|May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)|
|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
Protschai strana, dusha tvoya vsegda, vsegda prebudet s nami
V suetu gorodov i potoki mashin,
|Russian Oldies||Russian Romances||Odnozuchno gremit kolokolcik||Russian Songs of the Wartime||Netrebko||Dark Eyes||Russian Basso Profondo|
|Popular in Russia Foreign Songs||Pathological Russophobia of the US elite||Demonization of Putin||Anti-Russian hysteria in connection emailgate and DNC leak||Fake News scare and US NeoMcCartyism||Fake news hysteria in US MSM as a method of uppressing dissent against neoliberalism and militarism||Color revolutions|
|Fifth Column of Neoliberal Globalization||Compradors vs. national bourgeoisie||Russian Jokes about Neoliberal Fifth Column and Color Revolutions||Neoliberal Compradors and lumpenelite||Kiev||Classic Ukrainian Songs on Youtube||Figure skating|
|Softpanorama bulletin contents||Some Russian works used in English||E-mail messages decoding||Culture||Random Findings||Humor||Etc|
As far as I can recall conditions of writing software in Russia, Ukraine and the whole xUSSR region always were bad. Exceptionally bad under communists. Poverty, very bad hardware, stupid and arrogant managers (such IS managers can probably be found only in the largest US corporations :-), again horrible poverty, bad telecommunication infrastructure or very bad telecommunication infrastructure or no telecommunication infrastructure at all ;-(. See also Tribute to Dmitry Gurtyak.
But something, probably it's a cultural thing (BTW intelligentsia is a Russian word) this area of the planet nevertheless provides a lot of gifted programmers :-). In 90th due to economic turmoil the brain-drain from this region was substantial. But nevertheless there are still a lot of talented programmers (as well as talented mathematicians) in this region. And what is really amazing, despite huge economical problems and poverty Russian/Ukrainian mathematical and programming education is still on a decent level. But that 's becoming more and more difficult as no due attention is paid to the secondary social functions of science. Scientists are needed not only to do research but also to teach -- in particular, to maintain the system of higher education -- and to preserve an intellectual atmosphere in society at large...
By Russian developers I will mean programmers that can speak Russian language -- it's a cultural, not ethnic definition (there is a special gender of computer humor that I can call "Russians are coming" see, for example, this story). Recently USA and other developed countries (Israel, Australia, Canada, Germany, UK, to name a few) were the major beneficiaries of the brain-drain from the xUSSR region (Israel alone benefited on the scale 6 billions a year -- as Israeli officials admit themselves, USA probably benefited at least twice as much). BBS quoted a Russian trade union official who said that "more than half a million scientists and computer programmers have left the country since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991" Anyway a lot of first-class programmers left xUSSR region for economic and political reasons and settled in other countries. One can be surprised by how much code in mainstream software products were written by programmers of Russian descent. Let's do not assume that the brain drain was a totally negative phenomenon. due to suppression of business is Soviet times, science was a magnet for intelligent people. Some redistribution of society's intellectual resources away from science and technology is therefore a necessary part of the post-Soviet transition.
Below is a very small personal selection of products by Russian programmers that can a little bit widen horizons of the people who can attribute to Russian programmers Tetris and STL library only. It's very eclectic, based on my personal preferences and in no way complete. I collected this just from purely educational standpoint -- in no way I claim any regional or cultural superiority of Russian speaking programmers (preferences and programming style can be a little bit different -- see for example The Orthodox File Manager(OFM) Paradigm; also some languages were much more used in xUSSR region than elsewhere -- for example PL/1 dominated on mainframes and managed almost completely eliminate Cobol; Pascal, especially, Turbo Pascal and Delphi also seems to be used more widely than in the USA).
Generally I just want to pay a small tribute to people who in immensely difficult conditions managed to became first class programmers and despite all odds finish products that other can benefit from. Many nice programs were written for Microsoft platform (see for example Far and Rar). First of all Microsoft software is very popular in this region. Contrary to primitive understanding of this complex issue, software piracy is actually a positive marketing tool. People will make an illegal copy of a friend's favorite program and often (especially if the program is used for business purposes) like it enough to eventually buy it for the price three-five times exceeding the price of the same program in the USA (Just look on the Web how much Microsoft charges for the for the localized version of the Office). Or maybe the person doesn't buy it, because its too expensive, but they will never buy a competitor's product either. This is largely how Microsoft Office became the standard in former USSR countries. Before Star Office it just did not have any really dangerous competitors.
The selection below contains both open source and shareware products. Most of shareware products described below are not crippled. The "share" in shareware should imply a sense of altruism that is much lacking in the products that provide only subset of features to unregistered users. I consider such software a demoware, not shareware.
Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov
P.S. To save bandwidth for people (as opposite to robots) the page was split in several sections:
See also Fighting Russophobia, Russian Jokes about Neoliberal Fifth Column and Color Revolutions and Russian White Revolution of 2011-2012 for some more politically oriented staff.
Jan 22, 2016 | www.businessinsider.comFor several months last year, Canadian photographer David Burdeny toured around the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, snapping photos of the most beautiful and ornate train stations he found.
And he found a lot.
The metro stations were all built in the early- to mid-20th century, mostly as propagandist odes to Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.
As Burdeny tells Tech Insider, these stations are beloved by the people who travel through them.
We can see why.
US smuggled banned book to readers in Soviet Union after British spy managed to photograph Pasternak's original text
Newly declassified CIA documents suggest that in 1957 an unnamed British intelligence officer managed to photograph Pasternak's original text. Pasternak had entrusted his novel to a handful of foreign contacts the previous summer after it became increasingly clear the Soviet authorities would refuse to publish it. They included his Italian publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Pasternak also gave the manuscript to two visiting dons from Oxford, Isaiah Berlin and George Katkov, who saw Pasternak separately at his rustic home in Peredelkino, near Moscow.
... ... ...
The CIA's role in disseminating the novel inside the Soviet Union is revealed in The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book, written by Washington Post journalist Peter Finn and academic Petra Couvée, and published in the US next week, in the UK in July and later in other European territories.
After receiving the manuscript from MI6, the agency secretly arranged for a Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago to be printed in Holland. Dutch intelligence helped publication. The edition was distributed in September 1958 at the World's Fair in Brussels, with hardback copies furtively dished out to Soviet visitors from inside the Vatican's pavilion. In 1959 the CIA printed its own paperback version of the novel at its Washington HQ. The edition was passed off as the work of a Russian émigré group in Europe.
The Zhivago project had its own secret CIA codename, AEDINOSAUR. It was one of many CIA-sponsored covert publishing programmes that flourished during the cold war. The agency distributed banned books, periodicals and pamphlets and other materials to intellectuals in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The soft power goal was to subtly undermine the Soviet system by – as the CIA put it – "reinforcing predispositions towards cultural and intellectual freedom, and dissatisfaction with its absence".
... ... ...
The CIA declassified 99 secret documents from its Pasternak archive in April. They demonstrate the agency's hidden role in bringing the novel to a global audience. There had been rumours the CIA had organised a covert Russian language edition in order to win Pasternak a Nobel prize. The archive, however, shows that no copies were sent to the Nobel committee in Stockholm; instead, the CIA's aim was to spread the text among ordinary Soviet citizens. Independently, the Nobel committee gave Pasternak the 1958 Nobel prize for Literature; the writer was famously forced to decline it following a huge campaign against him, initiated by the state and embraced by many of Pasternak's fellow-writers. He died in 1960.
SurvivalMachine, 11 June 2014 9:17am
What is really surprising about this book (and author) is that it is very famous, yet it is not that good (compared to other russian or soviet books/writers).
