Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cynthia Lazaroff's 38 Minutes of Dread Expectation

Cynthia Lazaroff has written a long, relentless and horrifying essay for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, titled "Dawn of a New Armageddon," about her experience this past January of living in Hawaii when a false text alarm went out about an incoming ballistic missile attack with the dread words "this is not a drill."

Lazaroff, a filmmaker and founder of U.S.-Russian exchange initiatives, recounts the terror of the 38 minutes before the announcement was recalled as a false alarm, through waves of incomprehension, phone calls, searches for shelter, thoughts of preparations left undone. She weaves throughout a historical overview of U.S.-Soviet disarmament efforts and the ramping up of nuclear tensions in a multilateral world, with a focus on Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev (whom she recently interviewed as part of a documentary on escalating nuclear threats) and their meetings in the 1980s.

The personal impressions and hurried decisions race along as the clock ticks, literally. Lazaroff writes,

I phone our close friends Prajna and Greg. They don’t know anything. They haven’t yet checked their cell phones. It takes a moment for it all to sink in.
"How long do we have if it’s real?” my friends ask, relying on me for an answer I can’t give them. “It depends on where it’s coming from,” I reply. “If it’s North Korea, I think we have about 25 minutes. If it’s Russia, we might have 25 to 30 minutes or so from launch, but that’s if it’s land-based from Western Russia to New York or Washington. If it’s from a Russian sub, it could be just a few minutes. We don’t know.”
“How long ago did Tom get the message?” Greg asks. Tom checks his cell phone. “About seven or eight minutes ago,” he answers. We are all calculating — maybe 20 or 15 or how many minutes left until … flash, blast wave, death.
Her article demands to be read and pondered.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Cross-Border Princeton Wedding: From Atlanta to Mumbai


Winston Weinmann sent in the following item:

Last summer Winston Weinmann's daughter Ginny Weinmann '12 got married to Sagar Vijay '13 - twice - first in Atlanta, then a month later in Mumbai India. Ginny is now doing Cambridge University's 12 month MBA program in Englad, while Sagar finishes his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at MIT in "the other Cambridge".

Classmates at the Atlanta Wedding included Bill Stevenson, Jim Tausche, Brink Brinkley, and John Williams. Other Princetonians included Tim Dodson '81, Kathryn Brokaw '82, Winston's sister Mary Virginia Coffman '86 and her husband Peter Coffman '87, Marty Franchot '77, Amelia Baker '79, and a host from the classes of 2012 and 2013. Adam Goldstein '81 joined us for the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. The ceremony was held in our front yard, with elaborate rain plans, thankfully unused.

On the way to India, Winston, wife Brooke, and two of our children spent six days in the Maldives, where Winston's youngest brother, George, has been running an airline. On a commuter flight from the international airport to our resort, south of the equator, the archipelagoes and islands of the Maldives look other-worldly.

We then moved to Mumbai for the wedding festivities. These included elaborate mehndi (henna) decorations on the women (and a few of the guys) over a couple of days, and an all-day ceremony starting at 7 am. No elephants, but but plenty of pageantry. We were told that the form of a Hindu wedding is dependent on three things: where the family is from, their caste, and which Hindi god the guru the family looks to had his affiliation. In our case this was Tamil Nadu, Brahmin, and Vishnu.

Both Winston and Brooke had important roles to play in the Indian ceremony. Winston had the privilege of having Ginny sit on his lap for about a half an hour while he repeated phrases in Sanskrit whispered to him by one of the priests. We were told he was more or less intelligible. A section of the ceremony took place outside, where the groom "decides" to give up on marriage and gets ready to go off to be a monk, carrying an umbrella and a few other necessaries. Winston got to "convince" him of Ginny's charms, this time repeating phrases in Tamil. Experience with the Triangle Club would have been handy.

Several Princetonians were able to join us in Mumbai: Amelia Baker '79, Brink Brinkley and his family-including his youngest daughter Sumner '21, and Pat O'Connell '74 (in photo with Ginny & Sagar), as well as Amy Leenhouts Tait's son Alex Tate '12, and Mitch Nahmias '12.

After the Mumbai visit we took a 13 day trip in northern India with most of the guests who'd come from the U.S. The common tourist route is Dehli, Agra (the Taj Mahal), and Jaipur, the "golden triangle", which we did on the first 7 days. We can highly recommend also visiting Jodhpur, where we stayed at the maharaja's Umaid Bhawan Palace, one wing of which is still occupied by the royal family, and Udaipur, built around a lake. Both cities offer as much to see, do, and shop as the first three, with a less tourist-oriented feel.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Steven Strogatz's Wide-Ranging Q&A in Business Insider


Business Insider republished a long and enjoyable with Cornell math professor Steven Strogatz on January 4. Titled "An Ivy League professor explains chaos theory, the prisoner's dilemma, and why math isn't really boring," the interview ranges far and wide. Strogatz's answers and length and elegant, complete with charts, and almost impossible to fairly excerpt, so just follow the link and read it. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Janice Weiner Running for Iowa State Senate


Recently retired after a 26-year career as a political officer in the U.S. State Department, Janice Weiner is running for the Democratic nomination for the Iowa State Senate. She's seeking to represent the 37th Distict, which includes here home town of Coralville. The incumbent is retiring.

