Saturday, December 18, 2010

Are you sponge worthy?

In an episode of the television sitcom Seinfeld, Elaine Benes’s favorite contraceptive sponge is taken off the market. She scours pharmacies to stock up, but her supply is now finite, so she must “reevaluate her whole screening process.” Every time she dates a new man, she has to consider whether he is “spongeworthy.”

When Elaine uses a sponge, Dixit says, she is forfeiting the option to have it available when an even better man comes along. He developed a mathematical model to quantify this concept of spongeworthiness many years ago, but kept quiet because it seemed inappropriate at the time. “I hope that my advanced age now exempts me from the constraints of political correctness,” Dixit wrote after retiring from teaching earlier this year

Cool Stuff

All Our Ideas is a platform that enables groups to collect and prioritize ideas in a transparent, democratic, and bottom-up way. It’s a suggestion box for the digital age.

Sex and Religion

Books Ngram Viewer

Holbrooke the Investment Banker

Mr. Holbrooke also made millions as an investment banker on Wall Street. In the early 1980s, he was a co-founder of a Washington consulting firm, Public Strategies, which was later sold to Lehman Brothers. At various times he was a managing director of Lehman Brothers, vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston and a director of the American International Group.
-Richard C. Holbrooke, 1941-2010

Cliton on Holbrooke,
'But Mr. Holbrooke “understood the political implications of the psychodynamics of every conceivable permutation” when people sat down together, Mr. Clinton said.

“Here’s the thing about Milosevic,” he said Mr. Holbrooke told him at the time. “He thinks he’s meaner and tougher than anyone, and you have a reputation for being a nice person. But he is very shrewd. Once you spend an hour with him, he will know that you intend to enforce the peace, and we won’t have to go to war again.”

Be a Statistician, Be a Cynic

I have a feeling that statisticians are cynics, because you realise how much of the stuff that you are told is true in the world is actually just that month’s accident that worked out, or that month’s disaster that happened.
Appreciating how much randomness there is in everyday experience helps a lot."-Efron on statisticians

Friday, December 10, 2010

To Think About

Stephen Walt writes;

So if one leaked cable is just normal media fodder, how about two or three? What about a dozen? What's the magic number of leaks that turns someone from an enterprising journalist into the Greatest Threat to our foreign policy since Daniel Ellsberg? In fact, hardly anyone seems to be criticizing the Times or Guardian for having a field day with the materials that Wikileaks provided to them (which is still just a small fraction of the total it says it has), and nobody seems to hounding the editors of these publications or scouring the penal code to find some way to prosecute them

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Learn from Bees

In the final chapter, Seeley suggests five lessons we could learn from bees.

• Compose a decision-making group of individuals with shared interests. Here bees have a higher stake than us: all members of a colony are related (sisters) and nobody can survive without the group.

• Minimise the leader's influence on the group. Here we humans have much to learn.

• Seek diverse solutions to the problem. Humans realised only recently that diversity is good for a group.

• Update the group's knowledge through debate. Here again, bees are superior to us, as each scout's "dances" become less effective with time, no matter how good a new site is, while stubbornness can lead humans to argue forever.

• Use quorums to gain cohesion, accuracy and speed. Impressively, bees came up with this concept long before the Greeks.

Digital Age Literature Analysis

Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs, the two historians of science at George Mason University who have created the project, have so far charted how frequently more than two dozen words — among them “God,” “love,” “work,” “science” and “industrial” — appear in British book titles from the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of World War I in 1914. To Mr. Cohen, the sharply jagged lines that dance across his graphs can be used to test some of the most deeply entrenched beliefs about the Victorians, like their faith in progress and science: “We can finally and truly test these and other fundamental claims that have been at the heart of Victorian studies for generations.”

Mr. Cohen said that he and Mr. Gibbs hoped that their work could serve as a model for how scholars might use the shopping cart of new digital tools to challenge longstanding assumptions and interpretations across the humanities.
-Analyzing Literature by Words and Numbers

Digital Humanities Award

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Cover Art - Sex at Dawn - and thoughts for reflection

"Researchers have confirmed what most men already know: men tend to get turned on by images depicting an environment in which sperm competition is clearly at play (though few, we imagine, think of it in quite these terms). Images and videos showing one woman with multiple males are far more popular on the Internet and in commercial pornography than those depicting one male with multiple females. A quick peek at the online offerings at Adult Video Universe lists over nine hundred titles in the Gangbang genre, but only twenty-seven listed under Reverse Gangbang. You do the math. Why would the males in a species that’s been wearing the shackles of monogamy for 1.9 million years be sexually excited by scenes of groups of men ejaculating with one or two women?

As far as we know, there is no corresponding taste among women for erotica featuring multiple overweight middle-aged ladies with cheap tattoos, bad haircuts, and black socks having sex with one hot guy. Go figure.

Exotic Spa of the Day- Coconut Spa

Recommendation- Chocolat Body Scrub or Papaya Body Wrap

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Cover Art

PROOFINESS -The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception
By Charles Seife.

Book reviews- by John Allen Paulos, STEVEN STROGATZ,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Non Muslims and Koran

Robert Wright makes an interesting point about interpretation of scriptures;

All the Abrahamic scriptures have all kinds of meanings — good and bad — and the question is which meanings will be activated and which will be inert. It all depends on what attitude believers bring to the text. So whenever we do things that influence the attitudes of believers, we shape the living meaning of their scriptures. In this sense, it’s actually within the power of non-Muslim Americans to help determine the meaning of the Koran. If we want its meaning to be as benign as possible, I recommend that we not talk about burning it. And if we want imams to fill mosques with messages of brotherly love, I recommend that we not tell them where they can and can’t build their mosques.

Of course, the street runs both ways. Muslims can influence the attitudes of Christians and Jews and hence the meanings of their texts. The less threatening that Muslims seem, the more welcoming Christians and Jews will be, and the more benign Christianity and Judaism will be. (A good first step would be to bring more Americans into contact with some of the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are in fact not threatening.)