Maybe, as the article suggests, it was made into a film and given the Nobel for propaganda purposes.
The american film is actually very good. And I heard the soviet film was excellent too.
Soon after Zhivago came Solzhenitsyn, who also got the Nobel. He, in my opinion, fully deserved his Nobel prize.
I read Chukovsky's diary recently, and it is interesting how he (and others) got so passionate about Solzhenitsyn. Here was the new Tolstoy, (or a new Gogol as the editor of Novi Mir said after a sleepless night reading a day in the life of Ivan Denissovich).
This moral giant, when he came to the US and discovered the american/western/consumerist way of life, started to describe what he saw (in ways similar to Schumacher (the Bristish economist author of Small is Beautiful). The West, not happy to be criticised, turned its back on him.
zahoushek, 11 June 2014 9:24am
Good book, average film. Well shot though.
3KOSTURA zahoushek, 11 June 2014 3:45pm
Average book. Horrible film. Great MI6 plot.
Alexander Demidov, 11 June 2014 11:52am
I actually first read Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita and Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago in the early '80s in Moscow in their English translations. They were not readily available in Russian, but could be found easily enough in second-hand foreign-language bookshops. This article certainly took me on a trip down the memory lane. Many thanks, Mr Harding.
ErnestfromClapham, 11 June 2014 1:11pm
I always wonder whether Stalin had good taste in literature, as he seemed to take a personal interest in some of the writers who later became the most celabrated of his era - Bulgakov, Zamyatin, and according to this article Pasternak? Or was his ability to predict the success of these writers due to the fact that he had all the others killed?
ID4524057, 11 June 2014 6:20pmmonkie ID4524057 ,
"In a secret memo John Maury, the CIA division chief, wrote: "Pasternak's humanistic message – that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of political loyalty or contribution to the state..." "
A Modest Proposal: Perhaps this should be chiseled into the walls at Fort Meade...right next to:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
12 June 2014 10:56pmID4524057 monkie 13 June 2014 12:45am
"In a secret memo John Maury, the CIA division chief, wrote: "Pasternak's humanistic message – that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of political loyalty or contribution to the state..." "
he was such a sensitive man, a great humanist and democrat was john maury, here is what he had to say about democracy and the 1967 military coup in greece:
the U.S. ambassador in Athens, disapproved of the coup, complaining that it represented "a rape of democracy", to which Jack Maury, the CIA station chief in Athens, answered, " How can you rape a whore?"crikey! Thanks for the reminder...was recently rereading a piece on Yanis Ritsos being arrested...and there was a note about that comment and I filed it away and then forgot about it;-(
...and of course all of those fascists the US supported are spewing their political DNA in Golden Dawn...
Maury - the sole of CIA poetics...
KingOllie, 12 June 2014 9:47am
I had a teacher tell me that when she visited the Soviet Union in the early
1970s she heard "Lara's Theme" as Muzak. She coyly asked the tour guide
where the song came from and was told, "that's just an old Russian song."
freedomoftheseas, 13 June 2014 2:10pm
Dr. Zhivago is a book for all time as only a few are, a work that says it all as Moby Dick or Manzoni's "The Promised." It might well have been the 20th Century's greatest novel, although that will always be a matter of opinion.
Aside from its literary qualities--very high and not to be confused with the entertaining, true to script, but slightly treacly David Lean film--there was the political statement. But it wasn't an anti-communist or Cold War polemic, not at all. And that is where its power lay: it put man against the state in such an ordinary way--an honest kind man, an apolitical man, a man not against changes in his society--that the contrast with the violence growing around him, the violence of the state, the inhumanity of man to man, is stark, and the cry for man's humanity both sad and glorious. Pasternak may not even have set out to write anything political; instead he wrote of life as it was in Russia--then the Soviet state--and that was sufficient; it damned itself.
Every high school student in the world should read Dr. Zhivago, and then reread it as an adult. Its cry is as poignant and powerful today--and as necessary--as it was in the mid-20th Century.
Maybe it will prove one of history's ironies that Edward Snowden found himself in Russia at a point in his life ... the 21st Century's Dr. Zhivago?
With an outsize extravaganza that reached deep into the repertory of classical music and ballet, traversed the sights and sounds of the world's largest geopolitical expanse, soared into outer space and swept across millenniums of history in a celebration of everything from czarist military might to Soviet monumentalism, a swaggering, resurgent Russia turned its Winter Olympic aspirations into reality on Friday night.
After seven years of building to this moment - the opening of what is believed to be the most expensive Olympic Games in history - the message of the over-the-top ceremony was simply this: In a big way, Russia is back.
January 24, 2012 | VentureBeat
The founder of Russia's largest social network proclaimed his love and support for Wikipedia today by promising to donate $1 million to the not-for-profit organization while onstage at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich.
Twenty-seven year-old entrepreneur Pavel Durov founded Russian social network VKontakte, or VK for short, five years ago. The site has grown to 33 million daily unique visitors, 17 million monthly active users and a total of 160 million registered users. VK, he said, is the reason why Facebook has yet to be successful in Russia and is the fourth most-viewed website among Europeans, according to comScore.
But Durov has an unabashed appreciation for Wikipedia and said that the site serves as a much more altruistic and important web service than his own for the larger global community. And so Durov, who finds the unpredictable financial future and fundraising efforts of Wikipedia troubling, pledged to donate $1 million to support the cause, marking the first time anyone has used the DLD stage to make such a donation.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was onstage to witness Durov's compassionate financial vow. "How old are you?," Wales asked Durov. I wish I could give away $1 million when I was 27, he joked.
The donation comes just weeks after the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, announced that it had gathered a record $20 million from more than one million donors during its 2011 online fundraising efforts.
Dec 22, 2003 | Kuro5hin.org
In Russia, winter holidays are celebrated somewhat differently than in the United States and most of the West. Although the underlying substance of the winter holidays -- presents, trees, family gatherings -- is the same, it corresponds to different holidays and customs. This results from a blend of Russian national tradition, the influence of Eastern Orthodox heritage and of course, Soviet secularisation.
There is a lot more to be said about this than is actually practical, so I would like to focus on two axial aspects that sit comfortably within my sphere of knowledge: New Year and the custom of giving presents. The latter topic is a little more editorial than encyclopedic, but please bear with me. Also, please understand that none of this information is in any way "authoritative." I tell you all this as a Russian immigrant, not as a cultural anthropologist or otherwise a person bearing any credentials or officialdom.
New Year New Year is the principal winter holiday, as opposed to Christmas. It is universally recognised as such by both secular and religious people. Whereas New Year is mostly an occasion merely for parties and drinking in the West, most of the traditions associated with Christmas fall on New Year in Russia. The welcoming of the new year is considered the most significant occasion of the winter.
The New Year's tree (called "yolka", singular) is identical to a Christmas tree, although of course there is nothing in its name that binds it to a given holiday. It is decorated in the same way, with ornaments, lights and garland. Stars are usually perched atop the tree rather than angels, and ornaments of a religious nature as well as nativity scenes are notably absent, from the perspective of a Western observer.
Folklore holds that Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost") is charged with the responsibility for delivering presents on New Year's Eve. He is a large, bearded and grandfatherly man resembling Santa Claus, although he has no saintly identity, nor sleigh nor reindeer. He is sometimes said to be dressed in blue rather than red - this is a point of contention. Either way, he emerges on New Year's Eve with a gargantuan, overflowing sack of gifts and dispenses them to each family. The actual procedure of doing this is not a significant component of the mythology; he doesn't come down the chimney, but it doesn't really matter how he gets into your dwelling. Perhaps through the front door, perhaps through the window - who knows?
