May 30, 2002

Consistency or Obfuscation

Take this test to see how consistent you are in your beliefs. The problem I encountered while taking this test was that using zen buddhist beliefs I dont care if God exists or not (as distinct from I dont know if God exists or not) and so when I kept encountering questions about God I kept going "what do I care?".

-- via [metafilter]

Posted at 12:21 PM

self sacrifice defined

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement believes we must live long and die out. Not sure quite what to make of it. I'm more in support of the American Association for Single People or Child Free

-- via [metafilter]

Posted at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

Eugene O'Neil

Eugene O'Neil the Nobel prize winning playwright is one of America's famous authors. The Eugene O'Neil project has most of his texts online.

Posted at 09:21 AM

Dido in Roman Mythology

Dido also known as Elissa founded the modern day Carthage. She was originally a princess of Tyre but left for modern day Tunisia when her husband was murdered by her brother. She bought a small plot of land and founded the city of Carthage with a small band of followers. One day Aenis (the Trojan hero) arrived in Carthage by accident after being blown off course. Dido and Aenis fell in love but the Roman God Jupiter sent Mercury with a message to Aenis to continue on his journey. Aenis left Carthage and Dido behind. Dido in sadness over the loss of her love killed herself. For a better idea of what happened I'm sure Virgil's Aeneid will accomodate your curiosity. (A summary for the rest of us)

In other news Dido Armstrong is a pretty good recording artist.

more info at Genealogical guide to Greek mythology

Posted at 09:17 AM

Mahler et al

Gustav Mahler's Gustav Mahler5th symphony has earned a reputation for being inaccessible. Mahler was born in Austrian Bohemian at the turn of the 20th century.


Other resources:
Mahler web pages
Essentials of Music
glossary

Posted at 09:10 AM

May 29, 2002

Major artistic movements and their personalities

Fauvism bold colors. Think Matisse and Jazz icarus or blue nude. Other Matisse works include Nude with arms lifted and reclining nude with blue eyes
Surrealism Think weird. Salvador Dali and Persistence of Memory
Cubism Picasso
Pop Art Andy Warhol and Campbell soup or Marilyn Monroe
Op Art Use of optical illusions. Think M.C.Escher
SymbolismThink Rodin.
bauhaus Name of an architecture school in Germany that promulgated worker quarters of functional design.

Artcyclopedia should keep you well informed. The Comm project at USC has some examples as well.

Other notable works of art:
George Seurat's A sunday on la grande jatte

Van Gogh the bedroom

Gustave Caillebotte Paris street, rainy day

It is quite likely that the selection of links above betray the fact that I was recently a visitor at the Art Institute of Chicago. I highly recommend it.

Posted at 11:00 PM

Denis Diderot

Diderot was a French encyclopedist, philosopher (of materialism) and critic.


His position gradually changed from theism to deism, then to materialism, and finally rested in a pantheistic sensualism In Sainte-Beuve's phrase, he was " the first great writer who belonged wholly and undividedly to modern democratic society," and his attacks on the political system of France were among the most potent causes of tile Revolution.

-- from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Posted at 09:04 AM

random quotes

It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better...while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.

Woody Allen
--Side Effects

An ideology is a complex of ideas or notions which represents itself to the thinker as an absolute truth for the interpretation of the world and his situation within it; it leads the thinker to accomplish an act of self-deception for the purpose of justification, obfuscation and evasion in some sense or other to his advantage.

Karl Jaspers
--The Origin and Goal of History


We are not retreating. We are advancing in that direction

--unknown (to me)

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives
-- James Madison
Posted at 08:56 AM

May 24, 2002

Accounting charges and goodwill

Recently companies have been writing down their goodwill in lump some amounts shocking the world with the losses they've accumulated. AOL recently reported the greatest lost in the history of business at $54 billion. The company broke even on a cash flow basis but was forced to write down the good will acquired (via the TimeWarner-AOL deal) in one quarter.

Geoffrey Colvin in his article explains how the new accounting rule has required that goodwill no longer be amortized over 40 years (as was previously the case) but be evaluated and written down each quarter.


An excerpt:


The rule change is simple in concept. When a company buys another company, the price it pays in excess of the target company's book value is deemed goodwill. Under the old rule, it had to be amortized over a period of up to 40 years; that is, every year a little bit of it had to be deducted from the company's profits and also from the "goodwill" asset on its balance sheet. But this rule assumed unjustifiably that goodwill is a so-called wasting asset, like a machine that inevitably wears out. In reality it may not lose value at all, and sometimes it even gains value.

