Monday, September 26, 2016

As at an abstraction

At the corner of Franklin and Columbia today, as I was waiting to turn to go get Niklaus for lunch, there was a very attractive and funky young college woman, definitely someone I would have had a crush on in college, waiting to cross the street. She was wearing leggings or yoga pants or something like that, entirely form-fitting, and I could not but admire her figure, at least in the abstract, and I realized I was taking her in somewhat as an abstraction.

This took me back some 25 years or so, to when Czeslaw Milocsz was in town, and I nailed him after taking offense at saying he looked at his young lover seated on the edge of the tub "as at an abstraction."  I recounted this here.

Now that  I am 50, I guess I kind of get it, it is certainly a more age-appropriate way to appreciate the charms of young ladies. And I guess that's more the point, aging doesn't make men blind or ignorant of certain facts. The key is not to go around trying to sleep with women 30 years younger than you, and, even more importantly, to not be successful in trying.

Big trucks

Driving on Eastern NC.  Headed to New Bern. Always astounded to see the number of massive trucks people drive, and the amount of effort they expend to control the growth of plants, especially grass, in the middle of freaking nowhere. Each, in its own way, a sad attempt to establish dominance, while secretly demonstrating the fear -- almost an admission -- that it ain't happening.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Beach

It had been a long time since we had been here. The Beach, generically. Wrightsville Beach is a place where I had never spent any time before, a fine place, somewhat less forelorn than Atlantic Beach seemed when we were up there a couple of years ago for Father's Day. Fewer derelict motels that have tried but largely failed to convert into condo complexes. Everything pretty upbeat here. Sunny, but not too sunny at the end of September (ask me about that again when I come back from the run I should have taken first thing in the morning, like those toned tri people). But in the end it is first and foremost, a beach, and, as such, a subset of The Beach.

Which Mary generally fears because of sun, her being rather fair, the children having gotten her skin rather than mine. Plus the sand, all the seafood, the heat.

But we are here, nonetheless. and here in the afternoon, after a near nap, in the cool Airbnb house with the period paneling and retro couches (Mary approves highly of the styling), looking out at the inland waterway, it is rather nice. David is napping, mom is kind of napping, protesting that she never naps, and Mary is photographing her. The kids are kind of doing homework, maybe, lying in bed under there respective blankets, with their devices.

All is good.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book on Cancer

I just pushed through Siddhartha Mukherjee's "The Emperor of All Maladies."  As my readers may have observed, although I am not afraid of attacking thick tomes, I am not by nature engaged to tackle the fatties devoted to hard science topics.  But since my new office is at the NC BioTech Center, and we are circulating amongst lots of entrepreneurs who are developing drugs and the like, I figured it behooved me to educate myself about this kinda stuff.

I was inspired in particular by a conversation with the CFO of a small, speculative firm that works in the drug discovery space, who has a platform to help other companies facilitate the development of molecules (yes, you read that correctly). He was also not native to the drug world, and allowed that transitioning into it had been a particularly steep learning curve.

So I read this book. It was not light reading. Cancer kills lots of people, and has been doing so for a long time. (Just this morning I was texting with a client whose husband was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer which had metastasized some. He was in the hospital for chemo).  The "war on cancer" has been fought on many fronts for centuries, and while there has been a lot of progress on some fronts, on others there's been much less forward motion.

Let's be honest, it was an excruciatingly difficult book for someone like myself, being averse to medical detail. Particularly the chapters about super-aggressive radical mastectomies, of which I will spare you the details.  It was rough reading. And the lack of forward motion along many research vectors was disheartening as we moved into pages 300-350.

And then, finally, some really effective drugs targeting breast cancer, lymphoma, and some specific types of leukemia!  Ahh, it is beautiful.

Mostly, I must say, the book reminded me, as if I needed reminded, of the vastness of what I don't know, and the number of workaholic geniuses out there trying to solve problems. And the complexity of funding research for diseases that occur rarely. What do you do when you need $100 million to attach a cancer of which maybe 100 a year pop up?  It's a tough sale.

So, in the end, it was a fine book. One I'm glad to be done with.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pushing through

Yesterday ended up being a great day, in an odd way, if extraordinarily bustly (140 miles in toto, after driving to a soccer game in the AM then to Raleigh and back twice in the late afternoon and evening).

Graham's birthday party came off well.  Four boys showed up, one of whom is new in Graham's orbit, and the email hadn't gone through to his dad, so Graham hand-delivered the party deets on Friday, and he showed!  Then another boy, whose parents are freaking space cadets and had forgotten about Graham's party in prior years, came after I called his house and his dad said: "Oh, it wasn't on the calendar and Jenny (not her real name) is out of town."  Plus the DVD of Monty Python's Holy Grail was scratched, but we managed through it and they saw maybe 80% of the movie anyway.

