Queen Mary 25 July 2012

The king asked his daughter what were the three misfortunes that the marriage should ease.

Miao-shan explained that the first misfortune the marriage should ease was the suffering people endure as they age.

The second misfortune it should ease was the suffering people endure when they fall ill.

The third misfortune it should ease was the suffering caused by death.

If the marriage could not ease any of the above, then she would rather retire to a life of religion forever.

When her father asked who could ease all the above, Miao Shan pointed out that a doctor was able to do all of these.

Wikipedia Entry on Guan Yin, Boddhisatva of Mercy

Weight is at 71.8 but unlike temperature I cannot convert height and weight metric system numbers easily, so I wasn’t noticing the weight when it was measured at previous visits.

Oops, 71.8 kg nets out to only 158 lbs and I haven’t been this light since my early twenties; at 6’2″ and 62 my ideal weight is more like 175 pounds. This isn’t, I believe, a consequence of cancer and certainly not of chemotherapy for the very good reason I’m not on chemo. It’s the consequence of following old rules from back when I ate what I wanted. Clearly time to eat yummy things between meals and with others especially if they’re paying ha ha.

I was 205 lbs at Princeton University in 1988 and my doctor advised a formal weight loss program since, he said, it’d be easier to address a borderline obesity. So I actually signed up with Jenny Craig and learned the delights of moderation. But in 2005 I was probably back up to 200 since I was eating the same thing every day at Pret a Manger, a London based restaurant chain with Hong Kong outlets.

Time to get a blood pressure monitor and a scale.

Waiting at this time to meet with the doctor, nervous about the outcome. Feel healthy and the tumor “seems” to be shrinking and softening. But as of 25 May of this year I have learned that I am Powerless over scientific results.

“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”. Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, in his book about cancer (The Emperor of All Maladies) which I’m finishing, says that cancer has the cunning of life itself. As best I can understand it, traditional diseases as cured by older methods such as TB are, at least in their older manifestations, simple in “grammar”, like a Chomsky Type 3 “regular expression” which can be parsed by a simple and restricted automaton.

Perhaps cancer is Chomsky Type 0, an unlimited form of expression which can only be parsed by a Turing machine, an unlimited automaton which although simple to describe can do anything a real computer can do given enough time and memory. Which would mean that the cure for cancer would be nano-technology Turing Machines, exquisitely programmed and tuned to your specific cancer, cruising the chambers of your body.

And, holistic methods would at least not do radical harm in the way a precise, high-tech computer program can wreak havoc when it has a bug. They’d simply go backward in time in the epistemological sense.

That is, we know that for hundreds of thousands of years, meat was a rare treat, bread had hard grains and sand in it as roughage, and vegetables were a main course (with fruit in the tropics). We also know that for the same period of time, cancers were rarely reported. Of course, this was in part due to the fact that cancers have a probabilistic origin such that the longer one lives, the higher a chance of developing a cancer. But we also know that even in older people living traditional or indigenous lifestyles cancers are rare.

In a vivid image, Mukherjee says that cancer diagnoses push our face up against mortality as if our mortality was a mirror and cahnsah is a gangstah. What’s amazing to me is for how long prior to 25 May I was able to act as if mortality was out there somewhere and not here and now.

And then you remember to breath again, and they let you go outside to the overlook with its prospect of the Aberdeen channel. And then you learn to walk again. “Hey! We’re walking!” – Harold Ramis, Stripes.

Mukherjee is restrained on the issue of radical mastectomies in which up until the 1960s, women were punished for the bad taste of getting breast cancer by way of mutilation, especially poor women in British charity hospitals. Prostate cancer is breast cancer’s annoying brother, the plague of the opposite sex: but men were never punished for getting prostate cancer by way of forced castration. Here in Hong Kong, one has the choice of hormone medication or chemical castration, with the latter being paid for by the public option: stands to reason, since wealthier, older Asian men would perhaps be reluctant to part with their identity as men in chemical castration.

I will probably spend the money for the more expensive private hormone regimen but the chemical castration doesn’t scare me at my age.

My next waiting room book is not about cancer. It is a comprehensive history of ballet by Jennifer Homans. It is really good and an escape from Mukherjee whose wisdom and knowledge are first rate but tell a grim story all the same.

I do hope that in some way oncologists take my “Turing” model of cancer seriously, for it would be very apposite and quite elegant if Alan Turing, who was himself chemically castrated for being a homosexual, could not only have invented the computer (with his 1936 paper on the Turing Machine) but also have won the Second War (given Britain’s inability as compared with the Soviet Union to win the war on the ground, Turing’s Enigma decode was Britain’s ace in the hole) and cured cancer.

Is cancer a computational problem? For thousands of dollars you can get your “cancer genome” but if cancer is a computational problem everyone with cancer would get a unique cure, consisting in software for a hypothetical nano-machine using biotech that would negotiate and perhaps even cooperate with the “dark angel”.

The “cure” would have to be a product of exhausting and bespoke labor tuned to the specific cancer of the patient using real computer software that would generate templates for large classes of diseases, those templates then customized to the patient. I knew a guy back at Princeton who did gene sequencing and with a background in software he compared it to low-level machine language programming.

Edmund in King Lear as Tom o’Bedlam knows his dark angels:

Frateretto calls me; and tells me
Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness.
Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.

Nero, Flibbertigibbet, and HopDance. I have to know the small black tangle of shithead cells on my shoulder. Hell, I have to love it.

Strength returns. I went nuts last night trying to find the audition location because my sense of direction, like my prostate, has been nuked. I was heading EAST towards CENTRAL in search of an address on Queen’s Road and had to double back since Queen’s Road WEST is in deep Sheung Wan. I know intellectually that in the United States, if you stand at State and Washington in Chicago and face NORTH, the WEST is at your left: ergo, if you face across the harbor to Kowloon from Statue Square, e.. NORTH the WEST (India, Iraq and Turkey) is to your left, but a shadow of the wrong sense persists.

Strength returns in queues of which there are many at Queen Mary. Standing without fatigue or nausea is a gift.


Sir Haubregon de Fer went riding out
Of fear he had little, and little doubt;
He was at Acre, and in Germany,
And fought he fealtly in Hungary
But he fell in with maidens in a route
And it was a Lady and her train
Who made his eyes the tears to rain.

Edward G. Nilges, Parody-Mass for an Arm-ed Man



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