Georeactor Blog

RSS Feed

Reading Blog - May 2024

Tags: books

In my reading blog rethink, my best idea was to pair two books about decolonized countries: for Indonesia (Revolusi and Republicanism, Communism, Islam), India (Dethroned and Goa, 1961), etc. But more realistically I've been doing other reading, and not getting around to actually finishing even these for a write-up. So here's an attempt at a slate-clearing reading blog / update.

Language City: The Fight to Preserve Endangered Mother Tongues in New York (Ross Perlin, 2024)

My first 2024 publication, and it's a book where I've met the author! We exchanged emails and met at the Endangered Languages office back when I was at MoMA. In 2017 I went on their "Himalayan Queens" tour of shops and a cultural center in Jackson Heights.

The beginning of the book retells New York City history, tying together the Dutch mainstream history with the remaining historical knowledge of Caribbean and indigenous residents. There are lists of smaller populations expelled from their homelands and where they landed in NYC, but I found this too dense to sink into. I did appreciate several fun facts, such as a couple of words in Yiddish which are derived from places in NYC as the language found a new home base there.

Perlin also writes about his travels accompanying New Yorkers back to their homelands in Nepal and Tajikistan. This gives some context to what it looks like for a minority language community to persist, to the other side in contact with their family abroad, issues of conformity and security.

Clark and Division (Naomi Hirahara, 2021)

Hyper-local historical fiction - following a Japanese family pushed to settle in Chicago after their WW2 imprisonment. I learned about this community through Chicago's NPR station WBEZ.

In this book, the main character arrives in Chicago in early 1944 to reunite with her idolized sister, but instead learns she has died. This begins her investigation into her sister's life, and defying others who claim her death was an accident or suicide.

The author's parents arrived in California after WW2, but Hirahara became familiar with earlier second-generation Japanese-American stories through personal and professional life, including her 2000 non-fiction work Green Makers: Japanese American Gardeners in Southern California. She has several sources at the end of the book for learning more about Japanese-American stories and archival programs in Chicago.

This book got a sequel in 2023.

Some Kind of Justice (Update)

After several months and a law school Zoom-in, I read a later chapter of Some Kind of Justice about Bosnia's relationship with the ICTY. Some salient points here about the initial years of ICTY being geographically and linguistically isolated, refusing to hire people from the region, and later efforts of an Outreach division to visit sites and make presentations. The Bosnian justice system went through stages of being pushed aside by ICTY, a mandate to clear local indictments through ICTY and try their cases in front of foreign judges, to a rebuilt judiciary dealing with questions of transparency and privacy.
Related from Reddit: Steven Spielberg apparently said to Empire Magazine, "I wanted [Schindler's List] to come out in '93, because of everything that's happened with ethnic cleansing with the Serbs - and the Kurds, with Saddam Hussein".

Updates to Previous Reads

A boarding school in central Malaysia sent students home to defuse a mass hysteria outbreak.

Adjacent to Japan's Rental Person, a performance artist in NYC is helping people for free

For reasons unclear to me, Sugar Labs (OS designed for OLPC) just got 501c3 status

After seeing the series plot play out in a recap video, I watched the Japanese TV drama Rebooting / ブラッシュアップライフ ("Brush-Up Life"). The premise is reincarnation, and from the video it looked alternatingly absurd or heartwarming. In watching the first episode there is a string of Seinfeld/Curb-like humor (getting a plate 'on the house' when no one's hungry, finding the right Japanese greeting). Two points:

Another example of mutations from persistent covid, though this person's infection was in the respiratory system:

I was looking up an old episode of the Dead Eyes podcast, and saw there was a 2022 recording released in 2023 about the conclusion of the podcast.

Barbs exchanged in Duluth, MN over a member of the Cargill family considering redeveloping the Park Point neighborhood. This is a long peninsula protecting the Twin Harbors and exactly the place where you'd expect a billionaire to make a real estate move.

Sam Altman on weapons inspectors for AI:

I've complained about the USDA APHIS website for scrapie since 2022, and it just got a web redesign in March! Unfortunately the page still contains the boggling prion skeptic text:

The agent responsible for scrapie and other TSEs is smaller than the smallest known virus and has not been completely characterized. There are a variety of theories regarding the nature of the agent.

In my building I generally have the service elevator to myself, but I've noticed that if someone is in the elevator when I am going down, it's likely that we'll pick up someone else on the way. After obsessing over this, the right way to model this is either position in the building (roughly similar number of residents above or below my floor) or maybe bimodal distribution: times when the service elevator is oversubscribed (elevator maintenance, commute hours, last call for dog owners) and times when it's idle.
Interestingly someone on a low floor always observes which mode it is when boarding, and someone on the top floor has no hint beyond their own impulse to use the elevator. On a middle floor I'm in the sweet spot of having some information and several floors remaining where we could encounter passengers.
I'm not 100% sure what I'm saying about viewpoints, probability, and predictive modeling here.