
Emotional Health
Matthew Leeds
contact ciam@med.mit.edu
MIT Building 1, Room 150

12 pm - 1:30 pm
Talk to Your PC: Voice Recognition Software
Kathy Cahill
contact 253-0852 or cavan@mit.edu
MIT Building 3, Room 133

2 pm
New-Fangled Contraptions: A Concert of Popular American Songs Portraying New Technologies
Peter Munstedt
contact 253-5636 or pmunsted@mit.edu
MIT Building 14E, Room 109 (Lewis Music Library)

Compact Hydrogen Generation for Vehicles
Daniel Cohn
MIT Building NW 17, Room 218

2:30 pm - 4 pm
Is There a New Economy?
Paul Krugman
contact 253-1551 or krugman@mit.edu
MIT Building E51, Room 345

Saturday, January 24

8:30 am - 4 pm
Keys to Empowering Youth
Rhonda Patton and Jen Kelly
contact 253-0742 or rlpatton@mit.edu
MIT Building 10, Room 105

Sunday, January 25

10 am - 3 pm
Massachusetts Voters for Clean Elections organizing meeting
contact 451-0399
Framingham (Location TBA)
Editorial Comment: MassGreens want to remind us that "when you register to vote, you must put down MASSACHUSETTS GREEN PARTY, (all three words) or you will not count for us in our drive to become an offcial party. If you registered as anything but this, please go back and do it again! Also, if you can serve as a contact for Greens in your community, please let us know by dropping us an e-mail or call ing us at (978)688-2068."

Sources for Listings:
MIT _Tech Talk_ :
Harvard _Gazette_ :
Harvard Environmental Resources On-Line:
MA Executive Office of Environmental Affairs calendar:
Earth Day Network international/national listings:
Earth Day Greater Boston calendar:

act-ma the Massachusetts activists mailing list:
subscribe by emailing majordomo@igc.apc.org, leaving the subject line blank and typing "subscribe act-ma" as the message

Peace and Justice Events Hotline at (617)787-6809

Computer Organizations of NE (CONE):
http://bcs1.ziplink.net/cone/sig - Special Interest Group list
http://bcs1.ziplink.net/cone/cal/index.html - calendar
Boston Webmasters Guild

Community Technology Center Network

Table of Contents

Libraries for the Future

Editorial Comment: I love libraries. I live across the street from the Central Square Branch Library and am in it almost every day. I read all the magazines and newspapers that interest me and browse the stacks every time I go in. The folks I have met from the American Library Association have been smart and fierce civil libertarians with a constant focus on the civilizing effects of open information. The following message comes from Libraries for the Future (lff@lff.org), another fine library organization fighting the good fight.


Congratulations and thanks to everyone who wrote in support of the creation of a National Institute for the Environment (NIE) and a National Library for the Environment (NLE). On November 7th, Congressmen Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and a bipartisan group of 33 members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced H.R. 2914, the Sound Science for the Environment Act, which would authorize and direct the National Science Foundation to establish a National Institute for the Environment. Write to your Representative and make sure they support this bill! For more information about the NIE and the NLE, contact the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (202) 628-4311 or visit their website at http://www.cnie.org.

Our right to know about pollution in our communities is being threatened at the state and federal level! Laws allowing industries to conceal environmental and safety studies have been enacted in 21 states and are presently in committee at the federal level. Protect your access to critical safety information by joining Libraries for the Future's latest Action Alert. See the reverse for more detailed information.

CLICK ONE: Send a letter to, call, or email your Senator voicing your opposition to S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S 1332 (Enzi) by January 31, 1998. See sample letter and instructions for finding your senator's email address below. Please feel free to make changes as you see fit.

CLICK TWO: If you are facing these laws in your state, contact the Network Against Corporate Secrecy to find out who is organizing against them and how you can get involved. The Network, led by Sanford Lewis in Boston, is an association of community-based groups around the country who are taking on this legislation. You can reach the Network at (617) 254-1030, sanlewis@igc.apc.org, http://www.envirolink.org/orgs/gnp/nacs_toc.htm.