You can even imagine a kind of virtuous circle: the less menacing each side seems, the less menacing the other side becomes — which in turn makes the first side less menacing still, and so on; the meaning of the Abrahamic scriptures would, in a real sense, get better and better and better.
-The Meaning of the Koran

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Artists Rooms

Interesting series from Guardian- Writers' Rooms

Memo to Self- Do you belong to the tribe of Infovore Warriors

David Warsh profiles Tyler Cowen-

Consider Cowen’s output last week on the blog – 34 items. Among them: entries n the the speech patterns of service employees (flight attendants, doctors, hookers, economics professors); the significance of layoffs in the futures market for greenhouse gases; the economic fallout from a recent earthquake in New Zealand; the nature of firms; the joys of cineplex-hopping; the magnitude of US war finance during World War II; the cost of high-speed rail; the role of securitization in the recent financial crisis; the efficacy of betting on one’s own ability to lose weight; the reason the Australian dollar is the fifth most-traded currency in the world; an arbitrage opportunity in the administration’s plans to stimulate business investment; the architecture he saw on his trip to Buffalo; a review of a new book about Adam Smith (plus a review of some other reviews); a notice of Economist correspondent Greg Ip’s The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World; a lengthy rejoinder to fellow libertarian Bryan Caplan on education in poor countries around the world; news of Austan Goolsbee’s nomination as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; capsule reviews of the five books he is reading this week (everything from W.G. Sebald on The Natural History of Destruction and Michal Whinston’s Lectures on Antitrust to Suzanne’s Collins’ The Hunger Games, first of a trilogy for young adults); the possible benefits of not recognizing faces (a condition known as prosopagnosia, described in an article by Oliver Sacks; a plan to sell daily permits to drive 90 miles per hour on Nevada highways; the reason that a rise in imports lowers GDP; a new paper in defense of high frequency trading; and, at intervals between the entries, a couple dozen links to other interesting items that he has read....

Infovore tells the story of how Cowen came to believe that the pattern of compulsive processing of information about the economics of culture that he displays could be described as autism or its milder form, Asperger’s Syndrome. A reader had gently inquired if the habitual organizing and categorizing he displayed could be signs of the cognitive disorder. He thought not – at first. An “[U]pper class white male who all his life felt like he belonged to the dominant group in American society was suddenly faced with the suggestion that he could be part of a minority, and a very beleaguered minority at that.”

Maybe the author of this blog also belong in this category.

Assorted websites

Please Rob Me [don't post on Facebook that your houses are empty for the weeken]

Graphy Your Inbox

The Future of Printing- where Data is the Design Product

Freedom of Creation, based in Amsterdam, designs and prints exotic furniture and other fixtures for hotels and restaurants. It also makes iPhone cases for Apple, eye cream bottles for L’Oreal and jewelry and handbags for sale on its Web site.

Various designers have turned to the company for clothing that interlaces plastic to create form-hugging blouses, while others have requested spiky coverings for lights that look as if they could be the offspring of a sea urchin and a lamp shade.

“The aim was always to bring this to consumers instead of keeping it a secret at NASA and big manufacturers,” said Janne Kyttanen, 36, who founded Freedom of Creation about 10 years ago. “Everyone thought I was a lunatic when we started.”

His company can take risks with “out there” designs since it doesn’t need to print an object until it is ordered, Mr. Kyttanen said. Ikea can worry about mass appeal.

LGM, based in Minturn, Colo., uses a 3-D printing machine to create models of buildings and resorts for architectural firms.
-3-D Printing Spurs a Manufacturing Revolution

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

BURSTS: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do from Authors at Google.

Book Blog;
What exactly is a burst?
ALB: A burst is a sudden escalation in our activity pattern, characterized by an excessive focus on a certain type of task at the exclusion of all other responsibilities. It is like the thunder of drums in a Beethoven masterpiece, punctuated by the pleasing sound of the violins that preceded and follow them

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bertrand Russell's Three Passions

Quote of the Day;
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair....

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

via Information Processing

John Grisham, the failed tax lawyer and construction worker

Effective Habits from John Grisham-

Halfway through college, and still drifting, I decided to become a high-powered tax lawyer. The plan was sailing along until I took my first course in tax law. I was stunned by its complexity and lunacy, and I barely passed the course...

When my law office started to struggle for lack of well-paying work — indigent cases are far from lucrative — I decided to go into yet another low-paying career: in 1983, I was elected to a House seat in the Mississippi State Legislature. The salary was $8,000, which was more than I made during my first year as a lawyer. Each year from January through March I was at the State Capitol in Jackson, wasting serious time, but also listening to great storytellers. I took a lot of notes, not knowing why but feeling that, someday, those tales would come in handy...

Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start. Over the following weeks I refined my plot outline and fleshed out my characters. One night I wrote “Chapter One” at the top of the first page of a legal pad; the novel, “A Time to Kill,” was finished three years later.

The book didn’t sell, and I stuck with my day job, defending criminals, preparing wills and deeds and contracts. Still, something about writing made me spend large hours of my free time at my desk.

I had never worked so hard in my life, nor imagined that writing could be such an effort. It was more difficult than laying asphalt, and at times more frustrating than selling underwear. But it paid off. Eventually, I was able to leave the law and quit politics. Writing’s still the most difficult job I’ve ever had — but it’s worth it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Exlporing one's spirituality

Advice of the Day-

For me, having a clear purpose in my life has been essential. But it was something I had to think long and hard about before I understood it. When I was a Rhodes scholar, I was in a very demanding academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth. That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my studies, but I stuck with it—and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life.

Had I instead spent that hour each day learning the latest techniques for mastering the problems of autocorrelation in regression analysis, I would have badly misspent my life. I apply the tools of econometrics a few times a year, but I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned. I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life. Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces.

