Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Morning in San Juan del Sur

after a restless night, the stirrings of first light are soporific and calming. Sleep finally comes along with the daylight. A few hours slip by, and we are awakened by loud small-engine sounds. This must be an all-too-common rude awakening for homeless trying to sleep through the noise of leaf-blowers in a park, but we are not homeless right now, nor in a world with leaf-blowers. We are in an inexpensive upstairs room in a Nicaraguan pension, at the end of an Escheresque labyrinth of unevenly rising and winding stairs and wooden planks with uncertain orientation and unpredictable gaps.
    Our room has big windows facing out onto another maze of stairs and composed entirely of horizontal slats of frosted glass, mostly all there except for the few open slots that the household wasp uses to come in & reconnoiter the kitchen every few minutes during the day. Generally speaking, there is no airflow barrier between the inside & outside in these tropical places anyway, and the rickety arrangement of glass slats with its frequent gaps only accentuates that fact.
    So when a thick smoke smelling of insecticide started billowing in the window, we had no choice but to jump out of bed, throw on whatever clothes were there, and run out the door and into the street holding our breath until we reached something a little less chromosome-bending than an insecticide-cloud to breathe. Only there were men with backpack sprayers filling the street with the same stuff.
    We hurried down to the cafe, where the smoke was more like a light fog, and sat down to breakfast and to share our bewilderment with other diners while we had our coffee with it's sickly sweet insecticide aftertaste.
    Log on, get stuck on Facebook for 15m, then resume conscious life and look around for information on what this pesticide might be. Nothing - lots of tids about spraying and that it's happening, but no information on exactly what is being sprayed, save for a few cryptic remarks about how damaging it is and how it's banned here but they still use it there. Circuitous as the internet can be, I am soon navigating a completely different story-line, discovering about how the CIA has been caught deliberately infecting people in Nicaragua and several other places, as well as in poor black neighborhoods in Florida, and allegedly en masse in Cuba, with Dengue, as a 'biological weapons' test.
    I am so disgusted by the predatory psychosis of the US government that, at least for a few minutes, I am completely free of worry about what has just been jammed down our respiratory tracts, and a little disappointed that a citizenry that are quite literally being murdered by their government in the US would not be more inclined to return the favor.
    So the question remains - what in the world did we breathe this morning? The scene was so surreal. It took less than a full minute between the time we realized the noise was fumigation and the smoke in our room was so thick you could not see the door. The trip down the uneven meandering stairs, over the cement ridges and soaked floor-mats in the darkened inner courtyard, and out the door, was dream-like. It felt like archetypal images from the collective consciousness of the American Embassy in Saigon in '68 - scurrying through something difficult to comprehend in the moment except at the base level of needing to get out of there, following a small window of light that seemed to recede almost faster than we could move, and landing outside in a crowd of equal parts complete bewilderment and absolute apathy - as if these two parallel worlds coexisted here al the time - one that clings instinctively to survival, and one that simply accepts it as inevitable, until it isn't.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Morning in Guatemala City

It's always hard to find a cheap & safe hotel in the rain - it was pretty torrential yesterday as we pulled into town. Adding to the confusion, our psychological conditioning was not really up to par. We heard frightening and disorienting noises, which turned out to be airliners flying low overhead. I think yesterday was the first time in 20 days we've suffered such an assault on the senses. One gets re-acquainted with it quickly, but it's a shocker the first few times.

Then there's the functioning in a low-oxygen high-carbon-monoxide atmosphere - which amounts mostly to learning to extract the meager oxygen that survives in the eddies of incomplete combustion from the billowing black clouds of diesel exhaust that make up much of the atmosphere up to about 20 feet off the ground.

Still we forged on, double-parking in congested downtown streets and sprinting around the block whenever we spied a hotel - zone 9 was really grimy and many people had not heard much about the internet - much less so in a hotel - I think the very question seemed disorienting to the concierges, like the first time an american hears someone who looks chinese speaking English with a British accent - it just didn't quite fit.

