Gone Climbing

I’m out and generally doing non-indoor things until early July. Things will be quiet(er) here.

Hitchens on Mamet

Punchy and smart new Christoper Hitchens review of David Mamet’s latest. The opening line:

This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason.

via Book Review – The Secret Knowledge – By David Mamet – NYTimes.com.

Twitter Digest: 2011-06-17

Nabokov is QotD

You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

William Gibson on Technology

Writer William Gibson in latest issue of Paris Review on how he came to see computer technology as his writing:

I was walking around Vancouver, aware of that need, and I remember walking past a video arcade, which was a new sort of business at that time, and seeing kids playing those old-fashioned console-style plywood video games. The games had a very primitive graphic representation of space and perspective. Some of them didn’t even have perspective but were yearning toward perspective and dimensionality. Even in this very primitive form, the kids who were playing them were so physically involved, it seemed to me that what they wanted was to be inside the games, within the notional space of the machine. The real world had disappeared for them—it had completely lost its importance. They were in that notional space, and the machine in front of them was the brave new world.

The only computers I’d ever seen in those days were things the size of the side of a barn. And then one day, I walked by a bus stop and there was an Apple poster. The poster was a photograph of a businessman’s jacketed, neatly cuffed arm holding a life-size representation of a real-life computer that was not much bigger than a laptop is today. Everyone is going to have one of these, I thought, and everyone is going to want to live inside them. And somehow I knew that the notional space behind all of the computer screens would be one single universe.

Who Wants U.S. Houses? A Map

Great new Trulia graphic showing where demand for U.S. housing is coming from. Fascinating interactive work.

Trulia housing

Field Notes: Shopping, Norwegian TV, Dairy Farmers, Psychology, Tennis, etc.

  • The Cynical Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the New Middle East (Source)
  • What Is Social Psychology, Anyway? (Source)
  • NRK launches marathon TV voyage (Source)
  • Mobile Shopping Set to Spike (Source)
  • Chinese officials ran overseas with billions (Source)
  • What founders do (Source)
  • Scientist infects himself with roundworm (Source)
  • Isner vs Mahur, again? (Source)

Magical Thinking on the Left & Right

My friend Barry calls out the right for magical thinking about … everything, a position with which I agree. Their embrace of supply-side silliness in its most extreme forms, evolutionary nonsense, goofball religiosity, healthcare loopiness, and complete derangedment about climate are all signs of a movement that values rhetoric over reason.

Having said that, a pox on both political houses. Not to be fair and balanced, because I’m not, but the left is guilty of its own similar abuses. Its naive belief in simple Keynesianism, its fondness for the magic powers of the state, its warm belief in the essential goodness of humanity, its inability to do sums when it comes to favored energy policies … the list is endless.

Let’s just do away with magical thinking entirely. Okay?


Top Gear, Season 17: The Trailer

Love it: Top Gear, Season 17 trailer:

Traumatic Brain Injuries — The Case of Asterix & Obelix

I was obsessed with Asterix & Obelix as a kid, so mixing it with neurology puts over the moon, in geekish terms. As you might imagine, I love pretty much everything about the following new paper.

Asterixcover asterix the gaul

First, a few highlights:

  • The authors determine there were over 700 head injuries in the Asterix comics. Wonder if they count every instance with those poor pirates getting sunk.
  • The majority of persons involved were adult and male.
  • No cases of death or permanent impairment were found.
  • The largest group among the injured was Romans, with Gauls the main cause. Well, yes!
  • A helmet had been worn by most victims, but its loss was a primary cause of injury.
  • Ingestion of magic potion was highly correlated with injury.

Lots more:

Traumatic brain injuries in illustrated literature: experience from a series of over 700 head injuries in the Asterix comic books


The goal of the present study was to analyze the epidemiology and specific risk factors of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the Asterix illustrated comic books. Among the illustrated literature, TBI is a predominating injury pattern.


A retrospective analysis of TBI in all 34 Asterix comic books was performed by examining the initial neurological status and signs of TBI. Clinical data were correlated to information regarding the trauma mechanism, the sociocultural background of victims and offenders, and the circumstances of the traumata, to identify specific risk factors.


Seven hundred and four TBIs were identified. The majority of persons involved were adult and male. The major cause of trauma was assault (98.8%). Traumata were classified to be severe in over 50% (GCS 3–8). Different neurological deficits and signs of basal skull fractures were identified. Although over half of head-injury victims had a severe initial impairment of consciousness, no case of death or permanent neurological deficit was found. The largest group of head-injured characters was constituted by Romans (63.9%), while Gauls caused nearly 90% of the TBIs. A helmet had been worn by 70.5% of victims but had been lost in the vast majority of cases (87.7%). In 83% of cases, TBIs were caused under the influence of a doping agent called “the magic potion”.


Although over half of patients had an initially severe impairment of consciousness after TBI, no permanent deficit could be found. Roman nationality, hypoglossal paresis, lost helmet, and ingestion of the magic potion were significantly correlated with severe initial impairment of consciousness (p ≤ 0.05).