Reminders of Death

My mom’s brother Don died this week. He was 76, and in a lot of pain for the last year or so. The funeral was today in a Methodist Church out in the country near the eponymous town of Black Earth. He’ll be buried not far from where he was born, at home on the farm, in 1931. After the funeral, we drove out through those green hills and fertile valleys, crossing trout streams and exploring the winding blacktop roads. We happened upon the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, and eventually found ourselves on top of a hill in Vermont township at the Vermont Lutheran Church. For me, as well as being the church where I was baptized long ago, this is an ancestral resting place. My great-grandparents, my grandparents, and many of their relatives are buried there. We walked through the cemetery and I told Beth the same stories I’ve told her before when we’ve visited. We marveled at the tenacity of those old Norwegians who settled the place, the commitment it must have taken to hitch the horse to the buggy in the nineteenth century to go to church. People came from miles around on unpaved roads to the top of that hill for church services whether it was a snowy winter Sunday or a sunny summer day.

We saw people we only seem to see at weddings and funerals. Some of the relationships are so tenuous (third cousin once removed, I’m not making this up) that we might as well be playing that Kevin Bacon game. Dad was on his best behavior and it wasn’t my day to watch out for him. The older and more demented he becomes, the more he is given to improprieties.

Just a week ago uncle Don was still alive and Beth, dad, and I visited mom’s grave at another Norwegian Lutheran church in a different part of the county. There’s a bronze marker there next to hers with his birth date and a blank spot for his date of death.

[tags]tombstones[/tags] — Nate Silver comes out

Today Nate Silver, a writer at the baseball and baseball stats site Baseball Prospectus, revealed himself as the anonymous author of, an ongoing detailed compilation and statistical analysis of poll results in the US Presidential election contests.

The data that Silver presents are not encouraging for Obama backers. He shows Hillary clobbering Mccain, and Obama losing a squeaker.

[tags]bring back Jimmy the Greek[/tags]

IETF P2P Infrastructure Workshop

Stanislav Shalunov, Director of Engineeering for BitTorrent, Inc. presented a paper at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Infrastructure Workshop in Boston today (PDF) calling for IETF support in resolving user performance and ISP congestion problems by standardizing a mechanism improving cache discovery for Peer to Peer (P2P) applications. That’s a mouthful.

People using BitTorrent can experience response time delays of from 2 to 4 seconds while uploading files because of buffers filling up in their communications equipment. This makes impractical the use of other applications such as games and real time communications (applications requiring sub-second response times) while files are being uploaded.

The paper suggests that vendors (ISPs) support P2P applications by improving caching, cache discovery (peer selection), and congestion control. It concludes,

Our μTorrent client, with 35M active installs, is one of the most popular and probably the most popular is the U.S. We’re looking forward to implementing standard ways of making it work better for the users and the ISPs and we believe that the vendors of other popular BitTorrent clients would follow because this would improve the experience of the users of their clients.

(Shalunov twitters fun things like, “Bob became evil because he sat next to my raincoat in a restaurant: he subverted TCP fairness by opening two Firefox tabs at once,” and “When I have a spare decade, I’ll write the Sucklopedia, which will document the ways in which everything, alphabetically, sucks.” You can follow him here.)

[tags]BitTorrent, Shalunov, Sucklopedia, P2P[/tags]

Longwood Grove Dr. Resto

Back in the day, before twitter, before blogging, before Google and before Gopher, even before the very Innernecks themselves, Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu thought deep thoughts about government and the human condition. A republic, he thought, would be founded on virtue, despotism on fear. It was Montesquieu’s philosophy that “government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another.”

Montesquieu was an independently wealthy aristocrat, able to bring his thoughts to print and to propagate memes in the local coffee houses with the best of them. It is not known whether or not he wore a beret.

Meeting at Heart Attack and Vine

(A post in which we discover that the title has nothing to do with the content, even though there may have been a dim connection at some conceptual stage.)
* * *
I hate to disagree with Rage Boy, but I don’t get it. I don’t get why Jill Bolte Taylor’s schtick is so egregious. I saw the TED talk and I shared it with a psychologist. He referred me to the case of Kim Peek, the savant who was born with a corpus callosum similarly shorted out, and on whom Dustin Hoffman’s “Rain Man” character was based. Peek never experienced what we think of as normalcy, and he had other congenital brain problems too. But he does have the corpus callosum problem in common with Taylor.

Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a shut-down of her corpus callosum severing communication between the right and left hemispheres of her brain as an effect of a stroke. Anecdotally, she shares her experience of the right brain as a massive parallel processor and the left brain as an orderly serial processor. She carries with her the memory of the powerful feeling of happiness and enlightenment she had when her corpus callosum crashed, and she calls it Nirvana.

She was Oprah Winfrey’s guest. Oprah and Eckhart Tolle have been flogging Tolle’s books, and they’ve associated that cosmic integral feeling of everything in the present moment that Taylor describes, with Tolle’s chicanery. RB claims that he simply finds “Jill Bolte Taylor incredibly tedious and annoying…,” but I wonder if he isn’t ginning up some guilt by association. Lie down with Eckhart Tolle, get up with spiritual fleas?

In her presentation she does have an aura of unreconstructed hippie, but as a scientist she is only describing what happened to her. She isn’t making claims about anything more metaphysical than the subjective experience of an acid trip. Personally, I like the idea that she had a brain-fault that tickled her God Spot, that she is able to associate what others might have described as a profound metaphysical experience in neuroanatomical terms.

I like her nerdiness. I think she and Kim Peek should go the road together, a double billing featuring prodigious feats of memory and self stimulated spirituality, and the neuroanatomical explanations for them.


Thanks NASA

[tags]Lockheed Martin, NASA, if we wreck up the earth maybe we can all move to mars and eat red dirt[/tags]

Elder Blogging

I’m about to put an “Elder Blogger” badge in my sidebar, and I just got this from an old, yes — a VERY old friend…

[tags]that’s not funny[/tags]