So we made it all the way to the center of town, zone 1, where the real urbis lay. Beautiful, hardened, socialist community relations with capitalist economics, and a watering hole with tall dark swinging wooden doors inside a mall that only sold jewelry - a bastion of downtown unchanged since the 1930's, where the bourgeois working class came to make up for tolerating subservience all day - complete with pictures of naked women fighting bulls.
Greening the Code

A couple of years ago I worked for a short while at Current TV as a data architect and then a systems architect for The place was as politically labyrinthine as medieval Florence, so the constraints on architecting scalability were heavy: fundamental things like a software release process were verboten, and a certain amount of money had to be spent on specific vendors, but no one wanted to say anything like that directly, so planning meetings tended to have a very strange flow, but that's another story altogether.

As a media company, Current is a heavy user of CPU cycles in video production, post-production, transcoding, programming, playback, and many other ancillary activities, and the official gospel was that current।com would become similar to myspace as an important social web destination, so the architecture I was tasked with designing needed to be 'fiscally responsible' but at the same time 'scale-ready' - of course, this was back when facebook was only open to university affiliations, so those numbers had not quite ramped up to current levels

Since Current's stated objective was to provide professional production for user-generated content ideologically aligned with Al Gore both politically and socially, and since Amazon was just then launching S3, the very first cloud, I made a proposal that would use dynamically instantiated virtual servers on a cloud, with load-balancing taking the form of controllers that managed these instances in response to demand. My initial estimates showed that instead of spending millions on equipment and hosting, this would enable a staggering reduction in projected costs and carbon footprint - if my numbers were right, this new cloud would, for example, enable mySpace to handle all its volume at that time for a total operations cost of just under $40K per month.

Well, I thought this was earth-shatteringly good news, and well worth pursuing on an aggressive exploratory line, since even if my figures were off by a factor of ten the numbers were still very attractive... It was also very exciting to come up with an alternative to traditional scalability plans that was so very ecologically friendly, and that very much went along with Current's stated political and social beliefs. On the other hand, it did not satisfy certain political objectives at all, which I would later come to understand were the top priority for management.

Even though I never got to implement the green cloud data center idea at Current, and it's been 3 years, the idea is more relevant today than ever. While I was at Yahoo, I noticed that there was a sort of soft wall of isolation among groups. Yahoo is divided into properties, such as Flickr, Buzz, or Mail, and functional groups that provide infrastructural services to these properties, such as login, video, or reputation services. Unfortunately, some of these services have sub-functions that are very repetitive, result in unnecessary bandwidth and CPU usage, and have imperfectly duplicate data, causing consistency problems that create yet more usage.

It is not rocket science that every CPU cycle has a direct carbon-footprint cost. Duplicate services translate directly into duplicate energy consumption during use, and they complicate QA cycles, causing more wasted energy. What is even more inefficient is that many of these data are stored in de-normalized forms, causing unnecessary disk i/o at each of these repeat trips.

So there too, at Yahoo, my idea was that the carbon footprint of serving one digital asset to one consumer could be greatly reduced by normalizing data and removing duplication of work. Unfortunately, getting a good picture of the cost in watts, for instance, of a single functional operation, such as logging on, is pretty tough, since it cuts across departments, disciplines, and possibly spans considerable geography as well, so putting the dynamic metrics in place to express the goal clearly would be a bit of work. Nonetheless, there is no question that an investment in analytical and architectural work would pay big direct dividends in energy-consumption per unit interaction, and yield some very direct public relations benefits as well.

As cloud computing becomes more popular, vendors are scrambling to make their clouds more palatable to architects, and the progress is palpable. Redundancy levels are up, outages are down, and spinning up high-level functionality like virtual data stores that offer an acceptable level of integrity and availability becomes simpler every day. Perhaps it's time to get serious about greening the code.

Monday, December 18, 2006

On December 10th Agusto Pinochet died. He was the dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1989. Being a Chilean expatriate, I am saddened by the news that Mr. Pinochet passed away without ever facing judgement for his spectacular cowardice. The process to bring him to justice was laborious, yet its proponents travelled a road through the bowels of bureraucratic democracy that few have travelled before - a sort of Cocteauesque journey that was cut short when the old man expired at the tender age of 91.

This may be a good time to recognize the amazing efforts of those people through the years who have followed due process in bringing Mr. Pinochet's killing and stealing to light. My hat's off to them, knowing that his death makes their road doubly difficult. The funny thing was that the old man died last weekend (coincidentally on International Human Rights Day), and Monday morning my inbox was peppered wth notes from friends who wrote things like "I bet you're happy that he's gone", etc. Sometimes, tragedy strikes in the strangest ways.

