Kinetic and Thermodynamic Control in Human Sociobiology: Little Thoughts On Consumption, Labor, and Inequality

I’m looking at a diagram representing the kinetic and thermodynamic control of a reaction. Given starting materials (centered in the diagram), one type of reaction, running to the left, requires less free energy, but it exists in a constant state of slightly higher energy and instability—susceptible to disruption and reversibility. On the other side of this diagram, running to the right, another type of reaction requires a far greater amount of energy and exists in a final state of high stability, lower overall energy—one that is difficult to reverse. Of note, the left side typically happens more frequently and yields a greater amount of product; the right side, not so much.

Figure 6.4 Kinetic and Thermodynamic Control of a Reaction: The kinetic pathway requires less free energy to reach the transition state, but results in a higher energy (less stable) product. Source: Kaplan MCAT General Chemistry Review, p. 197

I can’t help but use this as a helpful micro-model to think about groups of people trying to make their way through the world. On the left includes, but is not limited to, laborers motivated by low wages, being ultra-productive, working odd-jobs at odd-times, and never quite achieving stability—always in a state susceptible to slight disruption. Might that manifest as impulsivity, impatience, and aggression? On the right, you have those who use up the high-yield products from the left, storing ever greater amounts, engineering more ways to release energy from those products at higher levels—to maintain the conditions for extreme stability, irreversibility.

Is finding a way to surf that (uni-)directionality “smarter?” Is the meaning of life to achieve a low-energy, idling equilibrium, where it’s all just finally done? “Retirement?” This certainly confirms the fact that, psychologically, it’s difficult for most to go the other way: to attain wealth and “lifestyle,” but to find it terrifying and humiliating to go the other way. (Why the emotions, though? When does that emerge?) Also, to clarify, not to confound “wealth” with “ultra-wealth,” but simply a state wherein it becomes really hard to give up the stability you’ve acclimated to. It also reflects that, as we get older, our chemistries do fade into a cold, serene void. Even if stable, what is it that keeps us, in old age, so intent on surrounding ourselves quite literally with the warmth to go on?

And these are broad strokes. There must be many coupling and decoupling reactions running in either direction, ending up further to the right or left, higher up and even further below. There are even more relationships between intermediates and products, not to mention the influence of all that is non-biological and chaotic. I guess one final thought here is, it’s always a wonder to watch how life effloresces against the inevitable, so beautifully.

Young Eun bought me a vest the other day, which I’m grateful for. I’m looking forward to keeping warm and healthy this year.

Peyton, King, Bay, High, Heller, McLaughlin (12/2/2021)

Silvery cool air and the sun on a clear day. A man grabs something out of his truck. He has the neatest head of white hair and a moustache as brilliant. Two bicyclists are in no rush. They converse, but are at a distance, and so, they shout. We stop at King and Laurel and a motorist to my right freezes. I signal my hand, “Please, go ahead.” They make a left and look askance at the bicyclists. I wonder if it is because they are likely unhoused and are shouting (but also smiling). I think about their fear for a while. Lute music plays on. A young student with his jacket and backpack not quite half worn crosses the road, muttering to himself. 284 spots open this late morning, but I ended up backing into a spot two levels above ground.

Cooler, stinging air in my chest. A late afternoon sky that makes it difficult to remember how the rays meet the earth. The ocean is covered in a thick blanket of fog; the fog is just over the ocean, like a bath of freshly whipped cream. Greys, just greys. I don’t roll my windows down today, because the air is colder now. I saw this woman replacing her engine oil last week and now she is busy taking items out of the trunk. Two dogs wait patiently as their owner clears their scat, more patiently when she drops one bag full of scat. They seem happy, the three of them together. More than a few children are biking towards school and I wonder why, in the middle of the afternoon. A young girl with confident hair and a gaze a mile away crosses, looking down at the curb before she steps up onto it. The trees are turning along Peyton, their yellow-orange plumage stamping yellow-orange shadows along the sidewalks.