Instead of elves to help him, Ded Moroz has his grand-daughter Snegurochka ("Snowy"), with whom he lives somewhere in the northern forest. Snegurochka is generally portrayed as an attractive young blonde girl, often dressed in light winter attire and sometimes a red cap. (In my experience, she is distinguished by a scarf. At the Russian New Year's parties I have been to, there was always a young woman dressed as Snegurochka, usually in a minimalist outfit -- perhaps a dark or red dress -- but always with a scarf draped about her neck.)
Presents are also given on New Year. There is no requirement of waiting until the morning of New Year's Day to open them; instead, they are usually presented and opened shortly after greeting the New Year at midnight.
Perhaps one would think that with the observation of such traditions on New Year, there comes a certain solemnity that precludes "party"-style celebration. This is not true. In fact, both are easily reconciled. New Year's parties complete with drinking and dancing are in fact very common, especially among young people. (Growing up in America, I've been to a number of all-Russian New Year's gatherings that illustrate the fusion of a warm, solemn holiday with flamboyant parties. First, great care was taken that the children receive their presents as the guests looked on, and once these 'formalities' were diligently taken care of, there followed a long night of club-style dancing that lasted until dawn.)
Christmas is celebrated in Russia as a religious holiday. Because the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognise the Gregorian calendar, religious events are timed according to the Julian calendar. This means that Christmas falls on the 7th of January. In point of whether New Year and Christmas have always held their respective positions, my knowledge is rather weak. As far as I have been told, New Year has always held a position of eminence, yet it is safe to assume that its position as the dominant affair of the winter was bolstered by the official atheism of the Soviet regime. Christmas was stripped of official recognition as a holiday after the 1917 revolution, and it was not re-established as such until 1992, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Some Americans (mostly of the "Christian Conservative" variety) have gone so far as to speculate that this configuration of holidays is a testament to the "repression" of the Russian people. Allegedly, we have yearned all these years for the "true holiday" of Christmas with all our moral strength, only to have our longing cries silenced under the heel of the totalitarian (and Godless) jackboot. The story goes that we've been forced to take what could be salvaged of Christmas and crudely graft it onto New Year, prodded along by our Communist heathen overlords. I really beg to differ. True, public interest in the Orthodox Church and Christmas has been revived significantly since the fall of the Soviet Union, but Russians are happy with and proud of their New Year-centric tradition. I don't believe it's going to change with the flourishing of "freedom" or whatnot.
I would also like to mention briefly the Russian approach to presents in order to contrast it with what I have observed in America. While the Russian approach is more traditional and European than nationally idiosyncratic, it is still a matter for illustration of difference in customs.
Presents are generally a thing intended to be shrouded in mystery and surprise. In America, it is not uncommon to simply request what you want from family or friends and to receive it without ceremony. This is unthinkable in our tradition. It is a vital element of the present that it is picked out by the person giving it, that it is sincere and comes from the heart. It is also important to be surprised; advance knowledge of your present defeats the entire purpose. Presents are generally things of quality but modest in quantity; it would be considered extremely poor form to have a "wish list" or a "Christmas list" or something so pretentious. Likewise, giving money would be regarded as very blunt, offensive and unrefined. Simply giving someone the means to buy themselves a present is contrary to the entire purpose.
This is not to say that the giver of the present should ignore the apparent wishes of the receiver and get him something totally random. On the contrary, the point is to get someone you love what they want. If you are a parent, perhaps you overheard your son or daughter talking once about something they wish they had. You should keep this in mind for a present. The point is for this to happen by implied understanding, and not by explicit request. It should be a surprise, and should be given based on an earnest desire to please.
It is also a matter of principle that presents retain a fog of mystery. That is to say, it is inappropriate to inquire as to when, where and how your present was obtained, before or after receiving it. It is also forbidden to ask about the price; if by chance there is a price sticker that the giver neglected to remove, you should throw it away promptly and act as though you never saw it. These things simply don't matter. In fact, not only is it a matter of ethics, but seeking information about presents is regarded by many superstitious people as inviting bad luck. The less you know, the better and the more magical it is.
I realise that most things I identify here as "American" (requesting gifts, giving money, wish lists) are not so much American custom as the result of crass commercialism and greed, but the fact remains that they are the de facto practises I have observed. I'm very critical of them and always do my best to give and receive presents strictly adhering to our tradition.
Sputnik burned up in the atmosphere, Berlin is now one city, but 25 years later, the Soviet-designed Tetris remains one of the most popular and ubiquitous video games ever created. It has sold over 125 million copies, been released for nearly every video-game platform of the past two decades and even been played on the side of a skyscraper.
Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal
On 26th September, 1983, at the nadir of the Cold War, this man - Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov - made a judgment call that saved my life. (I was then living five miles from the Vickers Tank Factory in Leeds and about ten miles from the M1/M62 intersection - both major strategic targets.) If you're over 25 years old and live in the UK, he saved your life, too.
If you're over 25 years old and lived in the USA, there's about a 70% probability that he saved you. And so on. Iterate for everyone in every NATO and Warsaw Pact country, all 750 million of us.
He lost his job for it, and suffered a nervous breakdown. He doesn't consider himself to be a hero. Nevertheless, he bent the regulations and risked punishment to prevent a disaster from overwhelming us all.
I'm going to raise a glass to him tonight. How about you?
A Russophobia virus has infected the air. What is it? It is when an English literature teacher in a good school, explaining how to answer an exam question on comedy, tells your daughter: "Don't worry, simply write – I am Russian, I do not have a sense of humour." Or the ease with which jokes like "You are Russian, you must know all about corruption," are made. A BBC documentary presenter asks his Russian interpreter in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad: "Do you feel Russian or European?" What does he expect the woman to say?
When a fashionable detective writer wants to write a thriller with a foreign twist, guess who will be the nemesis? An al-Qaida plot in Hackney runs the risk of being politically incorrect. But Russian dissidents and oligarchs chased by Scottish police fit the bill perfectly. The British media, mindful of inter-race relations, seeks to avoid hurting the feelings of Muslims, but the idea that Russians can feel hurt does not occur to them. For Russians in the west, if one is not an oligarch, pop star or secret assassin, and does not think that "Putin's regime" is second-worst to that of Ivan the Terrible, treading these waters is problematic.
This is not to say that Russians in Britain are discriminated against in the workplace, or that my neighbours suspect me of dumping polonium when I throw rubbish away. Rather, it is possible to say things without thinking of what it might be like on the receiving end. Stereotypes promoted by the media are now entrenched: Russian companies are corrupt and are puppets of the state, minorities are not allowed to speak their languages and males are chauvinist machos. The economy survives on pumping gas, while the leadership dreams of conquering half of the world. News from Russia is bad news. It is hard to blame journalists for reporting what is newsworthy: saying that Russians go to supermarkets and buy the same food as their western counterparts is boring, while writing that Moscow hosts the first ever all-male strip joint is "sexy".
The Russia-Georgia debacle brought these attitudes to the fore. The reaction of the media and the politicians was overwhelmingly anti-Russian, because their gut feeling told them who was in the wrong. More objective reports appeared much later. Why was the conflict in South Ossetia so important? Because Russia was a party to it. Readers were led to believe that minuscule South Ossetia is a proto-state like Kosovo, while no parallels were drawn with Nato action in ex-Yugoslavia in support of Albanians.
The question is: can Russia do anything good? In Russophobes' eyes, it should (1) surrender and apologise, (2) give western companies control over natural reserves because Russians mismanage them anyhow, (3) limit their ambitions to culture and (4) award Boris Berezovsky a medal for democracy-promotion.
