Friday, August 28, 2009


Scientific American has a fascinating article on the possible evolutionary roots of depression online. It makes an interesting case, but I have to say that the following paragraph doesn't jive with my personal experiences:
So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.
I've found that the depressive periods in my life are precisely the times when my problems seem most overwhelming, and I'm least able to break them down into smaller, more manageable component issues. Granted, I've developed a mechanism to lift myself out of such ruts, which is to pick a small, easily handled problem and go about solving it - but I had to consciously develop this method as a way of combating depression. It didn't come bundled with the package. Anecdotally, it seems as if most of the people I know are the same. Does anyone have a different take?

And How

NPR has a story up about how fear is trumping logic and reason in the current debate about reforming the healthcare system, and it's completely on point. Following the debate is tremendously frustrating precisely because so many of the players involved seem intent on avoiding rational discussion of the issue in favor of fear-mongering to score political points, and the voters are too misinformed to know better. Anyone who has studied the health care problem seriously, or taken an in-depth look at the various approaches to providing health services deployed by governments in other industrialized countries, will realize that the American system is by most objective measures among the worst in the developed world. That is not an ideological statement - it's true irrespective of whether one favors bigger government or freer markets. Lefty complaints about the U.S. healthcare system are at this point well-documented, but (and this is an underplayed angle in the media's coverage of the debate) even from the perspective of a libertarian-leaning free market enthusiast like me, it's a complete mess. The American healthcare apparatus is not an open marketplace - it's a sclerotic tangle of overlapping and sometimes redundant government bureaucracy, inefficiently allocated private resources, and expensive, unnecessary red tape which costs twice as much as any other system out there and doesn't deliver anything more. It's not by any stretch of the imagination a free, open marketplace - thanks to differing state laws it's more like 50 different marketplaces, each with its own norms, rules, and price points, and because of the administrative costs that entails, no one but the largest and most well-entrenched companies are able to compete effectively on a nationwide basis. In wide swaths of the country the health care market has essentially been cornered by one or two players, and as anyone who paid a bit of attention in economics 101 can tell you, that's a recipe for higher prices and lower quality services. Furthermore tying healthcare to employment creates massive distortions in the labor market, restricting the ability of workers to change jobs, discouraging entrepeneurship, and hamstringing startup and small businesses. It's just as possible to envision a better system coming from the right as it is from the left - and indeed, some of the better systems out there are something closer to a true competitive marketplace. But who needs to acknowledge reality when you can trot out the bogeyman of government bureaucrats pulling the plug on grandma to score a few points in the polls in time for the next election?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thank Your Lucky Stars, Democrats...

..that Obama came along, because otherwise John Edwards might well have been your candidate. Edwards' entire political persona, that of the hardworking, honest family man who had worked his way up in the world by doing the right thing and sticking up for the little guy, was a monumental edifice of pure bullshit, one I'm glad to see is finally crumbling. I distrusted him the first time I heard him open his mouth - he struck me as a sniveling, overambitious, glad-handing huckster right off the bat - and that distrust grew into a sort of intuitive loathing the more I heard him, but lots of my liberal friends at one time viewed him as their best hope. How lucky they were that events unfolded as they did.

I do, of course, feel terrible for his wife Elizabeth, for whom this news is undoubtedly another blow - to be put through such emotional trauma while already battling cancer is a truly awful fate. But the fact is, it was her husband's selfishness and mendacity that brought this fate upon her, which only heightens the contempt I feel for him. It's likely he will never again achieve prominence or political power, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Update: I just came across an interesting piece speculating on possible ways recent history might have played out had Edwards been the nominee.

Shut Up and Sing, Madonna

I wouldn't say her message deserved to be booed - racial prejudice is, most people agree, a bad thing. But I must confess some small degree of pleasure in seeing a crowd respond with something other than fawning adulation to sanctimonious grandstanding by a celebrity. Though her feelings about discrimination may be genuine, I doubt Madonna has put much time or effort into understanding the plight of the Roma in eastern Europe, or into doing anything that might ameliorate it. People at that concert paid to see her sing and dance, not deliver a political sermon, so for her to use her platform as a performer to do the latter (particularly on a subject of which she has only dim understanding) is fairly obnoxious.

