30 June 2016

Clinton's VP pick

There are rumors that Hillary's considering Al Franken or Elizabeth Warren as a VP pick. My guess is that this is intentionally misinformation, an attempt to make Hillary appear more at ease with the more liberal wing of the party. I think it's highly unlikely that the VP pick will be from the left side of the party or will be a woman. My guess is that it's more likely to be a man with some sort of military-related credentials.

27 May 2016

Alzheimer's: Is amyloid-β peptide the real culprit?

An interesting new perspective on Alzheimer's has just been put forth. The following is the abstract from a recent 2016 paper:

A protein called Aβ is thought to cause neuronal death in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Aβ forms insoluble aggregates in the brains of patients with AD, which are a hallmark of the disease. Aβ and its propensity for aggregation are widely viewed as intrinsically abnormal. However, in new work, Kumar et al. show that Aβ is a natural antibiotic that protects the brain from infection. Most surprisingly, Aβ aggregates trap and imprison bacterial pathogens. It remains unclear whether Aβ is fighting a real or falsely perceived infection in AD. However, in any case, these findings identify inflammatory pathways as potential new drug targets for treating AD.

9 May 2016

Another Country

I just finished reading Baldwin's 1962 novel Another Country. The story explores a number of previously taboo themes (inter-racial and bisexual love, especially). It shows clear signs of having been written over a long period of time. Some parts of the novel--including the initial and final sections--are terribly written, whereas a few of the later sections are quite brilliant. The writer makes the surprising move of killing off the main character in the beginning of the story. On the other hand, the tendency of virtually all the novel's men, who are for the most part initially described as heterosexual, to suddenly jump into each other's beds is farcical to say the least. (This would be great fodder for a Saturday Night Live skit.) The editor who accepted the manuscript deserves some of the blame. Baldwin was famous at this point, but the editor really should  have sent the draft back for major revisions. Entire sections and plot lines should have been cut.

15 April 2016


I just finished Benjamin Constant's book Adolphe. As this is an older work (1816), I thought it might feel very dated, but the descriptions of the psychological torment associated with the thin line between infatuation and love is right on. I highly recommend this.

5 April 2016

My Skype nightmare

Skype recently deleted my account. When I asked why, they claim I've violated their agreement. However, they refuse to say how. (I'm totally mystified by all this since I only use Skype to call family and friends.) I have a significant amount of money in my Skype account, which they apparently plan on keeping without providing a refund. Needless to say, I'm very pissed off about the whole thing. Making matters worse, it's simply impossible to get anyone on the phone or a chat who has authorization to do anything. For all of you who use Skype, I'd think twice about giving them any money. There are much better (and cheaper) services available, such as Google Hangouts.

Panama Papers

The appearance of the Panama Papers is providing welcome limelight on the illegal practices of the wealthy and well-connected. Hopefully, it'll go beyond that, educating the public about the infrastructure of our plutocracy. As just one "nugget" (with presumably many more to come), Rachel Maddow today mentioned that the Panama firm had knowingly laundered money from a famous 1983 British gold heist.

18 March 2016

Joe Wang

This is dated but kind of fun.

6 March 2016