22 November 2015

Christmas Books

The Illustrious House of Ramires, by Eça de Queirós. A novel about an ineffectual nobleman writing an historical novel about his heroic ancestors. Queirós has been called the Portuguese Flaubert.

Large Fees and How to Get Them : a book for the private use of physicians, by Albert V. Harmon, M.D. If you practice early 20th medicine and want large fees, this book  is essential reading. If you don’t, there are still lessons in its amusing and unsentimental discussion of various topics, like in the chapter “The Bugbear of Ethics”, where Lyman advises “ethics in its place is a good thing...But there is such a thing as overdoing the ethical proposition”.

Histrionics: Three Plays and Over All the Mountain Tops, by Thomas Bernhard. Bernhard once said “I despise actors, indeed I hate them, for they ally themselves at the least sign of danger with the audience and betray the author and completely identify with stupidity and feeble-mindedness. Actors are the destroyers and exterminators of imagination, not those who bring it to life and they are the true gravediggers of literature.”

The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror, by William Sloane. In the 1930’s Sloane wrote two exceptionally inventive and elegant horror novels, then for the rest of his life did other things.

01 November 2015

That Scientific Air

[I]n the popular mind, there is a manifest association of political innovation with scientific advance. It is not uncommon to hear a politician supporting an argument for a radical reform by asserting that this is an Age of Progress, and appealing for proof of the assertion to the railway, the gigantic steamship, the electric light, or the electric telegraph. Now it is quite true that, if Progress be understood with its only intelligible meaning, that is, as the continued production of new ideas, scientific invention and scientific discovery are the great and perennial sources of these ideas. Every fresh conquest of Nature by man, giving him the command of her forces, and every new and successful interpretation of her secrets, generates a number of new ideas, which finally displace the old ones, and occupy their room…[but] experience shows that innovating legislation is connected not so much with science as with the scientific air which certain subjects, not capable of exact scientific treatment, from time to time assume. 
- Sir Henry Sumner Maine, Popular Government.

28 October 2015

20 September 2015


Sitting in a bar surrounded by people looking at smartphones reminds me the Lilliputians believed Gulliver's pocket watch was “the God that he worships” because “he seldom did any thing without consulting it”.

23 August 2015


The olden days.

Scientists say millions of years ago canines were unlikable weaselly creatures, and it’s in large part thanks to global warming they evolved into the delightful modern dog-shape we all know and love.

This suggests to me global warming could transform other weaselly creatures, like rats and lawyers, into more pleasing forms (don’t ask why the warming didn’t make weasels themselves less weaselly) . Mention this the the next time someone tells you climate change is an entirely bad thing.

The Story I Heard

People have been asking me to explain a ¡Jeb! Bush mailer depicting him with a black hand (not because I’m a political insider, or a Bush confidante, but because I seem like the kind of guy who would know something about racially anomalous appendages).

The story I heard was that one time when ¡Jeb! was visiting his adopted homeland of Mexico he got bitten on the wrist by a donkey. The bite became infected, and ¡Jeb! was forced to have his hand amputated. Everyone knows Americans will not elect an amputee president, so to save his political career ¡Jeb! paid an impoverished negro refugee from Hurricane Katrina $500 for his left hand, which doctors then transplanted onto ¡Jeb’s! stump. Normally ¡Jeb! disguises the hand’s race with white skin cream, obviously the day that picture was taken he forgot.