this week i

visited portland et al


read the master switch by tim wu

in this way, the bbc would for decades be spared the great controversy over advertising, which would consume and ultimately shape american radio.  the bbc, as reith tells in his memoir, "is not out to make money for the sake of making money."  the company's sustaining revenues came from the sale of licenses to receive broadcasts (ten shillings) and, in the early days, a royalty fee added to the price of radio sets.  as for the american revenue model, the first parliamentary committee to consider radio banned advertising on the basis that it might "lower the standard" - though no explanation was given of how mention of tinned meat might have this effect

 founder's myopia

 those who have watched the peculiar and heathen ways of the bell monopoly know that it is, without doubt or question, the most conscienceless organization in the united states, compared to which the gigantic standard oil trust is a mere kindergarten of devious financial and industrial devices

 in total, bell would collect seven nobel prizes, more than any other corporate laboratory, including one awarded in 1956 for its most famous invention, the transistor, which made the computer possible.  other, more obscure bell creations are nevertheless dear to geeks, including unix and the c programming language

 eventually, a meal gets away even from kronos

 two (later three) networks defining the medium that would define america, offering programming aimed at the masses, homogeneous in sensibility, broadly drawn and unprovocative by design

 like the farmer who is dismayed by a tractor's lack of horses

 in 1956, elvis presley's appearance on the ed sullivan show attracted an unbelievable 83 percent of american tv households.  a broadcast of the musical cinderella in 1955 attracted 107 million viewers, nearly 60 percent of the entire u.s. population

 the homogeneous giant the 1990s, given way to a gang of octopuses owning properties diversified mainly across media industries, typically holding a film studio, cable networks, broadcast networks, publishing operations, perhaps a few theme parks

 in 2000, verizon appointed as its general counsel william barr, the former u.s. attorney general and one-time cia operative; his style was distinctive.  on one occasion, angered by an anti-bell vote cast by an fcc commissioner, barr cooly allowed "i want his balls in a jar"



this week i

met zora, scratched ruffles, ate paella.  before you think about anything else today, think about how our species might stabilize the natural world

can you imagine a situation where i would want one of your chisels?  like, that would have to be an apocalyptic situation.  a real chisel, not the chisel you used as a screwdriver when you were twelve


(1) markets in future behavior

automated vacuum cleaners that try to make money on the side selling floor plans of their owners' apartments

you are not the product; you are the abandoned carcass

(2) like a stroke of calligraphy

the version we know best comes from hans christian andersen.  his rendering is more heavy metal than ours: a group of young storks are taunted by a cruel child, so their stork mother tells them she knows the pond 'in which all little babies lie, waiting till the storks come...we will fetch a little baby brother or sister for each of the children who did not sing that naughty song.'  but for the cruel child 'there lies in the pond a little dead baby who has dreamed itself to death.  we will take it to the naughty boy, and he will cry because we have brought him a dead little brother.'  this bit of the story is left off greeting cards

in 1694 the scientist charles morton suggested in deadly earnest that the stork, along with the swallow and crane, wintered on the moon.  then, in 1822, a stork arrived in a german village with a thirty-inch spear in its neck.  the spear, metal-tipped, rising up through the bird's breast and out of the side of its neck, was identified as coming from central africa

(3) astrostrategy

 the masters of infinity

in the orbital plane shared by the earth and the moon, there are five lagrange points, where the combined gravity of the two bodies allows for objects to be suspended, relative to both, without using thrusters (which otherwise maintain a spacecraft or satellite's position in space)

controlling the mineral and energy resources of asteroids may also be an attractive prospect.  the entire mass of the asteroid belt is only around one thousandth of the mass of the earth, but around half of that is contained in just four large asteroids: ceres, vesta, pallas and hygiea.  unlike planets, asteroids have no atmosphere and much less energy is needed to lift materials off their surfaces.  in december, a japanese mission returned to earth with the first samples taken from below an asteroid's surface.  nations have fought plenty of wars over shitty little islands.  fighting over shitty little asteroids is not implausible

in space, linear distance is less important than the energy required to travel between two points.  thanks to the gravity wells formed by the planets, far more energy is required to travel from the earth to the moon than from the moon to mars - a distance 150 times greater

the soviet almaz space station was mounted with a machine gun

(4) brick and mortar

a recent paper in nature noted that in 2020 the weight of human-made stuff exceeded living biomass for the first time.  (it was just 3 per cent of biomass in 1900.)  while trees and other vegetation weigh in at around 900 gigatonnes, buildings, roads and other infrastructure add up to 1100 gt (animals contribute 4gt, half the weight of plastic on land and sea).  there is now more concrete in the world than any other man-made material.  after fossil fuels, it is the largest source of carbon dioxide, contributing 8 per cent of emissions, which puts it ahead of aviation and agriculture.  each of its ingredients has a calamitous footprint

(5) development aid

as the guyanese historian walter rodney wrote in how europe underdeveloped africa (1972), roads and railways were not constructed in the colonial period so that africans could visit their friends.  more important still, they were not laid down to facilitate internal trade in african commodities.  there were no roads connecting different colonies and different parts of the same colony in a manner that made sense with regard to africa's needs and development.  all roads and railways led down to the sea

the us never built a road unless its forces might one day travel along it

china extended overseas development credit of $462 billion, only slightly less than the $467 billion provided by the world bank in the same period

(6) shipping

if you're having a sweater shipped from the other side of the planet, the cost of shipping adds just a cent to the price

communication by cable was more pivotal to the maintenance of british economic and political power than railways or steamships because it stitched the internal indian information-gathering systems onto overseas networks and thus centralised the state's ability to collect strategic intelligence and expanded its capacity to project state power

if you lined up the containers on one of those ships in single file, they would stretch for ninety miles

