Tommyjournal  archive    October 2005

Saturday  10.29.05

Good day climbing today.

Being caught after a nice* lead fall does wonders to develop a mutual feeling of intimacy with a new climbing partner (who got yanked around at the other end of the rope). This is part of why I'm particular about who I climb with: climb enough and an intimacy will develop, and better for that to happen with people you like having in your life.

* where "nice" means no one got hurt,
  but you fell far enough to make it interesting

Friday  10.28.05

I've been following Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation with interest. (understatement)

I hadn't yet written about it here because bloggers (even some whose writing I normally like) have been speculating up the wazoo. I thought the web didn't need yet another armchair prosecutor.

But now we know what charges Libby faces. I was struck by several things Fitzgerald said at his press conference today. When asked about a possible Republican strategy to spin the charges as being mere technicalities, he answered
I'll be blunt.

That talking point won't fly. If you're doing a national security investigation, if you're trying to find out who compromised the identity of a CIA officer and you go before a grand jury and if the charges are proven--because remember there's a presumption of innocence--but if it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.

And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time.

When I was in New York working as a prosecutor, we brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.
Hear, hear. Some people are disappointed that there was no charge for outing Plame and that Rove hasn't been charged (yet). But give it time. My guess is that after all this has played out, we'll be able to say that October 28 was a good day for justice.

Fitzgerald also said
But at the end of the day, I think I want to say one more thing, which is:  When you do a criminal case, if you find a violation, it doesn't really, in the end, matter what statute you use if you vindicate the interest.

If Mr. Libby is proven to have done what we've alleged--convicting him of obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements--very serious felonies--will vindicate the interest of the public in making sure he's held accountable.

It's not as if you say, well, this person was convicted but under the wrong statute.

Thursday  10.27.05

M31 infrared

the Andromeda galaxy
as observed by the
Spitzer Space Telescope
in infrared (wavelength: 24 µm)
on August 25, 2004.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/K. Gordon (University of Arizona)

If you've ever wondered why I live out in the desert: one reason is that the sky is dark enough to let me see the Andromeda galaxy (in less detail than shown above, heh) and the Milky Way when walking outside at night.

Wednesday  10.26.05

A few days ago, I was organizing some junk in my house and came across an old expired membership card for a bathhouse (the Watergarden in San Jose). I idly set the card on my desk. (It belonged either in the garbage or in a filing cabinet; my organizational habits leave something to be desired.)

A day or two later, I got email out of the blue from someone who likes my name because it appears in dialogue in the movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He wanted to know if I could send him something with my name on it, "i.e. expired health club ID or something," adding that "I am aware this is a very strange request, and will understand your refusal." So that I would understand how much this meant to him, he referred me to a personal web page where he uses my name as part of his online handle.

Now, I've never seen Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but I understand the appeal of referring to favorite lines from movies and shows. I sent the gentleman a kit with a bunch of stuff bearing my name (but not the Watergarden ID card).

One more thing. To get the dialogue link (above) to work the way I wanted, I needed to read the HTML source for the
page I linked to. I saw that it starts with:
STOP: It is illegal to view or copy the sourcecode of this site.

You are now violating this site's terms of use and international copyright law. Please close this window.
To which I respond:  eat my shorts.

Tuesday  10.18.05

I'd mentioned yesterday that I might soon be taking antiviral drugs in cheap generic versions. The drugs in question are cheap because the manufacturer, Cipla, benefits from patent laws in India which--despite having been stiffened somewhat--are still less strict than laws in the USA and many other countries.

Cipla's chairman Yusuf Hamied has been called a pirate and a thief (and probably other more scurrilous names) by large pharmaceutical companies whose drugs he copies. Dr. Hamied doesn't care; one gets the impression he thinks the mainstream global drug business (with its power to lobby governments) is corrupt. In a 2003 interview, he said
At the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting at Dohar in 2001 it was proposed that each country could decide for themselves if they had a national health crisis and could import cheap generic drugs if they needed them. But the Americans said no. So they put it to the vote and 143 countries voted in favour and just one, the USA, voted against. And guess who won? The USA.
Dr. Hamied has been in the news this week because Cipla is making a generic version of a drug used to treat bird flu. The man is blithe; he seems to take a certain delight in thumbing his nose at his company's giant competitors. If you have 46 seconds to spare, listen to him put a BBC interviewer in her place.