CLICK THREE: Find out if your local library has a special health and safety information collection for nearby industrial facilities. If so, contact your librarian or the local Friends of the Library group to find out how you can support it. Call us at LFF for more information on how to support your public library, in general, and, specifically, in providing environmental information.

Please read the full Action Alert below to learn how you can help. Your action is urgently needed to influence this policy decision now! Call us at our toll free number (800-542-1918) or send us email lff@lff.org and let us know how you participated in this Action and what other ways we can help you with your local advocacy efforts. Join us as we create a national rapid response network of library advocates who stand up for libraries everyday, not just when there is a crisis! LFF is a member organization of the American Library Association and works in partnership with librarians and library advocates in addressing library issues.

For more information about how to use your public library to access environmental information, order a free copy of the updated 1997 version of The Environmentalist's Guide to the Public Library http://www.lff.org/services/envgui.html. Contact Sarah Clachar at sarahf@lff.org or call 800 542-1918.

Libraries are being prevented from providing essential environmental information causing communities to lose a vital resource. Laws at the state and federal level are allowing industries who voluntarily disclose violations and promise to clean them up to conceal internal safety and environmental studies or "audits."

Twenty one states have already passed "audit privilege" laws including Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. They are pending in at least 13 other states. Proposed federal legislation modeled on these laws is also making its way through the House and Senate.

These laws protect companies who voluntarily disclose environmental violations from prosecution for these violations. Information within a voluntary self-audit cannot be disclosed to the public and cannot be used as evidence in legal proceedings. This includes preventing individuals who have participated in self-audits from testifying in any judicial proceeding or administrative hearing. Furthermore, some states have made it illegal for employees or government officials to divulge information related to self-audits. In Texas, if a person divulges such information and it leads to penalties against the polluter, the individual who divulged the information must pay the polluters' fines, penalties and other costs. Finally, these laws apply to governments as well as private corporations.

Help stop this legislation and insure that communities have access to essential environmental information.

CLICK ONE: Send a letter, call, or email your Senator voicing your opposition to S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S 1332 (Enzi) by January 31, 1998. To get an electronic version of this letter, see our website http://www.lff.org. Please feel free to make changes as you see fit.

CLICK TWO: If you are facing these laws in your state, contact the Network Against Corporate Secrecy to find out who is organizing against them and how you can get involved. The Network, led by Sanford Lewis in Boston, is an association of community-based groups around the country who are taking on this legislation. You can reach the Network at (617) 254-1030, sanlewis@igc.apc.org, http://www.envirolink.org/orgs/gnp/nacs_toc.htm.

CLICK THREE: Find out if your local library has a special health and safety information collection for nearby industrial facilities. If so, contact your librarian or the local Friends of the Library group to find out how you can support it. Call us at LFF for more information on how to support your public library, in general, and, specifically, in providing environmental information.

If you are a librarian looking for professional support in creating such a collection, contact the American Library Association's Task Force on the Environment (TFOE). Fred Stoss, chairperson of TFOE, can be reached at (716)645-2946 x224 or stoss@acsu.buffalo.edu.

Please send a copy of your letter to LFF or call or email us to let us know what you did on this Action at 800-542-1918, lff@lff.org.

If you are unfamiliar with the names of your representative or senators, call your local librarian.

By phone: (202) 224-3121. Ask to be switched to your senator.

By email: When sending email be sure to include your postal address. To find senator's email address, call their office or visit the Senate and House web pages:

By post: For postal mail, send your letter to:
Office of Senator (Name)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator,
I am a public library advocate who strongly believes in people's right to have access to information that affects the health of their communities, their families and the individual. I am writing to express my unqualified opposition to S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S.1332 (Enzi). This bill would allow industries who voluntarily disclose violations and promise to correct them to conceal environmental and safety studies ("self-audits") from scrutiny by the government and the public; and immunize companies from civil, and even some criminal, penalties.

