Monthly Archives: December 2003


I got a letter today informing me that my employment with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will be terminated as of 31 December 2003 — technically the first time I’ve ever been sacked!

The good news is that I also received a letter of employment from ARTstor, Inc. earlier this week, as we are on the verge of becoming a separate corporate entity in our own right as of 1 January 2004.

As my colleague Emerson pointed out, it was good to receive the offer of employment BEFORE the termination letter!


Aaach! My recovery from last saturday’s uvulectomy took an unpleasant turn this weekend, as the soluble stitches in the back of my throat started dissolving and a sizable length became detached at one end. Now it feels like I have a hair in the back of my throat all the time, and occasionally I get unexpected gag reflexes.

At one point I grabbed the end with a pair of tweezers and gave it a little tug, but then I chickened out.

Storm in a Very Small Teacup?

There’s an interesting spat going on in the physics community over what in my view is the most exciting and potentially revolutionary area of science today — nanotechnology.

Apparently Richard Smalley, a Nobel prize winner and Rice University Professor, has responded to a challenge issued by nanotech pioneer and evangelist Dr Eric Drexler to defend current US policy on the goals of nanotechnology — specifically, the holy grail of building “molecular assemblers,” tools and processes that can precisely position individual atoms, and thereby construct useful nanoscale devices. Smalley insists that molecular assembly isn’t possible and should not be a priority for research funding, whereas Drexler insists that it’s not only possible, but that significant demonstrable research progress has already been made, and that significant funding should be provided at a national level.

The interesting aspect of this public scientific glove-slapping fest is that both protagonists are well-respected experts in the field; Smalley is apparently an expert in carbon nanotubes, another essential building block in molecular assembly. Details can be found in a Foresight Institute press release (note that Drexler chairs the Foresight Institute — expect it to be biased accordingly). Is this a scientific revolution of Kuhnian proportions in the making?

Biting the Bullet

After a year of procrastinating, during which I wasted thousands of dollars on parking, insurance, registration and a miserable experience getting ripped off by a terrible and unscrupulous garage (Salamis Service Center in Long Island City, this means you, you scumbags!), I’ve finally decided to SELL MY CAR.

I’ve owned this 1969 Ford Mustang since I first moved to the United States in the summer of 1999, and not only did it transport me between my home in San Francisco’s Mission District and my job at RLG in Mountain View (most days) for 3 years, but it also got me to Las Vegas twice, North Lake Tahoe once, Big Sur once and across the continental U.S. once. It’s heartbreaking to get rid of it, but I just can’t justify the time and expense to keep a car that I don’t even slightly need in New York.

Drop me a line if you can give it a good home.

Uvulectomy: Before & After

I had a very enjoyable dinner with Jim Michalko last week, and he cleverly suggested taking pre- and post-operative digital images of my uvula.

It’s actually quite difficult to keep your tongue out of the way long enough to get good shots, but I persevered, and here are the rather grisly results (only click the thumbnail if you have a strong stomach!):

Image: Tony Gill, pre- and post-uvulectomy, December 2003

No wonder I have a sore throat from hell!

Uvula No More

So I’m back from the hospital, sans uvula and with a killer sore throat, but otherwise feeling surprisingly OK… It wasn’t so bad in the end, despite the linguistic barriers and apparent disorganization of the Manhattan Eye & Ear Infirmary (and how come I had throat surgery in an eye and ear hospital?). I’d made myself a little apprehensive by finding a few horror stories on the web, e.g. this one and this one, but hopefully they are the exception, not the rule.

After struggling through the snow to get there for 6:30am, and answering exactly the same set of questions with different people in at least four different waiting rooms over the course of about 3 hours, I finally reached the operating theatre, was hooked up to a drip and was unconscious within seconds.

Next thing I know, I’m waking up from an unremembered dream in the post-op area at around 10:30am — I was probably out for less than an hour. And I woke up fast, too: Instantly wide awake, alert, aware of a very sore throat but able to talk and ask questions (this is a far cry from my last surgery under general anaesthetic, a septoplasty in the UK back in 1998, when it took me many hours to come up through various strata of anaesthetic semi-consciousness, and they kept me in overnight to keep an eye on me).

Today, though, I was drinking (albeit with some pain) a little beaker of iced apple juice straight after waking up, and was dressed almost immediately after that. Then it was just a matter of waiting for my friend Scyld to come and pick me up (cheers mate!) and heading back to Brooklyn in a cab for a weekend of movies and soup!

Uvula removula

This weekend I’m going into hospital to have an uvulectomy under general anaesthetic. Eeek. I’m a little nervous about it — first of all because I’m expecting there to be considerable pain and discomfort for several weeks afterwards, and secondly because being anaesthetised is about as close as I can imagine to being dead.

Still, I’m also kind of excited, because it will hopefully cure me of my (recently diagnosed) sleep apnea, and my (infamous) snoring.


I hosted Thanksgiving at my house for the first time this year, and it was a lot of fun! I was kind of stressed out about the cooking part, as I’m not a very proficient cook, but luckily I had very collaborative guests that brought some of the dishes, including a visitor from the U.K. who took charge of the trickier logistics. In the end, it all turned out fine.

The menu included a 11lb organic free-range turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with cranberries, garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli, carrots, gravy and cranberry sauce, followed by pumpkin pie and ice cream. There was another pudding that we soaked in Remy Martin and ignited, but I can’t remember the name of it!