Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Acute intermittent porphyria

I note in passing that Huntington's Chorea is more evidence against a benevolent interventionist divine entity. The linked article is about as sad as one person's story can be.

I didn't know there was a disease called "porphyria". The name piqued my interest because of Porphyria's Lover, an early example of Robert Browning's ability to arouse (the business with the soiled glove and the shoulder) and terrify (the speaker's cool madness and intimate tone). (Here it is as a sort of comic book.) The disease was named some 50 years after Browning wrote the above and (says a quick google) is not named after it. Rather, the (interesting - associated with the British royals but not vampires) set of syndromes seems to owe its name to a fancy word for purple (because some variants cause discolored urine) from the "Greek porphurā, shellfish yielding purple dye". I don't know why Browning chose the name, except perhaps because the word is beautiful and uncommon (the gloves may suggest she's an upper-class woman.) Browning had an eccentric and deep classical education - it often gets in his way, in my view (see also, P.B. Shelley). He's also too willing to mess with word order (as the above poem demonstrates at a few points) and general pronounceability, and The Ring and The Book is just tiresome after a few hundred pages. Still, a great poet, unlucky (like Tennyson) in his predecessors.

I note in passing the poem's last line: "And yet God has not said a word!"

Update: if you got here looking for an iconic image of Woody Guthrie with his "This machine kills fascists" guitar, click the link. Google has weirdly used the comment below as the source of the image here.


Monday, May 30, 2005


An old friend of dubious taste and veracity writes, "I thought your wedding poem was awesome. Saw a lot of nodding heads from the coupled contingent."

My then wife-to-be and I read each other brief statements during the ceremony. Hers - a list of reasons why she was marrying me - got a lot of laughs and mmhmms. When she had finished, I got out my little black poetry notebook, at which point someone said distinctly, "This had better be good." I threw a mock dirty glance in that general direction and launched into my poem to my bride. It wasn't long enough for people to get too fidgety or drowsy - I read my wife verse when she can't get to sleep.

Afterwards I learned that the "This better" comment had been sotto voce - so sotto that my mom asked what had been said and was told audibly by someone in her row. The fact is that my now-wife is a tough act to follow.

My brother and best man is, too. Here he is performing the beautiful song he wrote for us.

Jason's song Posted by Hello


The elongated square gyrobicupola

In case you're bored by icosahedrons, here's a cool solid that was new to me. The associated Wiki pages are a lot of fun to click through. I did not know that Fat Man was built like a soccer ball.

Particle physics aside: so there are 92 Johnson solids and 5 Platonic solids, 5 sorts of finite simple groups (see another rocking math site), etc. etc. - what's wrong with having just three kinds of charged leptons? Probably this is a frequent comment on string theory slides shown after I nod off.

Rhymes with Orange

Before we got engaged, I came across a cute comic strip that describes us well enough, and my then girlfriend put it up on the fridge. Just before the wedding she decided we had to share it with our guests, setting off a small scramble on the part of her folks. I share it with you now.

Rhymes with Orange Posted by Hello

Thanks by the way to Hilary.


Sunday, May 29, 2005


Mark Kleiman sells his house. (Quiddity comments.)

Our next big project is to buy a home big enough to raise a family in. Which makes the above and (the-no-longer-named) Calpundit scary reading.

Us, happy Posted by Hello


Saturday, May 21, 2005


One week until the wedding. Have been busy with Dell laptop overheating (temporarily solved through googling the above and flutist's lungs) and a site-wide power-cut at my lab. And picking up assorted suit accessories, unfortunately with my fiancée tagging alone so I couldn't really go into power-shopping mode (is the first thing vaguely plausible good enough?), and booze-shopping, and talking to vendors, and throwing enough stuff away so it's possible to put enough stuff in closets that it's possible to clear enough surfaces to make a lived-in house look like a staged one modulo good taste in decorating. It's unclear to me how human beings blog 24/7.

In case you want to get your book of poems published

An article about poetry contests and a critical blog, Foetry.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Lagging-edge technology

The above is a term I'm perhaps the last to learn. From an interesting article about a chip manufacturer that makes stacked-circuit chips:

Matrix is also trying to exploit a manufacturing advantage over other memory chip makers: its ability to use older, less expensive chip making equipment. It can do so because the vertical approach means the circuits do not have to be etched as tightly to achieve the same capacity.

