this week i

landed in myanmar just before the start of 2011..

..yangon to be exact.

believe it is critical to see and be seen in these cities, to smile and converse when folks approach you, to exchange a few broken words in each others' unfamiliar languages.  to appreciate your own life more, to compact the earth.

feel strongly that the good of traveling in a country like burma far outweighs the bad.  lonely planet details both sides of the debate, summary on pdf page 3.

met the wonderful family of a former co-worker, always better to see a city from the perspective of its inhabitants.

went to the new years fair.

saw my first neon ferris wheel / ancient pagoda duo.

ate fried chicken rangoon.  take that, kentucky.  also: no mcdonalds, no pizza hut, an admirably low cell phone prevalence rate, and only the occasional coca-cola..

 ..but no matter how far you travel, skin exfoliation facemasks will never be far behind..

..and to up the ante, how about a seated massage on the damn street corner..

..conducted by a trio of camera-loving masseuses.

wasn't worried until you said it.

enjoyed hybrid western-burmese breakfasts, with the best tea i've had since india..

..over a good and difficult book.

spotted smokey the monk.  the trick is to pick a religion that's old enough to predate the invention of all of your favorite vices, so the holy text couldn't have banned them.

crashed a new years eve party in the ritzy part of town..

..that was a little too western for my tastes.

hopped in a cab to the hardscrabble part of the city, where..

it's cool to catch a nap in your drinking buddy's lap

the skyline looks even more beautiful when contrast against the beer cans being tossed in the lake all evening

wandering minstrels share their tunes

car batteries provide the most reliable electricity

fireworks explode in the middle of the crowds, you know, because it's more exciting that way

..seriously, i cannot think of a more beautiful new year.

found the american embassy in yangon, wild with christmas decorations - candy canes, santa lawn ornaments, and a giant bright upside-down cone of twinkling lights in the shape of a tree.  got out of the car to snap some photos, heard the guard hollering at me.  responded in my most colloquial voice that i was an american, taking pictures of his own festively-dressed embassy.  noticed the big sign of a camera with an x through it.  think that was an impotent security precaution, question the point of christmas decorations that will win you a barking-at should you stop to look at them.

visited the magnificent shwedagon pagoda..

..a city of pagodas..

..each overflowing in gold.. york is to skyscraper as yangon is to pagoda.

have an idea for the lincoln memorial: four lincolns!

felt a strong sense of community.

identified my favorite yogic posture.

was terrified and delighted.
bought a train ticket.

followed the tracks wherever they took me.

saw real life.

shared a smile.

came as close as i ever would to photographing the famous mysterious national geographic afghani woman.

wonder what the consequences would be of taxing plastics used for the transport of food.  these rivers of trash need to stop..

..especially when there's so much to lose.

wouldn't hesitate to go again.

returned to bangkok, where it's illegal to step on the money (king's image).. spend time with my friend nack.

fed twenty five cents worth of imitation fruity pebbles to catfish in the park..

..and this little dude too.

hit a tourist bar that i surprisingly enjoyed.

had to look away.

experienced my first monk icon.
went clubbing..

..and then it was time to go.

the history of fallicies in the theory of unitary, innate, linearly rankable intelligence.

about the abstraction of intelligence as a single entity, its location within the brain, its quantification as one number for each individual, and the use of these numbers to rank people in a single series of worthiness, invariably to find that oppressed and disadvantaged groups - races, classes, or sexes - are innately inferior and deserve their status.  in short, this book is about the mismeasure of man.

..his commentary on the recurring historical relationship with cuts to social programs and justifications for racism..

what argument against social change could be more chillingly effective than the claim that established orders, with some groups on top and others at the bottom, exist as an accurate reflection of the innate and unchangeable intellectual capacities of people so ranked?

"make nature herself an accomplice in the crime of political inequality."

goddard rejoiced in the general tightening of standards for admission.  he reports that deportations for mental deficiency increased 350 percent in 1913 and 570 percent in 1914 over the average of the five preceding years.

'america must be kept american,' proclaimed calvin coolidge as he signed the bill.

craniometry was not just a plaything of academicians, a subject confined to technical journals.  conclusions flooded the popular press.  once entrenched, they often embarked on a life of their own, endlessly copied from secondary source to secondary source, refractory to disproof because no one examined the fragility of the primary documentation.

the common (and false) impression of darwin's egalitarianism arises largely from selective quotation.

..his detailed debunking of each new pseudo-science..

 shockley's proposal: for reimbursing voluntarily sterilized individuals according to their number of iq points below 100

he could not understand how small-brained incas had built such an elaborate civilization, though he consoled himself with the fact of their rapid conquest by the conquistadores.

he dared to claim that, on average, german brains are 100 grams heavier than french brains.

lombroso invoked biology to argue that punishments must fit the criminal, not..the crime.  a normal man might murder in a moment of jealous rage.  what purpose would execution or a life in prison serve?  he needs no reform, for his nature is good; society needs no protection from him, for he will not transgress again.

..his attacks on improperly-used genetics..
if the holocaust comes and a small tribe deep in the new guinea forests are the only survivors, almost all the genetic variation now expressed among the innumerable groups of our five billion people will be preserved.

human unity in minimal genetic distances among our races and in the geological yesterday of our common origin.

since genetic diversity roughly correlates with time available for evolutionary change, genetic variety among africans alone exceeds the sum total of genetic diversity for everyone else in the rest of the world combined

..and statistics.

if only it could be proved, or at least believed, that intelligence is fixed by heredity, and that the tester can measure it, what a future to dream about!  the unconscious temptation is too strong for the ordinary critical defenses of the scientific methods.  with the help of a subtle statistical illusion, intricate logical fallicies and a few smuggled obiter dicta, self-deception as the preliminary to public deception is almost automatic.

i would wish to be an identical twin, separated at birth from my brother and raised in a different social class.  we could hire ourselves out to a host of social scientists and practically name our fee.  for we would be exceedingly rare representatives of the only really adequate natural experiment for separating genetic from environmental effects in humans--genetically identical individuals raised in disparate environments.

anything that has been increasing steadily during the past few years will be strongly correlated with the distance between the earth and halley's comet

like it because he tears apart many of the arguments one might have against adoption.

shared dogma masquerading as objectivity

expectation is a powerful guide to action