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Showing posts from 2011

Digital Storage

1956  IBM's 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control) hard disk - composed of 50 24-inch discs, stacked together and taking up 16 sq ft of real estate. The once-cutting-edge monstrosity was capable of commanding an annual fee of $35,000 and stored up to 5MB of data: Now, let's compare it to one of the contemporary storage options (averagely sized and priced) - Kingston Digital DataTraveler flash drive: Size - 2.2 x 0.4 x 0.7 inches; weight - 5.6 ounces; capacity 16GB; price - $17.00. So, based on these examples and by my rough estimates in the last 55 years the storage went down in physical size by over 46,000 times and in price by over 2,000 times; while storage capacity went up by about 35,000 times. Of course, this is not exactly comparing oranges to oranges, but I am sure you get the picture.

The golden circle; modeling the brain, etc.

Psychobabble, mambo jumbo? - I don't know, but I found it to be very interesting and well presented: My brain, my universe:

Enough is enough!

" KHL crash darkens hockey’s grim summer " -  Once again, awful, awful news!  How long this is going to continue? - Russian planes crashing, boats capsizing! It's clear to me that the autocratic, top-down approach of the government crackdowns on bureaucracy, corruption and general irresponsibility (all of which are integral parts of the said government), as well as ever tougher laws and regulations are not working. You can not create responsible citizenry (гражданское общество) by a decree! And it does not seem to develop naturally within the social system that puts way too much faith into the government and the political system devoid of any real competition!

New Geopolitics of Food

A few months ago I have listened to a pretty interesting interview with  Lester Brown  (a founder of Earth Policy Institute and a prolific author, among other things) on the NPR program called Fresh Air. Thanks to the awesome powers of our connected world the recording is still available here . Then, I have revisited the subject a couple of days ago when a conversation with a coworker prompted me to look a few things up and I came across an article in Foreign Policy magazine that was probably a precursor to that interview. I am not sure if I agree with all the views and theories expressed, I simply don't know enough about the subject matter to form a solid opinion, but it certainly was educational. Check it out, judge for yourself. 09/06/2011: I kept thinking about the subject of security of World's food supply on and off. Obviously, this is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive solution. Here's a short quotation from aforementioned article by Lester Brown - &

Rudyard Kipling, #2

I keep six honest serving-men  (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When   And How and Where and Who. I send them over land and sea,  I send them east and west; But after they have worked for me,  I give them all a rest. I let them rest from nine till five,  For I am busy then, As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,  For they are hungry men. But different folk have different views;  I know a person small— She keeps ten million serving-men, Who get no rest at all! She sends'em abroad on her own affairs,  From the second she opens her eyes— One million Hows, two million Wheres, And seven million Whys!

Rudyard Kipling, #1

This - the poetry of Rudyard Kipling -  was a bit of a surprise. As a kid I have read (in Russian translation) "The Jungle Book" and other Mowgli stories, the "Just So Stories", etc. So, I was firmly under impression that he only wrote prose and  Kipling's poetry became a small, but very pleasant discovery for me. I can't quite pinpoint why I like Kipling's poetry (for me, a non-native speaker, it is often hard to appreciate  English poetry ), but I do. Here's one of my favorites:                          If If you can keep your head when all about you  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;  If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,  But make allowance for their doubting too;  If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,  Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,  Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,  And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;  If you can th

Robert Burns, #2

Comin Thro' The Rye O Jenny's a' weet, poor body,  Jenny's seldom dry:  She draigl't a' her petticoatie,  Comin thro' the rye!  Comin thro' the rye, poor body,  Comin thro' the rye,  She draigl't a' her petticoatie,  Comin thro' the rye!  Gin a body meet a body  Comin thro' the rye,  Gin a body kiss a body,  Need a body cry?  Gin a body meet a body  Comin thro' the glen,  Gin a body kiss a body,  Need the warld ken?  Gin a body meet a body  Comin thro' the grain,  Gin a body kiss a body,  The thing's a body's ain.                *** Пробираясь до калитки Полем вдоль межи, Дженни вымокла до нитки Вечером во ржи. Очень холодно девчонке, Бьет девчонку дрожь: Замочила все юбчонки, Идя через рожь. Если кто-то звал кого-то Сквозь густую рожь И кого-то обнял кто-то, Что с него возьмешь? И какая нам забота, Если у межи Целовался с кем-то кто-то Вечером во ржи!..

Spring (or summer) cleaning

Today I have decided to do something that was long overdue - clean up computer stuff that sort of built up over the years. I should have done it long time ago. After all, I haven't used most of it in years, but the idea of parting with it just did not sit right with me. There were definitely a lot of nostalgic feelings and a thought, in the back of my mind, that one day I might need it. Well, the needing it part was discarded quite easily (when you look below you will see why) and as far as nostalgia goes I found a compromise - I would photograph the items before discarding them. So, here we go.   First a few communications items. Like the 56Kbps modem, ISDN router, and satellite modem (once used with Dish Network/StarBand service).  Ascend Pipeline 75 router (ISDN): Gilat satellite modem (the dish is still up on the roof): Modem (56Kbps): Then a trip down the storage technology memory lane: Iomega Zip (100MB) and Jaz (1GB) drives and cartridges:     And how about what on