But the story does not end there. I remember being horrified some eight years ago when reading that Pol Pot, architect of the deaths of conservatively 100,000 Vietnamese, died in bed, never having answered Vietnamese or international tribunals for his Killing Fields. More recently, Ariel Sharon checked out without ever facing a rekoning for the human rights atrocities like the controversial Sabra and Shatila massacres. Likewise Pinochet has escaped a public proceeding to recognize him as a murderer at least three-thousand times over within Chile and the architect of a plot to kill any remaining political opposition abroad (again, akin to Israel's state sponsored assassins).

It is sad that Pinochet will not atend his own trial. I hope the trial still takes place one day. The ironic thing is that it is far more likely to happen with Pinochet than with the current administration of the US, or the past several of Israel, or many others.

Just in case anyone out there feels that picking on the US is not fair, or is starting to lose count, the Lancet published a paper two months ago estimating that 600,000 Iraqis have died as a direct result of the US invasion there thus far. The US government (you know, informed by Ari Fleischer, elected by selected folk in Florida and others whose votes are counted by opinionated secret computers, enforcing laws made by Foley) has dismissed the study, although the same scientific methods inform the same government that smoking is dangerous, that seatbelts save lives, etc. Seeing Mr. Pinochet off without a proper accounting, then, I have to ask: Will Alberto Gonzales ever face the music for calling the Geneva Convention "quaint" when he decided that it did not apply to prisoners of our United States? More to the point, and even less likely: will Mr. Bush or any of his cabinet ever face the music for putting to death ove 600,000 Iraquis? My guess is that Mr. Bush and his board of directors will face about as much justice as Pol Pot, Henry Kissinger, Ariel Sharon, and Agusto Pinochet among others. - But I've been wrong before, and I can only hope I'm wrong again this time...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hunan Harvest Pork

This twice-cooked dish is served year-round in the Hunan province of China. Hunan cuisine was not very well-known outside China until the 70's. Henry Chan, a famous San Francisco chef, writes that this is principally because this rugged and lush land offered its inhabitants virtually no reason to emigrate, so the Hunan native elsewhere in China is a relatively rare bird. In California people have better reasons to emigrate on occasion, but the richness of the land is nonpareil. Especially when it comes to good food, the natural resources here are great. Produce is available from meticulous farmers for delicate dishes that flirt with disaster, such as French food, alongside hearty greens produced by farmers who use traditional methods and down-to-earth approaches for the highest-quality yield at reasonable prices.

My eyes were first opened to the surprising delicacy of Chinese cuisines in 1997, when I went to Hong Kong to pay my respects to the last remaining bastion of non-PRC Chinese culture outside of Taiwan, before the hand-over. To my surprise, I ended up spending most of my time in food markets, learning about ingredients and their tastes when prepared right there in simple, traditional ways, and about the exquisite delicacy of a food that has as its most stunning attribute harmony among ingredients and the showcasing of simple fresh flavors.

Many of the dishes I tried then, much to my surprise, were every bit as respectful to quality ingredients as the cuisine that has made California famous in the US. The indiscriminate corn-starching, greasing, and salting of cookie-cutter Chinese eateries in the west was gone altogether, replaced by perfectly steamed flowering broccoli with ribbons of lightly sauteed goose-intestine, and the like. I was in love.

In any case, cooking is a bit like traveling. You will be happiest if you work with what is available and remain as flexible as necessary. Otherwise you will find yourself quickly using substandard or overpriced ingredients out of season, and losing heart as the resulting dishes turn out less than inspirational. There are, however, many dishes that can be made quite well most of the time, as they rely on nothing too seasonal. Here is my family's favorite, Henry Chan's recipe for harvest pork, a la Juan Cristián:

During harvest-time, the pork is sliced thicker because landlords want to show their generosity to the workers, thus insuring that the workers will take care to waste nothing when harvesting the fields. This dish is also served to the sixteen pall-bearers in a traditional funeral. A group of pall-bearers might consume an entire pig in one sitting. My family of 4 can hardly get through a pound of pork in one sitting when we're starving....