We pay celebrities to entertain us, not worry their pretty little heads about social problems. The people who matter vis-a-vis the situation of Gypsies in Romania are the people on the ground, Gypsy and non-Gypsy, trying to improve it, not preachy celebrity interlopers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thinner, or healthier?

This study showing a relationship between obesity and increased brain degeneration is interesting, but it more inclines me to further questioning than persuades me to adopt the new national pasttime of obsessing over weight. How could a longitudinal study such as this possibly tease apart causation and correlation between these two variables? It seems to me quite plausible that a brain in poor condition might predispose a person to become obese, since poor impulse control, planning skills, and cognitive ability would naturally make one less able to design and maintain a healthy, low-fat diet or regular exercise regimen. Furthermore, it's equally possible that both obesity and brain degeneration are products of a third, unidentified variable - high cholesterol consumption, lack of exercise, etc. Everyone knows people who eat like horses and don't get fat, as well as people who exercise regularly and eat healthy foods but remain heavyset, and it's pretty well established that metabolism rate and static body weight are strongly influenced by genetics. As such, focusing on making people thinner seems like it might be fighting the wrong battle - not to mention one that will be difficult to win. It's clear that being overweight is not a good sign in regards to health, but it's not necessarily clear that it (rather than related issues like diet or exercise regimen) is the critical risk factor it's made out to be. I wonder if public health officials ought not to focus their attention on related, more easily addressed lifestyle issues.

People Are Strange

Yet more evidence that basic psychology ought to be a required school subject. Human beings - self-styled wise men, homo sapiens - even those among us who pride themselves on rationality and consider it the foundation of their worldview - are highly prone to bias, circular reasoning, wishful thinking, and other cognitive errors. If people were taught this as part of a standard education, some - not all, but some - might be more inclined to think critically about their own beliefs, to listen in better faith to and learn from the arguments of those who disagree with them, and more readily revise their opinions in light of evidence and experience. This would, I think, make the world a better place. Whether consciously or not, pride, egotism, and emotional attachment are generally more than a match for rigorous logic when it comes to determining our beliefs, and it seems to me that until this fact is widely acknowledged and accepted, it will be impossible to solve our most vexing problems as a species.

I am trying to do my part. I don't claim by any stretch of the imagination to be a perfectly rational person myself - but part of what gives me some degree of confidence in the beliefs I have formed is that as a committed skeptic of my own rationality I have subjected them to as much scrutiny as I can muster. In my view accepting the limits of one's own rationality, and acknowledging the possibility of one's own possible errors in reasoning, are vital parts of being a responsible moral agent. Psychology helps us do these things, which is why it ought to be studied more widely.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Snip or Not to Snip

One of the criticisms that libertarians often make of universal health care proposals is that they put us on a slippery slope toward lifestyle paternalism. If the government's paying for your health care, the logic goes, it has legitimate reason to interest itself in what you're eating, whether you exercise or not, how much you smoke and drink, etc. I've never been entirely persuaded by this criticism, but I have to say that this controversy over CDC promotion of circumcision gives me pause.

I've always found the idea of surgically mutilating a newborn boy without his consent problematic, and I don't see why it's any less problematic just because there may be a public health rationale. It's even more troubling when it's done at the insistence of the government. It is true that we already do things to our bodies at government insistence (routine immunizations, etc.), but in those cases, there's a clearer and more compelling rationale. The misconceptions of those in the immunization-causes-autism crowd aside, preventative injections are relatively simple and do not cause lasting harm, and they address a serious health threat which cannot be easily countered in any other way. Someone who falls ill with a highly infectious disease is, no matter how careful and responsible he or she may be, a threat to the welfare of everyone around who is not already immune. As anyone who's taken a middle school health class or seen the movie Philadelphia can tell you, that's not the case with HIV, which is almost impossible to spread to those around you unless you engage in certain well understood high risk behaviors with them. While circumcision may cut the risk of HIV infection, there are other, less drastic measures that could also accomplish that goal, by reducing the incidence of these behaviors - in the case of risky sexual practices making condoms more readily available, promoting safety and non-promiscuity, etc. For almost every sexually active man who follows safe sex guidelines, they work perfectly in preventing HIV infection, and without nonconsensual mutilation of half the newly-born population.