The Summoned Self
In plotting out a personal and spiritual life, he applies the models and theories he developed as a strategist. He emphasizes finding the right metrics, efficiently allocating resources and thinking about marginal costs.

Clayton Christensen's Purpose-Driven Life

Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's easy to learn a language just maintains lists of people who know certain languages and want to learn others. Anyone can search the database, but only gold members, who pay $24 a year, can send e-mail easily to others.

Each person sets up a profile and includes a short description of age, location and what he or she would like to talk about. There is a big demand to practice English, and I found many possible pen pals.

Marie, 40, was born in Spain but lives in France near the Bordeaux region. She wants to improve her English and “perhaps find a job in sales export.” Serge, a Parisian who is retired, studies genealogy and wants to improve his English, Spanish and Swedish. claims it has more than 1.5 million members studying 115 languages.

I find the right partner through what are essentially classified ads. If I wanted to study Luxembourgish, the Germanic tongue of Luxembourg, there were 11 people looking to study English. There are 32 willing people who are fluent in Tswana, a Bantu language generally spoken around Southern Africa, mainly in Botswana. An e-mail or two is all it takes to find a study partner.

Maria, one of 113 people ready to help with Uyghur, which is spoken in western China, says she is also fluent in Mandarin but wants to practice Russian, Hindi and English. It is a big database.
-Learning a Language From an Expert, on the Web

Other similar Language Learning Sites;

Skype Forums

Some sites, like, and, are devoted to helping people practice English but add the elements of sharing photos and interests like a dating service.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Effective Habits of Ernest Gellner - 'cold intellectual honesty'

A review of another Gellner biography;

In common with so many other émigrés, Gellner served in the war (in his case in a Czechoslovak armored unit), and he was grateful to Britain for defeating Nazism and offering him a home after the end of hostilities. Unlike many such émigrés, however, he showed no interest in acquiring the outward trappings of social success and acceptance. Instead, as Mr. Hall shows, Gellner made his watchword "cold intellectual honesty." This was matched by a strong dose of warm and passionate courage.

Gellner was by training and profession an anthropologist. He began his career by conducting fieldwork among the Berbers of Morocco, sometimes accompanied by his intrepid wife, Susan. But Gellner was really a classic polymath whose interests ranged across several disciplines at a time when it was still (just) possible to feel a mastery of more than one field of study. Gellner launched forays into philosophy, sociology, psychoanalysis and history.

The fields might have been diverse, but the method of inquiry was similar in each case: analytical rigor combined with a strict commitment to reason. Those who knew Gellner recall that this commitment could result in truly nerve-racking conversations, in which they found themselves under relentless interrogation as Gellner tried to get to the heart of a problem. There was not much small talk, and there was nowhere to hide as he chipped away at the position of his interlocutor—or, to put it another way, his opponent. As one might imagine, Gellner did not suffer fools gladly. He told the assembled doyens and divas who constituted the celebrated Cambridge History of Political Thought school, for example, that there were simply too many of them.

When he started his writing career, Gellner's targets were mainly on what was perceived to be the right side of the cultural-political spectrum: In particular, Gellner attacked the philosopher Michael Oakeshott and the intellectual historian Isaiah Berlin for their romantic traditionalism...

Gellner was at odds with Oakeshott's belief that only tradition could guarantee civilized rule and Oakeshott's related claim that the imposition of rationality would lead to fanaticism. As for Berlin, Gellner was a critic of his argument for value- pluralism, which Gellner saw as something that could be achieved only at the expense of reason. In Berlin's hands, as Gellner saw it, "the history of ideas," Mr. Hall writes, "became something of a game, in which thinkers were damned as dangerous because anti-pluralist or praised for endorsing the incommensurability of values." Gellner was particularly angered, Mr. Hall says, that "a fellow exile from the disaster zones of Europe" (Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga, Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire) could be "so infuriatingly complacent."...

Gellner's most celebrated demolition was of the literary critic Edward Said (1935-2003). When Said accused Gellner of writing about North Africa without having a command of the native language, Gellner was too modest to respond that he was in fact conversant in the language of the Berbers. He did, however, make a strong case that the whole theory of "orientalism"—Said's idea that Western interpretations and depictions of the East were designed not to understand the East but to control it—was based on erroneous assumptions about the political power of literature. The viceroys of India, he pointed out brutally, were not known for eagerly scanning the pages of late-19th-century literary magazines....

"No nation," he once wrote, "is fit to rule itself. . . . [Nations] fight each other, and they oppress their own minorities." For this reason, and others, Gellner was no Zionist; he did not believe that his Jewishness determined his identity. He was prepared to fight for Israel, he quipped, but not to live there...

As Mr. Hall demonstrates, Gellner believed that there really was a clash between "liberty and pluralism," on the one hand, and "authoritarianism and oppressiveness" on the other. In a passionate riposte to Noam Chomsky, who had accused him of ignoring Western crimes, Gellner charged that his critic had "obscured" the fact that "the survival of freedom and accountable, limited government is an enormously important value even when some of its defenders are occasionally tarnished."

Excerpts from the book.

He had separate reputations as scholar of Islam, theorist of nationalism, philosopher of history, and historian of ideas. He ended his career in Prague, the city in which he had grown up as a boy, though in his final years he was most interested in developments in Russia. His status as public intellectual rested on this background, that of a multilingual polymath, a modern philosophe. He was sometimes cited as one of the last great thinkers from Central Europe whose Jewish background meant a direct experience of the twentieth century's horrors....

I found him to be an exceptionally attractive human being: witty, extremely kind, modest, and blessed with a genius for creating something of a tribe around himself, cemented by an endless stream of postcards – sent, one felt, to counteract a sense of loneliness.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weird Blog of the Day

Virginity Project

via Guardian

Artist of the Day- Hopper

Edward Hopper

via the elegant and cool blog of Michele Roohani

Cool Blogs

Michele Roohani
“Life is short, art is long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult.”