I did it my way

I recently finished reading a book by Frank Brady - " Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness ". Growing up in the USSR and being a chess player myself (one who has a profound interest in the history of the game as well as the game itself) I knew quite a bit about Bobby Fischer to begin with. I have read a number of books on the subject:  " Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How A Lone American Star Defeated the Soviet Chess Machine ", " Bobby Fischer: The Career and Complete Games of the American World Chess Champion ",  " Garry Kasparov on Fischer: Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors, Part 4 ", " Russians versus Fischer ", "744 Games Of Bobby Fischer", " Robert Fischer Life and Game"; and, of course, Fischer's own book -  " My 60 Memorable Games ". Add to that a number of references I picked up, over the years, from chess periodic

Robert Burns, #1

Another one of my favorite poets is Scotland's Favorite Son -  Robert Burns . I first read his poems in Russian translation when I was a little kid and liked them right away. I enjoy them still in both Russian and English. His poetry is full of  beautiful  simplicity and lyricism, and that is why,  I think, it lands itself so well to Russian translation. Well, judge for yourself: My Heart's In The Highlands Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North, The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth; Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, The hills of the Highlands for ever I love. My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here; My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer; A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe, My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go. Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow; Farewell to the straths and green valleys below; Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods; Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floo

Omar Khayyám, The Rubaiyat #1

I am a big fan of poetry and "The Rubaiyat" of Omar Khayyám is one of my favorites. Naturally, I have first discovered him in Russian translation and I still enjoy it the most (by far), but recently I have been exploring English translation of his work as well; and some things are not bad at all. So, I decided to do a few posts of my favorites in both languages to showcase the differences and the similarities. This is a first one (hopefully, of many):   You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse I made a Second Marriage in my house; Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed, And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.                           *** Мы чашей весом в ман печаль сердец убьем, Обогатим себя кувшинами с вином. Трикраты дав развод сознанью, званью, вере, На дочери лозы мы женимся потом.

Nothing to lose

I was listening to an NPR broadcast driving back from work when one thing caught my ear. The topic of discussion had something to do with the use by US judges and supreme justices of various verses from American POP and Rock culture. One example was the following verse from  "Like a Rolling Stone" - a 1965 song by Bob Dylan:  "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose" . This sounds all good and dandy, but I think this is just a  paraphrase of: " The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains" from the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" by  Marx & Engels published in 1848. So, they've got Dylan beat by about 117 years :)    

Cadres Decide Everything!

About a month or so ago I've glanced through a very interesting article in the Bloomberg Businessweek magazine that talked about  SAS,   the world's largest privately held software company, and its success in keeping  employee turnover rate down to 2.6 percent (in 2010). Compare this to the info-tech industry's average of 22 percent and you will see a monumental scale of this achievement. I find it interesting that SAS doesn't make a big fuss out of the results of its sound retention strategy by flashing it across the website or having it enshrined within corporate motto (like so many IT consulting companies do). Instead, SAS keeps focusing on its core strengths of business intelligence and analytics, but with a clear understanding that every business is, first and foremost, a human endeavor (at least for now); and from that point of view - human capital is priceless. The bottom line - SAS may sound dusty (conceived in 1966, incorporated in 1976) and may not bring

Rational Decision-Making

I've been going through some of my old notes and decided to pull a couple of them together for another post. Decision making is an interesting subject, something that applies to all spheres of our lives - from everyday decision making, to economics, politics, etc. In some cases it is desirable to delay making decisions as long as possible - " I've learned one thing in politics. You don't make a decision until you have to" ( Margaret Thatcher ); in some we need to make decisions quickly - the rapid-fire decisions that make up our daily lives. Sometimes we need to rely on intuition  and instinct, sometimes it is necessary to carefully consider and weigh a complex set of inputs and variables. But regardless of the circumstances we can benefit from getting rid of myths surrounding decision making and becoming more aware of the inner processes we use to make those decisions. For example, the following article from the  Harvard Magazine:  " The Marketplace of Perc

When The Bough Breaks

Not too long ago I published a post titled " Academic Inflation and New Education Paradigms ", it had a cool short video featuring  Ken Robinson  and also referenced his book -  "Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative" ( I am happy to report that I have finished reading it, but a more detailed coverage will be a subject of another post, stay tuned ). The basic premise of the video as well as the book - a major overhaul of our education system is urgently needed. It was designed at a different time, in a different world, and for a different purpose; thus, it can not meet the demands of today or the future. So, while Ken Robinson takes a poke or two at our current system's bias towards academicism and science at the expense of arts and creativity , there are others who feel we are not biased enough at the time when the rate of acceleration in the field of science and technology is arguably the highest in recorded history.  A few month ago I've read a ve

Tempus Fugit

I recently started reading what promises to be a very interesting book - "The Time Paradox" by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd. It opens up quite unexpectedly with a story about Capuchin Crypt, a somewhat surreal place located under one of the churches in Rome. This is the kind of stuff one comes to expect from Dan Brown's novels (say, "The Da Vinci Code" or "Angels and Demons"), but much less so from the book, written by a psychology professor from Stanford and a research director for Yahoo!, that according to one review - "reveals how to better use your most irreplaceable resource [time], based on solid science and timeless wisdom". Wikipedia - "The Capuchin Crypt is a small space comprising several tiny chapels located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini in Rome, Italy. It contains the skeletal remains of 4,000 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars buried by their o