Sunday, May 28, 2006

Nobel prize physicist on the Jewish tradition

I.I. Rabi commenting on why he thought Robert Oppenheimer never advertised his Jewish identity [American Prometheus pp. 76]:
"Oppenheimer was Jewish, but he wished he weren't and tried to pretend he wasn't...The Jewish tradition, even if you don’t know it in detail, is so strong that you renounce it at your own peril. [This] doesn’t mean you have to be Orthodox, or even practice it, but if you turn your back on it, having been born into it, you’re in trouble. So that poor Robert, an expert in Sanskrit and French literature...[Rabi's voice here trailed off into silent thought.]"
(Rabi grew up in an Orthodox home where “Even in casual conversation, G-d centered, not every paragraph, more like every sentence.” But of course, as with most very successful people, soon enough, “the formal religion fell away.”)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

one of the things I dislike about SC

In the East, a car is something that is used to get you places, in Southern California, it is so much more (and most annoyingly so!). From Get Your Motor Running:
John Lasseter grew up in Southern California, where driving is people's passion and second career, and a car their church and fortress. So if you ask Lasseter about car love, you get an impromptu prose poem. "Car love," he says, "is the sound of a throaty V-8 rumbling and revving, the acceleration throwing you back in the seat--especially when you get on a beautiful, winding road and the light's dappling through the trees. For me, it's a combination of enjoying the beauty of cars, classic or cool modern ones, and also the actual driving: getting out on the open road, whether it's a family road trip or driving by myself on a nice windy road and enjoying the ride."

another one of those I'm posting only because I like the title

Is That a Tinge of Green on New York's Yellow Cabs?:
The Taxi and Limousine Commission, under pressure from the City Council, approved six hybrid models for taxi service last fall. The first batch entered the fleet in November; there are now 27 hybrid taxis on city streets.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


See this Mike Peters cartoon.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

but work IS a four letter word

Hillary criticizes the work habits of the young folk, then Chided by Daughter, she retracts her criticism:
Mrs. Clinton said her daughter, Chelsea, called to complain after learning about her remarks at a gathering of the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Thursday. In that speech, Mrs. Clinton criticized young people for having a sense of entitlement after growing up in a "culture that has a premium on instant gratification."

"My daughter heard that I'd said that, and she called and she said, 'Mom, I do work hard and my friends work hard,' " Mrs. Clinton said on Sunday in a commencement address at the C. W. Post campus of Long Island University.

"And I said, 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to convey the impression that you don't work hard,' " Mrs. Clinton continued. "I just want to set the bar high, because we are in a competition for the future."
Chelsea is right. My friends work hard as well. I think too hard. I have friends who are taking on jobs that require at least 60 hours in the office a week. One was describing his schedule: wake up at 6:30, get to the office by 7:30, work straight through till about 9 pm, because if he stays past 8, dinner is on them, go to the gym for an hour, get home by about 10:30 pm, watch TV for an hour, and retire. Now is that a way to live?

I for one don't plan on working that hard. I hope not to at least. I think working hard is overrated. We should learn from the European's: long lunch breaks, more vacation, chilled work environment. Laziness is a virtue when it comes to enjoying life. Unless you enjoy working hard, or you do humanitarian work, I say, don't listen to Hillary, and take it easy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

science is not infallible

I can't understand how many very educated people, and even more surprisingly, many very skeptical people have implausible faith in doctors and/or too much confidence in scientific theory. That is, they believe in spite of the fact that scientific and medical findings are constantly being proved wrong. Why be less skeptical of scientific conclusions than of anything else?

Scientists reverse their conclusions about lactic acid:
Coaches and personal trainers tell athletes and exercisers that they have to learn to work out at just below their "lactic threshold," that point of diminishing returns when lactic acid starts to accumulate. Some athletes even have blood tests to find their personal lactic thresholds.

But that, it turns out, is all wrong.
And in support of intuitive thinking as opposed to basing belief on hard facts: Coaches didn’t know the science behind lactic acid, but from intuition knew what worked:
Through trial and error, coaches learned that athletic performance improved when athletes worked on endurance, running longer and longer distances, for example.

That, it turns out, increased the mass of their muscle mitochondria, letting them burn more lactic acid and allowing the muscles to work harder and longer.

And the scientists?