Peyton, King, Bay, High, Heller, McLaughlin (11/22/2021)

Warm, gold, and shadows. Air so evenly warmed, that it isn’t even there. The car is cool. Five dribbled, dry, milky residues spot the windshield, one has a white petal stuck to it. I turn on Gregory Porter because he is the warm sunlight and the daylight is here with us. A young Asian helmeted man riding a bike towards us along King signals with his left arm, bent at the elbow and upwards, that he will be turning to his right. I remember that in Holland, bikers simply point with whichever hand, in whichever direction they will be turning. Five seconds remain before the light turns and I make a right turn. A biker is struggling up the incline and I feel pity for him. He is moving so slowly. This stretch of road does not permit any speeds above 30 miles per hour and today I respect this, cruising just around 28. No one is behind us. Here the eucalyptus trees hold back the day, but only until the South Entrance to campus—it’s a crescendo of komorebi gold after this point. We wait for our left turn arrow behind a young helmeted child wearing an electric blue fleece jacket riding a bike that matches who drops a mask that matches as he adjusts his grip. I wonder if someone will help him when he arrives at his destination. Komorebi, but it’s annoying and the road is busier than usual today. I smile coming up that same bend on Heller and I remember that it must be because there’s often a family of deer that graze on the field to the left. Today, there is no family of deer, just a sparse new bed of small orange flowers. Many of the trees are losing their leaves now. Others are dropping off their housemates and loved ones, too.

I put on meenoi who makes me laugh. The fire danger is low today, the soil is damp still, and green grass grows anew. The sun rays over the hill wash the grass at the just the right elevation and so the grass fluoresces. Wide streaks of the ocean are the same color as the mostly clear sky today. The horizon is uninspiring and the sea is shifting. There are two police vehicles coming up the hill, separated by one car. There are two cars waiting ahead of me at Bay and King in the left turn lane. Today the streets are busy with cars.

When Peyton is dark, I see lacey yellow squares along the block. The homes blend together in the darkness, one long block perforated with yellow lace, but I can remember the colors and ornaments of these homes. I can see TVs with the news on and lamps and chairs. When King is dark, this could be anywhere and it’s not interesting. When Bay is dark, it’s too dark to be interesting. I wonder what the night sky might look like above. When High is dark, I’m blinded by oncoming traffic, in pairs of whites, bluish-whites, and blinding yellows. I don’t smile around the bend when it’s dark, because there is only the cold blue light of the lamps. The bus stops look like small barns with their soft yellow lights. I see a young man who is oddly enough dressed in such a way that he looks like a security guard. He’s posting a flyer by stapling it onto the notice board at the bus stop. It’s a paper with graphics on it with a bright aqua blue. When the thicket of redwoods is dark, it’s beautiful, hushed. Two students are speaking with one another from opposite ends of a pedestrian crossing. I stop and they go their separate ways. The one to the right is wildly brandishing his umbrella like a Jedi knight. I wonder why he brought his umbrella on a day that was as golden and clear as today. There aren’t as many others waiting near the drop off.

I see the man dressed like security at another bus stop, posting his flyer. Two other students are near him and all three look to be in conversation. I look towards the ocean and I am surprised to see a string of orange and white lights tracing the horizon. A car pulls forward a little too far into the road before us and I brake hard. Blinding headlights again. Some homes do not have lace-adorned windows and I see dinner plates stacked in a kitchen of the one home I always like to see in the dark of night: there are two beautifully lit, lazy wooden chairs to either side of its front door, spaced almost too far apart, and almost certainly never used.

Peyton, King, Bay, High, Heller, McLaughlin (11/20/21)

Not as pleasant, the cold and dew. The cold slips beneath my buttoned jacket. The car is cold and damp. Condensation covers the rear window, but the windshield is clear and I wonder why. Monk is playing, but I switch to Ibrahim, I want to feel happier. A woman walks two samoyed dogs and this is the first time I see them; she is wearing shorts and I wonder if she is cold. The dogs are impatient, but not because of the cold, of that I’m sure; the woman looks tired of things. King and Bay: I can never tell what’s happening, I think to myself, but the light turns green and I ease into a right turn. I’m glad construction is finished, both lanes are open, but I never used the one that was closed anyway, but it looks cleaner. The air feels fresh now. A young woman is wearing many layers and has her sweat pants tucked into very clean, leather work boots; she is going to class and she looks ready, but in no hurry. I smile as I come around the bend before the bus stops along Heller. I forget why, but it wasn’t because of anything funny. I roll down the windows past the thickest part of the redwood grove. It’s too cold, so I pull them back up about 12 seconds later. I don’t know what it was, but something that looked like a very small, chrome-plated hub cap, comes rolling across the path and I have to stop. Is it a sign? I think to myself. I begin to worry that it is a bad sign, an omen. I want to be happy this morning. I drive slightly to the right of the metal plates, so that it doesn’t make such a loud noise. There are 324 parking spots left in Core West Parking and I guess that means I might find a good spot. I find a great spot and wait for a car behind me to pass, but it doesn’t pass. I back into the spot quickly and accurately, and I feel proud of the feat for a minute.