It is not true, as Hanna Rosin contends, that circumcision is without medical downside - from what I've read, it drastically reduces sensitivity, which has, shall we say, a deleterious effect vis-a-vis enjoyment of the sexual act. The health benefits of circumcision can be duplicated with good hygiene, and as far as I'm concerned, attention to good hygiene is a small price to pay for increased sensitivity. If Rosin believes that decreased sensitivity is a worthwhile tradeoff for the health benefits, she's entitled to that opinion, but as she's not directly affected by the issue of male sexual satisfaction, I'd suggest that hers is not the opinion that ought to be weighed most heavily. And while she may dismiss other objections to the procedure as just so much useless cultural, emotional, and religious baggage, that doesn't change the fact that many people are deeply uncomfortable with it, and will become even more so if it's forced on them. "Laws must deal with people as they are, not as you'd like them to be" is a political lesson that many liberals never quite seem to learn.

In short, circumcision advocates have to come up with a better argument than "it will cut the rate of HIV infection due to sexual transmission" to convince me it ought to be mandatory, or even recommended. After all, mandating castration for every newborn baby would clearly help in the fight against AIDS - rather than slowing the rate of sexual transmission, it would stop it entirely. No sane person advocates such a policy, because almost everyone is in agreement that the downside isn't worth the benefits - but for me at least, neither is the downside of circumcision.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Innocents Abroad

As someone with a lot of experience as both a traveler and an expat, I've got to say that the phenomenon of American Europhilia has always puzzled me. It is true that many European cities are quite attractive places, and with their compact urban centers, historical districts, and high-quality public transportation, nice places to explore as a tourist. This does not, however, mean that Europe is necessarily a nicer place to live than America, because what's convenient and appealing for a tourist is not necessarily convenient and appealing for a local. Consider Brugge, Belgium, for example. It's a storybook medieval town in which literally almost every building has hundreds of years of fascinating history, charming cafes and shops line the canals and cobblestone streets, and architectural and artistic treasures are never more than a few blocks away. It's a must-visit for anyone traveling in that part of Europe. It's also a place I would never want to live. Those old buildings are charming, but also cramped and ill-insulated - hot in the summer and, though I've not visited at that time of year, no doubt cold and drafty in the winter. Likely they are a pain to repair or retrofit with new upgrades such as digital cable. Those narrow, picturesque streets - lovely if you're wandering around oblivious of the time snapping photos, rather an annoyance if you're in a hurry on your way to work in the morning and get stuck in traffic. The cultural attractions? Wonderful to visit, but really, which does one wish to do more often, shop conveniently at a modern supermarket, or appreciate the aesthetic mastery of the Flemish school?

The fact is, most Americans visit Europe as tourists, and don't stay long enough to take off their tourist goggles. If they actually tried living in the places they find so romantic on first blush, they'd discover that the novelty of old buildings and accumulated cultural and historical ambience quickly wears off, and that the conveniences of modern urban living are highly underrated. This has certainly been my experience in Japan which, like Europe, is a mix of modern and historical areas, with most Japanese, like most Europeans, preferring to live in the former and visit the latter.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fanboy Rant of the Day

Bryan Singer, he of The Usual Suspects and X-Men fame, is apparently gathering steam for a re-make of the 1981 Arthurian epic Excalibur. I've been a fan of Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur since I took a class on it in college - though narratively uneven and stylistically rough around the edges, it is nevertheless, in my opinion, a masterly exploration of eternal themes of honor, loyalty, love, guilt, and repentance, and to this day the most powerful and emotionally affecting telling of the Matter of Britain yet written. Though I liked the original Excalibur well enough, it was in many ways a missed opportunity, as it left out much of the story of Launcelot and most of the thematic and psychological depth found in Malory's work. My hope is that this re-make, should it come to pass, will capture those aspects of the story that the original didn't - with better special effects to boot.

Then again, perhaps I shouldn't get too excited - for every pre-modern literary classic that Hollywood's gotten right a la Lord of the Rings, there's one that's grossly disserved a la Troy.