-A note about ingredients: The importance of quality ingredients cannot be overstated. This dish does not make heavy demands on the ingredients beyond basic quality. The beauty of this kind of cuisine is that there is such profound harmony among the ingredients that it's hard to mess it up completely. This is not sauce Bordelaise or any such acrobatic combination of ingredients and temperatures, so an absolute disaster is not likely. There are six sacred ingredients, however, attention to which will make the difference between a memorably delicious dish and a perfectly lackluster one: water, rice, stock, chile, bean-paste, and oil.

Water carries a lot of flavor, good and bad. I use carbon-filtered San Francisco tap water for everything edible. It makes a big difference. Cast off notions of tap-water being sub-standard. It is, in most municipalities in Europe and North America at least, a far sight cleaner and better regulated than bottled waters, and tastes quite good. The best tap-water smells of chlorine when it comes out of the faucet, and is not too hard. Many modern municipalities use chloramine for water treatment, because it does not smell like chlorine. The thing is that chlorine smells because it evaporates, can be boiled off, and disappears completely from water aged two or three days, whereas chloramine is not volatile and has health-risks associated with it, though it does not alter the flavor of water significantly.

A younger rice will usually work better than a drier, older one. Buy new crop rice when you can get it. I personally prefer slightly sticky rices, those that have a little more than 20% amylose (the remaining starch being amylopectin) for the bed of this dish, but any rice will do as long as it cooked well. A rice-cooker is cheap and will do it perfectly for you every time. Just put the rice in with enough water to cover the rice under a layer of water 1/2 inch thick, soak it there for 30m or so and replenish if it is an older rice (to keep the layer of water over the rice nearly 1/2 inch thick), and then let the rice-cooker do it's thing.

Chicken or pork stock can be used almost interchangeably in this dish. The trick is to be sure that the stock has a hearty concentrated flavor. Better Than Bullion concentrated stock works great, is very practical, and commonly available. I usually start with a normal-strength stock made from this, and reduce the result of boiling three or four pork-butts in this over time, to end up with an unusually concentrated stock.

There is a Hunan chile pepper of legend, but I have never found it locally. Hunan restaurants use dried chile de arbol flakes that are found everywhere. I find that if you have access to a Chinese farmer's market, there are small red Thai chile peppers that bought whole and processed or finely diced make a better flavor. The trouble with these is that they are seasonal, but once you try them, you'll be happy to fall back to the flaky dry stuff during the off-season and enjoy the change in the dish as they come back in. Beware, though, that chili peppers mold very easily, so keep them airtight in the refrigerator after dicing, or parboil them.

Any dish that calls for black- bean paste will be deeply insulted by most of the pastes available at your local grocery store. The best black bean paste is made at home. Preserved black beans from the Yang Jian State Operated Black Bean Facility in Kwang Tunc, PRC, are good and readily available at many Chinese grocery stores. It comes in these cardboard containers that look like old Morton Salt cans, wrapped in yellow paper. Put some in a container (about a cup) and just cover them with water. After an hour or so, toss the mess in a food processor, make a paste out of it, and there you have it. If you cannot find this, Lan Chi bean paste with chili is quite good, but I have only seen it once. Not easy to find. Barring these, preserved black-beans in  plastic vacuum-packs are a little easier to find in most Asian grocery stores and work fine.

Sesame oil has a high flash-point and the hotter you get the wok before tossing stuff into it, the better everything will turn out. In a pinch, olive oil works, but sesame is better for this. Short searings are the general idea.

About the cooking: There is one absolutely essential thing about this dish, and most Chinese dishes - start the rice, prep all the ingredients, and don't heat up the wok until the rice is done! Trying to prep as you cook is inviting disaster, as the cooking part happens very fast. You will dirty lots of small containers. We find that an assortment one-cup and half-cup french ceramic pastry bowls works great.

Step 1 - Cooking the pork

  • 1/2 lb pork butt
  • 2c chicken stock


Put the pork in the stock over a high flame. Reduce the heat as soon as it boils, and simmer until it is just pink in the middle - about 10 minutes for 3/4" thick slices. We typically do 2 or 3lbs at a time, to have a supply for the week. This one step done well in advance renders the dish a much lower-effort proposition than trying to cook the meat as part of the prep.

Save off the strained stock, and let the pork drain for a couple of minutes.