So the new rule requires companies to evaluate their operating units at least annually and ask if their fair value to an outside buyer today is greater than their recorded value, including goodwill. If so, all is well. But if not, the company must take a charge for the difference, all at once. The companies that have taken the hugest charges all made major acquisitions near the height of the stock market insanity. The charges are in effect their confession of being terrible investors.

The positive side of this write down is that we no longer have to suspiciously watch the assets of a company as they carry a ton of good will. The Return on Capital calculations also work out favorably for companies.

Posted at 02:02 PM

Bad male. bad

Dr. David P. Barash posits that in the intrinsic nature of man is violence. Violence in males crosses cultural and special barriers. Why? because mating requires the male to dominate other males for the propogation of his genes.

Does this mean our war for our way of life is no different than our animal instinct to ensure that Earth is dotted with little red-blue-and-white genes?

Read more at the Chronicle. [ via Arts & Letters Daily]

Posted at 10:11 AM

May 23, 2002

At Loggerheads

Currently India and Pakistan face off armed to the teeth with no quarter given to reconcilliation. Military Strategists in these two countries aren't the only ones feverishly pacing in their offices trying to presage the future. The US, as the only global super power has to involve itself politically.

Pakistan and India are not like England and France. They dont fight against each other and support each other. These two countries are locked in a zero-sum game with seemingly no exit.

The washington post has an article on the war games that US thinks will shape the battlefield.

If a large scale conflict begins I believe that the casualties will eclipse any war we've had for a while. A million soldiers are amassed at the border and India has a population of about a billion. This not going to be easy.

Posted at 05:19 PM

May 22, 2002

Who is Camille Paglia?

Camille Paglia, an internationally known social critic and author, is noted for her focus on gender issues, media and art. Her books include Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, (1992) and Vamps and Tramps: New Essays.

A good introduction to Paglia is at fluxeuropa. Paglia is a professor of Humanities in Philadelphia. An excerpt from Sexual Personae is available online.

I dont know anything about Irma Kurtz. Do you? She is a agony aunt who writes columns for cosmo

hmm. I was surfing for more Camille Paglia information and I found a speech by Camille at MIT on Crisis in the American Universities.

From what I can tell currently Paglia is a feminist with a difference (italics indicating lack of credibility in my statements). Traditional feminists have eschewed feminity, asking women to stand up against the stereotype of the fairer sex. Paglia seems to prefer women retain their feminity. Paglia claims Naomi Woolf and other contemporary feminists have railed against traditional beauty (and use of female nudes in art) as a sort of heterosexist conspiracy to dominate women.

Camille raises a very valid point in her extempore speech at MIT. An excerpt:


So: aesthetics. Because one of my earliest faculties was my responsiveness to beauty. I think it may be something innate in Italians, I honestly think it may be. There's an art thing, an art gene that we've got. Early on, I was in love with beauty. I don't feel less because I'm in the presence of a beautiful person. I don't go [imitates crying and dabbing tears], "Oh, I'll never be that beautiful!" What a ridiculous attitude to take!--the Naomi Wolf attitude. When men look at sports, when they look at football, the don't go [crying], "Oh, I'll never be that fast, I'll never be that strong!" When people look at Michelangelo's David, do they commit suicide? No. See what I mean? When you see a strong person, a fast person, you go, "Wow! That is fabulous." When you see a beautiful person: "How beautiful." That's what I'm bringing back to feminism. You go, "What a beautiful person, what a beautiful man, what a beautiful woman, what beautiful hair, what beautiful boobs!"

Camille also makes some interesting points about date-rape. She says that women are not taking ownership of their sexuality. Finally a list of Paglia's articles for Salon

Posted at 06:22 PM

Are we changing again?

What is the World Wide Web? The essential characteristics I've used to identify the web are:

Client-Server
Stateless
links -> transition you from page to page.

Browsers now expose DHTML that allows you to modify a page without transitioning to a new page (or even refreshing the page from the server). DHTML is great for building mini calendar widgets and other utilities you would like to use to enrich the user experience. However now companies are starting to integrate DHTML to remove page transitions. EchoSpace claims this makes for a better and faster UI. One of the advantages of the web to me is that I can bookmark any part of a site and return to it. The stateless nature of the web lets me use my bookmarks to jump into the right place in a site. There are cases where this makes no sense. I cannot/should not jump into the payment section of an online airline ticket system. In those cases the server refuses the request since the client doesnt have session information (yeah, that stateless thing was only partly true).

Posted at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2002

ReST vs SOAP

There is much talk about ReST (Representational State Transfer) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol).

Why do you use SOAP? Say you want to use Google's search apis to get a cached page. Your SOAP query would include half a dozen SOAP envelope lines and finally explicitly mention every single parameter you are passing in. Your response will be an XML doc (enconsed in a SOAP envelope).