What feeds Russophobia? Moscow's own actions are only part of the story. In the last few years several constituencies came together to create a new momentum. The cold warriors found a mission again. The existence of a familiar enemy who plays by the rules is more comfortable than the "enemy amongst us" who may work in a corner chip shop. Western liberals who passionately believed in Russia's democratic transformation to their own recipe became disillusioned, turning the energy of embittered idealism into exposing the evils of "Putin's KGB regime". They were joined by immigrants who made their way in the new country by "unveiling the truth" about Russia.
What are the effects of Russophobia? Economically, as BP and Shell found out, it is harder to do business. Politically, it is impossible to conduct a frank dialogue on issues of common concern, as trust has gone out of the relationship. In the security field, it has resulted in militarisation on both sides, undermining the achievements of disarmament. Finally, polarising language flourishes. Unlike in the 1990s, the Russian elite reads English-language media, getting from it the idea that "the west is against us".
Why should we care? Attitudes matter as Russia is at a crossroads. It can go either towards increased modernisation or militarisation. It can build pragmatic, but solid relations with the west, or it can indulge in spoiling the international game and setting up anti-western alliances. It is the responsibility of the western intelligentsia to see that stereotypes create enemies and not to miss their chance to prevent a new division of Europe.
Anna Matveeva is a visiting fellow with the Crisis States Research Centre at the London School of Economics.
Now that we have endured all the speculation about how Dmitry Medvedev, the new Russian president, will turn out (we will know soon enough, won't we?), we should look more closely at a much contested question: are the Russians even capable of democracy?
Many people – both here and there – argue that the Russians have no democratic tradition, that they prefer the iron hand of the autocrat, that the place is too big, too heterogeneous and too disorderly to be ruled any other way. Vladimir Putin is more subtle: he believes that the Russians are not yet ready for democracy, that they need to be brought to it by a managed process, lest everything collapse in chaos. He reminds one of the British, who argued that Indian independence must be postponed until the natives were capable of governing themselves.
Given the chance, the Russians – like the Afghans, the Iraqis, the Pakistanis and others – turn out in large numbers to express their views through the ballot box. That is not enough, of course, to establish a working democracy in any country. But the result may well be a genuine expression of the popular view. Most ordinary Russians, thoroughly inoculated against the western model by the chaos, humiliation, poverty and corruption of the Yeltsin years and angered by endless hectoring and ill-conceived advice from the west, are willing to pay a price in democracy for the stability and growing prosperity that have accompanied the Putin years. So in the recent parliamentary and presidential elections they twice voted heavily for a continuation of the "Putin system". In the circumstances, that was a rational choice.
The Russian government manipulated the electoral process – outrageously – to get the right result: a curious sign of Putin's weakness, not his strength, since no one doubted that most people would vote the way the government wanted, for their own good reasons. Nevertheless both elections had a certain legitimacy despite the obvious flaws. The voters were offered a choice on March 2 and many of them took it. One in five voted for Gennady Zyuganov, the veteran Communist – nearly twice as many as predicted. One in 10 voted for Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the rightwing political showman. We may not like these results – it is always disconcerting when people fail to vote the way you think they should. But it is very different from what happened in Kazakhstan in 2006, when President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who had been in power for 17 years, was re-elected for another seven by 95 per cent of the voters.
Democracy is about throwing the rascals out and most Russians are reconciled to their current rascals. It was different in March 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev organised the first contested elections in any Warsaw Pact country, under an electoral system of mind-boggling complexity designed to preserve the Communist party's monopoly of power. But the voters recognised the rascals all right. They voted tactically and with great sophistication to throw out the bosses of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, a quarter of the regional party secretaries, a heap of generals and a large number of unpleasant people throughout Russia.
This remarkable democratic experiment then went wrong for a number of reasons: the sense of national humiliation that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ensuing poverty, the inability of the liberal intelligentsia (the self-styled "conscience of the nation") to agree on any effective course of action, the determination of the hard men in the army and the party to get their own back.
That does not mean the Russians are "genetically" incapable of democracy. Their history and their culture are not propitious: Russia has indeed for most of its history been a closed and imperial autocracy. But here, too, the Indian example is instructive. A country with a far larger population, an even more heterogeneous culture and an unbroken history of autocratic and imperial rule has run a remarkably successful democracy for the past 60 years.
Although Russians today do not enjoy our kind of democracy, they do enjoy an unprecedented, if precarious, degree of personal prosperity, of access to information, of freedom to travel and even – within limits – to express their views. To argue that they cannot go on to construct their own version of democracy is a kind of racism. It may take decades, even generations; the construction of democracy always does. But if the Indians can do it, so can the Russians.
George Kennan, that great Russia-watcher, got it right when he wrote in 1951, at the height of the cold war: "When Soviet power has run its course . . . let us not hover nervously over the people who come after, applying litmus papers daily to their political complexions to find out whether they answer to our concept of 'democrats'. Give them time; let them be Russians; let them work out their internal problems in their own manner. The ways by which people advance towards dignity and enlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate processes of national life. There is nothing less understandable to foreigners, nothing in which foreign influence can do less good."
It is the wisest advice – blissfully ignored by our policymakers who, like latter-day Christian missionaries, believe that we have a duty to spread the gospel of democracy, if necessary by military force (for which they are unwilling to pay). Not only Russians find that proposition distinctly suspect.
Sir Rodric was British Ambassador in Moscow during the fall of the Soviet Union. His latest book is Moscow 1941: A City and its People at War (Profile Books, 2006)
About: nginx is an HTTP server and mail proxy server. It has been running for more than two years on many heavily loaded Russian sites, including Rambler (RamblerMedia.com). In March 2007, about 20% of all Russian virtual hosts were served or proxied by nginx.
Changes: The STARTTLS in SMTP mode is now working. In HTTPS mode, some requests fail with a "bad write retry" error. The "If-Range" request header line is now supported. uname(2) is now used on Linux systems instead of procfs.
The visit of the Free Software Foundation leader Richard Stallman to Russia in March 2008 could be canceled because of the problems with too-late visa application. A part of the trouble appeared to be Stallman's rejection to get help from Victor Alksnis, the State Duma member and the only Russian politician who helps Free Software and Open Source movements in Russia. Alksnis promoted Stallman's upcoming visit thru his blog posts, and said he could help with "administrative issues" as well.
However, the moderator of linux.org.ru Sergey Udaltsov (who lives in Ireland not Russia) wrote a letter to Stallman saying Alksnis is a bad guy for Free Software, because of "his fight against the independence of the Baltic countries" in late 80s. Udaltsov also says Alksnis wants to use GNU/Linux for his own political goals including the creation of Russian "National OS" (independent from Microsoft). After this letter, Richard Stallman said he didn't want Alksnis to organize his visit to Russia. Perhaps, Stallman won't come at all. We at Webplanet.ru think the rout of this problem in not politics but the "language barrier" we already described. Western folks don't know much about Russian IT situation 'cos they don't read Russian.
The only information channel for them is "former Russians" who live abroad and speak English - like Irelander Sergey Udaltsov who controls linux.org.ru. But these "foreign Russians" usually get pretty paranoid about their "former motherland" calling it a dictatorship daily (perhaps as an excuse for their departure). So we hope Russian linuxoids find some sane local leaders. No need to marry free software and politicians, it's true. Yet we don't see why Free Software activity in Russia should be killed by some old-fashioned Cold War rhetoric from Ireland.
June 12, 2006 (eWeek) When Daniel Marovitz sought an offshore partner, he scanned the globe. "We talked about Canada, Ireland and low-cost locations in the United Kingdom. But it really came down to India and Russia," said Marovitz, chief technology officer for global banking at Deutsche Bank's investment banking unit, in London.