Arcane Sentiment

Daily Expositions

Agent Continuum

Cafe Salemba

James MacLean

Taro Econ Blog

Dangerous Knowledge

In this one-off documentary, David Malone looks at four brilliant mathematicians - Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing - whose genius has profoundly affected us, but which tragically drove them insane and eventually led to them all committing suicide.

The film begins with Georg Cantor, the great mathematician whose work proved to be the foundation for much of the 20th-century mathematics. He believed he was God's messenger and was eventually driven insane trying to prove his theories of infinity.

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Cover Art- 4 Fish

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. By Paul Greenberg

The famous story of the demise of Newfoundland’s cod is a parable of all that is wrong with industrial fishing. Cod hate cages. They don’t like being handled, are very sensitive to changes in their environment and are very hard to breed. That is the problem with fish-farming. Some fish are simply not suited to it.

Migratory tuna are also unlikely candidates for farming. Yet the high prices commanded by bluefin tuna and the demise of wild stocks have led many people to attempt to raise them in captivity in order to supply the same demand. Trying to farm a fish just because there is an established market for it is a waste of time and money, argues Mr Greenberg. Farm animals were domesticated because they were suitable to begin with, and only got more so over time. Aquaculture will only work, environmentally and economically, with the right sort of fish.

Yes, I second that

I agree totally with Lexington;

Now that it's official—Facebook has half a billion users—I feel at last that I have a reply for my wife. She (60) has been mocking me for having a Facebook account at my age (59). For the past year my mendacious excuse has been that I joined to keep a weather eye on what my children (30 and 28) are up to. But now I can tell her that half a billion members can't all be wrong. Facebook is not just a useful tool but oddly comforting.

Cognitive Surplus


The Facebook Effect

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World. By David Kirkpatrick

In the early days Mr Zuckerberg comes across as a mixture of programming prodigy and business neophyte (his initial business cards bear the memorable phrase “I’m CEO…bitch!”). But his leadership instincts are commendably sharp. By surrounding himself with experienced advisers, he manages to steer Facebook clear of hurdles that threaten to derail its growth and soon finds himself the object of fawning attention from companies and venture capitalists drooling over the firm’s fast-growing franchise. The pressure on the fledgling entrepreneur is intense. In one scene Mr Zuckerberg retreats to the bathroom of a swank Silicon Valley restaurant and bursts into tears during a stressful negotiation over funding.

But behind the tears is toughness. Facebook’s boss turns down several Croesus-like offers to buy the company in spite of intense lobbying by fellow shareholders who think he should sell. And he pursues his vision of making the world a more open and connected place with single-minded determination. Some of the most interesting passages in “The Facebook Effect” describe how Mr Zuckerberg’s missionary zeal makes him ambivalent towards initiatives that would mint money for Facebook but fail to advance its agenda of “radical transparency”.

It is this zeal—and the company’s habit of suddenly revealing more of a user’s information in unexpected ways—that has repeatedly got it into hot water. Here Mr Kirkpatrick puts his finger on the contradiction between Mr Zuckerberg’s professed belief in the importance of protecting people’s privacy and his deep-seated conviction that people are rapidly losing interest in keeping their personal data hidden.
-Review of the book from The Economist

Related: Author's namesake blogger, David Kirkpatrick

Effective Habits of a Clinical Psychologist

"Look for grey areas even when they don't exist, work as hard as you can but remember that luck has a large part to do with your success."

Grey areas abound in religion

Something to think about for the young Muslim.

Life is all about the grey area. When I was growing up I wasn't sure where I belonged in the world of religion. The way religion was taught in the Arab world was always in absolutes. While I didn't know much when I was young, I knew that I could not live in a black or white, either-or world. This was made most clear through a sermon delivered by a young imam who was studying for his doctorate at the Harvard Divinity School.

Speaking to a group of Muslim students, Imam Talal Eid said, "If you ask me whether charging interest is haram (forbidden) in Islam, I would say yes and I would quote chapter and verse from the Qur'an for you."

After a long pause, he went on to say, "But if I didn't pay for my car with an installment loan, I wouldn't be able to come here to talk to you about Islam."

With that simple, expressive example between the absolute and the relative, the imam carved out a place of tolerance and compromise for me. He made it safe for me to be the judge of my own actions, to set my own course, to walk to the beat of my own drum. He made it safe to make my own rules using the lessons I learned with the heart and mind that God gave me. No one could force me to walk away from my duty as a Muslim, by insisting there was only one way to live my life and practice my faith.
-Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa

Advice to Young Muslim

Find the right role models.

I grew up in a part of the world where George Orwell's Animal Farm was banned. It was also banned in the former Soviet Union. The Kremlin banned it because as a totalitarian regime, it did not want democratic messages to be spread within its borders. The censors in the USSR chose to go beneath the surface of the allegory, understand the message in the book and ban it accordingly. In my neck of the desert, it was banned because there was a pig on the cover. Go figure.

The Holy Qur'an was revealed in an Arabia that was alive with the richness of Jahiliya (pre-Islamic) period poetry. The miracle of the Qur'an was not only in its message, but also in the complexity of the syntax used to communicate that message. Its prose is unmatched in the history of the Arabic language. It is an absolute shame that the Qur'an continues to be held hostage by those who favour the idolatry of words over the depth of their meaning and the elasticity of the human intellect.
- Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.”- Orwell

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A very coold ad

Soccer's greatest ever for some.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gratitude Journal- Be Grateful that you can read

After Howard Engel (author of 12 best-selling mystery novels featuring his beloved detective, Benny Cooperman) realized that he couldn't make out the printed word that summer morning in 2001, he took himself off to the Emergency Room of his local hospital where the doctors diagnosed his condition as "alexia sine agraphia" (which came about owing to a stroke that he had suffered). A person with alexia can write without difficulty but will no longer be able to read what he writes. This was almost impossible for Engels to accept, after all, he had always been a reader, his brain was hard-wired to read "...I could no more stop reading than I could stop my heart. Reading was bone and marrow, lymph and blood to me", besides, he made his living writing, if he couldn't read what he wrote, how would he make his living?

via Lotus Reads

Neuroscience and Democracy

Quote of the Day

"From the perspective of the human brain, it's a miracle that democracy works at all"


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Can Spain beat the Dutch playing Dutch Football

“I am Dutch,” Cruyff said last week to El Periódico in Spain, where he lives. “But I will always defend the football Spain play.”