What does ReST say? ReST says rather than wrap all that data within a SOAP envelope just call www.google.com/xml?q=searchstring. The results will be returned as XML and you have your answer. Dont bother building all this SOAP stuff around the messages.

Why would you want all this extraneous information? well for one to deal with types and specific data. For example I believe there is a SOAP standard to allow dynamic lookup of interfaces (via UDDI and WSDL I am assuming). The reasoning that resonates with me is compatability of interfaces. For example if I were to publish a translation api that took a search parameter and I changed that parameter tomorrow I believe SOAP provides me more flexibility. I can take the XML gunk that SOAP gives me apply an XSLT transform and get the new version that allows me to service old and new customers.

xml.com has an article about google SOAP apis.

Amazon decided to go the Rest route (kinda). They have a regular old GET string that returns an xml doc. No requirements for a heavy duty SOAP client. Just fetch the URL and parse the XML and you have your data. Apparently google used to expose this via the /xml path. EBay also uses ReST.

Posted at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

prime objective for the meritocrat

The nature vs nurture debate has raged on for what seems to be an interminable duration. The one aspect of nurture that strikes a chord with me is the instilling of self-confidence in a child. I think parents play a crucial role in the estabilishment of self-esteem and self-worth in a child. Opportunities and capability aside, self-confidence and pluck opens more doors avenues than you can imagine. David Brooks has written The Merits of Meritocracy for The Atlantic.

Here are some interesting excerpts:

Starting at birth, middle-class Americans are called on to master skills, do well in school, practice sports, excel in extracurricular activities, get into college, build their résumés, change careers, be good in bed, set up retirement plans, and so on. This is a way of life that emphasizes individual achievement, self-propulsion, perpetual improvement, and permanent exertion.

The prime ethical imperative for the meritocrat is self-fulfillment. The phrase sounds New Agey; it calls to mind a Zen vegan sitting on the beach at dawn contemplating his narcissism. But over the past several years the philosophers Charles Taylor, of McGill University, and Alan Gewirth, of the University of Chicago, have argued that a serious moral force is contained in the idea of self-fulfillment. Meritocrats may not necessarily be able to articulate this morality, but they live by it nonetheless.

...

Second, society surrounds the individual with a web of instruction, encouragement, and recognition. The hunger for recognition is a great motivator for the meritocrat. People define themselves in part by the extent to which others praise and appreciate them. In traditional societies recognition was determined by birth, breeding, and social station, but in a purified meritocracy people have to win it through performance. Each person responds to signals from those around him, working hard at activities that win praise and abandoning those that don't.
Posted at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

brahmin marriage in a nutshell

South Indian Brahmin marriages are an elaborate fare. The events that span the 4 days include:

Janavasam: The groom is offered new clothing to wear to the marriage.

Vritham: ??

Kasi Yatra: This is symbolic of the bachelor embarking on his trip to Kasi to take up the life of a brahmachari. On the way the bride's father beseeches the young man to abandon his quest and take his daughter as a wife.

Malaai Matrutal: The garlands are exchanged between the groom and the bride.

Oonjal:

Mangalya Dharanam

Saptha sathu

Arundhadhi darsanam: In Kannika Dhanam the bride sits on her fathers lap and is 'given' to the groom.

Posted at 02:27 PM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2002

Do you google?

It's boggles my mind how much I am beginning to like Google. Now Google Labs is captivating my interest.

The projects currently at Google labs include:

1. Google Glossary which finds definitions for words you type in.

2. Google Sets which predicts similar items in the set. For example I started with Bill Joy, Scott McNealy and Vinod Khosla and Google retorted with Ed Zander, Bill Gates et al.

3. Voice search allows you to query by telephone. Nothing fancy here yet. The voice interface better be darn simple in order to not drive the user up the wall.

4 Google keyboards reminds me of vi (my favorite editor btw). It allows you to browse google results without the mouse using the control keys j k h u

Posted at 11:57 PM

airline meals

Do airline meals suck? Is the pope Catholic? Not all airline meals suck. I've had many pleasant experiences on Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines and other Asian airlines. Now the web has a place where you can atleast look at the meal if not taste it. The site is www.airlinemeals.net. Do contribute!

Posted at 08:44 AM

Lilith the first woman?

Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other; there too Lilith shall repose, and find a place to rest. There shall the owl nest and lay and hatch and brood in its shadow
--Isaiah 34:14f

At the same time God created man he also created a demoness/goddess Lilith. She was created independently (not from Adam's body parts like the other first woman). Lilith refused to obey Adam's will and was banished from the garden of Eden and subsequently cursed. The Lilith shrine has more information.

