Japan’s “Lonely Deaths”

❝ There was a putrid smell emanating from the apartment. There was an obvious brown stain on the futon where the body had been. The futon, the clothes, the newspapers and horse-racing stubs were covered with maggots and flies.

Still, if the man had died in the summer and rotted for months in the sweltering heat, instead of drying to a shrivel as winter approached, it could have been much worse.

“I’d say this is a four out of 10,” said Akira Fujita, leader of the crew from Next, a company that specializes in cleaning up after “lonely deaths” — where people lie dead in their apartments for long periods before being discovered.

❝ Every country has cases where elderly people die alone, but none experiences it quite like Japan, home to the world’s fastest-aging population. More than a quarter of the population is over 65, a figure set to rise to 40 percent by 2050.

Lonely-death statistics are hard to come by — the central government doesn’t collect them — but regional figures show a sharp increase over the past decade. NLI Research Institute, a Tokyo think tank, estimates that about 30,000 people nationwide die this way each year.

❝ As the number of lonely deaths has grown, so too has the lonely-death-cleanup industry. Numerous firms offer this kind of service, and insurance companies have started selling policies to protect landlords if their tenants die inside their properties. The plans cover the cost of cleaning the apartment and compensate for loss of rent. Some will even pay for a purifying ritual in the apartment once the work is done.

RTFA. I have to wonder how healthier lifestyles contribute to this phenomenon, country by country. I’ve outlived many of my peers – especially within my immediate family.

Until I met the love of my life 26 years ago, I had consciously, reflectively, given up on anything other than living alone the rest of my life. It wasn’t an unhappy choice – just realistic for an old geek and activist.

On the Road: The Original Scroll by Jack Kerouac


First Edition Cover

❝ …The scroll is in fact only slightly different and longer than the published novel. There are, however, a few key differences which impact the novel’s overall effects. First and foremost, the scroll is unparagraphed, an unusual but not unprecedented novelistic technique (see the Molly Bloom soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses or Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, first published in French in 1951). While this makes for challenging reading, the unparagraphed scroll better mimics the ceaseless movement of its characters. Movement is an oft repeated theme in both the scroll and novel; Kerouac says at one point, “[we were] performing our one noble function of the time, move.” In addition, the scroll makes much more use of dashes and ellipses. Peggy Vlagopoulos, in her essay that accompanies the scroll, observes that the published novel often replaces these marks with commas, thereby interrupting the flow of the narrative. These typographical differences create a faster moving work but also a highlight Kerouac’s use of parataxis, a style in which one syntactic element is followed by another without an apparent hierarchy of importance.

RTFA. Better yet, read the novel – scroll or typeset. A picture of a certain time and life I enjoyed, my friends and I enjoyed and practiced, which led many of us to extend our rejection of the rules and economic justification for the bigotry and hypocrisy prominent in American culture.

America is not yet lost – probably

❝ Let’s be clear: America as we know it is still in mortal danger. Republicans still control all the levers of federal power, and never in the course of our nation’s history have we been ruled by people less trustworthy.

❝ This obviously goes for Trump himself, who is clearly a dictator wannabe, with no respect whatsoever for democratic norms. But it also goes for Republicans in Congress, who have demonstrated again and again that they will do nothing to limit his actions. They have backed him up as he uses his office to enrich himself and his cronies, as he foments racial hatred, as he attempts a slow-motion purge of the Justice Department and the F.B.I…

❝ Early this year the commentator David Frum warned that the slide into authoritarianism would be unstoppable “if people retreat into private life, if critics grow quieter, if cynicism becomes endemic.” But so far that hasn’t happened.

What we’ve seen instead is the emergence of a highly energized resistance. That resistance made itself visible literally the day after Trump took office, with the huge women’s marches that took place on Jan. 21, dwarfing the thin crowds at the inauguration. If American democracy survives this terrible episode, I vote that we make pink pussy hats the symbol of our delivery from evil.

I second that emotion.

Thanks, Paul Krugman

The diaspora of modern humans across Eurasia — update and revision


Migration routes — Click to enlarge

❝ Most people are now familiar with the traditional “Out of Africa” model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research, are revising this story. Recent discoveries show that humans left Africa multiple times prior to 60,000 years ago, and that they interbred with other hominins in many locations across Eurasia.

A review of recent research on dispersals by early modern humans from Africa to Asia by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa confirms that the traditional view of a single dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa around 60,000 years ago can no longer be seen as the full story. The analysis, published in the journal Science, reviews the plethora of new discoveries being reported from Asia over the past decade, which were made possible by technological advances and interdisciplinary collaborations, and shows that Homo sapiens reached distant parts of the Asian continent, as well as Near Oceania, much earlier than previously thought. Additionally, evidence that modern humans interbred with other hominins already present in Asia, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, complicates the evolutionary history of our species.

The Max Planck Institute is the gold standard for research into the evolutionary biology of homo sapiens. When original discussions stretched around the world at the turn of the 21st Century, debate and discussion took over a great deal of public and non-institutional dialogue on the latest discussions of evolution. Scuence readers and writers as well as core researchers were all involved.

I spent about 2 years getting my head around the results of the first DNA analysis providing deeper genetic and chronological analysis previously impossible. While spirited debate was often the order of the day – well above the perpetual attempts to educate superstitious folk stuck into biblical fiction – I have rarely so enjoyed the weekly expansion of knowledge rolling out the doors of the Max Planck Institute like tides changing the face of the intellectual Earth after an Ice Age.

Oh, yeah. Between 3 and 4% of my overall DNA is Neanderthal. Never was one of those straight-up white guys. 🙂

Saving the life of a creature in danger of being burned alive

❝ More than 100,000 acres in Southern California have been burned by wildfires in the last week, with some 27,000 residents being forced to flee areas like Bel Air and the Getty museum. More than 1,000 firefighters are now battling the biggest blaze, named Thomas, which is far from under control…

But as more and more people are forced to flee their homes, there are some uplifting stories coming out of the destruction. In Ventura County, as residents fled Thomas Fire on Highway 1, a passing news crew was able to capture footage of a man doing something pretty amazing at the side of the road…

AFAIK, the young men wouldn’t give his name, didn’t care to be interested by the TV crew.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Just another sunset in paradise


Click to enlarge

That’s the southern end of the Caja del Rio Mesa at the bottom. We’re at the Southeastern edge of the Colorado Plateau which extends through a portion of each of the states comprising the Four Corners of the American Southwest.

We live in the bottom of the valley created by the Santa Fe River. We’re at ~6300 feet altitude.

On our last walk of the day.