That is an easy transition for him because the soccer Spain plays is downright Dutch, and it can trace its roots to Cruyff. At the height of his playing career in 1973, Cruyff joined Barcelona and played there five years, winning the Spanish championship and the Spanish cup. He had even greater success when he coached Barcelona from 1988 to 1996, winning four league titles and the 1992 European Cup.

He also helped establish methods used at the club’s acclaimed youth academy, La Masia, where a third of the current Spanish team learned a style of play that was neither Spanish nor Dutch, but which is internationally appealing and very effective....

The Spanish style is based on the Dutch system of “total football,” developed at the Amsterdam club Ajax, where Cruyff learned the game. It requires every player on the field to be a playmaker, as a dribbler or passer, depending on what the situation requires.

Open sections of the field were not gaps to be traversed with long passes or frantic runs forward; rather, they were areas to mount an organized, well-fortified attack with keen passing and combination play. That is the sort of play Spain has used here to dominate possession on its way to the final after losing to Switzerland, 1-0, in its opening match.

“I think Spain is the country playing the best football in the past few years,” Netherlands Coach Bert van Marwijk said Saturday. “I’ve been the coach of the national squad for two years now, and during that time, it has crossed my mind that I would love to play Spain, and now it is happening.”

He added: “Both teams have their own style, and they do resemble each other. Right now, Spain has executed better.”
-A Dutch Great Helped Transform Spain’s Game

A bug ate my Firefox?

My Firefox's execution file has disappeared and together with Chrome's execution file. It seems Explorer is the one that is working at the moment. Does any tech savvy person have an advice? Is it a bug? Or another Microsoft conspiracy? Anyway IE is really pathetic!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Art and Photo Blog of the Day


Art of Roughness- Mandelbrot at TED

The Mandelbrot set in a certain sense is a **** of a dream I had and an uncle of mine had since I was about 20. I was a student of mathematics, but not happy with mathematics that I was taught in France. Therefore, looking for other topics, an uncle of mine, who was a very well-known pure mathematician, wanted me to study a certain theory which was then many years old, 30 years old or something, but had in a way stopped developing. When he was young he had tried to get this theory out of a rut and he didn’t succeed, nobody succeeded. So, there was a case of two men, Julia, a teacher of mine, and Fatu, who had died, had a very good year in 1910 and then nothing was happening. My uncle was telling me, if you look at that, if you find something new, it would be a wonderful thing because I couldn’t – nobody could.

I looked at it and found it too difficult. I just could see nothing I could do. Then over the years, I put that a bit in the back of my mind until one day I read an obituary. It is an interesting story that I was motivated by an obituary, an obituary of a great man named Poincaré, and in that obituary this question was raised again. At that time, I had a computer and I had become quite an expert in the use of the computer for mathematics, for physics, and for many sciences. So, I decided, perhaps the time has come to please my uncle; 35 years later, or something. To please my uncle and do what my uncle had been pushing me to do so strongly.

But I approached this topic in a very different fashion than my uncle. My uncle was trying to think of something, a new idea, a new problem, a new way of developing the theory of Fatu and Julia. I did something else. I went to the computer and tried to experiment. I introduced a very high level of experiment in very pure mathematics. I was at IBM, I had the run of computers which then were called very big and powerful, but in fact were less powerful than a handheld machine today. But I had them and I could make the experiments. The conditions were very, very difficult, but I knew how to look at pictures. In fact, the reason I did not go into pure mathematics earlier was that I was dominated by visual. I tried to combine the visual beauty and the mathematics.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More Ideas on Improving Soccer- Use Two balls

This time from Rick Bookstaber of all people;

-Use two balls. Having two balls in play will increase the number of shots, and spread out the defense. The balls can be color coded, with one ball being worth two points and the other ball one point.

-Add a goal tunnel. Have a corrugated metal tube that runs into the goal from beyond the goalie area. If someone can kick the ball into the tube, it is an automatic goal, since the goalie cannot defend it. New and entertaining strategies can be added with this feature. For example, players can be "tunneled" by being slammed against the sharp metal edges of the tube, thereby increasing the physical component, and with it, the entertainment value of the sport.

Photo of the Day

South Koreans Fishing.

Technical Advice Sought

How do you stop Chinese Spam invading your blog comments?

I'm still waiting for a check from Google Ads- how long does it need to get a single penny?

I want to create a customized search function for all my blogs- how do I do that?

Unsolicited Advice to Amazon and Google book search team

One way to gauge a quality of a non-fiction book is the number of questions in a book. I'm not able to search 'question marks' under Amazon book search. It would be good to develop a visualization tool that allows you to see these sorts of things (eg. question marks, number of quotations included, etc).

It may not be autism

Almost 50% of the children previously diagnosed with autism are found to be suffering from some degree of brain seizure activity that is undetectable to the eye...In the cases where these seizures are the cause of the symptoms, once the seizures have been detected and treated, the level and speed of recovery in the children has been remarkable.
-Please Help Avoid Misdiagnosing Development Disorders

21st Century Social Networking Tools- the basics

David Pogue gives a basics guide to social networking tools;
As a public service, therefore, I’m offering a handy clip-’n’-save guide to the social networking services you’re most likely to hear about at this summer’s barbecues.