Then, in the afternoon, I was working on my presentation for today, and my computer crashed and then couldn't find a boot volume when restarting. I knew my data was backed up to the cloud, so was concerned primarily with what machine I would take to do the presentation. So I ran some diagnostics -- which kept looking bad -- then I rebooted a couple of times and, sure enough, in true Dell fashion, the computer eventually realized it wasn't actually dead. To quote Monty Python:  "I'm not quite dead yet!"

Finally, come evening time, we were out at a small party, and my phone started acting dead.  Would not come back to life. This being a 13 month old Samsung Galaxy 5, so a perfectly decent phone, which had had decent battery charge before I went into the party.  I didn't freak out or fret too much (as I am at times wont to do).  I just plugged it in when I got back in the car, saw some signs of life, then rebooted when I got home.

This morning, we woke up and found out that the cat had puked again.  I'm not thinking about that for a little while.  Gotta prep for this afternoon.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Birthday weekend

And so, Graham's birthday weekend is upon us, and with it another frenzied cleansing of the house in anticipation of a small number of adults visiting the house at drop-off and pick-up.  I mean, I guess it is worthwhile to clean the house a couple of times a year, just for good measure. But in the end it is shame-driven.

This after at work today, one of the partners in my firm was encouraging me to get upgrade from my Prius to a Tesla for appearances sake:  "you should reward yourself, it is consistent with who you are, clients like it."  But it costs a bunch of money, too.

Anyway, off to bed now. Soccer game at 9.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Never forget

I was thinking yesterday that I'm not 100% certain what it is that I'm never forgetting.  I mean, no, I will never forget standing on 5th Avenue watching the Twin Towers burn and realizing that I couldn't stand there and watch because if I did I would start smoking again. That I didn't need to watch. We didn't know, couldn't imagine that they would collapse.  When I heard it had happened I really didn't quite process it.

I will never forget the craziness of that day, or the unity of sentiment in the days following it.

Nor will I forget the opportunism and alacrity with which the Bush administration latched hold of the "Axis of Evil" construct to justify wars on multiple fronts, and the way we squandered the good will of the world just when we had an opportunity to slipstream off of it by undertaking a war for hearts and minds that might have done us some good.

Or a bunch of other stuff. Basically, September 11 was a great opportunity squandered in an orgy of revanchist and neo-authoritarian bloodlust.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Enthusiasm deficit

There is a marked enthusiasm deficit around Hillary Clinton. We find her difficult to like, so it is hard to get behind her with passion, though we all know that we hate the Donald.

What's up with that?  Undoubtedly she is held to a higher standard than men, and if she projected the kind of things that we like about women her age, grandmothers, we wouldn't find them electable.  So in a sense she is in a can't win situation.

There are few women in politics who were her age and "likeable."  Really only Ann Richards of Texas springs to mind, and she was a good deal younger than Hillary is when she rose to prominence in national politics. It is a shame that she passed away a decade ago. The interweb informs me that Richards drank and smoked a lot, and indeed passed away of esophageal cancer at a relatively young age. I'm willing to bet that trait, that she drank and partied with powerful men, taught her behavioral tricks that allowed her to cross over to likeability: a sense of humor on the rostrum, of knowing how to work a crowd and a room.

But she would probably have been undercut and hacked to death by a thousand paper cuts too had she run for President.

RBG pulls it off these days, though she has to be careful.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

What is art?

At the "Southern Accent" show which just opened at the Nasher this week (if you're in NC, go see it, great show), there was a wall of work by William Eggleston, including the one below.  Mary mentioned that Eggleston was one of the first "serious artists" to use color, as opposed to black and white.

It occurred to me that treating color photographs as art is very similar to what Iurii Lotman and the Tartu School said about poetry and prose. Poetry, according to this line of thought, is the first form of verbal art because it is so clearly differentiated from everyday speech. Prose, therefore, as art, is more complex then poetry, because it has to differentiate itself from both poetry and every speech. It must fight harder to prove that it is art, and, as such, has a tougher job.

It seemed deep at the time.

Now must go throw frisbee with Graham, then take a swim.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

In the thick of it

It has been a busy week.  The Volvo started having electrical issues -- just when I was about to put some money into fixing the interior, our cat Leon continued to puke all over stuff and had to be taken to the vet, who for $400 gave us some drugs and told us he wasn't eating, a friend of Mary's found out that -- if it wasn't bad enough that brain cancer was killing her slowly, that stage 4 lung cancer would be killing her more quickly even, thank you very much.  One client got fired/laid off, another found out she was getting audited.

Meanwhile, I have been having some lower back pain, partially tracing back to standing on the concrete floor of the Cradle all last weekend, partially from my crappy -- if stylish -- desk chair. Must get up to Carrboro to pick up my hand me down from the company that mom just shut down.

I realize I am beginning to sound all too much like Andy Rooney.  I'm just saying.

Mary just came in and told me the vet might call and tell us that Leon has pancreatitis and that "we may have to make a decision quickly," and that pretty much takes the wind out of my zen sail. Waves keep washing over me, at once cooling me and making me deucedly salty.  Now must take Graham to martial arts.