20 August 2011

University of Texas shootings, II

About a year ago, someone went in the University of Texas campus and started shooting at random. Finally he shot himself to death. Fortunately, nobody (else) was killed.

I commented on this in a previous posting. I mentioned, inter alia, a personal experience, and also linked a news video
showing a policeman apparently stating that  students should be mentally prepared that, now and then, a gunman may show up on campus and advises them to be alert.
I concluded my posting by the following observation:
I wouldn't be surprised if further advice was given that people should carry guns in order to protect themselves. This is not uncommon in the US. Instead of trying to put a restriction on guns when fatalities happen, it is peculiar that they want exactly the opposite: they are convinced that gun fatalities can only be prevented by more guns.
For it is often the case that Americans respond to gun fatalities by acquiring more guns.

And here is a response I received, recently, by an angry commenter who doesn't dare reveal his identity:
Absurd, huh? Except for the fact that whenever guns are taken away, crime goes up. Criminals don't worry about getting guns, they get them, they always get them. It's the law abiding people that turn them in. Get your data straight. Idiot. You typical bleeding heart liberal.
There is a link between gun supporters and religious freaks. In my opinion, it is self-righteousness. They think that they are better than others (because, say, their god(s) speak(s) directly to them) and impose their will by "rolling up their sleeves and beat the others up". Just as Lao Tze described in Tao Te Ching, Ch. 38. Obama was right when, in 2008, remarked:
"They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Of course, back then, this was seen as a blunder. Obama (who I don't believe is really religious) had to play his cards right and be seen to go to church; otherwise, he would have decreased his chances of being elected.

Back to my point then: The angry commenter above really expresses the average gun owner in the US: Guns save life. Yes, in a society where guns are so much accepted, several people grow up by wanting more of them. One can't get rid of deeply rooted evils. It's just like religion: in a society where religion is the norm, you are an outcast if you don't go to church. I really feel sorry for friends in Midwest where they have to struggle to keep up with their neighbours' rejection just because they don't care to go to (any) church. They have no guns either.

Oh, incidentally, the typical bleeding heart liberal comment about me above makes me crack up.

Malagueña facil (and the last few seconds of it)

Malagueña facil is a piece of music for classical guitar, composed by Francisco Tárrega. The composer, Tárrega, bearing the name of  the small town in Cataluña, was a classical guitarist  

of the romantic period who laid the foundations of classical guitar, as we know it now. He was the teacher of  Emilio Pujol and Miguel Llobet. The malagueñas is one of the traditional styles of flamenco music from Andaluzía. In composing it, Tárrega was probably inspired by the gypsies: as a teenager, he ran away from home to join the gypsies in Valencia.This particular piece was titled "malagueña facil", i.e. "easy malagueña", but it is nothing but (too) easy. Indeed, playing it in its proper tempo requires the kind of dexterity that a folk guitarist (a gypsy, say) has when playing flamenco. There are many poor performances (including mine) on the internet and elsewhere, but the following one I find superb:

The last 15 seconds of the piece (from 1:05 until the end in the video above) are the most challenging ones, most difficult to get right. (To wit, click on other performances on youtube.) This performer gets them just right. And these 15 seconds make all the difference in the world.

5 August 2011

Sect or religion?

I really don't understand what the difference is between a sect and a religion. It appears that the only difference is political. For some Christians, Jehova's witnesses is a sect. For some Muslims, Sufism is a sect. Etc. It is totally arbitrary. Indeed, since religion (as well as all its off-spins, creationism, intelligent design, etc.), by definition, is based on hot air. What constitutes a sect can change with time and location.

Maybe you read today about a certain Warren Jeffs who was  convicted of sexual assault. The linked BBC article refers to his religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as "fundamentalist" and as a "sect". Why, I wonder. Why is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints more of a sect than, say, the religion headed by Patriarch Kirill I? It is a matter of convention.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is known for advocating polygamy. In fact, it seems that this is precisely what made it popular in the first place. Brigham Young, the 19th c. leader of this religion, had 55 wives. He used religion and god in order to justify this, and, apparently, had many followers. Today, there is a university which goes bears his name. Rather embarrassing, isn't it?

1 August 2011

Chimp feeds tiger

Here is another example of how primates can be trained to follow a  human-like behaviour. I just watched a BBC video showing a young chimpanzee, Dodo, feed a tiger cub from a bottle of milk. He has been doing so for a year. I always find animal behaviour fascinating (not least because it can make us aware of ourselves).


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