Proponents of these new polluter secrecy and immunity rights claim they will promote voluntary compliance with environmental laws. In reality, by establishing a broad secrecy "privilege" for information contained in environmental audits, S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S.1332 (Enzi) would seriously undermine the public's right to know. Allowing companies to designate internal paper trails or data relating to environmental problems as a secret "audit" would keep citizens in the dark, while benefiting only those with something to hide. Without access to the wide range of factual information companies would be authorized to conceal, the victims of harmful pollution practices will be prevented from obtaining protection and redress.

S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S.1332 (Enzi) would eviscerate the right of citizens to enforce federal environmental laws. Recognizing that citizens affected by pollution violations are often the only ones willing to take firm action, Congress had the vision to preserve a critical role for the public as partners in enforcement in many of our national environmental laws. However, by denying public access to vital information and shielding violators from penalties, this bill will effectively strip from citizen's hands the legal tools we need to protect ourselves and to hold violators accountable.

Rates of non-compliance with environmental laws remain persistently high. A recent U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) study of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data found that one in five major polluters was in significant violation of the Clean Water Act during a recent period. Congress should be giving environmental law enforcement agencies and their citizen partners more tools to do their jobs, not tying their hands and letting polluters police themselves.

Finally S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S.1332 (Enzi) is completely unnecessary. The bill's legitimate goals - to encourage environmental self-auditing and promote voluntary compliance - can be, and are being accomplished without secrecy "privileges" and immunity "incentives" that hurt our right to know, excuse serious violations, and inflame public distrust. More and more companies are utilizing self-auditing as a compliance tool. Meanwhile, there is no evidence that "audit privilege" laws similar to S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S.1332 (Enzi) enacted at the state level have brought about any significant improvement in environmental compliance.

The EPA's Audit/Self-Policing policy is already accomplishing this bill's goals with notable success. Under EPA's Policy, which contains no secrecy privilege and no immunity for criminal violations, but mitigates civil penalties for self-disclosed violations in appropriate cases, 105 companies have disclosed violations at 350 facilities in the past year, and EPA has already settled matters with 40 companies and 48 facilities, waiving penalties in most cases.

The conclusion is clear: S. 866 (Hutchison/Lott) and S.1332 (Enzi) is an unnecessary attack on environmental law enforcement, workers,and the public's right to know about pollution. We strongly urge you to oppose this legislation.

The North Channel Public Library near Channelview, Texas, is in the heart of the Houston Ship Channel Area, near Galveston Bay, Texas; what is sometimes called "Cancer Alley." Surrounded by petroleum and petrochemical facilities, the immediate area has plants owned by Shell, Exxon, Mobile, ARCO and Union Carbide. The library's entryway contains a memorial to the people killed on the job at nearby plants as a somber reminder of the hazards of the local industry.

The library is an integral part of the community's effort to live with such dangerous neighbors. The branch librarian, Patricia Lippold, is a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). The library itself houses the Local Emergency Planning Committee Environmental and Emergency Awareness Resource Center. The Center serves as an archive for the LEPC, maintaining meeting minutes and agendas, as well as regularly updated reports from the local plants. There are also resources from the federal and state government and environmental groups; and information on hazardous materials and exposure procedures. Ms. Lippold reports that people use the Center when they are worried about a smell from a nearby facility or when they are working in one of the plants and want information on the safety conditions. Overall, the local industry has been supportive of the Center, donating funds to the library and providing material on production processes and its risks. Ms. Lippold regularly communicates with plant librarians for help in answering reference questions.

Public libraries have been key allies to communities facing environmental hazards from local industries by maintaining special collections such as the one at the North Channel Public Library. In another Texas community, Manchester, a "Good Neighbor Agreement" between the community and the Rhone-Poulenc chemical plant was forged in response to an accident that put 27 people in the hospital. The agreement specifically cited the public library as the place to maintain all public information about the plant.

The state and federal audit privilege laws would make it impossible for libraries to serve this critical function.

