Friday, April 26, 2002


A comment on Fredrik Norman's blog mentioned a new term for "suicide bombers". "Genocide bombers" conveys the essence of the Arab threat to Israel, to wit, extermination, and takes the focus off the "suicide" part. For my part, I'm going to use that term from now on.
Stay-at-home dads

About that story saying “stay-at-home dads have a higher rate of heart disease” that everyone’s sending to James Lileks: isn’t it possible that a good number of “stay-at-home dads” are staying at home because they have medical problems? Specifically, maybe a lot of them have heart problems which make a full-time stressful job possible. So wouldn’t these dads have a significantly higher rate of heart problems? Staying at home may not be the problem.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

LePen shocker

Last evening, in the middle of a gout attack, medicated to the gills, I saw on the web a story about Jean Marie LePen coming second in the French elections. This resonated with me because in 1963-4 I lived in Paris, when DeGaulle was having a heck of a time with the Algerian war and its aftermath, which formed a lot of LePen’s attitudes. Those were the days when General Raoul Salan’s “Secret Army” (OAS) threatened to parachute into Paris and overthrow le Grand Charles’ government. Salan was the head of the former French Algerians who wanted Algerie to remain Francaise.

The only way the unrest affected me directly was that, as a high school chemistry student at the Paris American High School, I overheard the chemistry teacher grouse about the restrictions the French government had placed on the selling of acids like sulfuric, nitric and hydrochloric. One of the terrorist tactics at the time was throwing acid into the faces of supposed collaborators with the Algerians. So the authorities radically restricted the availability of acids. And the next year they threw the American armed forces, including my father, out of France.

The worst hit for the French is to their prestige, their image of practical common sense. The runoff should be a great circus. All the lefties are saying they will be voting for Chirac. Why does it strike me, though, that those who opposed Chirac might just think, in their practical yet vindictive Froggish way, that a vote against Chirac, even if it’s for LePen, might send a most effective message to the Gaullist remnants. After all, everyone says there’s no chance LePen will actually win…… Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

By the way, that last post was in response to my sister sending me a copy of a survey in the Guardian lamenting how the average reader knew so little about the true state of things in the Middle East - as though the Guardian has a clue!

I've been reading Jeremy Campbell's "Grammatical Man" from the early '80s. It's about entropy, information, DNA, languages. Reminds me of James Burke's "Connections" series, except it's more focused and a bit more technical. I was especially intrigued by Campbell's exploration of the role of information science in explicating the function of DNA and what that means for evolution. I didn't know, for instance, that some DNA does not code for particular proteins, but "choreographs" the sequence of protein-creation. It's easy to see that mutations to that kind of DNA would have more far-reaching effects than mutations in the DNA that only codes for specific proteins. Campbell compares the complexity available through evolutionary change to the complexity of language available because of the "mutation" of Chomsky's generative grammar structure. His suggestion that some universal "grammar of life" allows, even requires complexity opens up a lot of ground for speculation. I'm rereading it. Only after I finish and think a bit will I start speculating wildly. Good mind-calisthenics.