Posted at 08:39 AM

cigars

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Sigmund Freud
--Attributed to Freud

Posted at 08:26 AM

May 16, 2002

Support chain issues

I've heard the parable of the supply chain and the green car several times, finally I have the rest of the details. In the 1990's Volvo manufactured cars in green and they didnt sell. To clear out inventories they offered hefty rebates to consumers. However, someone forgot to tell the Supply Chain Automation system. It noted the increase in the sales of lime-green cars and assumed this demand best be met with increased production of cars.

The Economist has an article on Supply chain automation/forecasting which mentions Rapt ( a software company that is trying to solve this problem). Hau Lee from Stanford is acknowledged to be an expert in this field. CIO magazine has 5 key steps to improve/implement supply chain management.

Posted at 12:55 PM

feminism, philosophy and the social contract

Feminist confidence that the whole human race can be 'reeducated' to totally eliminate the possibility of rape is pure folly...Wave after wave of boys hit puberty every year. Do feminists, with their multicultural pretensions, really envision a massive export of white bourgeois good manners all around the world? Speak of imperialism!

Camille Paglia
--Vamps and Tramps

There will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers.

Plato
--Republic

No arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Thomas Hobbes
--Leviathan

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.
-- Nelson Mandela
Posted at 09:55 AM

May 15, 2002

unquestioned faith

Atheists and scientists often accuse people with religious inclinations of unquestioned obedience. However scientist's can often be guilty of the same perversion. Too often we take Darwin's theory as a given fundamental truth. All evidence is hammered and moulded to fit evolution.

A new book (of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy and the peppered moth by Judith Hopper) describes how the scientific community took doctured evidence without question because it conformed to the Darwinian theory.

The essential theory was that in the 19th century a black or melanic form of the peppered moth appeared in Manchester. The theory assumed that in polluted areas (which Manchester was) the black moth was better hidden than the white moth and hence as a result of "survival of the fittest" was not eaten by the birds. The genetic trait (being black) propogated rapidly down the black peppered moths.

The only issue was that no one had actually seen birds eat the moth of the bark of the trees. In 1953 evidence was presented by Bernard Kettlewell that the white moths were indeed being eaten at a higher rate than the black moth in polluted areas. However the evidence was fake. There were pictures of dead moths on a dead branch. But the scientific community accepted the evidence without inquiry.

Posted at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2002

human psychology

Phillip Zimbardo conducted the Stanford University prisoners experiment. Sounds interesting

Posted at 04:37 PM

May 13, 2002

matter of perspective

The beauty of the democratic systems of thought control, as contrasted with their clumsy totalitarian counterparts, is that they operate by subtly establishing on a voluntary basis - aided by the force of nationalism and media control by substantial interests - presuppositions that set the limits of debate, rather than by imposing beliefs with a bludgeon.
Noam Chomsky --After the Cataclysm
Posted at 09:24 PM

Sushi world

When a sushi chef reaches master status he/she is called a shokukin
The main sushi preparations are: sashimi, nigiri and maki

Sushi in Austin

Sushi can be defined as a slice of raw fish or seaweed wrapped in a cake of cooked rice tied in a nori or dry sea weed.
nigiri is a lone piece of fish over a rice ball.

Posted at 05:09 PM

May 09, 2002

Poetry

This article laments the lack of attention paid to poetry these days.

Personally, I like haiku, especially Basho's works. I subscribe to tinywords for their daily haiku which has its rare gems.

Posted at 11:18 AM

May 06, 2002

Present Value of Money

It ofcourse makes sense that money in hand today is more valuable to money available at a later date. The value of money available in the future decreases its present value relative to the interest rate and the period of time you have to wait for the money. In this entry we'll look at the calculations behind calculating the present value of money.

PV = future amount / (1 + rate)term
For example say you'd like to purchase a $30,000 car in 3 years. The interest rate is 6%. Then the present value of the $30,000 amount in 3 years is:
PV = 30,000 x 1/(1.06)3 = $25,188.57
So your $25,200 will become $30,000 in 3 years. The simplifying assumptions presume interest rates to remain constant. (you could lock down the rates in a CD I suppose). The expression 1/(1+r)t is called the discount factor. Lets look at this problem a different way. Every so often furniture stores offer a promotion. No payments, no interest until 2004. So lets assume you buy a $1000 sofa (the current interest rate is still 6%). You have 24 months to pay off the sofa and incur no interest charges. What is the Present Value of your purchase?
PV = 1000 x 1/(1.06)2 = 1000 x 0.88996 = $889.96
So if a competing store is offering you $150 off the same sofa you are better off taking that deal. Otherwise you are better off taking the no payment deal.