Table of Contents

Last Turning of the Century

M Preston Burns is a cartoonist for _Spare Change_, the Boston homeless paper. Sometimes we collaborate on ideas; and for the last year, he has been educating me on the history of political cartooning and illustration. He's shown me collections of work by Thomas Nast, James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, Norman Rockwell and others. He's brought by books of photos from the WPA projects of the 30s, collections of _The New Masses_ from around the First World War. Evidently, he has been hooking into the zeitgeist because in the last month both _The New Yorker_ and the _Boston Globe Sunday Magazine_ have done articles on how Nast developed the modern image of Santa Claus and DC Comics has published _Uncle Sam_, a two issue Vertigo comic (http://www.dccomics.com) that re-examines the symbol of Uncle Sam and its relevance today. The illustrations by Alex Ross are remarkable and really capture Flagg's style.

Now, the Rev Dr Burns is going through _National Geographic_ from the beginning and _This Fabulous Century_ from Time-Life Books (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0809482258/alistA/), first published in 1969. Volume I is 1900-1910 and the first thing that jumped out at me was the cartoon from the _Chicago Daily News_ of December 31, 1900. It's called, "Reading the Will: The Inheritance of the XXth Century." Old bald, bearded 1900 is holding a document and reading it to the young XXth Century. The long parchment reads:

I hereby devise and bequeath
to my sole heir and assign
the XXth century

the Chinese imbroglio
the South African war
the Phillipine question
the Sultan of Turkey
a few South American scraps
and several useful inventions.
The XIXth Century

They are standing in a library filled with books by the notables of the 19th century and boxes labeled with some of those "useful inventions."

On the opposite page is the title of the first chapter, "The Cocksure Era," and a quote from Henry James:

The will to grow was everywhere written large, and to grow at no matter what or whose expense.

Plus ca change, n'est-ce pas?

A few pages later is another cartoon, this one from the _Boston Post_ of January 1, 1901. The old year personifed as a white bearded guy with a scythe is up in the left-hand corner showing a series of vignettes from the coming century.

The first vignette is Uncle Sam leading the 20th Century leaders of the "'powers' concert company" in a rendition of "America" to the tune of "commercial and financial leadership" beside a placard labeled "repertoire of the 20th Century," including "ahead in wealth" and "5,000,000,000 possible population in year 2000." According to a slide I saw at MIT yesterday, the world population in 1900 was around 1.75 billion and the population last year was around 5.8 billion.

According to the illustrations, in 1905 everybody will be his own iceman as Dad pours ammonia, a non-CFC refrigerant, into a refrigeration device and Junior sprays the cat with cold water; in 1910, "walking will be a novelty - even children will ride their own automobiles on Boston streets;" in 1925, newspaper publishers "will press the buttons and inventive automatic machinery will do the rest;" in 1930, there will be 150 mile per hour trains; in 1940, big stores will have automatic hands that make change and "phonographs as salesmen;" in 1945, horses will exist only in zoos; in 1960, "the child of the future will be muscular and athletic and a terror to his papa" (all while riding everywhere in their own automobiles); in 1990, you can be hit by a 1 ton block and an "elixir of life" will repair all the damage; and in 1999 1/2, a guy in a cowboy hat and a belt reading "monopoly" will be lassoing Mars while standing astride the World, a definite "possibility" according to this vision of the future, their future, our present and past.

It's good to get a little perspective as we move towards the Millennium.

Table of Contents

Don't Believe the Numbers

David B. Lewis (dbl@ics.com) took issue with part of my recent article on Costa Rica (http://world.std.com/~gmoke/AList.Jan298.html/#Costa Rica) which quoted President Jose Maria Figueres from the _Boston Globe_ of December 14, 1997. According to _The Globe_, President Figueres said that "he was committing his nation to 100 percent use of renewable energy sources by the year 2005. The country presently uses 80 percent renewable energy."