Marovitz soon found the approaches of companies in those two countries could not be more different-and that a Russian outsourcing provider would best satisfy Deutsche Bank's needs in maintaining and enhancing its 5,000-user "client-first" CRM (customer relationship management) system for investment bankers.
Want to have applications built in Russia?
As Marovitz learned, the thing to remember is that you're not in India, where you may become accustomed to seeing hundreds of workers assigned to a project that they will dutifully attempt to execute according to instructions, cheerfully saying "yes," even when they have doubts about the methodology or the deadlines.
In Russia, it's the opposite: You won't find big companies with big teams willing to say "yes" to your every whim.
Instead, you're likely to find a small team of experts ready to grill you with tough questions. It may be jarring at first, but for certain projects, it can be just what the doctor ordered.
By TOM PAULSON
Alexander Mamishev believes he has just the thing for the hottest new computer chip.
A microscopic air conditioner.
"It's based on a phenomenon that's been known for hundreds of years," said Mamishev, an electrical engineer at the University of Washington. "But for the first several hundred years, nobody put it to much use. We are putting it to use."
The phenomenon he and his colleagues are exploiting is variously known as corona discharge, ionic wind or electrostatic fluid acceleration. (There's a good reason most engineers don't moonlight as song lyricists.)
They are using it to cool down microchips. The digit-crunching work done by computers produces a significant amount of heat. Efforts to increase computing chip power and capacity continually run up against this limiting factor of excess heat production.
"Their speed is often limited by how hot they get," said the Ukrainian-born director of the UW's Sensors, Energy and Automation Laboratory.
Heat is why desktop PCs have fans and why Apple's Power Mac G5 incorporated the time-proven method of using water as a coolant. The problem with fans is they are noisy and not too efficient. The risk of using water, or any liquid, as a coolant is that liquids and electronics tend not to play well together.
Many researchers are working on the problem and have come up with a number of potential solutions. Most represent a more sophisticated and miniaturized twist on standard approaches to cooling and thermal management.
Mamishev, a high-voltage physicist in Ukraine before coming to the U.S., is taking a different approach. As someone who also dabbles in robotics and is writing a book on "fringing electric sensors" (the kind of sensor at work in those stud finders -- for locating wood behind plasterboard walls), he might be expected to do so."I came at this from my high-voltage physics background," he said.
A corona discharge is basically the product of some seriously electrified (or more accurately, "ionized") air molecules, also known as a plasma. St. Elmo's fire, which electrical storms sometimes create around wires or poles, is a form of corona discharge or plasma -- one that sailors have witnessed for as long as there have been boats with masts.
Besides sometimes creating visible light and wreaking electrical havoc, corona discharges make the ionized air molecules move. A popular high-tech air cleaner made by Sharper Image uses this phenomenon in a fan-filter combination sold on late-night TV.
"It's very simple in concept," Mamishev said. "The ions push the air."
A few years ago, he and UW doctoral students Nels Jewell-Larsen and Chi-Peng Hsu began looking around for financial support to pursue this at the microchip level.
Nobody wanted anything to do with it. But Mamishev, as a new UW professor, was able to cobble some funds together and, later, get support from the UW's Royalty Research Fund -- a pot of money created by the university's patent income typically used to "advance new directions" in UW research.
"They fund the crazy stuff," Mamishev said.
That was in 2001. With the new money, he and his team began working on the microchip air conditioner. Earlier this summer, after years of work, they presented findings at a major meeting. Now, the funders were listening. Mamishev and his UW team received part of a $100,000 grant from the Washington Technology Center to further their work in collaboration with Intel Corp.
So far, the UW chip coolers have only developed a prototype. But they have proved that it's possible to create an incredibly small "ionic air pump" that works by electrically inducing a corona discharge.
"We should be able to integrate this right into the chip," Mamishev said.
Such an integrated and tiny cooling system should allow for much more efficiency in cooling, he said, and for applications not previously considered feasible.
The UW's "cooling chip" has two parts, an emitter and a collector. The emitter, which is one-three-hundredth of the width of a human hair, creates the ionic air flow. The collector captures the ions at the other end of the chip. This ionic motion carries away heat and cools the chip. The level of cooling can be controlled by how much voltage is applied to the system.
All this is still in the experimental stage, Mamishev emphasized, and there is much more to be done before they can claim to have accomplished their goal. "At this point, we have just demonstrated the physics and our ability to manufacture it."
The next step will be to test their cooling chip after it is incorporated into functioning microchips in a computer. It's still not clear, Mamishev said, how best to manage all of the different cooling chips that would be operating at the same time in a computer. He and his colleagues are working on the mathematics of that one.
Rank Name Solved Time 1 Saratov State University 6 917 2 Jagiellonian University - Krakow 6 1258 3 Altai State Technical University 5 681 4 University of Twente 5 744 5 Shanghai Jiao Tong University 5 766 6 St. Petersburg State University 5 815 7 Warsaw University 5 820 8 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5 831 9 Moscow State University 5 870 10 Ufa State Technical University of Aviation 5 980 11 University of Alberta 4 479 12 University of Waterloo 4 636 13 Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica 4 13 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology 4 13 Peking University 4 13 Sharif University of Technology 4 13 University of British Columbia 4 13 Zhejiang University 4 19 Information & Communications University 3 19 KTH - Royal Institute of Technology 3 19 Kyoto University 3 19 Lund University 3 19 National Taiwan University 3 19 Petrozavodsk State University 3 19 Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro 3 19 Seoul National University 3 19 Simon Fraser University 3 19 Sofia University 3 19 South Ural State University 3 19 St Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics & Optics 3 19 Taras Shevchenko Kyiv University 3 19 Technische Universität München 3 19 The University of Hong Kong 3 19 Tsinghua University 3 19 University of Science and Technology of China 3 19 University of Tokyo 3 19 University of Toronto 3 19 Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) University 3 39 Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology 2 39 California Institute of Technology 2 39 DePaul University 2 39 Fudan University 2 39 Fuzhou University 2 39 Princeton University 2 39 Renmin University of China 2 39 The Chinese University of Hong Kong 2 39 Universidad Nacional de Colombia 2 39 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya 2 39 University of Adelaide 2 39 University of Cape Town 2 39 University of Maryland - College Park 2 39 Vinnytsia National Technical University 2 39 Washington University in St. Louis 2 39 Yaroslavl Demidov State University 2 39 École Nationale Supérieure des Télécom Paris 2
(Score:2)by Cyberax (705495) on Thursday April 13, @02:38AM (#15119190)
Well, most industries and research institutes in Russia are "in the middle of nowhere" by European/USA standards. That's because the european part of Russia alone is bigger than all countries of West Europe put together.
During the WWII a lot of research universities were evacuated to Saratov from Ukraine, Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and Leningrad (now Saint-Petersburg). And some universities stayed there when the war was finished.
BTW: Saratov is located in the European part of Russia and it's not "a middle of nowhere" for
Russians. Something like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magadan
(Score:2)by efflux (587195) on Thursday April 13, @04:11AM (#15119437)
Saratov is a major Russian city on Volga (and that always meant something).
No joke. ~1 mil. pop. Not to mention Engles across the river, or all the undocumented Kazakstanis. You see, I'm currently attending SGU (Saratovskij Gosudarsvenij Universitet) in their langauge preparatory department. I hope to snag a couple of courses in Mathematics or Comp. Sci before I head back to the states.
, ! ,
The cyrilic above doesn't seem to be comming through, so let me try a transliteration (which, I don't really know what's accepted, so sorry for any strangeness)...
Molodci, studenti! Vy nastojaszczije uchjonyje, i teper eto fsje znajut. Vam jelaju prodolzhajuszczije udachi i uspehi.