Facebook- This is the biggest social networking service, with almost 500 million members — 22 percent of everyone on the Internet — and it’s growing by 5 percent a month. Similar to Facebook- Myspace, Bebo, Orkut

LINKEDIN - It’s Facebook for the professional set

TWITTER -This is the service that lets you send tweets — er, brief, 140-character updates that feel a lot like text messages. Using, you can find out what the world is saying about you, your company or any topic that interests you. Similaar: Google Buzz,FriendFeed,

Others: FOURSQUARE, Gowalla, Loopt, Brightkite, YELP, OpenTable,UrbanSpoon,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thomas Ricks want to know Worst War Memoir Ever

Thomas Ricks a reviews War Memoir of General Mark W. Clark and doesn't like it;
First question: Is there a relationship between the quality of generalship and the quality of a memoir? I think there is, if only because the more adept and successful generals have more interesting stories to tell. In this sense, war memoirs invert Tolstoy's famous observation that all happy families are alike. All successful generals are different, but all defeated generals are essentially similar-or at least their memoirs are. Two of the best generals' memoirs of World War II, I think, are Slim's and Eisenhower's. Likewise, the best Civil War memoir is Grant's. By contrast, what would Fredendall or Short have to say?

Clark wasn't a failure, but he was mediocre. So his memoir is worse than his record would indicate.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Wish Your Wish

Creativity Link of the Day- I Wish Your Wish

Random Design, Culture and Art blogs

Eyeteeth: A journal of incisive ideas

Heart As Arena



Advice from Spielberg - Art as Inspiration

“I hung the painting over my desk,” Mr. Spielberg recalled. “It was my deblocker. Whenever I hit a wall or couldn’t figure out where a story was going, I just looked up at that painting.”
-America Illustrated

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Houses of Economists- Carmen M. Reinhart

Rogoff and Carmen at Carmen's house

After much hand-wringing, he decided to return to the United States to attend Yale, which overlooked his threadbare high school transcript. He considered majoring in Russian until Jeremy Bulow, a classmate who is now an economics professor at Stanford, began evangelizing about economics.

Mr. Rogoff took an econometrics course, reveling in its precision and rigor, and went on to focus on comparative economic systems. He interrupted a brief stint in a graduate program in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to prepare for the world chess championships, which were held only every three years.

After becoming an “international grandmaster,” the highest title awarded in chess, when he was 25, he decided to quit chess entirely and to return to M.I.T. He did so because he had snared the grandmaster title and because he realized that he would probably never be ranked No. 1.

He says it took him a long time to get over the game, and the euphoric, almost omnipotent highs of his past victories.

“To this day I get letters, maybe every two years, from top players asking me: ‘How do I quit? I want to quit like you did, and I can’t figure out how to do it,’ ” he says. “I tell them that it’s hard to go from being at the top of a field, because you really feel that way when you’re playing chess and winning, to being at the bottom — and they need to prepare themselves for that.”

He returned to M.I.T., rushed through what he acknowledges was a mediocre doctoral dissertation, and then became a researcher at the Federal Reserve — where he said he had good role models who taught him how to be, at last, “professional” and “serious.” ...

And, unlike Mr. Rogoff, she has never been hired by an Ivy League school. But measured by how often her work is cited by colleagues and others, this woman whom several colleagues describe as a “firecracker” is, by a long shot, the most influential female economist in the world.

Like Mr. Rogoff, she took a circuitous route to her present position.

Born in Havana as Carmen Castellanos, she is quick-witted and favors bright, boldly printed blouses and blazers. As a girl, she memorized the lore of pirates and their trade routes, which she says was her first exposure to the idea that economic fortunes — and state revenue in particular — “can suddenly disappear without warning.”

She also lived with more personal financial and social instability. After her family fled Havana for the United States with just three suitcases when she was 10, her father traded a comfortable living as an accountant for long, less lucrative hours as a carpenter. Her mother, who had never worked outside the home before, became a seamstress.

“Most kids don’t grow up with that kind of real economic shock,” she says. “But I learned the value of scarcity, and even the sort of tensions between East and West. And at a very early age that had an imprint on me.”

With a passion for art and literature — even today, her academic papers pun on the writings of Gabriel García Márquez — she enrolled in a two-year college in Miami, intending to study fashion merchandising. Then, on a whim, she took an economics course and got hooked.

When she went to Florida International University to study economics, she met Peter Montiel, an M.I.T. graduate who was teaching there. Recognizing her talent, he helped her apply to a top-tier graduate program in economics, at Columbia University.

At Columbia, she met her future husband, Vincent Reinhart, who is now an occasional co-author with her. They married while in graduate school, and she quit school before writing her dissertation to try to make some money on Wall Street.

“We were newlyweds, and neither of us had a penny to our name,” she says. She left school so that they “could have nice things and a house, the kind of things I imagined a family should have.”

She spent a few years at Bear Stearns, including one as chief economist, before deciding to finish her graduate work at Columbia and return to her true love: data mining. “I have a talent for rounding up data like cattle, all over the plain,” she says.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Advice of the Day

Be grateful. Yes, I often hear from people that they are tired of being admonished to be grateful. It’s no wonder there is a sort of societal “gratitude fatigue” given how much press this concept have received in self-help literature over the past ten years or so. However, there’s a good reason why this advice persists not just from modern authors, but also from the earliest philosophers and religious writers. It works. Gratitude for what one has in their life is a critical part of contentment. Without gratitude, contentment will always be elusive. The results of the first major study on the efficacy of gratitude for cultivating contentment and happiness is presented in a recent book, Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, by Robert A. Emmons. He is a big proponent of gratitude journaling, recommending that writing out a few items for which we’re grateful every day will help instill a “grateful heart” and contribute to us “loving what we have.

via Smaller Living

Sunday, June 27, 2010

July Book Club

Let us hear if any of you're reading the list for July.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Controversial Book Cover Art- Israel and South Africa

The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa
Author: Sasha Polakow-Suransky
But Vorster was unapologetic and proudly compared his nation to Nazi Germany: “We stand for Christian Nationalism which is an ally of National Socialism . . . you can call such an anti- democratic system a dictatorship if you like,” he declared in 1942. “In Italy it is called Fascism, in Germany National Socialism and in South Africa Christian Nationalism.” As a result of their pro-Nazi activities, Vorster and van den Bergh were declared enemies of the state and detained in a government camp.