"They are making great strides using lagging-edge technology," said Jim Handy, director of nonvolatile-memory research at Semico Research, a semiconductor market research firm based in Phoenix.

By using older technology, the company enjoys higher production yields, further reducing the cost of its products.

Bite me, Entropy

Progress against cystic fibrosis, diabetes
Lord God bird not extinct
Discarded, unreadable papyri now yielding lost ancient literature.

Yeah, so you win some, and you'll win the rest eventually. You're going to have to learn patience though.

All the Dutch baseball stats you need to know

The HOF case for Rik Aalbert Blyleven.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Brief comment on John Crowley

John Crowley's Little, Big and Engine Summer are two of the greatest novels I've read. The former is sprawling, has some elements of the fantastic, and is drenched with melancholy lightened by hope. I've reread it many times. The latter is compact, has some science fictional elements, and despite elements of wonder is so sad that I've only been able to read it twice.

His other work - well, at best I've found it readable because of his beautiful prose. E.g., his interest in esotericism or who knows what in Aegypt made the book an awful chore to get through, and I didn't even try the sequels.

I recently picked up The Translator because it's a straightforward historical novel and was well received by critics I find sensible. It starts off extremely well, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

Here's a poem translated? written? by the main character:


Tip up this year on the fulcrum of its final serif
Revolve it through the degrees from right to upright
Like a lifted flagpole without a flag
Or a flat raised upon the stage of an empty theater
Before which histories will soon be enacted.
Now drop it farther, push it entirely over
As the statue of a deposed leader is thrown
Supine, his gloved finger that pointed Onward
Driven into earth to point Endward instead.
See what you have accomplished?
This rarity comes but once in centuries:
A year that can be overthrown but not reversed,
And after all our labors seems to become itself again.
It is not so. As always, we will never be the same.

Here's a sentence about an old man meeting her at an airport:

"His face was infinitely sad and yet his smile was kind, as though he waited to conduct her to an afterlife that was better than she deserved yet not all she might desire."

Ok, maybe I don't like the two "yet"s above and I'm not sure about "as though". Anyway, I'm reading with hope.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A post you should not read

If intentional, this is perhaps the vilest double-entendre I can recall reading:

"[...] whether Abdool's 12-year-old tales [...]"

Sacramento to ban hunting over the internet

Ok, so using remote-controlled weapons over the internet to kill animals is just sick, but can this possibly be constitutional?

Smells of steaks in passageways

The above phrase from T.S. Eliot's early poem Preludes puzzled me when I read the poem as a small, rapidly growing teenager who ate steak as often as possible. Later I learned that in 1917 the lower classes ate steak, a cheap cut of meat at the time. Still, "smells" didn't mean much to me.

The other night I picked up two nice ribeye steaks for two nights' dinners. My fiancée likes her steaks cooked to death. These were thick cuts, so death was a slow process. I, liking everything rare, didn't have any experience broiling something for that long, and managed to start a small grease fire.

Lessons - trim the fat from her steak; when dividing, cut the longer-cooking half more generously because it will shrink to an embarrassing degree; line the grease pan with foil; stay vigilant; go reread Eliot.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More circularity

from Quiddity. The Rilkeblog editorial board is normally 100% behind Dawkins, but jeez.

Crowfu, clafouti, and other tasty words

I claim the above neologism, meaning "tofu crow", useful for vegetarians eating their words. Too bad, pretenders.

In similar-sounding word news, I recently found myself unable to define what a clafouti is, beyond knowing it is traditionally made with cherries. Well, actually, I tried to say that it had dough on top like a cobbler. As it happens, that's not so far off according to this. But the moment called for a sharp definition. Read this if you wish to avoid a similar embarrassment. Amusingly, as the answer.com link shows, the word is derived from the French, and seems for some reason to have meant something like "stuffed with nails" (perhaps in a naughty sense of "stuffed"). They link to the word "footle", which I admit was new to me. It means "to screw around", though dictionaries don't allow themselves such felicitous locutions. Note that the dictionary does give as one of its definitions "trifle", which has as a secondary meaning another sort of dessert.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Update on Brooks's column

Mark Schmitt is skeptical of Brooks's reporting, if that's even the right term. As noted in comments, it sounds like the SC part of the deal came from Frist.