The final permutation of this equation is to calculate the interest rate from the present value of an asset. Suppose you are given a promisory note for $750 that promises to pay $1000 in two years what is your effective interest rate?


PV = amount/(1+rate)term = (1+rate)t = amount/PV = rate = (amount/PV)1/t - 1
rate = (1000/750)1/2 -1 = 1.154 -1 = .15 = 15%

Thats a pretty decent interest rate. I suggest you take up the offer!

To add: perpetuities, annuities, PV = C/r (for annuities) and PV = C[1/r - 1/(r(1+r)t)], amortization, net present value. Opportunity cost of capital

Posted at 07:07 PM

Finance Koan

If you borrow $1 million from a bank and you can't pay it back, you are in trouble. If you borrow $1 billion from a bank and can't pay it back, the bank is in trouble.
-- Steven Saltman
Posted at 04:14 PM

War and Peace

We make war that we may live in peace.
-- Aristotle
Posted at 11:59 AM

May 05, 2002

APR's and the truth

Credit card companies today beseech gullible consumers by offering incredibly low introductory APR rates. The rates revert back to their higher counterparts upon expiration of the offer period.

But what does APR mean besides Annual Percentage Rate?

When a credit card company loans you money (like when you dont pay the full balance at the end of the month) it charges you interest for it. The interest charged is not computed annually. It's charge periodically, usually every month.

Truth in lending laws require companies diclose the APR. The APR is supposed to tell you the annualized rate, but it is not the effective rate. The APR is:

number of periods x interest rate

Thus an APR of 12% if calculated monthly would indicate a 1% interest per month.
Unfortunately interest is not charges only on the principal during each period. Interest is charge on the principal plus unpaid interest. (thus, if you owe $100 at 1% a month, the first month you owe $101 but the second month the interest is charges on $101 resulting in your owing $102.01 the third month). So while the APR might say 12% the effective interest rate when charged 1% every month is
(1+(interest rate))^12 = (1.01)^12 = 1.1268 = 12.68%

So given an APR you can calculate the effective interest rate by:

(1 + APR/term)^term = (1 + .12/12)^12 = 1.1268 = 12.68%

Posted at 11:51 PM

May 03, 2002

Motivating your employees

The following is a summary of the article One more time: How do you motivate employees? pulbished in the Jan, 1968 issue of the Harvard Business Review by Frederick Herzberg.

Herzberg argues that KITA (Kick in the Ass) is not a sustainable form of motivation. Given that a physcial KITA is not a normal form of interaction in society today the manager has to apply KITA in a different manner. Psychological KITA is the method that seems to be used more often to deliver the motivation. The other method of motivation employed by management is positive KITA. Essentially, "you do this for me and I'll give you this". Herzberg claims in this case the motivation remains with the employer. Where KITA was a push, positive KITA is a pull. His quote:


..negative KITA is rape, and positive KITA is seducation. But it is infinitely worse to be seduced than to be raped; the latter is an unfortunate occurence ,while the former signifies that you were a party to your own downfall...

The main reason why KITA is not motivation is because it needs to be applied serially to cause an action. Herzberg reviews common mechanisms used to motivate people and dispels all myths that they harbor:

reducing time at work The claim is that spending less time at work will improve employee morale and contribute to a motivated employee. Herzberg points out that a motivated employee would want to spend more time at work.

spiraling wages. Increase the wage and the employees will seek a greater increase. Herzberg claims out shrinking wages motivate people better.

Fringe benefits Companies have introduced all sorts of perks to improve employee life. Herzberg states that the cost of fringe benefits has reached 25% of the wage dollar today. He says that employee instinct has been deadened to the point the bar has to continually be raised for an employee to be motivated. From medical benefits to stock options things have continually gotten better without much improvement in employee motivation to show for it.

Human relations training The attack of sensitivity training, claims Herzberg has changed the office dynamic. The onus has been transferred to the employer that proper attitude has been demonstrated in requesting a change in bad behavior.

Other attempts at boosting motivation include Sensitivity training, Communications, two-way communications, job participation (the attempt to convey to the solitary wrench tightener on the assembly line that his efforts lead to the construction of great cars, essentially conveying job sense and the big picture) and employee counseling.

Hygiene vs Motivators
Herzberg proposes his motivation-hygiene theory. The theory states that the factors leading to job satisfaction are different from the factors leading to job dissatisfaction. The normal human thought is to consider the opposite of job satisfaction to be job dissatisfaction. The theory refutes this.

Posted at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)
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