For those who want to know more about this contest in the form of actually attempting ACM questions, then I suggest heading over to their problemset archive [online-judge.uva.es] which not only has ACM stuff from the last 5 years but a large number of non-ACM programming problems in the same vein. You can sign up with them and have your solutions to their problems checked for correctness.
Since the website's a design massacre, to get to the ACM problems you need to click on the link marked THE CII ICPC LIVE ARCHIVE !!! [acmicpc-li...ive.uva.es] in the news bar, or just click on that one right there.
(Score:4, Interesting)by melted (227442) on Wednesday April 12, @10:19PM (#15118382)
Yeah, dude, I know why it was "appaling". Because you couldn't handle studying there, that's why. Compared to education in the US, the situation in Russian higher education is completely the opposite of what you've described. Folks are being taught extremely broadly, perhaps with too little attention paid to practical applications of what is taught at times. And you can't narrow down the scope of your education because you _can't_ choose classes. You fucking WILL learn linear algebra, physics, differential calculus, discrete mathematics, etc., whether you like it or not.
It is expected of students to be able to figure out practical applications on their own. MGU in particular is one of the most hardcore Russian schools that is easily on par with _any_ Western college or university for which here in the US you'd be paying _through the nose_. MGU seems to be specifically designed to produce scientists and researchers, not engineers, though. MIFI, MAI, MSTU and NGU on the other hand focus on generating engineers that get shit done. The reason being, they produce most of Russia's engineers who work on weapons and high tech.
(Score:2)by hyfe (641811) on Wednesday April 12, @11:08PM (#15118591)
Yeah, dude, I know why it was "appaling". Because you couldn't handle studying there, that's why.
Moscow didn't impress me no.
You fucking WILL learn linear algebra, physics, differential calculus, discrete mathematics, etc., whether you like it or not.
I know Linear Algebra, Differential Calculus, Discrete mathematics.. Physics is a weak spot though (relativly, took the courses, got bad grades and deserved them).. I finished my Master Thesis in Computer Science. Seriously, I know my shit. I met some really bright, impressive people there... and *alot* of fucking stupid ones.
Russian schools that is easily on par with _any_ Western college or university for which here in the US you'd be payingTop students, sure; I think you're right. Average student; hell no! Might have been different back in the days, but nowadays they're basically lazy, incompetent ****s.
Oh, and in Norway we have free education
I'm glad that Polish universities had a good showing. I grew up there and was educated there and always thought that CS education in Poland was top notch quality. Much better than in the UK for example, where I also studied for a while.Re:You forgot Poland! (Score:0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, @08:05AM (#15119918)
"I'm glad that Polish universities had a good showing. I grew up there and was educated there and always thought that CS education in Poland was top notch quality. Much better than in the UK for example, where I also studied for a while." - by MSBob (307239) on Wednesday April 12, @11:06PM (#15118582)
Jak sie masz MSBob? Dzien dobre!
I agree with you for personal reasons as well...
In fact, I must say that it makes me proud to be of polish heritage/decent in fact to see Poland come in 2nd & 7th place(s) in a field of competition like that...
(& I am a software engineer by trade (13th year now as a pro in the U.S.A.) as well, so it "strikes close to home" here & all that!)
FROM THE RESULTS POSTED ON THE FRONT PAGE, FINAL SCORES/PLACEMENTS:
1. Saratov State University (Russia) - 6 problems
2. Jagiellonian University - Krakow (Poland) - 6 problems
3. Altai State Technical University (Russia) - 5 problems
4. University of Twente (Netherlands) - 5 problems
5. Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China) - 5 problems
6. St. Petersburg State University (Russia) - 5 problems
7. Warsaw University (Poland) - 5 problems
8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) - 5 problems
9. Moscow State University (Russia) - 5 problems
10. Ufa State Technical University (Russia) - 5 problems
11. University of Alberta (Canada) - 4 problems
12. University of Waterloo (Canada) - 4 problems
Four teams each received gold, silver, and bronze (in the above order). For the same number of problems, the order is based on penalty minutes.
Why even bother going to MIT.Seems like this is just another well, better than average university.
People like flies get fooled into thinking that they get good education here, where in reality there
are places more advanced and sophisticated. And one more thing. Thank you guys from India
and other countries for coming to MIT to get your Master and PhD. Otherwise it would become community
college in no time.
by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, @06:31AM (#15119702)
The South Pacific region was very successful with two 1st places in the early 1990s:
- University of Otago, NZ, was the first non-US team to win in 1990
- Melbourne University won it for Australia in 1992
1992 was a particularly sweet victory. Stanford, the 1991 winner, was distraught at not winning and fled home before the final placings were announced. Not a particularly fine example of sportsmanship!
P.S. Both the Otago and Melbourne victories owed a lot to Raewyn Boersen. Thanks Raewyn. We couldn't
have done it without you!
It's generally unfair to judge ACM teams by the polish of their answers, since the only criteria is to solve the problem in minimum time. Similarly, problems are chosen with the time-constraint in mind, not out of any attempt to further science. If you want that, try the MCM [comap.com].
What's impressive about the winning solutions is that they went from having nothing to implementing
a working program from scratch, under stress in only a few minutes. While that is arguably not applicable
to being a programmer in real-life, just as being an Olympic sprinter doesn't prepare you for any
particular job, it is certainly a commendable intellectual achievement.
...I've spent too much time in companies where people write nice, neat, tidy, well documented and easy to maintain code, but nobody actually knows how to do anything other than plumb one API into another. Every so often I'd come across a tool that someone had written that actually did something and I'd be bemused. How the hell did this lot write that? And I'd dig down through the source code and eventually find that under the mountain of wrappers and delegators and empty architecture there was actually a nugget, like V'ger [wikipedia.org], that did real work. And someone would explain to me "that's the code that Joe wrote years ago, he left and now we daren't touch that stuff, we just maintain the wrappers".
The truth is that you need both kind of people in software companies. And the other truth is that the people who write the nuggets do interesting work that is worthy of displaying publicly in a contest. And the rest do work that isn't.
Having said that, plumbing competitions [pmmag.com] aren't completely unheard of.
Dartmouth College engineering professor Victor Petrenko, not to be confused with one of the Champions on Ice, has devised a way to use a burst of electricity to remove ice caked on walls or windows. For surfaces coated with a special film, the jolt gets rid of ice in less than a second, far less time than it takes to hack at it with an ice scraper.
While drivers might find easy-cleaning windshields convenient, the technology--called thin-film pulse electrothermal de-icing, or PETD--could have significant economic impact if widely deployed. It could, for example, cut the costs of repairing power lines downed by ice storms and keep plane windshields frost-free, decreasing fuel consumption.
In Sweden, civil engineers have tested PETD and decided to cover the Uddevalla Bridge in a 12-millimeter-thick PETD foil to keep it from icing over.
"Frost-free refrigerators can approximately reduce energy consumption by a factor of two. Billions of dollars are spent each year on running refrigerators and air conditioners. If you can cut that, it's great," Petrenko said. "In ice makers, we can cut the ice-harvesting cycle and increase the productivity of ice makers by 30 (percent) to 40 percent."
A refrigerator for the residential market sporting PETD will likely come out soon. The technology will also be incorporated into the windshield of an upcoming commercial jet, according to Petrenko. Aerospace parts supplier Goodrich, an investor in and one of the seven licensees of Petrenko's Ice Engineering company, is also promoting the concept among utilities as a way to keep wind turbines de-iced.
PETD can go in reverse, too. By varying the electric pulse, the technology can cause ice to stick better to surfaces. That could help snowboarders and skiers better manage the friction with the slope, for greater or lesser traction, as needed.
