After seeing a particularly arresting picture of it, I’ve been thinking about the Pantheon in Rome. Here are a few bits about it from Wikipedia:

Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history.

Throughout the day, light from the oculus moves around the interior in a reverse sundial effect: marking time with light rather than shadow.

The large bronze doors to the cella, measuring 14.6 ft wide by 24.7 ft high, are original.


It is incredible that, at so many times in millennia past, humans have stopped fighting and worked together long enough to build things of timeless beauty and monumental scale, things that only existed in imagination before they were wrought: first in two dimensions, wispy tendrils of imagination captured from the astral and fixed to the lines, curves, compression, tension of the terrestrial; secondly in construction, sweat of brow and blood of veins both spilled to compact and level and hew and fit and lift and carve and assemble something we could only make together.

It is equally incredible that, seeing the works of those before us, we have invariably plundered their metal, battered their sculpture, stolen their casings, and trampled them to ruin.

The Pantheon is the exception that proves the rule.


On a Walk

On a Walk

Ess and Waffles

Ess and Waffles

Ess and Me on the Dunes

Ess and Me on the Dunes




GATTACA is still pertinent 25 years later:

Through the lens of genetic exceptionalism, society often envisions genetic predictions as infallibly deterministic. Consider the demand for direct-to-consumer genomic technologies and the foresight consumers believe it will bring. In reality, much of genetics is inherently messy owing to, among other things, the complexity of polygenic risk profiles, especially in light of unknowable environmental considerations.

[GATTACA]’s warnings against allowing these statistical likelihoods to become self-fulfilling prophecies remain apropos. This is especially true for the increasingly pervasive ‘walking sick’ — those who underestimate their disease probabilities — and the ‘worried well’ (or, as the film refers to them, the ‘healthy ill’) — those who overestimate their statistical predispositions to future genetic conditions. Arguably, geneticists in their professional capacities can also sometimes seem to view genetic information as too deterministic. Even scientists can fail to fully appreciate the inexactness of many genetic predispositions, given penetrance, expressivity and external environmental factors that modulate the genetic information.

In light of the continual encroachment of genetic surveillance on privacy, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the government’s use of genetic information. In particular, this past spring, a class action lawsuit was filed against the New York City Police Department for hosting a genetic database comprising samples from thousands of people who live in New York. According to the lawsuit, DNA was surreptitiously collected, without consent, from gum, drinks and cigarettes offered to those in police custody, including minors, regardless of their eventual guilt, and principally from minority communities. Problematically, the New York City Police Department’s database lacks the regulatory oversight of state and federal DNA databases. A similar lawsuit was filed in Orange County, California, the year before, about an even larger DNA database of the County District Attorney’s Office.

What are we?

Calvin and Hobbes comic strip from May 1, 1992

D’où venons-nous ? Que sommes-nous ? Où allons-nous ?

Calvin and Hobbes comic strip from July 20, 1993


When I was younger, I dreamt I could fly.
Last night, I dreamt I was low on gas.

Indelible Marks

Christian Livermore, “on poverty’s indelible marks”:

If people acknowledge that there are also poor whites, they will have to acknowledge that it is not a ‘black’ problem. It is a problem with how we reward work, the kind of work we reward most generously, and how we conceive of society’s responsibility for its poor and not just to them—in other words, people are poor because society makes them that way and keeps them that way, because it is more important to most of America to pay millions of dollars to bankers than it is to pay a decent salary to teachers and sanitation workers and store clerks, and because they need to keep people poor enough to accept work they may not want to do. If people admitted all these things, then they might have to do something about it.

The term poor white trash serves the same purpose—to dismiss, to deny, to denigrate. If you’re poor, it’s because of something you did. If people acknowledge that there are poor whites, they must acknowledge that they themselves could also be poor at any moment—if they think about it, perhaps they already are. This threatens the narrative of American exceptionalism, that anybody can get rich in America if they work hard enough. That is not true. It has never been true. But people fervently believe it; some so that they can view their own success as a sign of virtue and the result of their own hard work, others so that they can imagine their struggles as temporary, a bump in the road to their own eventual American Dream.

This is, my god, so well put. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to not only memorize, but internalize what Livermore is saying above.

Human autonomy

Margaret Talbot, writing at the New Yorker:

None of that changes the fundamental principle of human autonomy: people have to be able to make their own decisions in matters that profoundly and intimately affect their own bodies and the course of their lives. Regret and ambivalence, the ways that one decision necessarily precludes others, are inextricable facts of life, and they are also fluid and personal. Guessing the extent to which individuals may feel such emotions, hypothetically, in the future, is not a basis for legislative bans and restrictions.

If you took this paragraph and published it even twenty years ago, everyone would nod along and say “well, of course.”

But publishing it now? In the midst of (if you follow the reasoning in the Dobbs dissent) a torching of decades of legal progress for human rights? Well, suddenly it takes on new meaning, doesn’t it?