Trump’s Loupe

I actually think Trump presidency is good for the US. And possibly for the world in the long run.

His pushing everything to extreme will definitely help to highlight and magnify some of the problems that were not so visible during Obama administration. He is waking America from apathy and slumber, he makes people more politically aware by making them hate him.

His pulling out of the Paris Climate deal has brought the climate debates once again in the spotlight and this time even China is on the right side (the card, played carefully will make China even greater power).

In the US, leaving Paris also shifts social initiative to the corporations.  Their defiance of the Trump’s Paris move, shows how big companies are ready to lead even in opposition to the country’s politicians. And this is a good thing. Big companies are already a formidable power in today’s world and in future, when they likely become more powerful than states, you want them to care not only about pure economic benefit.

On the other side, Trump using executive orders sparingly, highlights the incredible power behind the US President’s position. And also the dangers of the one party controlling the power. Trump’s inconsistent and egotistic foreign policy is just a grotesque version of the American foreign policy that has been conducted for decades. With the exception of his apparent close ties with Russia, Trump does not bring anything new: same support for Saudi dictators, same convoluted position on Syria and Israel. Just more clumsy, more apparent.

He is obviously an easier target to criticize and attracting more critics help to highlight important issues. More discussion, more deliberation by the public is always a good thing. Whether or not Trump will be able to complete his five-year term, I think in a decade his presidency will be remembered as a positive bump in the world’s history.

The magestic r/place

The April 1st social  experiment on Reddit turned out nice this year. Users were enabled to draw on the huge canvas, one pixel per 5 minutes for 72 hours. It resulted in a great example of co-creation.

r/place is a collaborative canvas on which a single user could only place a single tile every five minutes. This limitation de-emphasized the importance of the individual and necessitated the collaboration of many users in order to achieve complex creations. Each tile placed was relayed to observers in real-time.

The full 1000×1000 pixel picture have already been printed on canvases and puzzles by some redditors. Probably a couple of tattoos will follow.

Great detailed description of the project architecture is provided by Reddit on their blog. Absolutely fascinating reading, at peak times 80,000 users were at r/place simultaneously placing tiles. Some users chose to cooperate in creating the art and later, bots were created to draw automatically on the canvas.

With the collected data, some wonderful visualisation have been created. You can check the original article here and r/place atlas, I just want to repost some of the animations.

! Heavy animations below.

Continue reading The magestic r/place

Podcasts I like

I like listening to podcasts. I listen mostly when driving or at the gym.

Over time I understood that I don’t like the American way of doing podcasts (TED-like, engaging listeners, very emotional). I find them tiring and prefer the British ones.

I am a regular listener of three podcasts that I whole-heartily recommend:

Infinite Monkey Cage (BBC) – incredibly entertaining general science podcast with amazing Brian Cox and Robin Ince as hosts.

Science Weekly (Guardian) – Science news. Helps me to be up to speed with scientific advancements. Leans towards physics/ hard science. Sometimes includes absolutely fascinating interviews.

Friday Night Comedy (BBC) – Recent news discussed by the British comedians. Funny as hell.

Simplify your writing

Randall Munroe, of xkcd comic fame, developed an interesting online tool.

Aptly named “Simple writer”, it is a text editor that highlights all the words in your text that are not in first 1000 most used English words (or rather lemmas, as it permits different forms of a word). This tool can possibly help simplify one’s writing style, should such a necessity emerge. And it is fun to play with.

While the first part of this message was written without trying to be simple, this last block was carefully looked into with the help of the simple writer thing. Not sure if it really makes the writing simpler but it sure takes more time to plan.

Blogging WordPress theme

One of my non-academic hobbies is web-design. Creating my own WordPress theme that would be accepted into the depository was in my bucket list for a while.

And now I have done that. My first complete and publicly available WP theme “Simplified Blog” is available for download.

Feature list and description of the theme is here. In general I tried to create something very simple and accessible to everyone who just wants a blog without any fancy stuff. The Simplified theme has many customisation options, so it can be easily used without messing with the code. If you plan to make yourself a blog – try it and let me know if you like it :).

On the price of things

Some time ago I understood that the real price for anything is not the one we pay when buying the actual thing. Real price is the price for the “usage” of an item during a unit of time.

It is convenient to use per day price as a measure of this. For instance if you buy an iPhone for 600 euros and use it for 500 days your per-day-price would be 1,2 €. So to use your iPhone every day you pay 1,2 euros.

Consequently the longer you use the item, the cheaper it is. I used my old phone (Sony Ericsson K600) for 5,5 years. The resulting price of using it was around only 8 cents a day. When you start thinking in terms of a per-day-price, you would undoubtedly find many interesting examples in your life.

my phone
The phone I used the longest

With such arithmetic in mind, it is easy to evaluate what is worth paying more for and what is not. Like 1000-euro wedding rings over 40 years of use will result in a tiny 5 cent daily price, but a cheap Chinese tablet breaking in a couple of months would cost much more.

Unlucky days

Interestingly, in contrast to many other countries, in Spain (and apparently in Latin America countries and in Greece) not Friday but Tuesday the 13th is considered to be an unlucky day.

martes 13

I tried to find out the source of this superstition but Spanish Wikipedia states only that according to the legend it was on the Tuesday the 13th that languages got mixed during the construction of the Tower of Babel. According to which legend – remains a mystery. Another version is even more implausible — the day is unlucky because 13 was the number of apostles during the holy supper and Tuesday because it was the day Constantinople was sacked by the Ottomans. I am pretty sure even more tragic and disastrous things happened on Tuesdays, but that can be said of any other day as well.

Even more interesting is that in Italy the unlucky day is the Friday the 17th. Italians go as far as omitting the 17th row in their Alitalia planes.

Alitalia no 17

In China and Japan, four is the one unlucky number. 9 is also not very lucky, but I guess they can live with 9th floor.
fourth floor ommited

What I suggest is that we should be much more culture-sensitive in our globalised age. Superstitions are after all are an important part of any culture. Lets built hotels without 4th, 13th and 17th floors and ignore that room numbers as well, omit them in seat numbering in buses, trains and planes and provide paid day-offs for everyone on the 4th, 13th and 17th day of every month. That is the least what I demand.