From the Files of the Department of Pointless Research, case #2

It appears researchers in Canada have been hard at work on a problem even more pressing than quantifying the amount of useless babble on Twitter - gaming out the most effective government response to a zombie apocalypse. Once again, this raises several questions:

1.)Was this project in any way officially sanctioned or subsidized by the University of Ottawa or Carleton University? If so, was the person responsible for approving the grant proposal drunk? High? Brain-damaged? Some combination of the three? Not to go all snobbish academic fuddy duddy on you, but if I were a donor to either of these schools, or a Canadian worker paying taxes to support them, I'd want the money spent on something with a bit more, uh, scholarly merit.

2.)Do these researchers have tenure? If so, is it reviewable?

3.)If you're going to research infectious disease, wouldn't it be a better use of time and resources to concentrate on a disease that actually exists? Or, at the very least, concentrate on a fictional disease that poses more of a threat, such as the Andromeda strain?

4.)Are the authors of the study aware of, and did they properly acknowledge, previous scholarship in this area of study?

From the Files of the Department of Pointless Research

According to a study by Pear Analytics, an American market research firm, 40% of all "tweets" are "pointless babble". This raises a few questions in my mind-

1.)How did the designers of the study determine their definition of "pointless babble"? They cite "I'm eating a sandwich" as an example, but it seems to me this really depends on one's perspective. Perhaps for the large cohort of Twitter users who employ the service as a medium for vapid narcissism, reading news updates tweeted from the streets of Tehran is pointless babble, whereas reading about themselves or their friends having a tasty pastrami-on-rye is the apex of fulfilling interpersonal communication.

2.)What percentage of tweets were they expecting to consist of meaningful content? It's a microblogging service that restricts you to 140 characters per post, after all.

3.)What are the other 60% of Twitter posts? Lines from lost works of Shakespeare? Bits of the unifying theory of physics?

4.)Who decided to commission this study, and presumably pay people to design it and carry it out? In this economy, it seems like a marketing firm would have better things to do, like, say, helping its clients sell their products and keep their businesses afloat.

All questions to ponder.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Indonesia/Malaysia photos are up

I've begun the process of uploading photos from my recent trip to Indonesia and Malaysia - they can be found on my Flickr page here and here. I'll be adding more throughout the week.

No free lunches, except for me

Despite the fact that I'm overseas, I've continued to follow politics at home, and the ongoing healthcare debate has convinced me moreso than ever before that a large number of Americans have a thoroughly infantile view of their government. They want comprehensive, high-quality services, but don't want to have to pay for them. They do seem dimly aware that someone has to pay, as widespread concern with the federal deficit shows - they just don't want it to be them. Ideally it would be some other segment of the tax-paying population (the rich, corporations, etc.), but if that's not an option, future generations of Americans or Chinese bankers will do. All the while, the government grows and grows, waste and inefficiency continues to proliferate, and the country's fiscal future grows ever dimmer.

Healthcare policy is an extremely complicated subject, and the various proposals being debated right now all have their plusses and minuses. What is undoubtedly true, however, is that any meaningful reform to the current system is going to entail either A.)higher taxes, B.)curtailed services, or C.)some combination of the two. It's elementary economics. An ever-growing population of sickly and elderly people demanding an ever-growing variety of ever-more-expensive cutting edge medical treatment means costs will inevitably continue to go up. A relatively stagnant working-age population, an economy in recession, and increasing federal deficits means that revenues will not rise fast enough to pay them. The system as currently constituted is a fiscal train wreck in the making, and whatever solutions may be available to avert that, they are going to entail pain all around. I know that most people are happy with their current healthcare, and are worried they might lose options as to doctors or treatments under the reform proposals being considered. That's not an excuse. One way or another, people are going to lose options eventually anyway, because if we keep spending on healthcare the way we are now, rather soon there won't be enough money available to pay for those options. That means either significantly higher taxes, or a healthcare regimen that doesn't outlay extravagant amounts of money on marginally effective but expensive treatments. Sarah Palin's hyperventilating about "death panels" aside, I don't have a problem with the latter.

