21 January 2017:

1) Kenny Courser dealt with the referee's comments on his paper [A bicategory of decorated cospans](https://arxiv.org/abs/1605.08100), resubmitted it to _Theory and Applications of Categories_, and put the new improved version on the arXiv.

2) Daniel Cicala has submitted his paper [Spans of cospans](https://arxiv.org/abs/1611.07886) to _Theory and Applications of Categories_. Is that true, Daniel? If not, make it so. Also, it probably makes sense to update the version on the arXiv.

(Kenny and Daniel are now teaming up to write a wonderful paper on bicategories of spans and cospans, including the "maps-of-spans" case already dealt with more generally by Mike, but more importantly the "spans-of-spans" case and "spans-of-cospans" case.)

3) Joseph Moeller has written up the statement of a theorem on generalizations of the operad of communication networks, suitable for inclusion in the paper that Blake is working on for DARPA. This paper is due the day after tomorrow!

4) I've been invited to join another project run by the US Defense Department!

I got an email from [Michael A. Smith](https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-smith-b6468844), a microbiologist who's the director of the [Defense Biological Product Assurance Office](https://globalbiodefense.com/2017/01/02/dod-seeks/). These are the people who check whether mysterious white powders showing up in people's mail are actually anthrax... and they also keep track of diseases that suddenly spring up, like Ebola or MIRS. They used to be called the Critical Reagents Program.

Smith is interested in whether modifications of the network of hospitals and laboratories in Africa could help them better keep track of new epidemics that show up on this continent. He read [my book with Jacob Biamonte on Petri nets](http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/stoch_stable.pdf), and he thinks I might able to help. I'll start by listening in to a phone conversation he's having with Gary Kobinger, who helped develop a vaccine for Ebola, and who

> developed and pioneered use of small mobile laboratories — a lab in a suitcase, essentially — that have changed the way testing is done during Ebola outbreaks.

I'm already way too busy, but this sounds interesting! Michael Smith said that his higher-ups mainly evaluate him on whether he spends money fast enough. I could certainly help with that... but it would also be cool if network ideas could help combat disease.

5) I arranged to visit the [Institute for Scientific Interchange](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_for_Scientific_Interchange) in Turin, Italy during the last week of June. This center is very interested in the [mathematical foundations of complex systems](http://www.isi.it/en/research/mathematics-foundation-of-complex-systems), including networks.

I ran a workshop there in May 2015 and the director, Mario Rasetti, said I was welcome to visit any time. I decided to see if this offer was real: I'm visiting the category theorist Marco Grandis in nearby Genoa in mid-June, so I emailed Rasetti and asked if I could visit after that.

It turns out he's been reading our papers with interest! He'd actually like me to visit for a sabbatical or maybe even get some long-term affiliation with this center. I'll find out more in June.