Random Notes

Archive for December, 2007

A Growing Addiction

Posted by mfluch on December 28, 2007

Amazon’s marketplace becomes an increasing addiction to me. Providing access to cheap offers for new and used books at fixed delivery rates (2,75£/book for books ordered through the UK Amazon’s marketplace, 3€/book for books ordered through the German Amazon’s marketplace) it makes buying … gathering … hunting interesting books a joy and growing addiction for me (my friends will hate me for this addiction when I will move the next time!).

Recent bought books include:

When shall I read all this? Hey! Who said books are only for reading?!

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Reading…

Posted by mfluch on December 28, 2007

Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Garden of Eden. From the back cover:

On an extended Mediterranean honeymoon, writer David Bourne begins to receive excellent notices for his second novel. He is eager to begin writing again. His wife Catherine encourages him but, resenting his writerly solitude, she involves them both in a strange, erotic triangle with another young woman.

Sofar I’ve read the first five chapters … it reads nicely and creates an interesiting mood…

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Privacy and “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide”

Posted by mfluch on December 27, 2007

A very good article discussing the “I’ve got nothing to hide” argument. From the abstract:

In this short essay, written for a symposium in the San Diego Law Review, Professor Daniel Solove examines the nothing to hide argument. When asked about government surveillance and data mining, many people respond by declaring: I’ve got nothing to hide. According to the nothing to hide argument, there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private. The nothing to hide argument and its variants are quite prevalent, and thus are worth addressing. In this essay, Solove critiques the nothing to hide argument and exposes its faulty underpinnings.

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57 – The Grothendieck Prime

Posted by mfluch on December 26, 2007

The following anecdote about the number 57 is quoted from Allyn Jackson’s article “Comme Appelé du Néant – As If Summoned from The Life of Alexandre Grothendieck”:

One striking characteristic of Grothendieck’s mode of thinking is that it seemed to rely so little on examples. This can be seen in the legend of the so-called “Grothendieck prime”. In a mathematical conversation, someone suggested to Grothendieck that they should consider a particular prime number. “You mean an actual number?” Grothendieck asked. The other person replied, yes, an actual prime number. Grothendieck suggested, “All right, take 57.”

Grothendieck is considered one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century. He thought in great generalities but yet thinking in concrete examples was not his strength. Note that 57 is equal to 19 times 3…

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Group Theory in a Nutshell

Posted by mfluch on December 26, 2007

The following statement is atributed to the mathematician James Neuman (though I did not find any other reference than Wikipedia’s article on group theory):

The theory of groups is a branch of mathematics in which one does something to something and then compares the results with the result of doing the same thing to something else, or something else to the same thing.

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Nicholas was…

Posted by mfluch on December 24, 2007

older than sin, and his beard could grow
no whiter. He wanted to die.

The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did
not speak his language, but conversed in their own,
twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible
rituals, when they were not actually
working in the factories.

Once every year they forced him, sobbing
and protesting, into Endless Night. During
the journey he would stand near every child
in the world, leave one of the dwarves
invisible gifts by its bedside. The
children slept, frozen into time.

He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and
Judas. His punishment was harsher.

Ho.
Ho.
Ho.

(Nicolas Was… by Neil Gaiman)

100 words long (102 words including the title) this short story was once written by Neil Gaiman for a post card he send to his friends…

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Comparison

Posted by mfluch on December 24, 2007

There is still a chance of 2-128 that our isPrime function will give you the wrong answer. To give you an idea of how small this chance actually is, the chance that you will be killed by a meteorite while you read this sentence is fdar larger. Still alive? Okay, so don’t worry about it.

(Niels Ferguson and Bruce Schneier in Practical Cryptography, p. 204)

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Firefox and Thunderbird

Posted by mfluch on December 21, 2007

My favourite cross-platform WWW browser and e-mail client are Firefox and Thunderbird. Available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Both programs can be extended with add-ons. My favourite add-ons are the following.

  1. Addblock Plus (Firefox): Makes most ads go away.
  2. Flashblock (Firefox): Don’t start Flash annimations automaticaly which in turn helps a lot against unwanted advertisement.
  3. Enigmail (Thunderbird): Encrypt easily your e-mails (needs GnuPG).

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How to Keep Plants Growing Well

Posted by mfluch on December 19, 2007

Terry Pratchett’s and Neil Gaiman’s description of how the demon Crowley convinces his plants to grow well:

…every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn’t look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants. “Say goodbye to your friend,” he’d say to them. “He just couldn’t cut it…”

Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuously around the flat.

The plants were the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. Also the most terrified.

(Good Omens, page 225.)

Again, nuff said.

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Rare Exports

Posted by mfluch on December 18, 2007

A short movie (approximately 7 minutes) about a special company in Finland:

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