A major part of the problem, I think, is America's childish fear of death and dying. I've lived in Japan and Korea, both countries with national healthcare systems. In both countries, doctors and hospitals provide a standard of care comparable to what's available in the U.S. to patients, at significantly lower costs. What they won't do is spend absurd amounts of money to briefly prolong the life of a moribund patient. The grandfather of a Japanese friend of mine is currently dying of terminal cancer. The hospital took good care of him for months, but when it was determined that his case was hopeless, he was sent home to receive palliative care and live out his last days in relative comfort. My friend's family has no problem with this. They are doing everything they can to make the most of the time they have left with him. There is no whining or complaining about how the doctors aren't doing enough to save him - he's old, he's lived a long life, and his time to go is coming, and people accept that. This seems to me an infinitely more sane and humane approach to the final days of life than spending enormous amounts of money on painful, difficult, and ultimately futile treatments intended to give a person a few more days or weeks of poor quality life. The fact that it saves hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be used to provide cheaper and more effective healthcare to other people, younger and healthier people, people with a lot of good life yet to live - that's almost besides the point. People grow old and die. American culture, perhaps as a result of its relative youth and obsession therewith, does not accept this fact gracefully or with dignity, but it should.

It's becoming increasingly apparent that that's not how it's going to be, though - Americans are determined to keep reaching into the piggy bank for handfuls of change, irrespective of the fact that it's not being refilled fast enough to replace what they take out, and it's going to be the young who are stuck trying to fix things when there's no money left to pay for repairs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

He's baaaaaack....

If there's an upside to Brett Favre un-un-un-unretiring, it's that at this point his primadonna tendencies have become so self-evident that even his longtime defenders have started to recognize them. The man was, at one time, a great quarterback, but his diminished skills and lack of regard for his teammates will make him an increasing competitive liability (he wasn't exactly hot stuff with the Jets last year, either). Football is the ultimate team game, and for Favre to wait until the middle of August to announce his comeback because he didn't want to go through training camp is the ultimate me-first move. For a quarterback to be fully effective, he needs to be in sync with his offensive teammates, and without practicing together, that doesn't happen - while Favre may not need to practice the plays he's going to run this fall to execute his role effectively, the Vikings' offense as a group needs to, and he's deprived them of that opportunity. And that's without even getting into the distraction his antics have created.

The team will suffer for it. I didn't happen to think the Vikings were serious contenders this year anyway, partially because of their quarterback situation, and Brett Favre is not going to change that. Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels are nothing more than mediocre quarterbacks, but Favre at his age is not enough of an upgrade to be worth the disruption signing him creates. I doubt the Vikings will make the playoffs even with him. I will say, however, that his signing has made one more NFC team a lot of fun to root against - go Bears in the NFC north.

It's oh-so-much-nicer coming home

I've just arrived back in Sendai after two weeks traveling in Indonesia and Malaysia, and since I know various people will want to know about those places, I thought I'd post with some of my thoughts on the trip. First, Indonesia:

Travel brochures often describe Indonesia as a string of tropical jewels sprinkled across a perfect blue sea, or in similarly glowing terms. They rave about its stunning natural beauty, fascinating and exotic wildlife, and enormous diversity of human cultures. It is true that all of these aspects are present in the country. It is not the whole truth, however. Indonesia is indeed incredibly beautiful, and largely untraveled by western tourists, but this unspoiled beauty comes at a cost - many places in the archipelago lack the infrastructure to accommodate tourists comfortably, and many of the inhabitants aren't used to interacting with them. It's definitely one of the more adventurous travel destinations to which I've been, and while I've formed some of my greatest travel memories climbing its mountains, trekking through its jungles, admiring its ruins, and diving in its clear blue seas, I've also had more than a few harrowing experiences there, and can say with authority that it's not a place for those without patience, flexibility, or an unwillingness to be discomfited or inconvenienced. Enduring exoticism comes at the price of inaccessibility, and if you're not willing to sit in a hot, crowded bus on a journey that takes five hours to cover 100 kilometers, shower by drenching yourself with well-water from a battered aluminum ladle, or share a room with a variety of insects and the odd tropical lizard, it's not a place you're likely to enjoy.

Me, I love things of that sort, so this trip was a blast. I saw lots of cool things - a sunrise from the top of Mt. Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, the world's largest Buddhist temple at Borbodur, traditional artisans at work on hide shadow puppets, and untrodden tropical islets that could have played host to Robinson Crusoe - but the highlight was unquestionably the chance to attend a traditional Sumatran wedding. It so happened that a first-year student of my friend Haruka (who is living on Sumatra teaching Japanese for a year) was getting married at the time of my visit, and I was invited to come. The more I've traveled, the more I've come to value the chance to interact with locals and learn about their lives as much as the chance to see famous places, and this was an exceptional experience along those lines.

