18 June 2015

Citation nonsense

We're at the era of the Internet. So, for many, knowledge and research evaluation has been translated to counting citations: the more citations you have, the better you are. So they think.

But, of course, they're wrong. I won't insult anybody's intelligence by presenting obvious arguments that show how faulty the process above is. I leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Cui bono, however, one should ask. Well, again the answer is obvious.

But something worse is happening now. Publishers don't leave me alone. They *force* me to look at every instance a paper of mine is cited.
From: Elsevier CiteAlert [citealert@mail.elsevier.com]
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 5:48 PM
To: Takis Konstantopoulos
Subject: Dr. T. Konstantopoulos, your work has been cited.
Dear T. Konstantopoulos,
It is our pleasure to inform you that your publication has been cited in a journal published by Elsevier.
Through this unique service we hope we can offer you valuable information, and make you aware of publications in your research area.
Best regards,
The CiteAlert team
Damn Internet and email. I don't care to be reminded. I'll look it up myself if and when I need to. I don't need some robot telling me my cited papers. Cui bono, in this case? Well, obviously Elsevier. They want me to click at the paper citing my paper and then, in return cite their paper, etc. This is beneficial for the profits of Elsevier and they think that this is beneficial for me too. I don't care Elsevier. Leave me alone.

And, yes, I did try to unsubscribe, but it didn't work.

Lately, I published a paper in an Elsevier journal. I must have received 100 emails or so related to that paper: "Your paper is about to appear" "One week before the appearance of your paper." "Your paper appeared on out site." "Your paper is about to appear in the printed version." "Your paper appeared in the printed version, send us money  and we'll send you hard copies." And then: "Someone clicked and checked your paper" "Here are some new papers that are related to your work." And so on.

I don't want to be misunderstood: of course I'm interested for further research but not when a robot decides, on the basis of some stupid algorithm, that someone's work is close to mine. I want to talk to human beings, not to your spamming robots Elsevier!


16 June 2015

Ramadan in places where the sun does not set

Ramadan is a period, around this time of the year, when Muslims are supposed to fast during daylight and eat when the sun sets. (And fasting means eating nothing and drinking nothing, not even water or beer.) That's supposed to be a religious duty commanded by god. The issue is this however: In Uppsala, the sun hardly sets these days and further north it does not set at all.

So there is a problem. Clearly,  if they eat nothing at all they'll get sick or die. So they came up with new rules. See here and here:
Mohammed Kharaki, a spokesman for Sweden's Islamic Association, said the organisation had this week issued guidelines that said Muslims should fast between the times that the sun was last clearly seen to rise and fall - despite this concession, this could well amount to a 19-hour fast.
Sure, one would argue, they had to come up with something. But could they not come up with the obvious fact that there is a contradiction?

Clearly, the author of the "holy" books that tell people to fast during daylight and eat when it's dark did not know that there were places on the planet where the sun does not set. (For all I know, he could very well be under the impression that the Earth was flat.) The claim is that the author of these books is supposed to be god, who, by the way, is omniscient. So we have a contradiction.

So, instead of realizing that this contradiction leads to the obvious conclusion that the author of the books is not omniscient, they decided to change the rules.

But this is the nature of religion: regardless of the amount of evidence against its tenets, religion will not accept any contradictions. In fact, the larger the amount of contradictions religious folk are faced with, the stronger their belief. This, in my opinion, is the most fundamental aspect (perhaps the defining aspect) of religion.

The Uppsala mosque, picture taken from the Independent

15 June 2015

Vatican priest abuses children

Is this news, you'd ask. No, of course not. It is well-known that off a guy had a desire to molest children then all he had to do was to become a priest in the Catholic church. But, here we are again:

Vatican ex-envoy Wesolowski faces child sex abuse trial
Jozef Wesolowski is accused of sexually abusing children in the Dominican Republic from 2008 to 2013. He is under house arrest in the Vatican. The trial is to begin on 11 July. Wesolowski, 66, is also charged with possession of child pornography, dating from his return to Rome in 2013. Last year, the Pope compared the actions of those who commit such crimes to a "satanic mass".
What's the difference between a "satanic mass" and a "regular mass"? Well, in the former case everyone recognizes it as evil; but in the latter case, it takes several decades for the evil to come out.
The Vatican also accepted the resignations of an archbishop in the United States and his deputy following accusations that their archdiocese covered up the sexual abuse of children. They are Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
John Nienstedt said in a statement that his leadership had drawn attention away from the good works of the church but stressed he was leaving "with a clear conscience".
Bullshit, of course. The previous pope, Joseph Ratzinger, and the Vatican, and the whole establishment called Catholic church have been covering up, for decades, their pedophile priests. For them, it was more important to save face rather than face reality. When the shit hit the fan, they had to do something. And, very very reluctantly, they started the process of sending some of their holy priests to justice.

