Tuesday, March 29, 2005

guts, glory, and mathematics.

I think it certainly takes guts and brilliance to answer a mathematics question with a haiku.

what happens to solutions of dispersive systems when dispersion tends to zero.

It is a rather surprising new phenomenon, but not easy to express in layman's terms. In a report to the American Philosophical Society I put it into the form of haiku:

Speed depends on size
Balanced by dispersion
Oh, solitary splendor.

from an article on Dr. Peter D. Lax in NYTimes.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The New York Times > International > Europe > Amsterdam Journal: A Dutch Soccer Riddle: Jewish Regalia Without Jews

RDK mentions this strange phenomenon - The New York Times > International > Europe > Amsterdam Journal: A Dutch Soccer Riddle: Jewish Regalia Without Jews

Just minutes before a high-stakes soccer game not long ago between this city's home team, Ajax, and their rivals from the southern city of Eindhoven, a chant built to a roar in the hall packed with supporters where they were serving plastic pint cups of Dutch beer.

"Jews, Jews, Jews!" thousands of voices cried.

just bizarre.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Today's lunchtime walk. Posted by Hello

Photo: I walk. It stays.

I walk. It stays. Posted by Hello

Plain disturbing.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Amusing: Nut strike cracks after 13 years

Nut strike cracks after 13 years

Striking workers at a walnut processing plant in California have voted to bring their 13-year walkout to an end.

understated quote of the day:

"Nobody ever thought it would take this long"
Lucio Reyes, union secretary-treasurer


Monday, March 21, 2005

Elsewhere (with Mark Kleiman)

Mark Kleiman has two interesting articles up.

Schiavo, Hudson, and Nikolouzos:

Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday after a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keeping the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed, during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law, to find another institution willing to take the child .

Where, I would ask, is the outrage? In particular, where is the outrage from those like Tom DeLay, who referred to the withdrawal of Terry Schiavo's life support as "murder"? If it's appropriate to Federalize the Schiavo case, what about the people being terminated simply because their cases are hopeless and their bank accounts empty?

and What's so great about the work ethic?:

But why should it be considered desirable for the people who live in the richest country in the world to have less time to devote to themselves, their families, and their communities in return for having more material goods? If everyone in the top three-fifths of the U.S. income distribution worked 10% fewer hours and had 10% less income, wouldn't that make the overwhelming majority of them healthier, happier, and better parents and neighbors? (Yes, some of us get intense satisfaction from our work and believe that it does important good in the world; I'm thinking about the other 95% of the population.)
4. Yes, many people can't fill the leisure they now have with anything they actually enjoy. That's what keeps the networks and cable companies in business. Perhaps that would be less true if we didn't think about our educational system primarily in terms of preparing people for the workforce.[ed - emphasis mine]

Both interesting articles. I think the question worth asking on the work ethics article is whether the system in the "richest country in the world" is at all setup to allow people to work 10% less for 10% less income. My feeling is that it is not. What employers give you a true graduated option of working the desired amount of time that is a true proportion of full-time income potential (i.e. 90% work - 90% income, 75% work - 75% income)? While very few do offer options of flex-time - like working 10 hours a day for 4 days a week, this is not really flexible. People still cannot go on the 50% work/pay basis, for example, for 3 months and then come back. In fact, even "socialist" countries in Europe do not give true flex-time capabilities either. Working a shorter week for less pay is good for leisure time, but is not a true choice. After all, people do not get to work an even shorter week, or work longer for more full-time-off vacation time. More on this later.

ps. is anyone else tired of US being called "richest country in the world" ? Does average GDP per capita is really that indicative of personal wealth? Should not it be at least adjusted for GINI or cost-of-living? Some other measures of quality of life? I think it is pretty obvious that substantial numbers of people in the US would be much better off living in Europe or [perhaps] Canada.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

more St.Petersburg breakfasts

Another breakfast picture from St.Petersburg.

