Sometimes I like to take stock of where I am, and the last days of summer are as good a time as any.

I’m an academic, so September is a defining moment in my calendar—not a season of falling leaves but a time of renewal, fresh faces eager for a new experience. That doesn’t mean they’re eager for anything I may transmit, but it’s our duty to try.

As humans we exhibit what biologists term delayed maturity, not in the sense that we remain childish, but because we have an extended period of preparation for adult life.

Of course all that takes place in the West, since kids in Southeast Asia, Africa, or South America continue to be subject to constant abuse—all their basic rights are denied them, including the right to preserve their bodily integrity. Yes, that can mean no food to eat, but also sexual slavery. Basically those kids forfeit the right which is most precious to a child: the right to smile in an unfettered and carefree fashion.

I’ve made one concession to social networks, a site called Goodreads, which is themed, surprisingly enough, around books. Bezos, the man who recently bought the Washington Post, thought enough of what they do to pay one hundred and fifty million dollars for the site, adding it to Amazon’s considerable portfolio.

Business Week states up to one billion was paid, but they seem to have it wrong. I use Goodreads sparingly, having reviewed a few of my recent reads on it, and for some book promotion. Like any such site, they offer advertising packages. I asked—they told me if I had five thousand dollars or more per month to spend, a personal adviser would be happy to discuss my needs.

I was tempted to tell them that if I had sixty thousand dollars a year in disposable income, I’d have a better wine collection.

So I’m taking stock of over two hundred blog posts, which at roughly one thousand words apiece is the equivalent of two and a quarter books, although writing loosely connected texts is a very different proposition from plot and character development.

About thirty thousand views from all over the world are listed for these two hundred texts, roughly one hundred-fifty views per post (and per week). Both writing and reading are lonely activities, and I have no idea who my readers are, apart from a smattering of friendly faces, not even close to ten percent of those views. People read this in Australia, India, Canada, or Germany. In Russia. In Chile and Peru. South Africa. You know who you are, but I surely don’t.

When I see the gigantic statistics of the geoduck, which I shall celebrate momentarily with a penile illustration, I imagine strongholds of college freshmen asked to produce essays on the relative merits of the phallic bivalve, and frantically trawling the internet for intellectual fulfilment. I picture the look of puzzlement turning to irritation when they realize there’s practically nothing they can use from my text in describing the biology or commercial production of Panopea abrupta, termed also Panopea generosa.

My father used to tell a rather obscene joke centered around this theme, i.e. long thin ones and short fat ones. As in everything in this life, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

My father used to tell a rather obscene joke centered around this theme, i.e. long thin ones and short fat ones. As in everything in this life, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

It’s difficult not to love those names. I went on a hunt for the original meaning, and my best efforts suggest the etymology is Greek.

Homer, Iliad 18. 37 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
“The goddesses gathered about her [Thetis], all who along the depth of the sea were daughters of Nereus. For Glauke was there . . . and Doris and Panope and glorious Galateia [amongst 34 named].”

So… an abrupt and generous Nereid nymph. Strangest word for a dick I ever heard.

I collate my blog into a file called Air and Thought,—puns are reputedly the lowest form of wit, which is undoubtedly why I’m so fond of them. In this modern age where clouds have ceased to hold water vapor, and instead become large digital information repositories, I fear all my blog will one day come hailing down in a violent digital thunderstorm, melt into a glacial valley, and be forever lost at sea as primeval digital alphabet soup.

Clouds, apart from the nice fluffy ones, inspire that worry in me. I figure that a huge slice of my life has been transferred to digital, which is why I balk at Facebook, Google, and many other media platforms storing the other bits that I consider personal.

One of the topics that came out of the bizarre Edward Snowden saga is the linkage of people using connectivity data. There’s a whole market out there to explore that connectivity, for both good and bad. The traditional relational databases (RDBMS) are not the cutting edge, but a set of tools called Graph databases. that explore the nodes of a system (for instance phone calls from a particular cellphone) and use that to find relationship patterns.

The Washington Post just published materials from Snowden on the US ‘black‘ budget, a mere fifty billion dollars, which keeps over one hundred thousand people in gainful employment. I’m not sure whether the comms intercepts about the Syrian chemical weapons tragedy come out of the twenty billon warning U.S. leaders about critical events section, or out of the four billion earmarked for conducting cyber operations.

A network of relationships on he Facebook entry page

A network of relationships defines the Facebook entry page. It’s perhaps a coincidence that there’s no node in China.

What I am sure about is that the US administration will take great care about how the proofs of regime attacks will be released, to protect intelligence methods and sources. In this business, Obama made a very unusual political error, as his many enemies have discussed with glee.

Perhaps the president considered it unthinkable that chemical weapons would ever be used, and therefore drew that line confidently in the sand. Or maybe it was with full intent, but I don’t think so. There’s no reason to suppose Assad wouldn’t do exactly what Saddam did against the Kurds, and of course he did.

Assad, or possibly Assad’s hard liners, people with so much blood on their hands that the only consequence of losing this war will be the Gaddafi bullet, repeatedly tested the water. Reports of chemical weapons were met with evasive responses from the US. Use changed to systematic use. It’s hard to imagine anything more systematic than we saw this August.

Britain won’t come out to play. Too many previous scars from Blair and the ‘sexed-up’ WMD reports.

There’s a certain irony in the notion that chemical weapons may mainly have been used to force America’s hand. There’s an awful lot of interest in commiting the Americans to a new war theater, not least from Iran.

Posters advertising Obama’s new sobriquet are already here. Now we must wait for the bombs to fall.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

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