Gustin (Haruka's student), nineteen years old and from a devout Muslim family, was marrying her boyfriend of one year. The wedding was held at her house in a small village in central Sumatra, and despite the concerns of her family that because they were poor the wedding would not be very interesting, it was probably the one thing about this trip I'll remember most vividly when I'm old. Gustin's house was decked out for the occasion, no less so than the bride herself (who insisted on taking about three dozen photos with Haruka and I over the course of the day):

After the ceremony, the bride and the groom made the rounds of the village to call on relatives, accompanied by guests chanting and playing drums:

One of the best parts of any wedding is the food, and this was no exception. West Sumatra (and particularly the region around the city of Padang, its namesake) is famous for Padang cuisine, a buffet-style feast of assorted curries, soups, and stews served with copious amounts of white rice and eaten by hand. It's very heavy on braised meats and spices. The meats in particular are spectacular - some are cooked for days, until each strand of flesh falls off the bone and each minute particle explodes with flavor in your mouth. Gustin's wedding entailed not one, not two, but three separate Padang feasts (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), prepared by a huge cohort of female relatives who seemingly never stopped working in the rudimentary, semi-outdoor kitchen behind her house (it was up to the men to eat the food). I've seldom eaten so well while traveling, but all the spice left my stomach in a rather testy state by the time we departed.

I'll post the rest of the photos to my flickr account, as I get them sorted. And I'll try to say a little about Malaysia this week as well. In the meantime, it's good to be back where the evenings are cool and the tap water is safe to drink.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

When I started blogging for the Nth time...

To anyone who might be reading, hello and welcome to my new blog, which I've started in an effort to keep my writing and thinking skills sharp. This is, depending on what you count, either my fourth or fifth attempt to start and maintain a blog, but contra previous failures this time I intend to make it stick. Previous blogs have been largely personal in nature, and were updated only on a haphazard as-I-felt-like-it basis, and as a result had a tendency to sputter out whenever my life entered long periods of "same old, same old", so this time, I'm taking a different approach. While I'll still write posts occasional posts about what's going on in my life, I'm going to focus on less personal topics, and plan to follow a strict regimen of updating the blog at least once every two days even when I don't have anything particular to say, in order to establish better work habits. If you are kind or bored enough to start reading this regularly, please reprimand me should I fail to uphold this regimen.

In order to keep the tap flowing during creative dry spells I'm going to do as the pros do and rely on some regular features which provide ideas for content when I'm too busy, tired, or bothered to come up with my own. Some such features I intend to include are:

1.)Quote of the day. As anyone who knows me knows, I tend to rather promiscuously salt my conversation with a variety of aphorisms, epigrams, and one-liners I've absorbed from various sources over the years. I have a distinct sense that this sometimes annoys people, but what can I say, I love quotations. Occasionally (not literally every day - I'd quickly run out of quotations) I'll post one, with or without my own thoughts on the subject matter appended, as food for thought.

2.)Song of the day. I love talking about music almost as much as I love listening to it. If there's a song I'm really loving on a particular day, I'll post about it, perhaps noting what I love about it, perhaps not.

3.)Random top X lists. It works for Letterman, why not for me? A good way to organize otherwise cluttered thinking.

4.)Book/movie reviews. As a growing cinephile and a long-time connoseur of the written word, I both watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books. I'll share my thoughts on both.

5.)Links. A lazy blogger's best friend.

6.)Photos. Taking photos has become one of my favorite hobbies, maintaining and organizing my flickr account being one of my others. Occasionally I'll post either a photo of my own that I like or one taken by another person that I admire.

Etc. etc...

That's a start. I'll probably come up with more in the future. I'd love for anyone who reads what I write to comment, even if to disagree with or criticize my opinions. The friends I've met in my travels are so numerous and far-flung that it's difficult to maintain regular personal contact with everyone who's touched me emotionally or stimulated me intellectually over the years, and I'd love for this blog to be a way for me to continue my conversations with people.

With that, I hope you enjoy reading it -

Signing off on my first new post,