[March 3rd] This time it is an apple-filled pastry with a milkshake. The milkshakes differ from American ones in that there seem much heavier on milk and very light on the ice cream. In fact, I suspect there is no ice cream involved in it at all. Thus, it is mostly a frothy sweetened milk beverage, rather than a strong on the sugar and taste milkshake from an American diner.

The place itself is somewhat different from the one I had breakfast in a few days earlier. This is a much less westernized place, in a half-basement of an old building on Nevsky prospect. I forget what it was called, but I was trying to fortify myself prior to hailing a cab to go over to the office and did not much care for the name. The air was somewhat dusty, enough so that light literally seemed to stream in through the arched windows. This is not quite what it looked like:

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

as we head into Wednesday...

Here is looking at you, kid.

For the record, I did not take this picture. I have; however, being granted its use in my personal memorabilia collection. If you like the picture and want to hire the photographer - that could be arranged.

Posted by Hello

on b.s.

but here a quote from a book called "On Bullshit",

"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, we have no theory. "

The book review that included this quote is here:

Friday, March 11, 2005

another priceless one

plumbing more of the links on newsmuseum I found this:

wow. I must note; however, that doing this in the darkroom is a good deal more troublesome than in Photoshop.

It never really happened at all. Truly, I tell you.

In this post wretchard reminded me of the famous air-brushings of Trotsky. So successful was Stalin's campaign to remove Trotsky from history that I, somewhat more curious about history that most, never even heard of him until after perestroika began. At this point it is probably impossible to rehabilitate his historical stature as the heir apparent to Lenin, someone with enormous influence and popularity during Russia's Civil War and until mid 1920's. Some links to pictures below from the newseum:

Powerful stuff.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Interesting new lending model

BBC writes about a British company that is taking the marketplace functionality of eBay and applying it to personal banking. I am not sure how successful this model can ever really be - but it might be interesting if the market rates established at this marketplace become some sort of a marker for a fair interest rate...

"...Zopa - an online loans service that works in a similar way. Anyone with some spare cash can offer it up for a loan, through Zopa. Lenders set their own interest rates and can choose which borrowers to lend to, based on their credit rating.

Borrowers, meanwhile, can pick a rate that's right for them and because Zopa is simply assisting the transaction, not lending its own assets, it claims to take a smaller cut (1% of the amount borrowed) than a bank. Safeguards are built in to help prevent lenders being fleeced and the whole outfit is sanctioned by the FSA - Britain's financial services watchdog. "

An unfortunate name, IMO, but it will be interesting to see how they fare.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The New York Times > Movies > Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A.?

Very interesting NYT article - Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A.? - that wonders whether familiarity with film-making process and techniques is going to be a basic requirement for lawyers and managers of the future. I would say that is not very far-fetched, since for a few millenia rhetoric *was* a required subject for anyone trying to achieve a formal education.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Spb: Breakfast abroad (followup)

There is a Winnie-The-Pooh cartoon in which the bear is asked whether he would like, "honey or sweetened condensed milk" to spread on his bread. Pooh famously replied, "both, and hold the bread if you'd like."

Similarly, when asked whether I wanted sour scream or sweetened condensed milk with my "syrniki" (fried cheese cakes) I had no choice but to answer, "both". That cost me 25 rubles (about a dollar) extra. It also cost me 6 rubles for two pieces of lemon to come with my tea and 0.52 rubles (2 cents?) for 4 sugars.

Nevertheless, drinking severely oversugared tea and eating severely over-sweetened cheese cakes, looking over the city's central street is a good breakfast.

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Spb: Breakfast abroad

My office decided not to spring for breakfast in the hotel this time. That is probably just as well. It is however, somewhat surprising that it is so hard to find a place that would serve eggs for breakfast. I really would have thought it a default russian breakfast, but alas.

Anyway, I decided to walk from my hotel to a place I found on last visit, called “...Else...” It is wannabe european-slick place, with lots of glass, plastic, and thin furniture lines. Its main benefit, for me, is that it has huge windows and unobtrusive staff. Thus, I can sit by the window, look out on Nevsky prospect, and listen to students chatter about things that are important year and world round.