Dispatch from the pit

IMG_0509It happened today. Out running along the lake in a cold drizzle, I felt it. The low pit of winter is past. We’re on the upslope to spring. There was a huge gaggle of cormorants (is gaggle the right term for cormorants?) on the fake island in Preverenges. They must be on their way to Scandinavia. They must be feeling it, too. (I took this picture the day before.)

I know it officially happened on December 21, when the balance of dark versus light hit bottom and the slow climb back into the sun began once again. But January is usually still too dark and cold and, well, winter for it to register. Today, however, despite the clouds and the rain, I finally feel like I’m climbing out of the hole.

Although I am not a big fan of winter, it does have one unarguably important purpose: to remind you how wonderful spring and summer are. When we lived in California and winter was but a pathetic shadow of the real thing, spring always took me by surprise. Wait! What happened to the pit?  I felt a bit cheated.

But there are limits. Marc was, at one point, seriously looking at a position in Montreal. Are you out of your MIND? I asked him. It’s winter for nine months of the year in Montreal! January in Montreal is -50, and that’s on a good day. From what I hear, Montreal just bypasses spring altogether and overshoots into hot and humid summer, as if making up for lost time. No thank you!

I feel a lightening, almost imperceptible, but still, it’s there. February happens this week. My baby turns 20. How the years revolve, over and over and over again. Happy Birthday Brendan!!

In other news, we haven’t put our house on the market yet, because I am still trying to figure out how real estate works in Switzerland. Let’s just say, Yodaesque, that transparent, it isn’t. I tried to convince Luc to do his Extended Essay project on the real estate bubble in Vancouver, but he’s not biting. He’d rather write about garbage. That’s my boy.

EPFL got its big “Human Brain Project” funded to the tune of something like a billion Euros. In its early days, when it was still just the “Blue Brain Project” and I was still an EPFL employee, I was the firewall between the project and the media. I built a rudimentary website for them using EPFL’s in-house web editor. I spent a lot of time sending computer-generated images of neurons to journalists via e-mail and telling them that Henry Markram wasn’t available for interviews. They’ve gone all bells and whistles since, and I sincerely hope they reach their goals and we get the brain figured out. If they don’t, it’s not for lack of money.

It’ll be interesting to watch as they take the reductionist model to its ultimate limit – build the whole thing, neuron by neuron, back from its DNA. At what level of complexity does consciousness kick in? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Despite Jonah Lehrer’s fall from grace, I still think his article about the Blue Brain project was one of the better ones written back then.

Henry Markram is tall and slim. He wears jeans and tailored shirts. He has an aquiline nose and a lustrous mop of dirty blond hair that he likes to run his hands through when contemplating a difficult problem. He has a talent for speaking in eloquent soundbites, so that the most grandiose conjectures (“In ten years, this computer will be talking to us.”) are tossed off with a casual air. If it weren’t for his bloodshot, blue eyes—“I don’t sleep much,” he admits—Markram could pass for a European playboy.”

Gotta love it. European playboy. Those were prescient words, weren’t they? Europe certainly has become his playground now!

2 thoughts on “Dispatch from the pit

    • Yeah, it’s pretty disjointed. THat’s my thought process these days… Sorry… maybe I’ve been eating too much chocolate and my brain is jumpy. 🙂

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