It gets darker quickly now and there aren’t very many lights in the area, just yellowish windows against a dark of redwoods, mostly. Coming over the hill, the sun is still setting, so I drive a bit faster to see if I can see the ocean coming down the hill. I see it and it’s less beautiful than the sky and the clouds today. I think about emails. The light turns green, but I wait for a young man in shorts to cross first before I make the turn; he looks cautiously and continues with a relaxed gait. It was relaxed and natural, so odd. I was the third car to line up in the left turn lane onto King, which does not happen often. At the corner, I see the young woman and her two samoyeds again; she doesn’t look cold, but she looks tired still and I wonder what she did today. It’s darker and the speed bumps come with the bounce of headlights in the rearview mirror and I wonder if my lights are blinding the driver in front of me, too. I wonder what color my headlights are as one passes me with the bright, slender headlights that might have just been daytime running lights. A small dog in a parka leads its owners across the street and I think of my family dog, Sarang, who passed a few years ago. Peyton is so dark at night.

Not minding

Joanne Banarer might be dead. Her eyeglasses had brownish-tinted lenses and I wish I remembered what the frames were made out of (I’ll imagine something purple and plasticky). We thought she might have been a chain smoker in her youth. She was often tired or at least it sounded that way, like the way you struggle to speak near a billowing campfire. She’d suffer through at least one bout of coughs each week and it would discomfit her and worry us. Some of our seniors have memories of her using a small loudspeaker and microphone during class—the kind that tour guides use on group tours, say, at the Louvre or at Gyeongbokgung Palace—but we never got to see this and they sat atop a cabinet unused, diverting us a couple days out of the year. We loved her, I feel. We called her up and enjoyed brunch together at Brent’s in 2012. I ordered lox, I think. She mentioned she was having brake trouble and got into a minor accident some days before. Other than that, she was enjoying her retirement. She said with such assurance that we would all be friends for life.

Ms. Banarer told me to write. I know I have enough to write about now, but I suppose there’s still fear—unhelpful, really, but potent: a fear that I would be taking up space and wasting people’s time with poor writing and irrelevant thoughts. I find myself minding less these days. So, I’d like to write now.

Grateful in this moment for Joanne Banarer.

welcome~

A new site, finally. Same old things.

Save the date: April 15, 2017. Young Eun, Doug, Christian, and I will make some music at Coaxial Arts. We are indebted to the wulf. for making this happen.

This upcoming show is partly the reason I had come out of hiding with this site. That and it’s been a year of fighting to stay afloat. I’m always shocked at how quiet and inactive my creative self becomes in this struggle, despite the meaningfulness of past projects and collaborations.

In a way, living day to day has become an art in and of itself. This isn’t necessarily a better way to be and I certainly sense the dangers of falling into habits somewhat delusional and complacent. At least the labor of housekeeping and paying off debts leaves good room for a useful perspective to develop organically away from the clubs of collegiate intellectualism. After several years of attempting to find things to blame: masculinity, the Object, obligatory loudness, bandwagon binaries, heritages, cultures, empires, whiteness, and parents and myself, my spirits are more at peace with this free fall state we live in. And I’m reminded each morning and evening of the contours of emotional burdens we endure, the environments we are subject to, in the process of learning how to be and how to love. How not to be so prescriptive, so antagonistic, feeling upset in moments when the object that makes you, deems you meek, knocks you down to the point of wanting to forget just how mundane a day of building ego is within the lay of a week. How to be wrong and right, and be hungry at dawn. I’m less tired and it’s no longer a fight and a half to forgive. Time dissolves the mind and body, what we want them and us to be, and the Man in me throws tantrums, but I say it’s OK now.

(There had been a day with some friends near Katwijk (or was it Kijkduin?), where we stood atop an old military structure—those small ones made of cement that held heavy machine guns to shoot at the Dutch shoreline. It was such a windy day that for the first time I felt my ears to be like very poorly made reeds; and so it was a deafening wind. This structure was pretty high up on the sand dunes and in the midst of this wall of sound and wind by the ears, my gut had no way of knowing what sort of injuries one could sustain by falling from such a height. There was no death drive, just that wind, the noise, and there, the sand.)

There was much rain in LA this past winter and now there are too many gnats in the house, but now I’m beginning to think that our indoor succulents live in “poor soil” (which attracts all sorts of insects).