Monday  10.17.05

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Serono SA agreed to pay $704 million, the third-largest health fraud settlement in U.S. history, and plead guilty to criminal charges over the promotion of its drug Serostim, used to fight physical wasting caused by AIDS.
Serono agreed to plead guilty to offering physicians an all-expense-paid trip to a medical conference in Cannes, France, in return for writing as many as 30 new prescriptions apiece for Serostim.
Not all drug marketing tactics are illegal, but many are questionable.

I once saw three (3) pharmaceutical company reps in a doctor's office in San Francisco, waiting in line to pitch their products. A fourth rep came in the door while I was there. Ultimately, we patients end up paying for all the marketing.

The way business works nowadays, Adam Smith's invisible hand isn't necessarily giving us the most effective products, but rather the most effectively marketed ones.

The economics of pharmaceuticals are on my mind because I'm probably about to be a consumer of antivirals. After 18 years of being HIV+ and doing OK without taking the drugs, I'm now no longer managing so well. If I'm lucky, my body will tolerate a drug regimen that's available as a cheap generic. We'll see.

My advice: if you're HIV-, don't get infected.

Saturday  10.15.05

Last month, I wrote
I'm all for truth and clarity.

That could be interpreted in many ways; I had in mind--

Honesty makes trust possible,
and trust makes many things possible.

That's not to say I think there's never a time for a white lie or for cunning--but I prefer that deceit be a last resort, not a habit.

I also want to say that I'm well aware of difficulties associated with the very concept of truth: the inadequacy of language, the subjectivity of perception and values, and so on. And I am aware that questions of language and meaning are of more than just theoretical or abstract interest; they bear on the application of law, for example. But that doesn't mean we should just give up on law or honesty.

That's hardly an exhaustive treatment of the notion of truth--but I'll leave it at that. And now, an even less thorough treatment of the pros and cons of clarity:

Clarity has its place.
Mystery can be cool too.

And--apropos of nothing--a label on a t-shirt I bought this week: green wash label

OK, I do wash my white clothes separately, but who are they kidding with this "wash warm with like colors only" shit. Like I'm really gonna do a green wash, a purple wash, an ecru wash, and so on.

Wednesday  10.12.05

I spent much of the past week making a table-cum-chessboard. I'm glad I don't do woodworking too often, for a whole bunch of reasons--not the least of which is how one false move with a table saw could shred your fingers before you'd even know it happened. (As opposed to falling while rock climbing, where you have a moment to reflect upon what's about to happen to you.)

I made the table in New York and brought it back on the plane as checked baggage. In my experience, airport security personnel can and will do a ham-handed job, no matter how much work you put into making a package that's easy for them to open. To take a 26" square tabletop on the plane this time, I made a crate that could be opened without any tools. It arrived with a screw out that could've been left untouched. Oh well; at least it arrived.

Sign in a restroom in a convenience store in California City:
please do not throw seat cover in the toilet and make sure you flush it
(It's OK to throw the cover in as long as you don't flush it?)

Tommy's T-cells:
CD4 cells per μL

Sunday  10.02.05
"Since the day we discovered [distant planet] Xena, the big question has been whether or not it has a moon," says [Caltech professor Michael E.] Brown. "Having a moon is just inherently cool--and it is something that most self-respecting planets have, so it is good to see that this one does too." (Tenth Planet Has a Moon)
Mercury and Venus must feel slighted, especially if two rocks the likes of Phobos and Deimos are evidence of Mars being a bona fide "self-respecting" planet.

Saturday  10.01.05
... it is one thing to say that one consonance is sweeter than another, another thing to say it is more pleasing. Everyone knows that honey is sweeter than olives, yet many would prefer to eat olives, not honey. Thus, everyone knows that the fifth is sweeter than the fourth, the fourth sweeter than the major third, this in turn sweeter than the minor third. Yet there are places in which the minor third is more pleasing than the fifth; others indeed, where a dissonance is more pleasing than a consonance.

- Rene Descartes, writing to Marin Mersenne
Tommy is partial to minor thirds.

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