this week i

listened to lukas sommer with marcie at millenium stage, she stirred tomato stew while i roast coffee beans.

met scott and nicole at bindaas then a formal something or other at the french embassy.  unlimited wine and macarons means one full day recovery.

read being mortal..

if our genes explain less than we imagined, the classical wear-and-tear model may explain more than we knew.  leonid gavrilov, a researcher at the university of chicago, argues that human beings fail the way all complex systems fail: randomly and gradually.  as engineers have long recognized, simple devices typically do not age.  they function reliably until a critical component fails, and the whole thing dies in an instant.  a windup toy, for example, works smoothly until a gear rusts or a spring breaks, and then it doesn't work at all.  but complex systems - power plants, say - have to survive and function despite having thousands of critical, potentially fragile components.  engineers therefore design these machines with multiple layers of redundancy: with backup systems, and backup systems for the backup systems.  the backups may not be as efficient as the first-line components, but they may allow the machine to keep going on even as damage accumulates.  garilov argues that, within the parameters established by our genes, that's exactly how human beings appear to work.  we have an extra kidney, an extra lung, an extra gonad, extra teeth.  the dna in our cells is frequently damaged under routine conditions, but our cells have a number of dna repair systems.  if a key gene is permanently damaged, there are usually extra copies of the gene nearby.  and, if the entire cell dies, other cells can fill in

in general, the younger the subjects were, the less they valued time with people they were emotionally close to and the more they valued time with people who were potential sources of information or new friendship.  however, among the ill, the age differences disappeared.  the preferences of a young person with aids were the same as those of an old person..when they were asked how they would like to spend half an hour of time, the age differences in their preferences were again clear.  but when asked simply to imagine they were about to move far away, the age differences again disappeared.  the young chose as the old did.  next, the researchers asked them to imagine a medical breakthrough had been made that would add twenty years to their life.  again, the age differences disappeared - but this time the old chose as the young did

to help people in the state of dependence sustain the value of existence

arriving at an acceptance of one's mortality and a clear understanding of the limits and the possibilities of medicine is a process, not an epiphany


this week i

listened to two lectures on western artists retreating to bali for ideas.  we discovered the garden of eden and did not want to be the serpents

attended the 2,401st psw meeting to watch leroy cronin discuss advances in laser-printing medicines

we need to invent the microphone to record and reproduce the field of chemistry

we can suddenly bring back off-patent drugs or orphaned drugs in small doses without a factory.  like abandoned books with the advent of e-readers

read the god of small things..

she was eighty-three.  her eyes spread like butter behind her thick glasses

even chacko had no really complete explanation for why the communist party was so much more successful in kerala than it had been almost anywhere else in india, except perhaps in bengal

they were forbidden from visiting his house, but they did.  they would sit with him for hours, on their haunches - hunched punctuation marks in a pool of wood shavings - and wonder how he always seemed to know what smooth shapes waited inside the wood for him.  they loved the way wood, in velutha's hands, seemed to soften and become as pliable as plasticine.  he was teaching them to use a planer.  his house (on a good day) smelled of fresh wood shavings and the sun.  of red fish curry with black tamarind.  the best fish curry, according to estha, in the whole world

the high delight of the airborne young

in the arrivals lounge, there were four life-sized cement kangaroos with cement pouches that said use me.  in their pouches, instead of cement joeys, they had cigarette stubs, used matchsticks, bottle-caps, peanut shells, crumpled paper cups and cockroaches.
red betel spit stains spattered their kangaroo stomachs like fresh wounds.
red-mouthed smiles the airport kangaroos had.
they looked as though if you pressed them they might say 'ma-ma' in empty battery voices

what esthappen and rahel witnessed that morning, though they didn't know it then, was a clinical demonstration in controlled conditions (this was not war after all, or genocide) of human nature's pursuit of ascendancy.  structure.  order.  complete monopoly.  it was human history, masquerading as god's purpose, revealing herself to an under-age audience


this week i

resolve when traveling both near and far, need a reason for being.