Three decades later, as Vorster toured Yad Vashem, the Israeli government was still scouring the globe for former Nazis— extraditing or even kidnapping them in order to try them in Israeli courts. Yet Vorster, a man who was once a self- proclaimed Nazi supporter and who remained wedded to a policy of racial superiority, found himself in Jerusalem receiving full red-carpet treatment at the invitation of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin....

In April 2006, the Israeli Defense Ministry intervened to block South Africa’s release of a 1975 agreement outlining the planned military cooperation between the two countries, which is signed by Defense Ministers Shimon Peres and P. W. Botha. The Directorate of Security of the Defense Establishment (known by its Hebrew acronym Malmab) insisted that declassification of the 1975 document or any others would endanger Israel’s national security interests.

Listen to a podcast about the book

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Cover Art- Why England Lose

Assorted Footballonomics

World Cup's African Vibe Hits the Fashion World

Grass roots soccer, African style

Ole ole ole ole: Google Wave Football Fever!

U.S.-Algeria, the Day After;
Earlier today President Obama called the U.S. Men’s World Cup Soccer team. The President congratulated them on their extraordinary victory and told them that while he was meeting with General Petraeus in the Oval Office, he could hear the rest of the West Wing erupt when Landon Donovan scored the game winner. The President then congratulated Donovan on the game-winning goal, asked Tim Howard how his ribs were feeling and asked Clint Dempsey how his lip was doing. The President wished the team good luck on Saturday and made sure they knew that the entire country was cheering them on.

The market for young soccer players

Soccer rules as a market design problem

Why England Lose

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Assorted World Cup

Understanding Italian football part II - Furbizia
Perhaps nothing has been more influential in determining the popular perception of the Italian game than furbizia, the art of guile. For it is no overstatement to say that Italians enjoy a reputation as the dirtiest players in the game and, dryly put, as cheaters.

Investment Banks and the World Cup

Competition Description: World Cup 2010 - Take on the Quants

The Vuvuzela Externality

Soccer Done Right;
To remove these bizarre incentives, soccer should follow the ice hockey approach to penalties, after correcting for the difference in team size (six players for hockey vs. 11 for soccer) and game length (60 minutes for ice hockey vs. 90 minutes for soccer).

They think it’s all over: National identity, scoring in the last minute, and penalty shootouts

The Carbon Footprint of the 2010 World Cup

Gamesmanship and Collective Reputation

The Diving Champions of the (Football) World

While the anecdotal (and video) evidence against Italy is strong, it would be useful to have a statistical measure of diving on the basis of which international comparisons could be made. One possibility is to use data on fouls suffered. For instance, in the latest game, Italy was fouled 23 times while New Zealand suffered just 10 fouls. Either New Zealand is an unusually aggressive (or clumsy) team, or a number of the "fouls" suffered by Italy were simulated.

Back to the Future in the soccer World Cup: Chile wins 1-0 or 3-1?

Now onto more substance about the evolution of soccer: historically, the 1962 World Cup is an important turning point, since it marks the advent of modern defensive strategies in soccer. Until that World Cup, the average scoring had always exceeded 3 goals per game. In the 1962 World Cup, the goal scoring dropped significantly below 3 goals, to 2.78 goals per game, never to recover.

Defensive strategies have further taken hold. Nowadays we would be satisfied if we were witnessing ‘a mere’ 2.78 goals per game. In the seven World Cups between 1980 and 2006, the average had already dropped further to only 2.53 goals per game.

Blog of the Day

Backpocket Coo

Bluefin Tuna Fact of the Day

"The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one of only two known Atlantic bluefin spawning grounds, has only intensified the crisis. By some estimates, there may be only 9,000 of the most ecologically vital megabreeders left in the fish’s North American stock, enough for the entire population of New York to have a final bite (or two) of high-grade otoro sushi. The Mediterranean stock of bluefin, historically a larger population than the North American one, has declined drastically as well. Indeed, most Mediterranean bluefin fishing consists of netting or “seining” young wild fish for “outgrowing” on tuna “ranches.” Which was why the Greenpeace craft had just deployed off Malta: a French fishing boat was about to legally catch an entire school of tuna, many of them undoubtedly juveniles."
-Tuna’s End

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why Arabs love Turkish soaps?

If this seems like a triumph of Western values by proxy, the Muslim context remains the crucial bridge. “Ultimately, it’s all about local culture,” said Irfan Sahin, the chief executive of Dogan TV Holding, Turkey’s largest media company, which owns Kanal D. “People respond to what’s familiar.” By which he meant that regionalism, not globalism, sells, as demonstrated by the finale of “Noor” last summer on MBC, the Saudi-owned, Dubai-based, pan-Arab network that bought rebroadcast rights from Mr. Sahin. A record 85 million Arab viewers tuned in.

That said, during the last 20 years or so Turkey has ingested so much American culture that it has experienced a sexual revolution that most of the Arab world hasn’t, which accounts for why “Noor” triumphed in the Middle East but was considered too tame for most Turks. Even Mr. Sahin wonders, by contrast, whether the racier “Ask-i Memnu,” a smash with young Turks, threatens to offend Arabs unless it is heavily edited.

“You have to understand that there are people still living even in this city who say they only learned how to kiss or learned there is kissing involved in lovemaking by watching ‘Noor,’ explained Sengul Ozerkan, a professor of television here who conducts surveys of such things. “So you can imagine why the impact of that show was so great in the Arab world and why ‘Ask-i Memnu’ may be too much.

“But then, Turkey always acts like a kind of intermediary between the West and the Middle East,” she added.
-Turks Put Twist in Racy Soaps

What should you teach Artists?

