Southerly by David Haywood


For Those in Need of Sleep

My friend and former colleague, Dr Creon, dropped by to visit us on Friday. "For those in need of sleep," he said, handing me a box of groceries at the door.

The box contained a wheel of brie, and a big slab of blue-vein cheese, and a number of other cheesy and delicious things that Jennifer hasn't been able to eat for the last nine months or so.

Dr Creon has a Ph.D. in Thomas Pynchon -- or, to be more specific, Pynchon's novel Mason & Dixon. Dr Creon also has a large number of sisters. The combination of these two factors seems to have given him a profound insight into the nutritional requirements of women at various stages in their lives. Jennifer was deeply impressed.

I first met Dr Creon when we were both Ph.D. students, and I once suggested to him that he should consider changing his thesis topic to Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five. "Slaughterhouse Five is shorter," I explained, "and has better jokes."

"Well," replied Creon, "I seem to be stuck with Thomas Pynchon and Mason & Dixon." He thought for a moment, and then added: "So it goes."

I admired the resigned manner with which Creon accepted his Ph.D. fate. And I have resolved to emulate his philosophical approach now that my life has descended into a nightmare of sleep-deprivation, endless screaming, projectile-defecation, and other practices normally prohibited by the Geneva convention.

Yes, parenthood is quite gruelling. But, on the positive side, people have been very kind. Special mention for the most far-flung act of kindness goes to a Public Address reader in Konstanz.

This generous reader remembered my travel piece about Berlin in which I expounded my radical theory that the cartoon host of the German children's television programme Die Sendung mit der Maus is actually a rabbit. She very kindly sent me the stuffed-toy version of Die Maus for the baby. I'll let readers make up their own minds as to the question of species.

Above: You be the judge -- mouse or rabbit?

Nappies, vomit-mopping, and so forth, have kept me from writing anything very profound this week. But here are a couple of things that might be suitable for those who are also in need of sleep.

The first, rather immodestly, is a travel piece of mine from last month's Avenues Magazine. My usual prose style is somewhat constrained by the requirements of the publication, but hopefully it is still readable:

"Do you enjoy dead people, sir?" enquired the concierge. It was an unusual question. "Because if you do," she continued, "I can recommend the Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary. It's extremely enjoyable to visit -- seven million corpses are interred there."...

[Click here to read the full article]

The second item is something I came across while catching up on my technical reading in hospital -- and is one of the best research papers I’ve read in years. Ayres and Warr (writing in Structural Change and Economic Dynamics) explain the Solow residual using the Laws of Thermodynamics. Totally amazing stuff that should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in economics.

This may potentially be Nobel prize-winning material -- although those in need of sleep might need coffee beforehand.

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