Step 2 - Cooking the dish: Harvest Pork

Ingredients -

  • 1/2 lb lightly boiled pork, in 1/4" slices, about 1" square
  • 1 tbsp black bean paste
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic, fresh minced
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup cabbage, cut into ribbons about 1/2" think and 1" long
  • 1/2 cup bell-pepper, cut into 1" slices - cut red bell-pepper longitudinally, or green pepper diagonally to get more sweetness out of it
  • 1/2 cup scallions (green garlic is a great substitute when it's available) - cut the scallions into 1/3" slices, as far up the green part as you can - the green is actually the best flavor for this dish
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp diced Thai chiles (or less, depending on how hot you like it - skip them if you're serving kids)
  • 1c rice

  • Heat the work over high heat with a sprinkling of sesame oil until the oil just starts to smoke.
  • Add a teaspoon of oil, and the pork, garlic and ginger, bean-paste, cabbage, and bell pepper all at the same time. Stir everything in the wok constantly.
  • As soon as the aroma of the garlic, ginger, and bean-paste get stronger (1 to 2 minutes) toss in the remaining ingredients
  • Cook until the scallions glisten evenly, about 2 minutes, and serve over rice.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thanks for Letting Me Vent.

In September of 2001 a terrorist attack that closely serviced then-recent recommendations by a think-tank called Project for the New American Century, led to the deaths of somewhere between 2000 and 3000, or 1/15th to 1/20th of the number of US traffic fatalities for that year.

Today I read a sad and sobering statistic in the Economist relating to the population publicity event from Tuesday: some 650000 people have died in Iraq since the invation (kudos to the Economist for not callng it a "war" or a "liberation", for God's sake...) that would not be dead had the US not shown up. Of course, George Bush quickly dismissed the findings by, taking a page from Ari Fleischer, spiritual leader of the US Government, simply saying something completely indefensible and leaving the honest fools to pick up the pieces with pesky facts...

So how does this relate to you and me?
Well, first, it means that for every 450 of us, there is one dead Iraqui who would be alive today had we simply disallowed the blatant fraud that put George Bush in office, twice. Or, looking at it another way, every one of us has separately allowed about 1/4 lb of living Iraqui flesh to be taken to the grave by our henchmen. This makes me feel bad, though it makes me wonder what that figure would look like if we go clear back to the United Fruit Company and add up the death-toll that underpins our "American way of Life".
Second, on the eve of more comedy elections in the US, it is inconvenient to deal with, so it makes it a lot more attractive to kick up a lot of dust over North Korea's nuclear test - nevermind that the only country in history who has successfully tested nuclear arms and given them up at the request of an international community is South Africa, and that genocidal maniacs all over the globe have all kinds of nasty weapons no one on earth should have..

So I guess the point is that there is numerological evidence constantly surfacing of the scope of terror that the US has spread around the world since George Bush occupied the White House. Wonder how these elections are going to go...

Monday, October 16, 2006

US Population to hit 300M - Set your clocks..

I saw a comedy routine once - it was these American Indian guys making fun of white people - you know, shooting fish in a barrel. They would stand up there on stage and one of them would roll up his sleeve, look at his wristwatch, startle, and inform the other: "Hey, Bob, look! Time to be hungry!"... Try the same thing with Hispanics, or, God forbid, blacks, and see where it lands you. You'll be telling your story to Mel in nothing flat, 'cos no one else will acknowledge you exist...

But, as ususal, I digress... The US poplulation is gong to hit 300M at 1146 GMT Tuesday morning, Oct 17, 2006. Of course, by 2006 tghe majority of Americans are way out of their depth understanding the relation between GMT and their local daylight savings time, but the notion that the moment is meant to signify something momentuous about meat-accounting is, I am sure, not lost on most who find out about it...

I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of understanding, in my head, what that means in the first place. I mean, I think visualizing 300M is doable, but not for the faint of heart, to start with, and then there's the nasty business of the planets. I mean, if we can't trust officialdom to count to 9 in our stead, how the hell are we supposed to believe a bunch of lower level bureaucrats about a bigger and harder number in the first place? I mean, stop & consider it for a second: - OK - I need to digress again.

So the truth is,my life is beautiful in some ways but not so in others. Specifically, I made the titanic mistake of marrying someone who, shall we say, has issues, a while ago. This particular wife of mine, who shall remain nameless, of course, has laid every obstacle from lying about residences to threatening me and our daughter, all to get a taste of power. The bottom line is that I have a net worth that is negative enough that I don't want to go into it, and she has a tidy little nest-egg inherited from dad's knowledge of who to slip a bill to and mom's judicious use of divorce lawyers - if the number started with a one, it would have seven zeroes behind it.