The technology essentially takes advantages of the inherent properties of ice. Ice, it turns out, is a semiconductor, meaning that it conducts an electrical charge under certain circumstances. Unlike silicon, which conducts negatively charged electrons, ice conducts protons, the core of hydrogen atoms that are part of the water molecules.
Video: Ice control technology
Dartmouth professor Victor Petrenko and team have developed new ways to control or alter ice, making it sticky or slippery. Here, a look at the technology.
"(An) ice surface has an enormously high electric charge," Petrenko said.
As a result, ice doesn't simply cake onto surfaces--it bonds to them in three ways: via the hydrogen atoms themselves, via an electrostatic bond caused by the current, and via comparatively weak van der Waals forces.
PETD works by breaking the first two bonds. An electric charge lasting a few milliseconds heats the surface buried in ice just long enough to melt about a micron or two of the surface of the ice. Once the ice is melted, the hydrogen and electrical bonds break. The resulting water then acts as a lubricant, allowing the mass of ice to slide away.
"With short pulses, the heat doesn't have time to diffuse. It is all released on the interface," Petrenko said.
To get ice to stick to a surface, the pulse is shortened--first the ice melts, then refreezes. The resulting bond between the material and the ice is even stronger than before.
Why hasn't anyone already come up with this?
"I don't know," he said. "It is a very common story: People for centuries miss a very simple principle. When it's found, people say, 'How could we miss it?'"
Traditional ice removal methods don't address how to reverse the electrical bonds, which explains why they don't work that well. Ice scrapers essentially tear away ice from the outside. Material to repel ice also fails because ice will invariably bond. Companies have thrown money at trying to develop ice-resistant surfaces, but the results have been mediocre.
Petrenko himself worked on a project funded by a generous federal grant. "We concluded that it is against the laws of nature to have an ice-phobic material," he said. "Ice is very strong glue. It is a universal adhesive."
The difficulty with PETD lies in power delivery. The surface only has to be heated to about 1 to 2 degrees Celsius, but a broad surface has to be heated simultaneously.
Still, an ordinary car, while running, could provide enough energy to remove the ice. It also takes less energy than heating the windshield.
The intellectual property at Ice Engineering mostly concerns developing power distribution systems and thin films, which coat the surface and conduct heat to the ice material interface. The composition of the films varies. In the case of windshields, Ice Engineering employs a layer of clear indium oxide. "It is the same thing on laptop displays," Petrenko said.
Ice machines and refrigerators, meanwhile, can rely on titanium or carbon fiber composites, which are more durable, because transparency isn't an issue.
The research, so far, has yielded 14 U.S. patents, and several more are pending. Dartmouth owns the patents but markets them through Ice Engineering.
Petrenko came to studying ice by accident. For years, he worked as a semiconductor researcher at Moscow's Institute of Physics and Technology. While on an exchange at Britain's University of Birmingham, he happened upon that school's ice research department. His life changed after that.
"We built a solar cell made of ice," he recalled. "While it is not as efficient as a silicon solar cell, it costs a penny a square mile."
Luria, A. R. (Aleksandr Romanovich) The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory Case Study (160 pp.)
Keywords Communication, Disability, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Memory, Patient Experience, Psycho-social Medicine, Psychosomatic Medicine,
One day in the 1920's, a newspaper reporter walked into the laboratory of Russian psychologist A. R. Luria and asked him to test his memory, which he recently had been told was unusual. It was not unusual. It was uniquely and astoundingly retentive. Luria gave him very long strings of numbers, words, nonsense syllables and could not detect any limit to his ability to recall them, generally without mistake, even years later. (Luria studied S., as he identifies him, for thirty years.)
Luria discovers that the man had some interesting characteristics to his memory. He experienced synesthesia, i.e., the blending of sensations: a voice was a "crumbly, yellow voice." (p.24) S.'s memory was highly eidetic, i.e., visual, a characteristic not unique to him but which he used as a technique to memorize lists and details. (He had become a performing mnemonist.) It was also auditory. He had trouble remembering a word if its sound did not fit its meaning. The remainder of the section on his memory involves fascinating aspects of his having to learn how to forget and his methods of problem solving.
The remainder of the book is equally interesting since it relates the epiphenomena of S.'s prodigious memory: how he mentally saw everything in his past memory; how he was virtually paralyzed when it came to understanding poetry since metaphorical thinking was almost impossible for him, a mnemonist who lived in a world of unique particulars! As Luria wrote, "S. found that when he tried to read poetry the obstacles to his understanding were overwhelming: each expression gave rise to an image; this, in turn, would conflict with another image that had been evoked." (p. 120)
S. could control his vital signs by his memory and, last but not least, this human experiment of nature had such a vivid imagination that, probably more than the most creative of us, he engaged in "magical thinking": "To me there's no great difference between the things I imagine and what exists in reality. Often, if I imagine something is going to happen, it does. Take the time I began arguing with a friend that the cashier in the store was sure to give me too much change. I imagined it to myself in detail, and she actually did give me too much--change of 20 rubles instead of 10. Of course I realize it's just chance, coincidence, but deep down I also think it's because I saw it that way." (p. 146)
An international giant in clinical neuropsychology and an inspiration for Oliver Sacks's narratives, Luria helped pioneer the study of the individual patient as interesting bridge between normal and abnormal psychological processes rather than studying animals in a maze, or groups of humans in an experimental setting. His "N of 1" close readings remain fascinating reading today, including The Man with a Shattered World (see this database).
S.'s incredible memory and all its attendant advantages and detriments recall Borges's short story, "Funes the Memorious (Funes el Memorioso)".
Basic Books (New York)
Translated from the Russian by Lynn Solotaroff.
Foreword by Jerome Bruner
Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, Mass.)
Ratzan, Richard M.
Date of Entry
In an international gesture of goodwill, the Russian government announced last week that it will help fight the worsening SAS (Severe Acronym Shortage) by donating several Cyrillic characters, with more on the way.
"The acronym shortage could devastate the world economy if action is not taken soon," said a Russian government official. "The only solution is to increase the size of the alphabet available for acronyms."
The Blartner Group has been warning about the impending ASC (Acronym Shortage Crisis) since 2002. "Most acronyms are written by English speakers limited to a paltry 26-letter alphabet," Blort Blartner explained. "It's no surprise that ANCs (Acronym Namespace Collisions) are occuring at a rapidly increasing rate. This will place a huge burden on the IT industry by hindering communication, potentially leading to a rupture of the very fabric of the entire GE (Global Econony, not General Electric)."
In a recent survey by the American Association Against Acronym Abuse (AAAAA), 73% of people in computer-related fields admitted that they "had created an acronym within the last year that wasn't really necessary." Shockingly, 5% of participants acknowledged that they "might suffer an addiction to stringing new acronyms together as a form of entertainment."
Said the AAAAA chairwoman, "Russia's bold move will help to disambiguate some acronyms, but it doesn't solve the root problem: the AN (Acronym Namespace) is simply too polluted by UACs (Unnecessary Acronym Creators). IMHO, this situation will require drastic measures, such as the creation of an AEPB (Acronym Environmental Protection Bureau)."
However, the founder of the rival CNP (Coalition for Namespace Purity) argued, "Adding another bureaucracy never works. The new office will simply create a whole new regime of acronyms, such as requiring companies to submit an ACRF (Acronym Creation Request Form) and an EISFAC (Environment Impact Study For Acronym Creation) in the hopes of receiving an AACP (Approved Acronym Creation Permit)."