David replied, "I don't believe the number for a second. Do you know of any vast installations of windmills or solar cells or any novel work being done with geothermal plants there?" Since then, I've been trying to track that quote down. I've called the Costa Rican consulate in New York and sent an email to the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy (http://www.dgh.go.cr/dgh/portada_ing.html) asking for the derivation of that 80% figure. If I had the budget and the Spanish, I'd call Costa Rica directly and see what I could dig up. When I do hear something, I'll let David and the rest of you know.

When I published that quote from _The Globe_, I had doubts about it myself. I don't trust the media and I especially don't trust their numbers. The prime example of why you shouldn't trust the media or their numbers for me is the current spate of stories about today's low unemployment rate and how it compares to previous unemployment rates. On Sunday, January 11, David Nyhan, again of _The Globe_, had a column in which he said, "The official estimated national rate for all of last year was 4.9%, the lowest since that same rate was reached 24 years previous..." Now, I remember that Reagan changed the way the unemployment figures were figured during the first years of his first administration. Whenever I see unemployment figures compared to pre-1980 unemployment figures, my antennae go up. Are they based upon the same premises? Are the earlier figures indexed to the new figures in some way? I called Nyhan and asked. He said he got his figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, remembered that Reagan had changed the basis for "official" unemployment, but thought that these figures must be indexed so that the comparison is honest.

So I called the Bureau of Labor Statistics and asked. The economist I spoke to didn't know anything about the changes in determining unemployment under the Reagan administration but did say that in January of 1994 another change in how unemployment was measured occurred. He also said that they did not index the old figures from before that change to the new methodology. Therefore, I suspect that they don't index the pre-Reagan figures to the Reagan era methodology either. 4.9% unemployment today probably has very little in common with 4.9% unemployment in 1974. We are comparing apples and pomegranates.

I called David Nyhan back and let him know what I had found. He is going to check with the people from the business section and see what he can come up with. If you see a Nyhan column that deals with this issue, you now know the inside story.

When I publish something, I try to give readers a way to get back to my sources. I don't consider myself a journalist, by any means. I am merely a writer with pretensions to scholarship and, in my view, a scholar is someone who provides references to sources so that any interested readers can check for themselves. There's a useful phrase from the Church of the Sub-Genius and the Rev Bob Dobbs. They say, "Pull the wool over your own eyes." It seems to me that too often we are lying to ourselves and, unlike the devotees of the Sub-Genius, we don't admit it. If I am pulling the wool over your eyes, you should at least be able to identify the sheep it came from.

Thanks to David B. Lewis for keeping me honest and giving me the impetus to research and confirm my suspicions about how we operate our public discourse these days.

Table of Contents


Eric Packer (ericpack@javanet.com) called me up about including a mention of the Tibetan Association of Boston's fundraiser on Wednesday, January 21 at 6:45 pm at the Nickelodeon Theater in Kenmore Square in this week's "A List..." They are showing "Kundun" by Martin Scorsese and charging $20 a ticket, $15 tax deductible. To reserve tickets, please call Eric Packer at Progressive Asset Management (781)239-8213. As a further incentive, he invited me to a free screening of the film on January 14 (the perks of being such a big-time publisher or knowing such considerate people as Eric).

"Kundun" is as close to a perfect movie as I hope to see. The acting is transparent and powerful, performed mostly by native Tibetan non-professionals. The story of the present Dalai Lama from his birth to his exile from Tibet is profound with the resonance of a traditional culture about to change and the depth of Buddhist teaching clear throughout. Scorsese outdoes himself. His camera is almost another character in the film and I don't know how he could have chosen any other images than the ones he put on the screen. This is not your typical Hollywood movie blockbuster. This is a document that will become a classic and perhaps an historical benchmark. It is also a gift from the heart that Scorsese has dedicated to his mother.

It occurred to me while watching the film that Scorsese has become the American Kurosawa and it saddens me to remember that the most recent Kurosawa film, "Madadayo", like the last films of Fellini, could not find an American distributor for commercial release. I saw it at the Museum of Fine Arts.

As for the Dalai Lama, I saw him once probably a decade ago at the Harvard Divinity School. I made sure that I went with my friend Ambrose, one of the few true Christians I have ever met, and remember most the Dalai Lama's joy in life and his answer to a question about the proximity of the Apocalypse. The Dalai Lama laughed and said that the human race has at least another 5,000 years before we have to worry seriously about species death. Or so I recall.

I also remember watching Tibetan monks build a sand mandala at the Museum of Fine Arts a few years ago. I watched from the balcony above as they tapped metal styli and controlled the flow of colored sand nearly grain by grain, creating intricate designs and a two dimensional representation of a multi-dimensional temple of the mind, meditation upon meditation. Scorsese uses the image of the sand mandala to great purpose in "Kundun."

Eric also invited me to a benefit showing of "Seven Years in Tibet" a few months ago. At that performance, as at the more recent event, a group of singers from the local Tibetan community performed. Dressed in their traditional clothes, young men and women sang songs from a land most of them have never seen, in a language that they have to study to remember, from a culture that they are struggling to preserve. These benefits are not only to raise our awareness of what is happening in Tibet but also to build a Tibetan cultural center for the local Tibetan community. There was a sweetness in their performances that tells me such a community center could affect more than just the 250 or so Tibetans in the Boston area.

Having been in his presence once, I take comfort from the fact that there is a man like the Dalai Lama in the world and honor the culture, tradition, and history that helped create him.

I want
the Dalai Lama's
that full throat rumble
straight from the Buddha belly
    and smooth
as a strong stream
              big rocks
I want that laugh
and the wisdom
to let loose with it

I have no doubt the Dalai Lama's laugh is powerful enough to free Tibet.

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The Begging Bowl

The December 1997 issue of "Wired" had an article by Michael Goldhaber (mgoldh@well.com) about the value of attention in an information economy. Goldhaber, like others, notes that information may be infinite but human attention certainly is not. Attention thus becomes the currency of an information economy. Goldhaber believes that when attention becomes a currency, starpower will become more important and anonymity will dwindle. Lists of credits on every project will become as common as at the end of a movie. Well, maybe. I kinda like the idea of footnotes, bibliographies, and references myself (see "Don't Trust the Numbers" above). You know, scholarship. And I doubt that anonymity's usefulness is over.

After reading _Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life_ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced CHICK-sent-me-high-ee) (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0465045138/alistA/) this week, I have some additional ideas. Csikszentmihalyi has been studying the idea and experience of flow, a kind of peak attention, for many years. He finds that "flow tends to occur when a person faces a clear set of goals that requires appropriate responses," that "another characteristic of flow activities is that they provide immediate feedback," and that "flow tends to occur when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable." He says, "When goals are clear, feedback relevant, and challenges and skills in balance, attention becomes ordered and fully invested." Personally, I first experienced flow when I was eight or ten skiing down a mountain in Vermont. Never forgot it and try to replicate the experience as often as possible in almost everything I do.

If we accept the concept of flow as being one of the more "fully invested" kinds of attention, we have to accept the idea that there are other forms of attention - background noise, a glance, scanning, reading, concentrating... When and if attention becomes a currency, we are going to start noticing finer and finer gradations of attention and relate them to dollars, quarters, pennies, and mills. At that point, we will have not only an economy based upon pieces of paper but also upon how many and how long you can make somebody's synapses dance.

I have done my best to accomplish just that this week as every week. Your attention is greatly appreciated and the feedback has been gratifying. Readers keep a writer honest. Any contributions - articles, criticism, praise, rants, coins, bills, checks or money orders - are always welcome. Thanks for your time.

How "A List..." works:
If you want to have a listing included in "A List..." please send it to me before noon on the Friday before the event and if said even is deemed suitable for coverage, it will be included in the appropriate edition of "A List..." Articles and reviews, ideas, rants and opinions are also solicited. Publication is up to the erratic discretion of the editor.

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George Mokray
Information Ecologies
218 Franklin St #3
Cambridge, MA 02139

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