Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Message from the Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past sent me an alumni relations letter today. I think it's a jpeg from the early 90s. I was tempted to dust off my old 386 and see if it would look any better in Windows 3.1 - what do you think, readers?

Is this a sign that my overseas alma mater is so short on cash that they've gone back to their old store rooms and unpacked the old Apple IIs? Should I be sending them whatever I can spare out of my below-the-poverty-line stipend? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


I read this article about the attack in Liege today. Not that I think anyone over there will ever find their way to our little corner of the web, but first let it be said our thoughts are with you.

But I study language, and the language in the article said something I couldn't ignore:

"The latest victim to die was an 18-month-old girl whom doctors had fought for several hours to save."

They fought for several hours.

It's a common enough phrase. When doctors work all-out, we say they're fighting to save a life. But who are they fighting?

I think it was Laurence Lessig who pointed out that in Western culture, we wage war on everything. In America especially. War on Drugs. War on Poverty. War on Homelessness. War on crime. We're fighting hunger, fighting sickness, fighting inequality.

So when we say the doctors were fighting to save an 18-month-old girl, who do we say they were fighting? We don't say it out loud.

I'm not sure why we don't. Maybe it's out of fear, respect, or wonder at our own tenacity. Those doctors, if they were fighting at all, were fighting the one thing some people might say we have no right to fight: death itself.

I don't say that.

I'm not saying I want to live forever. But I sure wouldn't mind pushing back the inevitable for a few hundred years. Maybe even a few hundred years past that. You never know, we may be the last generation to ever have to die. Technology's progressing. If the singularity arrives I'll give you a call.

Talk about a bottom-of-the-ninth home run that'd be: the real shot heard round the world.