(7) profound changes afoot

even more urgent and evident, though, is the potential impact that africa will have on the global future.  according to the united nations population division, the continent's population is growing more quickly than it ever has.  today there are approximately 1.4 billion africans.  by 2050 that number will nearly double to 2.5 billion.  and by century's end, according to the un's median projection, there will be 4.4 billion africans - well more than the combined populations of china and india today.

to a degree few foreign policy thinkers seem focuesd on, this will have an impact on the environment and climate change, migration, conflict, global demand for goods and services, and the contest between democracy and authoritarianism.  this all arguably makes africa's political and economic course the central human story of the century, and one that the us has a profound and all but unrecognized interest in


this week i

published on the state of american dental coverage of senior citizens

swam like a sneezy little walrus in the vacation-industrial complex of moses lake.  in seattle, kelly completed supply chain mit micromasters, michael started study of c alongside the job miscellany of homeownership: more expensive than saffron.  we sailed puget sound for lock-adjacent salmon jumps, rainier.  canus africanus slept above backyard avec pond sans topiary, we pressed our luck climbing gasworks eating high temperature olive oil


read the autobiographical novel the lover by marguerite duras

 the rivers flow as fast as if the earth sloped downward

every night i comb and braid it before i go to bed, as my mother taught me.  my hair is heavy, soft, burdensome, a coppery mass that comes down to my waist.  people often say it's my prettiest feature, and i take that to mean i'm not pretty

i ask him if it's usual to be sad, as we are.  he says it's because we've made love in the daytime

she asked for him to be buried with her.  i don't know where, in which cemetery.  i just know it's in the loire.  both in the same grave.  just the two of them.  it's as it should be.  an image of intolerable splendor

the lover from cholon thinks the growth of the little white girl has been stunted by the excessive heat.  he too was born and grew up in this heat.  he discovers this kinship between them.  he says all the years she's spent here, in the intolerable latitude, have turned her into a girl of indochina.  that she has the same slender wrists as they, the same thick hair that looks as if it's absorbed all its owner's strength, and it's long like theirs too, and above all there's her skin, all over her body, that comes from the rainwater stored here for women and children to bathe in.  he says compared with the women here the women in france have hard skins on their bodies, almost rough.  he says the low diet of the tropics, mostly fish and fruit, has something to do with it too.  also the cottons and silks the clothes here are made of, and the loose clothes themselves, leaving a space between themselves and the body, leaving it naked, free

the town of saigon


this week i

published on the persistence of the poor left out of obamacare

ate coconut croissant in laramie.  elderly hetetochromic all black some charles spaniel watched gannett peak lodge key pass across counter.  wildfire haze shrouded big nipple range, though my favorite translation remains correctamundo: the most correct in the whole wide world.  next day to the dragonfly graveyards of yellowstone, where earth blew a gasket.  disney's beauty and the beast beast just a buffalo, we spotted - not straw bear nor rasp bear nor huckle bear perhaps black bear? - foraging opposite river bank.  surely not schnoz bear, that's just an anteater.  four a.m. dubois drive (dew boy) munching mustard lettuce, we pondered an cbalophone (alophone), hiked dragon lairs, geyser basins.  bucket list more a mobius strip


read soseki natsume's botchan.  author on the 1,000 yen note

silence seemed here to be the only virtue to keep me safe

dear kiyo,
i got here only yesterday.  it is a poor place.  i am lying down in a large room of fifteen mats.  i gave away five yen as a tip.  the landlady made me the nicest bow you ever saw; her head all but touched the floor.  i had a disturbed sleep last night; had a dream in which you ate sasa-ame, bamboo leaf and all.  expect me next summer vacation.  i have been to school today and many of the teachers have been given nicknames by me.  principal, badger; dean, red-shirt; teacher of english, green squash; teacher of mathematics, porcupine; teacher of drawing, clown.  you shall know many more things by-and-by.  good-by, kiyo.

i had not taken soba for so long and since it was good, i did ample justice to four bowls of soba with tempura that evening

nothing worthy of not happened until the fourth day, on the evening of which i visited and ate dumpling at a place named sumida.  this is a town noted for its hot springs, which can be reached from the castle town in ten minutes by rail, and thirty minutes on foot.  the hot spring resort has houses of ill fame besides restaurants, hotels, and a park.  the dumpling shop at the entrance to the brothel quarters being famous for the sweetness of the bread, i just stepped in on my way home and tasted some.  this time meeting no students, i thought nobody had seen me there.  going to school next morning, i went into the classroom and was saluted by the letters, "two plates of dumplings-seven sen" on the blackboard.  it is true that i had taken two plates and paid seven sen.  what a nuisance!  fully expecting the second period would bring me again some kind of fresh annoyance, i went to the classroom and found on the board, "dumplings in the brothel quarters are nice, very nice!"

every word uttered by him called forth indignation in my mind

if a meeting were such a foolish, meaningless thing, it would be far better for one to stay away and have a nap instead

it is very strange, i thought, that the world has such an incomprehensible fellow, who, having a house and grounds of his own, says he has got tired of his native place, the school which is very convenient for him to teach in and wishes to go out a stranger to another province in order to meet troubles.  tolerable would it be if it were the flowery capital city where you have electric cars running

the old man began to sing utai in such an innocent voice as if he knew nothing but bliss in the world.  it seems to me that utai is an art of obscuring the sense of words by giving them unnecessary, difficult tones when straight reading makes them all plain.  an old man who thus idles away night after night with such dull music must be a simpleton, i thought

true i had bought the eggs to eat and had not carried them all the way in my sleeves in order that i might use them as missiles, but anger made me lance them at the face of the clown