Call me on your cell, sugar

You've probably heard about glucose metabolism and cell phones. This sentence in the abstract got my attention:
[M]etabolism in the region closest to the antenna (orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole) was significantly higher for on than off conditions (35.7 vs 33.3 μmol/100 g per minute; mean difference, 2.4 [95% confidence interval, 0.67-4.2]; P = .004).
If anyone can tell me what 2.4 μmol glucose/100 g means - is this a lot or a little? - I would feel more informed. For now, though, I will continue to shrug at the marauding cell phones.

Update: In this study, the regional cerebral glucose consumption rate was about 37 μmol/100 g per minute. So 2.4 μmol/100 g per minute is less than a tenth of the normal value (if I understand correctly). Whether a change of less than 10% is significant - again, I'm trying to find the relevant literature.

Historical Update: A friend comments:
The first author [of the glucose and cell-phones paper] is Trotsky's great granddaughter. Maybe she should have tested whether ice picks near the head change glucose metabolism.


The jerky hominem

In his perfectly reasonable essay about the Internet (a topic crying out for an extended treatment in the New Yorker), Adam Gopnik says

But if reading a lot of novels gave you exceptional empathy university English departments should be filled with the most compassionate and generous-minded of souls, and, so far, they are not.
Ideals, philosophies, abstractions always fail - then what? Gopnik's point is clever but not, on further thought, true at all. We don't say that the jerkiness of some English professors proves that the novel doesn't build empathy. We say, "The jerky ones aren't doing it right." Similarly, the abuses of corrupt rabbis, priests, and imams - or the jerkiness of many religious people - serve to convince no one (except perhaps Christopher Hitchens) that religion is untrue by virtue of that fact. The abusers and the religious asshats aren't doing religion right, is what we say.

I often think of the ad hominem argument as one against a particular hominem, but sometimes, it turns out, you can make it against a group. Since all groups have human frailties, you can always point at a group and say, "Look! It contains twits!" Unfortunately for human beings, that proves nothing at all.


What's the word for mustard?

Check out my poem Zeneft - and my reading of it - at the literary journal qarrtsiluni, currently featuring its Translation issue.


In Which Leon Wieseltier, Writer of Long Sentences, Lets Sense Plummet Into Disrepute

"I have watched ideals and traditions that I cherish -- a certain sort of liberalism; a certain sort of philosophy; the speaking of Hebrew; easel painting; the joyful making of books; long sentences; and even the sound of a voice, in personal communications--fall into disrepute. (We all have such a list.)"

Thus Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic (on what should be known, for as long as he occupies the real estate, as the Back Page Without Paragraphs). Do you know what is on my list, Leon? Making sense.

The "speaking of Hebrew" is in disrepute? 

There's a country where they speak Hebrew, Leon. All the time. 

And I'm not sure what you mean by "the sound of a voice, in personal communications," but I spoke to a fair number of people today.

Banal midrash

Are Velveteen Rabbi's "Torah poems" any good? My review gives the answer.


Herring and Coconuts

Two translations of mine are featured in the new issue of the journal Eleven Eleven from the California College of the Arts: one of Dvoyre Fogel's Herring Barrels, the other of Moyshe Nadir's My Pedigree. Let me know what you think!


What have I just started translating?

These sentences are the beginning of a famous Yiddish novel. If you guess what I'm translating, you will win a hearty congratulations and a drink the next time I see you in person.

The city of N is built in three rings. First ring: the very center, the trade market. Second: the great city itself, with the many houses, streets, byways, alleys around the market, where most of the dense habitation is located. Third: suburbs.