They took much longer to figure it out.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

There's a Mench playing for the Texas Rangers

From this NYtimes article that I did not read :

At first glance, I thought his jersey was a joke (seemed like the other players were pointing at him laughing), but seems that's his real name.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Google, please fix it

Gmail's biggest flaw: the "discard" option. Why can't discarded drafts end up in the trash like other emails? I just mistakenly discarded a draft, the second time I've made the mistake this week. Luckily, I haven't lost anything too important yet...

(I just emailed myself a very important draft, just in case.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'm "energy in its purest form"

You Are Diet Coke

You are energy in its purest form. No need to complicate things with sweetness.
And while people may hate your aftertaste, you are seen as a necessary evil.

Your best soda match: 7 Up

Stay away from: Coke

I tag bits'n pieces, I'm Haaretz, Ph.D., and A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND (these are the only bloggers I know to read my blog), and anyone else who wants to do it, even if you don't have a blog, cuz it's fun to waste time, and it's only 5 questions.

Blaine fails, but survives

Blaine fails to break underwater record in New York:
After Blaine spent seven minutes and 8 seconds underwater without any breathing apparatus, he blacked out and trainer Kirk Krack sent two divers into the tank to free him from shackles attached to his ankles.

Monday, May 08, 2006

good line

From Report Finds Failures in Duke's Response in Lacrosse Case:
The case has generated enormous attention nationally and internationally because it involves issues of race, class, alcohol, university athletics, elitism and town-gown relationships.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

on innate talent

Some interesting conclusions regarding memory and talent from A Star Is Made:
This success, coupled with later research showing that memory itself is not genetically determined, led Ericsson to conclude that the act of memorizing is more of a cognitive exercise than an intuitive one. In other words, whatever innate differences two people may exhibit in their abilities to memorize, those differences are swamped by how well each person "encodes" the information. And the best way to learn how to encode information meaningfully, Ericsson determined, was a process known as deliberate practice.

Ericsson's research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't "good" at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.
I'll buy the second bit of information, since I've experienced it. I went from enjoying engineering and doing well in my classes, to being horribly bored by it, which led to a decrease in performance (or maybe it was the realization that I'm not actually gifted in the field that lead to loss of interest?). But I'm skeptical of the memory findings: I'm not sure I could ever improve my memory...

"I can do it myself"

Rather frightening article on the Brit's shortage of dentists (the picture shown of the 43 year old, who looks at least 70, might be most horrific of all):
"I snapped it out myself," said William Kelly, 43, describing his most recent dental procedure, the autoextraction of one of his upper teeth.

William Kelly, 43, extracted part of his own tooth, leaving a black stump. He plans to pull one more.

Now it is a jagged black stump, and the pain gnawing at Mr. Kelly's mouth has transferred itself to a different tooth, mottled and rickety, on the other side of his mouth. "I'm in the middle of pulling that one out, too," he said.

It is easy to be mean about British teeth. Mike Myers's mouth is a joke in itself in the "Austin Powers" movies. In a "Simpsons" episode, dentalphobic children are shown "The Big Book of British Smiles," cautionary photographs of hideously snaggletoothed Britons. In Mexico, protruding, discolored and generally unfortunate teeth are known as "dientes de ingles."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

the religion of scientists

From American Prometheus [pp. 35]:
But if there were gaps in his education, he could admit to his friend Paul Horgan that Harvard was good for him. In the autumn of 1923, Robert wrote Horgan a satirical letter in which he wrote about himself in third person: “[Oppenheimer] has grown to be quite a man now you have no idea how Harvard has changed him. I am afraid it is not for the good of his soul to study so hard. He says the most terrible things. Only the other night I was arguing with him and I said but you believe in G-d don’t you? And he said I believe in the second law of thermodynamics, in Hamilton’s Principle, in Bertrand Russell, and would you believe it Siegfried [sic] Freud.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

possibly the number one screensaver being downloaded


If he gets stuck, just move him with your cursor.

Monday, May 01, 2006

the immigrant strike benefits at least one native (me)

This morning I got the following email from my professor:
Dear Class:

I am writing today to you to cancel class today. As an immigrant to the US with my family, I observe the nation-wide strike of immigrants today, for which reason I need to cancel today's class.

Of course, we continue on Wednesday.

Read more about the strike here:
Thousands of illegal immigrants and their allies across the country plan a show of force Monday to illustrate how much immigrants matter in the U.S. economy.

Some will skip work, others will protest at lunch breaks, school walkouts or at rallies after work. There are planned church services, candlelight vigils, picnics and human chains.