Cluster Map

Friday, May 27, 2011

Here comes Pollyanna again

Pollyanna in the movies
This has not been a week to be glad, with our PM giving a show to the US Congress (*see below), a deadly tornado in Joplin MO and a member of Congress, Eric Cantor, calling to withhold aid from the tornado victims. Despite all this, Pollyanna wants to wish a Happy 50th Birthday to Amnesty International.  In 1961  British lawyer Peter Benenson launched a worldwide "Appeal for Amnesty" on behalf of individuals imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. His article in the London Observer, entitled "The Forgotten Prisoners," went on to be reprinted in newspapers across the globe. This call to action resonated with the values and aspirations of people everywhere, and Amnesty International was born.  I suggest you watch the films embedded in the link.
Beauty Underground is something to enjoy such as the cave drawings of our ancestors from over 30 millennia ago.  A cave in France contains wall drawings that are said to be fantastic.  Of course, the cave is closed the presence of people would  destroy the drawings.  Pollyanna is, therefore, very glad that Werner Herzog  has made a 3-D film about them..  We are looking forward to seeing it.

THE ETHICS OF PSYCHIATRY can become a major issue when violated in the use of political polemics.  The New York Times brings this up in an op-ed with respect to the outburst of a nickel's worth of psychiatry from several practitioners of the craft,  The subject of the pontifications was Dominique Strauss-Kahan, the former director of the IMF, who is awaiting trial in New York on sex-related charges.  Without prejudging the case and without being psychiatrists, Pollyanna and I agree that much of this was unworthy of the profession.  It is simply not ethical  to express an opinion on a person whom they have never met nor examined.  Dr. Richard A. Friedman   has it right.

There are all kinds of scientific goodies floating around. and Pollyanna would like to share some of them with you.  We have some new geophysical insights that the folks at Science News have gathered for us.  If you are partial to leeches  you will be pleased to know that there is a new species in the latest list of the ten newest species provided by LiveScience.  The creature was found in a person's nose, Lord help us!
Among this year's top 10 picks is a leech, less than 2 inches in length but with a single jaw and gigantic teeth, earning it the name Tyrannobdella rex, which means "tyrant leech king." Found in Peru, this leech was discovered attached to the nasal mucous membrane of a human. According to the scientists who reported the discovery, there are 600 to 700 species of described leeches, yet there could be as many as 10,000 more throughout the world.

MODERN MUSIC is something that Pollyanna and I enjoy since new experiences are enjoyable and broaden our spectrum of pleasure.  Many of our friends tend to think that Mahler and Prokofiev were upstarts and that really everything has been downhill since Bach, with an indulgence granted grudgingly to Mozart and Beethoven.  There is an interesting blog in the NYTimes Opinionator in which modern composers air their views.  In particular, we enjoyed and would like to share with you an interesting analogy between classical music and baseball.
Two Hall of Famers, the Dodgers’ Duke Snider and Ludwig Van Beethoven.
As you are all aware, last Saturday was supposed to be Rapture Day in which Jesus would come back and take all his good followers to Heaven, all naked, while the rest of us would burn for our sins.  I heard of one person asking her friends to leave the SUV and the HD in front of her house, since they obviously would not be needing it.  Alas for them and hurray for us, the day came and went with no Rapture.  Apparently God was not yet ready to do it as reported in His press conference on the topic.  
In a more serious vein (why?), there has been some analysis  and commentary  on the aftermath of failed apocalyptic predictions.
Pollyanna and Hendrick Herzberg both think that a Rapture of Republicans  might not be a bad idea..
In the 18th century, an English pastor and amateur mathematician named Thomas Bayes formulated a theorem that has been controversial since. It appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. Or to write it as an equation:
Initial Beliefs + Recent Objective Data = A New and Improved Belief.  It shows how to determine inverse probabilities: knowing the conditional probability of B given A, what is the conditional probability of A given B? This can be done, but also involves the so-called prior or unconditional probabilities of A and B.
It was used in World War II to break the German code and has had many uses throughout the years.  It has also been heavily criticized by some mathematicians.  Now Yale University Press has published a history of Bayes' theorem  The Theory That Would Not Die.  You may find it interesting and I append  the publisher's comments.

*GLORY TO THE US CONGRESS IN WASHINGTON I.O.T.(Israel Occupied Territory)  The elected representatives of the American people jumped through the hoops held by Natanyahu in a matter reminiscent of a different regime. Not one of them had the courage s to stop jumping, sit down and maybe raise a relevant question.  Pollyanna and I say:Shame!! I append a story reported by Alexander Solzhenitsyn : A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with “stormy applause, rising to an ovation.” For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the “stormy applause, rising to an ovation” continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who’d been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly—but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter. . . . Then after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him: “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!”

OK, let us get on with some humorous inanity:  This week I resonated strongly with Gene Weingarten and his litany to stupidity as an art form.  All of us have shown nincompoopery at various times, such as locking ourselves out of our cars.  I did this once at a meeting in Pasadena and the insurance actually reimbursed me for the locksmith.  My friend and colleague  John Richardson called this stupidity insurance and he was right.
Of course stupidity is not confined to individuals, but can permeate organizations as well:

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