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July 22, 2014

Count to ten when a plane goes down…

johncbeck:

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Just a little under 31 years ago, I played a key role in a conspiracy theory that grew up around a passenger plane downed by a Russian missile.  Trust me, I did not mean to be involved. 

On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines flight 007, a Boeing 747 with 269 passengers, was shot down over the Sea of Japan.  At about 6am that morning, I arrived at my summer job at the American Embassy in Tokyo where my task was usually to start up the computer which had been turned off over night.  But on this morning, I realized the system was already engaged and that a surprisingly large number of workstations had been left on over night. While rare, I had seen this pattern before when a Washington deadline for information was looming.

Not long after I arrived in my office, I received a call from a secretary in the Agriculture Department who liked to play a computer game before her workday started.  Her favorite game had a bug that regularly froze her workstation.  This was the “bad old days” of computers and the only way to reset her station was from my central console. 

On this day, I highlighted her workstation and hit the F6 key to reset.  But my screen went temporarily black and then seemed to be starting again.  I realized that I had mistakenly hit F7 and reset all the workstations in the embassy.   This realization didn’t bother me much, because no one except the Agriculture section secretary was usually on the computer system this early in the morning.

But then all hell broke lose. 

My boss, a Japanese computer engineer named Itoh, poked his head in the door.  This was a shock because I had never seen Mr. Itoh before 10am ever.  My job was to come in early and leave early and he arrived late and stayed late to shut down the system each night.  He asked me what had happened.  I told him I had shut down the system by mistake.  He shook his head and ran down the hall.

Next, the head administrator, who I had only seen once in the computer room, walked in.  He asked where Mr. Itoh was.  I pointed down the hall.  And he ran that direction as well.

More than an hour later,  the Administrative Director returned to my office to explain what had happened. He told me about the Korean Airline disaster and that no one really knew what was going on, but that most of the information available was coming in from Japanese sources—first from Japanese fishing ships in the area and later from Japanese defense forces who were being dispatched to look for debris.  A team of translators and US diplomats had been readying the first report for President Reagan at the time I turned off the computer systems.  As this was a very early computer with limited backup capability, hours of work of dozens of experts had been lost when I inadvertently closed down the computer. 

I, naturally, felt terrible and was, appropriately, fired. 

It was only weeks later that I began to comprehend the effects of this single keystroke mistake.  President Reagan was criticized in the press for his administration’s delayed announcement of the tragedy.  But more troublesome, the reports that were being compiled in the US Embassy at the time of my error were meant to be shared with the South Korean government.  As the team in Tokyo went back to rewriting the report—with clear evidence that the plane had been downed in the Sea of Japan—the South Korean government, working from flawed data, announced that the airliner had simply been forced to land in Russian territory and that all passengers and crew were safe.

That Korean announcement and the slow response by the US President—both caused by delayed real information—caused decades of conspiracy theories.   Until the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, many  Koreans clung to the hope that their loved ones were still alive and well in some Siberian prison camp.

So today, in the face of a Malaysian Airline crash in the Ukraine—and with all the associated speculation of 24-hour news organizations and the Tweetosphere, my advice is to take a deep breath, count to ten, and know that there is a very good chance that truth in the matter will be forthcoming very soon.  And let’s hope that there is no stupid 23-year-old with his finger on an important keyboard in this information chain.

(via dpstyles)

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July 22, 2014

My godmother, Stevie Nicks, gave an impromptu and a cappella performance of “Landslide” during dinner.”

I really only read Vogue to nash my teeth at all the things I could have … if I was born the kind of girl whose wedding is featured in Vogue. (And make no mistake: they’re born to it.)

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July 21, 2014

Parents get money from the government each month called Kindergeld. You get about 200 euros/month per child, depending on how many children you have. The money is to help with diapers, food, toys, whatever. It’s not an enormous amount, but a nice chunk of change. You get paid that amount per child until they’re 18, but if they don’t have a job after that, then they get it until they’re 21, and if they’re studying, they get it until they’re 25.

Motherhood in Germany

What’s the German word for I want my Kindergeld too, please?

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July 21, 2014

Proof that even when 100% sober I kinda look drunk at weddings. 

Also you know this Nora Ephron quote, the one that’s bit me in the ass during many a bout of post-wine-drinking insomnia?

