24 July 2011

Texas solves problems by ... prayer!

Look at this man:
He is Rick Perry, the governor of Texas. He recently announced that America is going through hard times, facing political and financial problems. He decided that the solution is to establish the 6th of August as "Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation". Read more and watch his proclamation video here. He claims:
We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles. 
The response, he continues, will be a gathering in Reliant Stadium (which will be air-conditioned)  in Houston on 6 August where Texans (and others) will be praying in order to solve America's problems:
I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.
Such pretentious events are happening all the time in Texas. Religion and state are intricately intertwined. I lived several  years in Texas and witnessed many such idiocies. One can really feel sick if one has to live in such a state. I couldn't stand it watching people declare that guns are necessarary to protect themselves from the devil. The more religious someone is in Texas the more likely is that he/she has all sorts of guns. They love religion and guns. The more they love one, the more they have of the other.

George W. Bush proclaimed 10 June 2000 to be Jesus day.  Rick Perry, his successor, decided that 6 August will be a prayer and fasting day. On this page, you can sign up for participating in the Houston event, and you can decide how many days in advance you are going to start the prayer and fasting. All that, sponsored not by a freaky religious organization but by a political unit: the State of Texas.

22 July 2011

Applied religion?

I wonder if there is any relation between, say, the desire of many to admire objects, or have idols, with the need of many to have a faith, a religion. I am, in this particular case, talking about the following piece of news:
Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress on display
My reaction is: Who cares? But, apparently, many do. Why? What is the need that drives them to do so? Could it be related to the (their) need for faith?

15 July 2011

Women's rights in Saudi Arabia

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. Quran 4:34

The passage above from the Qu'ran is, supposedly, what makes women be (much) inferior  to men in Saudi Arabia and other theocratic regimes. This article from wikipedia describes the situation well. Saudi Arabia is one of the worst countries in the world regarding gender equality. What a striking difference from Sweden! Women are, literally, owned by men, just because a text written some 1500 years ago says so. There is child marriage too. Just like Mohammed married Aisha when she was 9 or 10 years old... The head veil which covers most of the head is not the worst thing that can happen to women there. Some women do want their heads to be covered (some don't, but they have no choice).
Stoning is still being practiced in Saudi Arabia. A woman found to have any relationship outside her marriage may be subject to the brutal punishment of death by stoning. By contrast, a man will not be punished in the same way. The suspicion alone of a woman’s wrong-doing can be enough for her to be subject to violence in the name of honor. In 2007, a young woman was murdered by her father for chatting with a man on facebook. Women lack in education, and, many times, education means memorization of large parts of the Qu'ran.

To be continued.

How to make the masses obey

 Suppose you are a leader of a big country. Say the Roman empire. Or Russia. What do you do to make people follow you? One way is to identify their religious tendencies and amplify them. You adopt, as state religion, the one which the majority of the people like. You then do a bit of marketing, preferably indirectly, and convince people that you, as a state leader, are chosen by the god(s) of the promoted religion. Then you are on a good path.

This is an almost sure recipe for success. Despite the fact that it has been employed hundreds of times in the human history, it still works! Why? Simply because people cannot reason independently of an authority.

Take, for instance, Constantine I, a.k.a. "Constantine the Great" or "Saint Constantine" (none of which adjectives has anything to do with his true nature). He sensed that his subjects were falling victims of a religion known as Christianity and so he declared he had a vision in which he was told to adopt the religion as official one for his empire. So he did. The devastating consequences are well-known.

Or take Vladimir Putin. A former KGB agent of the, supposedly atheist, Soviet Union, current prime minister of Russia, has been, for a few years now, officially endorsing Orthodox Christianity as official religion of Russia. Vladislav Surkov, Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, a staunch Putin supporter and one of Russia’s most powerful men, declared:
“I honestly believe that Putin is a person who was sent to Russia by fate and by the Lord at a difficult time for Russia.” “(Putin was) preordained by fate to preserve our peoples.” 
You can find the full story in Reuters, but I first saw it here. Reuters also reports that:
Two months ago, a nun-like sect appeared in central Russia claiming that Putin was a saint and a saviour. A spokesman said Putin "does not approve of that kind of admiration".
Indeed, Putin is modest. He does not approved that kind of admiration. Not yet, that is. However, recall that he wants to be buried next to Stalin, and that Stalin is often viewed as a "saint" by many Russians. See my earlier posting titled "Saint Joseph Stalin" for more information.

In order to justify their behavior, they turn their theories into dogmas, their bylaws into First Principles, their political bosses into Gods and all those who disagree with them into incarnate devils. This idolatrous transformation of the relative into the Absolute and the all too human into the Divine, makes it possible for them to indulge their ugliest passions with a clear conscience and in the certainty that they are working for the Highest Good. And when the current beliefs come, in their turn, to look silly, a new set will be invented, so that the immemorial madness may continue to wear its customary mask of legality, idealism, and true religion. --Aldous Huxley

11 July 2011

Canción de la Hilandera

Canción de la Hilandera (song of the spinning wheel) is a piece of music written by Agustín Barrios Mangoré in 1933. It uses the tremolo technique and evokes the rythmic sound of a spinning wheel. Barrios was a genius. One of the most prolific guitar composers, his work was late-Romantic in character, music belonging to the past, even for his era. He spoke Guaraní and liked to dress like the native people of his country, Paraguay. The following performance of the canción de la Hilandera is very good:

10 July 2011

Sweden's 'gender-neutral' pre-school

This is very funny. Below are some excerpts, without comments. The rest can be read at the recent BBC article.

Egalia: new *public* pre-school in Stockholm. An experiment in making little children behave the way they want without paying attention to their gender; in fact, the teachers will discourage them from referring to one another by using personal pronouns like "he" and "she". In Swedish, "he" is "han" and "she" is "hon". They will switch to "hen"--a nonexistent word in Swedish.

The books have been carefully selected to avoid traditional presentations of gender and parenting roles. So, out with the likes of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, and in with, for example, a book about two giraffes who find an abandoned baby crocodile and adopt it.

As for toys, if the boys want to play with dolls, or if the girls want to play with tractors, that is fine. At Egalia boys are free to dress up and to play with dolls, if that is what they want to do.

They want to change society and make childre forget their gender, from early on. Gender researchers have convinced politicians that the solution to all problems is a gender perspective.

But what is *very funny* is that The Egalia school - which is state-funded - is proving popular though, and boasts a long waiting list.

I moved to Sweden last year and some people told me that the government spends a lot of money into gender issues. I didn't know what they meant. But I heard funny things like, for instance, someone in the university claiming that when she first read that the mitochondrial DNA passes to children only through the mother, she thought "oh, yes, this is so feministic" [sic].


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