Her campaign site on Facebook provides details on her background:

After a post-graduate fellowship at an international law institute in Munich, Janice practiced law in Palo Alto CA before joining the U.S. State Department in November 1987. Her first posting was in East Berlin, both before and after the Berlin Wall fell – an experience that combined totalitarianism with a grassroots, peaceful revolution - dual lessons that Janice never forgot. She then served in Brussels, Belgium, and Ankara, Turkey, where she won awards as Embassy human rights officer during the height of the PKK insurgency, forging relationships with many who risked their lives to defend human rights. 

Subsequent posts included Washington; Warsaw, Poland; Toronto, Canada; Ankara, Turkey as political counselor; Mexico City as embassy press attaché; and Düsseldorf, Germany as Consul General. Her final posting was in the bureau of legislative affairs at the State Department, liaising with Capitol Hill. After retiring from the Foreign Service, Janice worked for the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the bargaining unit and professional association of the Foreign Service. She moved back to Iowa in 2015 with her younger daughter, who will graduate from West High this spring.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The New Yorker's Richard Broday Analyzes New Louis C.K. Movie


The New Yorker film critic Richard Brody takes a very tough line on the new and still-unreleased film by the comedian Louis C.K. The New York debut of the film, "I Love You, Daddy," was cancelled after the New York Times published about C.K.'s harassment of women. Brody had seen the film and wrote a detailed analysis of it in his blog for the magazine. He wrote,

On Friday morning, the film distributor The Orchard announced that it was cancelling the release of Louis C.K.’s new movie, “I Love You, Daddy,” in light of a Times story, published on Thursday, in which five women described C.K.’s past sexual misconduct. (In a statement released after the Times story came out, C.K. acknowledged that the allegations are true.) The decision to cancel the release of the film is welcome; ”I Love You Daddy”—which Louis C.K. directed, edited, wrote, and stars in—is a disgusting movie that should never have been acquired for distribution in the first place. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Peter Elkind Joins ProPublica to Cover Trump's Administration and Business


After 20 years at Fortune Magazine, writer Peter Elkind is joining ProPublica as a senior reporter covering the Trump Administration and President Trump's business activities. ProPublica, which describes itself as an independent and nonprofit newroom producing investigative journalism in the public interest, made the announcement on July 6, 2017. Elkind is joining ProPublica with another writer for Fortune, Nick Varchaver. A ProPublica statement said,

Elkind most recently worked at Fortune, where he was a writer for 20 years. His work there included investigations into how Apple CEO Steve Jobs concealed his bout with pancreatic cancer; how Tesla chief Elon Musk played states against each other to win an epic $1.4-billion economic-development package; and how a cyber-invasion brought Sony Pictures to its knees – and why Sony should have seen it coming. Before Fortune, Elkind worked at Texas Monthly and the Dallas Observer. 
In recent months, Elkind has contributed stories to ProPublica about former FBI director James Comey’s handling and misstatements about the Clinton email investigation in congressional testimony, and a former nurse and suspected serial killer of babies who Texas authorities are trying to keep behind bars. 
In addition to his magazine work, Elkind co-authored the national bestseller The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron and has written two other books, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer and The Death Shift: The True Story of Nurse Genene Jones and the Texas Baby Murders. A 2005 documentary based on the Enron book was nominated for an Academy Award.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Eve Beglarian Honored by Herb Alpert Award in the Arts

Composer Eve Beglarian was honored in May as a recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, as the honoree in the music category. The program provides an unrestricted $75,000 grant, given to "risk-taking mid-career artists" in dance, film/video, music, theater and the visual arts. The description of her work says:

Composer Eve Beglarian draws her inspiration from a great many things: from a warning siren in Plaquemine, Louisiana and Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis,” to the hand pumps she encountered at the beginning of her four-month-long “one-person WPA project,” traveling down the Mississippi. In 2001, using found texts as inspiration, she began, “A Book of Days,” one piece for every day of the year. Currently numbering more than 120 compositions, they are available for free on the web and by email subscription. Collaboration – with choreographers, poets, visual artists, filmmakers, theatre directors, and rural communities – is at the core of her practice. Her latest work, “Lighten Up,” an evening-length multi-media event made with people who have been struck in mid-life by visions, premieres in Spring 2018.