Well I am here to tell you it is NOT the two (extra) glasses of wine that’s waking you up at 2 am. Sometimes that just happens.

And I am also here to tell you it is possible to feel hungover even though you haven’t had more than 1 glass of wine in one sitting since February.

Sometimes you are just hungover from life. 

So basically, it’s not wine’s fault.

Wine is your friend.

Hug her extra close for me tonight.

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July 18, 2014

"Mothers" by Ken Heyman, captured more than 50 years ago and rediscovered in a storage facility. Hat tip to Gena.

I’ve realized recently I’m not afraid of me dying, as I thought I might be (my birth-mother died while 8 months pregnant with what would have been my brother); I’m afraid of her dying, this little life inside me. When she is unusually quiet I lie on my back, desperate for long minutes, willing her to kick, and then when she does, I will her to kick again, just so I know the first wasn’t the feeling of a dead baby bumping against the walls of my uterus.

But don’t get me wrong — I’m not unduly paranoid or fearful. (There’s no more hopeful act than bringing a baby into this world, is there?) For the most part I am peaceful and happy, the pregnant woman you pass on the street with a secret smile on her face.

I just know that even the bonds we consider most sacred are not unbreakable. I’m privileged and healthy, a good person, but I’m not safe from tragedy. I learned at age two that life is not fair, and it’s not a lesson you forget.

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July 16, 2014

More black news via oldauntamy & putthison:

Scientists Develop a Darker Black
Really dark black is apparently the new black. From The Independent:

A British company has produced a “strange, alien” material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the “super black” coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss.military uses that the material’s maker, Surrey NanoSystems, is not allowed to discuss.

More black news via oldauntamy & putthison:

Scientists Develop a Darker Black

Really dark black is apparently the new black. From The Independent:

A British company has produced a “strange, alien” material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the “super black” coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss.military uses that the material’s maker, Surrey NanoSystems, is not allowed to discuss.

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July 16, 2014

explore-blog:

This photo series started after a conversation about how black dogs have a harder time getting adopted than other dogs. I decided to start a photo series photographing black dogs on a black background in my studio. Using social media, I’ve been recruiting local dog owners who have black dogs to photograph. 

From photographer Fred Levy, the Black Dog Project. Complement with how (not) to photograph a black dog.

People Are Horrible, Exhibit 9,012: they’re even prejudiced against black dogs.

(Not our pup, though. She is greeted like a visiting dignitary wherever she goes. A particularly adorable and derpy one.)

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July 15, 2014

Planet mobile!
File under: Things I Would Like In My Room.

Planet mobile!

File under: Things I Would Like In My Room.

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July 15, 2014

Rull cute Zara handbag alert.

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July 15, 2014

When I was a little girl, my aunt Therese and her then-husband made me a wonderful book with watercolor illustrations: The Little Girl With Altogether Too Many Names. It’s the day in the life of a girl named Nora (that’s me!) who did the things that I did – she spent time in Grandma’s mint green house,  avoided naptime at her Montessori pre-school, and went to a birthday party … where this Nora character proceeded to disobey her Daddy, eat too much candy, and turn into the dreaded werebaby. (I’m sure I never did such things.)

Along the way she picks up names until, at the end of the day and in a state of sugar-withdrawal obstinacy, she insists her Daddy call her by her full name: Norrina Tetrazini Toscaninni Subaru Albermarle Cake.

I’m thinking of this now, and how prophetic Therese was….

After we found out we’re having a girl, we settled on the name: first, middle, and last. But then that evening M.’s dad called me.

After offering delighted congratulations (everyone was hoping for a girl), he said: “Now, Nora. Let’s talk about middle names.”

“The name is up to the mother,” he stated, but he implored me to include Lakshmi, saying she is the goddess of good fortune and prosperity – such a name would be “good for us all,” he assured me.

Lakshmi is pretty much the definition of smart and powerful so, why not? But I certainly don’t want to give up the middle name I’d picked out: Denise, in honor of my birth-mother.

And then I want to throw my last name in there somewhere, too.

So now we’re looking at [Redacted First Name] Denise Lakshmi Sherman Subbarao.

They won’t all be on her birth certificate – I’d hate to burden her with that legal ball and chain. But they’ll be hers.

One little girl,

Altogether too many names.

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