retrieved my father, aunt rosemarie made cheesesteaks.  his one sibling - and being only child myself - exclusively monikered aunt rosemarie to me.

discovered parglm, faster regression processing.

see useless warnings everywhere.

wondered if dixie originated from mason-dixon.  possibly, but might instead be the french word for ten.

read beowulf, achilles of the north.  the narrative does not begin with beowulf, or even in his homeland of the geats, but rather with a genealogy of danish kings..the prologue might seem to be rather lengthy to a modern reader, but in the world of beowulf people are always concerned about origins, and even the principal characters are often referred to by their father's names.  such origins would appear to define a person's nature and quality, and thus to dispense with them would be unthinkable

the sea-weary men set down their broad shields,
with the powerful bosses, by the side of the hall.
as the men sat on a bench, the mail rang out,
the battle-shirts of heroes.  their spears stood tall,
the weapons of warriors all gathered together

then from the moors that were thick with mist,
grendel emerged, wrapped in the anger of god.
the hellish ravager sought to surprise
one of the men at rest in the high hall.
he crept under clouds toward the wine-hall,
till he could see clearly the glorious building,
glowing with gold plates.  nor was this
the first time he sought hrothgar's home,
yet never before or after, in all his days,
did he find a worse fortune among the hall-thanes.

the sword sweat blood, while the warrior rejoiced.
the light was gleaming, glowing from within


this week i

flew north through quebec to china, but between barrow and prudhoe bay then over ontario home.  we reacquainted under guard of my grandmother's crucifix.  dime tigre.  northern michigan au pair since last winter, for children who mispronounce jama jama red pijama.  primera semana liberada para explorar, she had arrived christmas, tried every carbonated beverage, spit out the root beer.  that's medicina, really medicina.

i feel your heartbeat / your english is getting better / for some things

three times daily / it's not enough / any more and i will die / yes but you will die happy

name your child shakira in colombia and you go to the jail, even my name is illegal now / bajo del mar! bajo del mar! / pinzas pinzas

paraphrased nine pound hammer across the susquehanna.  and i get a little blue, yes i get a little blue


this week i

am fantastically tired.  christmas dinner room service under handmaid's tale hotel lamps

walked the hutongs.  well, that was the last place that that wasn't.

ate hot pot again.  the servers weren't happy i chose garlic sauce from the buffet line, brought me peanut sauce.  stomach ache.  hot pot bad.  if i want to cook my own food, i'll eat at home.

am going to go with "wine snob"

note cinderella comes in many shapes and sizes

changed hotels again and again.

read pablo neruda: twenty love poems and a song of despair

my kisses fell, happy as embers

este poema es una parafrasis del poema 30 de el jardinero de rabindranath tagore

love is so short, forgetting is so long


this week i

untangled my mind.  plenty to do, i wanted none of it.  one month of frigid cold without snow.

ate japanese too.  fitting they're goldfish shaped, i am red bean surprised every time

watched making a murderer.  the amateur innocence project genre strikes me as ambulance chasing journalism rather than earnest exoneration.

read sum: forty tales from the afterlives by david eagleman.  often written in the second person

there are three deaths.  the first is when the body ceases to function.  the second is when the body is consigned to the grave.  the third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last wait in this lobby until the third death.  there are long tables with coffee, tea, and cookies..many people leave just as their loved ones arrived, since the loved ones were the only ones doing the remembering.  we all wag our heads at that typical timing

on their last day, howling because it is the end of their lives, babies climb back into the wombs of their monthers, who eventually shrink and climb back into the wombs of their mothers, and so on like concentric russian dolls


this week i

opened the door tuesday morning, joe coaxed my father to new jersey.  carried eight diamond sours, five grapefruits, two hint of strawberry chobani, and a lucerne bag of shredded parmesan cheese to the tune of the twelve days of christmas.  sweaters indoors on newton street, guitar gluing in the back.  noon we listened to analysts advocate for improvements to national statistical office web portals, at three i checked our 2019 survey sampled more than subsidiaries.  marcie locked her bicycle outside the mexican cultural institute before concerto where a multi-linguist corrected my arabic.  so can we talk about that guy?  was he wearing mascara?  simultaneous: yes/no  i think he was egyptian.  have you seen hosni mubarak?  that guy was always wearing makeup.  magnificent eyes, pharaohs on down

feed ice cubes to the forest of snake plants like plinko.  michael merzenich brain secrets in the mail, the same title already on the coffee table

had thirty six years on me when i first left the beijing airport.  and i wake up alone.