Read The Case of the Pope, by the distinguished human rights lawyer and judge Geoffrey Robertson to find out what real evil means.
Their resignation [of the US Catholic priests mentioned above] comes after prosecutors charged their archdiocese with "turning a blind eye" to repeated reports of inappropriate behaviour by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys.
Neither man was named in the indictment.
Prosecutors accuse the archdiocese of failing to respond to "numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct" by Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest currently serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys.
Five years for molesting two boys? What about  Joseph Ratzinger who knowingly supported and helped hide others who molested dozens and dozens of children? The usual reply is that he cannot be indicted because he was the head of a State.

Bullshit, again. According to international law, Vatican is not a state.

8 June 2015

Guns laws: from bad to worse

Back in the 90's when Dubya (George W Bush) was running for governor of Texas he promised to pass a law stating that people can carry guns as long as they were hidden inside their jacket or trousers or skirts. It was the so-called concealed weapons law. Soon after he became governor, the law was passed and everybody rejoiced. Now you could have a pistol or two as long as you kept it out of sight.

My ex-colleague Gary Wise, for instance, had a dozen or more guns so well-concealed that the police failed to find them when we reported that he was threatening to shoot us (faculty members at the University of Texas, Austin). Perhaps they did not want to find them because he was a man of faith: he was conducting Bible study classes and, according to the Texas mentality, this automatically meant that everything he said was true. When he used his guns against University administrators he was arrested and put to prison.

And then there was the following debate: Should guns be allowed in churches or not? It was soon decided that, yes, guns should be allowed in churches, as long as the church is ok with it, because, guns protect against the Satan.

And recently, a new law was proposed and is about to be signed: anyone can now carry guns openly and in full view. In fact, the ex-governor of Texas (successor of Dubya), Rick Perry, has been exhibiting guns for long time now:
The current law will prohibit police for stopping anyone carrying guns openly. Now Texas will be added to the list of the worst and most intimidating gun states. Congratulations Texas!

Over the last 30 years or so, guns have been spreading fast in the US. It looks like the US is going back to that it was 200 years ago, when  Lucky Luke was roaming...  The following animated gif map shows the spread of the epidemic.

And let's see an incident of guns use by the police: yesterday, police raided a teens party and stopped the loud teens by the use of guns. Sweet, isn't it?

10 May 2015

Japanese cinema

When I lived in other places, e.g., in Edinburgh, I used to go to the cinema regularly, actually mostly to the legendary Filmhouse and to the Cameo. Unfortunately, around here (Uppsala, Sweden) most cinemas, besides being very expensive, just show very low quality films. This restriction forced me to seek alternative venues. And so I discovered Japanese cinema. For long time now, I've been watching free Japanese films of bygone times, those films that are, of course, available for free on the Internet. And so I compiled a list which I would like to share:

My Japanese cinema list

In it, one can find films by Kenji Mizoguchi (such as Ugetsu Monogatari, Sansho the Bailiff and the Crucified Lovers, all highly recommended), by Hiroshi Simizu (such as Mr Thank You, a real must) and by Yasujiro Ozu (such as Late Spring, Ohayo [Good Morning], which one should watch at least twice). Unfortunately, Tokyo Story, one of the greatest films ever made, is not available with English subtitles.

Japan has a long history in film, starting from 1897. Most people know Akira Kurosawa and, more recently, Takeshi Kitano, but the films in my list go back to the roots of the Japanese cinema. Perhaps the reason that Japan has had such a stunning cinematic production can be traced to its long tradition in theatre that produced the genres of Gagaku, Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki. But I can't say for sure because I'm neither an expert nor I have much knowledge about the these genres other than a cursory one. Nevertheless, last year, I did manage to visit the great exhibition of 19th-century Japanese Kabuki theatre woodblock prints at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.




T H E B O T T O M L I N E

What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant