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Showing posts from July, 2016

Eunuchs in 'The Prisoners of Fate' by Jeremy Han

This fictionalization of a 15th-century Ming dynasty rebellion of the palace eunuchs features many eunuch characters. It is a long action story with combat descriptions like “the arterial spray sullied the wall” and dialogue like: "You fool! Do you know who I work for? I am the Emperor’s personal eunuch! He is afraid of the smell coming from the burnt animals rotting, so the Empress Dowager wants me to personally make sure the Pit of Hair and Blood is cleaned. Do you understand?" It is the second book in a trilogy, sequel to The Emperor's Prey. Political context of the palace eunuch system At the beginning, Grand Eunuch Kong Wei, “vice-director of the Office of Ceremonies and one of the highest ranking eunuchs in the empire,” plots against the boy emperor. Kong asks a younger eunuch to spy on the Empress Dowager. "Punishment for spying was swift, but Kong could turn his life into a living hell within the vast world of eunuch slavery, where having a patron

Quotes on knowing and sharing what you love

"There is something bout the idea of a dedicated love circuitry in the brain that rubs certain people the wrong way. We accept readily enough the idea that our fear response should have its own chemical and neuronal architecture, but it seems demanding to suggest that a comparable physiological substrate exists for feelings as rich as love. * * * But from another angle, fingerprints are all the same: grooves in our front skin arranged in semi-concentric circles with a reliable series of components: center points, fetch points, delta points. Love is like those fingerprints: the component parts are invariably arranged in novel ways, but the components themselves are universal." “The Brain in Love.” Steven Johnson ’90. BAM. July/August 2004. p. 42. "When the subjects [in an fMRI test] heard or saw their iPhones ringing, their brain scans displayed not the classic signs of addiction but a firing of neurons ‘in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with fe

Quotes on what it's like to return

“Needless to say, my return to Palo Alto was a shock. The French and Italians have a word for the psychological state; it is called ‘the reentry,’ since it is their custom for the entire country to shut down, so to speak, while everyone takes an extended vacation.” Charles Rowan Beye. My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man’s Odyssey. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. [Kindle Edition] “The Greek word for 'return' is nostos. Algos means 'suffering.' So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.” Milan Kundera, quoted in, quoted again in The Week, Feb. 22, 2013. p. 19. “But you can’t control a story and mine was a good one. People, even naturally respectful ones, felt emboldened in the telling because the assumption was that I would never choose to return. The police had placed my [rape] case in the inactive file when I left town; my friends, save Mary Alice, had done the same. Magically I became story, not person, and stor

Adventures of looper caterpillar

A caterpillar found in July 2016 in Boston. Hanging out indoors for a few minutes with an e-reader and a print book The e-reader cover has a texture that is easy to grip. Why would a caterpillar want to trade it for a slippery print book cover? Caterpillar crawls around slippery print book with some prodding. Sometimes we get lost in a book. Other times we get lost around the book. The caterpillar stands. The caterpillar stands some more. The caterpillar stands and leans back Looping around. "That's why they call me 'looper'!" Set free in a tree For no obvious reason, the caterpillar uses its six front feet to wipe its face for four minutes continuously. In the first few seconds of video, the caterpillar produces a dropping. The caterpillar crawls on the underside of the leaf. The camera goes upside down to follow it.