(1) earth's maximal evolutionary distance of consciousness

octopuses..frustrate the neat evolutionary division between clever vertebrates and simple-minded invertebrates

the closest we can come, on earth, to knowing what it might be like to encounter intelligent aliens

many male octopuses, to avoid being eaten during mating, will keep their bodies as far removed from the female as possible, extending a single arm with a sperm packet towards her siphon, a manoeuvre known as 'the reach'

even birds and fish have brains which exhibit a one-to-one correspondence with parts of the human brain.  but the octopus's brain is built on a different model entirely

(2) london's death index

sources include the parish registers in which churchwardens recorded births, marriages and deaths, and the so-called 'bills of mortality', tables compiled and printed sporadically during the 1590s and regularly from 1603 until the 1850s.  at first used only to measure waves of bubonic plague in the capital, in time the bill of mortality became a more general audit.  it's a statistical record which also reveals something of the life of the city.  take 1665, when the metropolis contained around 400,000 people, a quarter of whom died in that one year

(3) how to remove a brain tumor

if the tumor was located in or encroaching on eloquent areas of the brain, it would be safest to operate while i was awake.  once my skull had been sawed open in a neat rectangle above my right ear, i would be dredged up from the depths of a general anaesthetic for a chat.  i would guide the surgeon's knife by my answers to simple questions (in fact, neurosurgeons tend to use a small vacuum-like instrument to slurp up unwelcome tissue).  if my speech began to falter as the surgeon approached certain areas, he or she would know to retreat

(4) the process of dispossession

(5) the party gathers

the art will be to assimilate the party's past to chinese civilization itself, with thousands of years of history, and package them together as the rise of an indomitable superpower under xi's leadership

during the party congress, tencent, a vast infotech agglomeration that offers everything from wechat, entertainment, electronic payment facilities, and software, released its latest mobile game, applaud for xi jinping.  the game invites players to clap for xi by tapping their phone screens as many times as they can in 19 seconds

(6) gps technology

in the 1970s, the only way to synchronise your atomic clock with the one at the international bureau of weights and measures was to take it to paris with you and compare them side by side

but before it was co-opted as the pocketwatch of late capitalism - a gift from the us government - gps was developed as a way to help the us air force drop its bombs just where it wanted with as little risk as possible to american lives.  as with any technological breakthrough, it took decades, with false starts, moments of inspiration, patient refinements, scepticism from the brass ("we're the navy, we know where we are"), inter-service rivalry and a more or less steady influx of government cash.  within days of sputnik's launch in 1957, two young engineers at johns hopkins university were using the russian satellite's radio signal to plot and then predict its position.  gps came of age in the 1991 gulf war

google maps, for example, uses the web mercator map projection, which like the classic mercator projection distorts area - making greenland look much bigger than it is, and africa much smaller - for the sake of straight lines of longitude.  but web mercator adds a further distortion by representing the earth as a sphere rather than an ellipsoid.  this causes problems if you want 'to plot a constant bearing over a very long distance', but makes no difference if you're looking for the nearest pizza place.  it also saves a vast amount of processing power - calculations involving spheres are a lot simpler than calculations involving ellipsoids - and therefore tens of millions of dollars' worth of electricity

(7) unspoken medicine

unlike laughter between friends, a laugh from a patient doesn't represent an invitation to shared laughter with the doctor.  this may be one of the reasons doctors laugh infrequently: when they hear laughter from a patient it is almost invariably flagging a problem

(8) quantification

the illusion of efficiency created by such numerically precise but substantively empty record keeping is now so pervasive that we are in danger of thinking such practices are both normal and desirable