On five Saturdays this month and next, Mr. Barman, Mr. Hinojosa and 54 other artists are attending a class paid for by the City of New York that is intended to help them turn their creative works into money.

“Does everyone have Excel?,” Peter Cobb, a lawyer and administrator at the New York Foundation for the Arts, which runs the program, asked the class last Saturday. “For next week, your assignment is to make a list of all your expenses for 2009.”

The sighs and complaints that followed were proof of the challenging task Mr. Cobb and his colleagues have taken on: trying to teach people who like to color outside the lines about drawing up business plans, budgeting and making a sales pitch...

Artists are not taught to plan,” said Jackie Battenfield, a painter and the author of “The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love.” Too often, she said, they’re “going in circles, and that’s very demoralizing.”

This is the first time the city has financed such a program, though others, like one at the Bronx Museum called Artists in the Marketplace, have long strived to help artists manage their careers.
-Creative Types, Learning to Be Business-Minded

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Interesting Blogs


Advertising is Good for you

Tanya Khovanova’s Math Blog

Grattitude Journal- Lets be grateful we are not deaf

8 Month Old Deaf Baby's Reaction To Cochlear Implant Being Activated

via David Henderson

We're pattern seeking animals!

People that are put in a condition of feeling out of control are more likely to see something in this, which is allegedly patternless. In other words, the propensity to find these patterns goes up when there's a lack of control. For example, baseball players are notoriously superstitious when they're batting, but not so much when they're fielding. Because fielders are successful 90 to 95 percent of the time. The best batters fail seven out of 10 times. So their superstitions, their patternicities, are all associated with feelings of lack of control and so forth.
-The pattern behind self-deception

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Economics of the Game

Play the Fantasy World Cup

Economists need to follow the accountants lead

A great source for accounting students- Open Tuition.

The Art of Defining Marriage

The unit’s lore is worthy of its own reality TV series — sham couples caught red-handed, yes, but also quirky ones whose authenticity surprised everyone. The gay man who claimed he had suddenly found his female soul mate (denied); the recovering alcoholic who had lost his memory (approved); the man who volunteered that he had erectile dysfunction in an attempt to explain why his mate did not know the location of his nine tattoos (unsuccessful); the elderly citizen who lost an arm in a subway accident, but found happiness with a young Caribbean wife (successful).

“We can’t impose our definition of marriage, especially being in New York,” said Maria Guerra, a Stokes supervisor. “We’ve seen it all.”

-Do You Take This Immigrant?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

“The meaning of life is that it ends”- Kafka

Just finished reading the book 'How Doctors Think' by Jerome Groopman.

Came across two moving stories from the NYT- I recommend the book to every one.

Floyd Norris talks about his cancer treatment.

I am undergoing radiation and drug treatment for cancer.

The drug is Erbitux, which at least is something I had heard about. (You may recall that was the drug involved in the Martha Stewart lying-to-the-S.E.C. case.) It has made my face look worse than anyone’s face ever looked when I was in high school.

I know that it is not news that radiation treatment can be miserable. I did not do all the homework I could have done, so perhaps I should have been better prepared.

But the pain involved is more than I have ever experienced. It is virtually impossible for me to eat. I am losing weight at an impressive rate, to the dismay of the radiation doctor. I have little energy, which is probably both because of the radiation directly and because of the lack of nutrition...

It is not fun, but it has been inspiring. In a way, I am happier about my life than at any time I can remember. Clint Eastwood once asked, “Do you feel lucky?” My answer is a shouted yes...

I am 62, and have had the honor of being a financial columnist here for more than 20 years. I have been happily married for 26 years, and last Friday saw our son graduate from high school. He will be attending an excellent college in the fall.

I hope to have a lot more years. But I’ve had a lot already, and they have been better than a lot of people have any reason to hope for. I am grateful.

A Scare, a Scar, a Silver Lining;
This is trite but also so, so true: A brush with mortality turns out to be the best way to appreciate how blue the sky is, how sensuous grass feels underfoot, how melodious kids’ voices are. Even teenagers’ voices. A friend and colleague, David E. Sanger, who conquered cancer a decade ago, says, “No matter how bad a day you’re having, you say to yourself: ‘I’ve had worse.’

My surprising inspiration (death!)

Random Blogs


it's all yoga, baby

Our Dinner Table

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chess Game of the Day

Veselin Topalov vs Viswanathan Anand

Chess and mixed strategies

Another way to limit draws in chess

Chess, football and the Bilbao Rule

"I am chaotic and lazy"
SPIEGEL: Do you go out for a drink at night too sometimes?

Carlsen: Rarely. I prefer to chat with friends on the Internet or play poker online.

SPIEGEL: For money?

Carlsen: Of course. For what else?

The Gambit Blog

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creative Gardening Ideas

Growing Vegetables Upside Down
Upside-down gardening, primarily of leggy crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, is more common partly because of the ubiquity of Topsy Turvy planters, which are breathlessly advertised on television and have prominent placement at retailers like Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Bed Bath & Beyond. According to the company that licenses the product, Allstar Products Group in Hawthorne, N.Y., sales this year are twice last year’s, with 20 million sold since the planter’s invention in 2005. Not to be outdone, Gardener’s Supply and Plow & Hearth recently began selling rival upside-down planters. “Upside-down gardening is definitely a phenomenon,” said Steve Wagner, senior product manager for Plow & Hearth.

The advantages of upside-down gardening are many: it saves space; there is no need for stakes or cages; it foils pests and fungus; there are less, if any, weeds; there is efficient delivery of water and nutrients thanks to gravity; and it allows for greater air circulation and sunlight exposure.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Future Shock

What the statistics point to is a rise in Facebook, a decline in blogging, and before that, a decline in personal Web pages. The trend is clear, she said — Facebook is displacing these other forms of online publication'

-World’s Largest Social Network: The Open Web