Ok - so the point of the digresson is that hypothetical wife has a hypothetical lawyer who routinely threatens me with horrible things. If she existed, I'd worry. For example they're trying to figure out how to get finanical sanctions against me for being poor about now. Beautiful, classic, it's own reward.

Point being that although I am infinitely more fortunate, I think I have an inkling of how the average homeless guy feels pushing that shopping cart against the traffic during rush-hour, and you know he was not really happy about being counted at all, let alone having some stiff census worker ask a bunch of personal questions.

The old ways are best, and there are certain countries where the population is virtually unknown because of the social stigma against beign counted. African nations are often a reality check because they have been around in the form of neighbourhoods long before the faddish notion of the nation state caught on. The point is that if I have a motive for wanting to disappear from a machinery that supports dishonest people with bad motives, while I have 6Mbit broadband at home, I believe it's fair to assume that 9 out of 10 people living in the streets will actively avoid this particular form of accounting, lest they have to endure similar and much more damaging affronts.

So the official anniversary of the US reaching 300M this morning gives rise to several interesting questions:
  • How many people really live in the US?
  • How unreliable is the official estimate?
  • Is the number knowable?
  • Are there observational factors that render it unknowable more so than political/cultural factors?
  • If we knew how many people live in one place at one time, would we know how many planets there are in the solar sstem?
  • Why does everyone freak out about this number (of people in a given space).
  • Is there a number that is "too much" - based on what?
Will everybody please quit using the word "war" for state-sponsored terrorism, be it in Iraq or Lebanon?

It's amazing, the power of repetition. The Republicans have used it to absolve themselves of their recent tenancy in the Whitehouse, possibly the biggest crime American democracy has ever suffered. Nonetheless, this is not about stolen elections or bitter little subliterate attorney generals calling the Geneva convention "quaint" - oh no. This is about North Korea, wouldn't you know it.

Here's the finer point of this little rant in a nutshell. North Korea, so I hear, tested a nuclear bomb recently and everybody's up in arms that nuclear power is falling into the wrong hands. Ahem. Hello? Nuclear power fell into the wrong hands when the US decided to use the pavement in Hiroshima & Nagasaki as photographic paper. It is fair to take some heat off the US's incredibly bad records by remembering that if it were Russia, China, Saudi, France, or Japan that were at the helm, let alone Rwanda, or Somalia, to give somewhat more sobering examples, things might be a mesure worse than they are today.

What fascinates me is the use of the word "terrorist" instead of "yellow dog" or any other more straightforward appeal to xenophobic cowardice in condemning the actions of anyone who does not share our laudable agenda of stamping out democratic processes wherever they might rear their ugly heads and threaten to stifle coporate operations with due process, minimum wages, universal health-care, or any of the myriad other anti-US activities which advocate for mere individuals ahead of corporate stockholders.

I would not argue that North Korea seems like a dangerous sate - basically run by a psychopath. I would just ask - exactly how is that different from the US?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Million Dollar Earrings...

On August 22nd, the International Congress of Mathematics awarded Grisha Perelman of Saint Petersburg the teraennial Fields medal for a solution to the Poincare conjecture, wich Dr. Perelman posted on the internet three years ago. The elusive Poincare conjecture is one of seven mathematics problems singled out as the Millenium Prize Problems by the Clay Mathematics Institute, which set aside seven $1M prizes for the solution to each of these.
Grisha Perelman stayed home. He did not collect the medal, nor the $1M... There is something so simultaneously heroic and annoying about that, sort of like a good math problem. It got me thinking, like millions of others, I am certain, about simply connected closed manifolds.
People are open 2-manifolds that treat ourselves as closed. There is no loop we can draw on our bodies that cannot be collapsed into a point, with the exception of loops drawn through a piercing, or the slightly more off-color string that Arne Kinski used to eat over and over, documented, I think, in the 1995 documentary Crumb. The string is a tangent, however. The point is that an earring is an affirmation of our openness, in a topological, if somewhat circuitous, way.
So, if Grisha Perelman had gone to get the medal, or the $1M, do you suppose he might have worn an earring?