Last month, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) formally adopted RFC 10523, which will require all future RFCs to limit new acronyms to one per document. "If a namespace collision in unavoidable," the RFC states, "then an attempt must be made to recycle obsolete acronyms first. If that fails, then the new acronym must undergo NSD (Numeric Suffix Disambiguation). For instance, Xtreme Programming should be called 'XP-1' in order to avoid confusion with Microsoft's Xceptionally Pathetic operating system (Windows XP)."
"The IETF needs to take full responsibility for the entire zoo of questionable acronyms that have been created by RFCs over the last decades," said one IETF participant. "It is imperative that we reuse archaic acronyms like 'UUCP' and 'ARCHIE' and assign them more productive meanings."
It isn't just the computer industry that faces a threat from the acronym shortage. The USAF (United States Air Force) has probably created more new acronyms than another other institution in history.
"This is no laughing matter," said a USAF PAO (Public Affairs Officer). "Last year we nearly suffered an SSS (Significant Security Situation) when an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) was mistaken for an MRE (Massive Radioactive Explosive). This kind of problem could prove catastrophic in a combat situation."
The PAO added, "The Pentagon has already launched an ARC (Acronym Review Committee) to weed out ORAs (Obsolete or Redundant Acronyms). In addition, the entire US military will now encourage of the use of abbreviations instead of acronyms for CritOps (Critical Operations) and StratInts (Strategic Initiatives). While we appreciate the help offered by the Russian government, we believe we can solve this problem without the need to outsource our language."
Dr. Olga Ladyzhenskaya, a mathematician whose work with differential equations contributed to advances in the study of fluid dynamics in areas like weather forecasting, oceanography, aerodynamics and cardiovascular science, died on Jan. 12 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was 81.
The cause of death had not been determined, according to a spokeswoman for the Association for Women in Mathematics, in College Park, Md. Dr. Ladyzhenskaya was a member of the organization.
Her primary work was on calculations that were developed in the 19th century to explain the behavior of fluids and known as Navier-Stokes equations. As a researcher first at St. Petersburg University and later at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics, also in St. Petersburg, she worked through the solutions for the equations, which show how a number of variables relate in time and space.
Among other practical uses, the equations enable meteorologists to predict the movement of storm clouds.
In the 1960's, Dr. Ladyzhenskaya published her observations in a text that is still cited in the field. "Ladyzhenskaya did not describe the basic equations, but she contributed significantly to their solutions," said Dr. Peter D. Lax of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. "She was also always a rebel and treated as one by the Soviet government."
Olga Aleksandrovna Ladyzhenskaya graduated from Moscow State University and received a doctorate from Leningrad State University before earning another doctorate from Moscow State in 1953. After teaching in the physics department at St. Petersburg University, she joined the Steklov Institute, which is affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Marshall Slemrod, a mathematician with the University of Wisconsin, said Dr. Ladyzhenskaya had an American counterpart in John Nash, the Princeton mathematician and Nobel laureate whose life is depicted in the film "A Beautiful Mind," and who also studied partial differential equations.
"She was perhaps the premier worker on the Russian side," Dr. Slemrod said. "If you believe your weather forecast, you have to solve the exact equations that she studied."
Her later work involved the study of elliptical and parabolic equations that are used in probability theory.
Dr. Ladyzhenskaya's reputation as an independent spirit was furthered by her friendship with Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the author and dissident, and by reports that her father had been killed by Soviet officials, Dr. Lax said.
She was head of the Steklov Institute's laboratory of mathematical physics and was made a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1981, before becoming a full member in 1990.
Earlier in her life, Dr. Ladyzhenskaya was briefly married. She has no immediate survivors
Softpanorama hot topic of the month
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- Computers -- Demos Company - Internet Communication
- Computers -- Elektronika Calculators
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10 Minute Guide To Practical Unix was written for people who are not hard-core programmers, but who need to work on different Unix systems every day. It behaves exactly like a book. Select the chapter you want to read, click on the Go Button, and you will access that chapter. System Requirements Windows 95, 98, or NT. Shareware: Free to try, $15 if you decide to keep it.
Russian correspondents ratings:
Andrew Osborn 80% dezo, 20% truth. Samples News
Elisabeth Bumiller 50% dezo, 50% truth. Samples The New York Times International Europe Bush and Putin Exhibit Tension Over Democracy
STROBE TALBOTT 100% dezo; extremly narrow-mined understanding of US interests. Samples: To Russia, With Tough Love
STEVEN R. WEISMAN 50% dezo, 50% truth.
New York Times International Europe Diplomacy Bush May Feel Chilly Blast From Russians, Envoy Says
Unix in Russian:
Suite for Variety Orchestra [misidentifed as Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2], extracts[a];
Dance[b]; Spanish Dance[c]; The Young Lady and the Hooligan, extracts[d];
Child's Notebook, Op. 69, extracts[e]; Ballet Suite No. 1[f].
Arnold Katz, Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra[a]; Rimma Bobritskaya (piano)[b,c,e]; Mark Gorenstein, Symphonic Orchestra of Russia[d,f].
Recorded Novosibirsk Philharmonie, June 1997[a]; Moscow Conservatory, February 1991[b,c,e]; Mosfilm Studios, June 1994[d] and December 1996[f]. Includes previously released material.
Saison Russe RUS 788164. DDD. TT 58:24.
If you need one good reason to acquire this disc, it would be the cover photo. Saison Russe's latest Shostakovich release features the composer in a rare moment of frivolity, a photo taken in 1943 at Ivanovo with Shostakovich posing with a couple of piglets. It would be tempting to read the artwork as a subtle poke in the direction of Animal Farm if it weren't for the programme, which might best be summed up as a representative sampling of what critics call Shostakovich's "bad music". [Reviewer refers to cover art from original issue; currently available reissue has new cover, shown at left, but includes portion of original image on back.] This is Dance Hall Days Shostakovich, the sort of music that made him famous at home and infamous abroad and which probably saved his skin more than once. If at first go this programme seems a bit of an overkill, owing in no small part to the repetition of quite a few numbers, taken in small portions it can be loads of fun.
The Suite for Variety Orchestra (which is commonly mistaken for the lost 1938 Jazz Suite No. 2, as is the case in Saison Russe's annotation) is more like tea-room entertainment composed for the sideshow orchestra, and consists of easy-listening waltzes and polkas. The opening Dance is none other than the Spanish Dance from The Gadfly, given a fireman-band treatment that borders on annoying, although the rest of the music is happily more laid back. "Jazz" instrumentation includes a seedy saxophone section and an accordion.
The Young Lady and the Hooligan is basically a theatre revue comprising Shostakovich's music from the 30s. Prime beef is The Limpid Stream's Gallop, a truly banal piece of work that almost smacks of contempt, and the Dance of the Coachmen from The Bolt, famous for its trombone raspberries. It might be a stroke of mischief that Shostakovich uses the latter to portray the hooligan, but generally these twenty-five minutes of highlights, including a snippet from the Cello Sonata, are pretty innocuous though quite entertaining. The Ballet Suite No. 1 is compiled again from The Limpid Stream, and probably represents as much of the ballet as one can stomach at one sitting. The Suite also includes an item from The Bolt that was never published, the Playful Waltz, and it is not hard to figure out why.
There is a wonderful mixture of irreverence, wicked fun and even moments of deliberate crudeness in these scores, all served up with Shostakovich's trademark sense of humour. Included are two piano arrangements of Dances from, again, The Limpid Stream and The Gadfly, as well as the charming diversion Child's Notebook [excerpts only; read review of complete work in DSCH No. 11]. Mark Gorenstein delivers far more characterful accounts in the later tracks with the polished and responsive Symphonic Orchestra of Russia than Arnold Katz does with his somewhat stiff Novosibirsk forces on the Jazz Suite.
From Sher's Russian Index
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