Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Song of the day: "Let your fingers do the walking" by Sort Sol

I am certainly not an expert when it comes to Danish music bands (despite the fact that I've been in Denmark for quite a while now: it is high time I knew more about the topic....), but I start to sort of form some preferences among the few bands I was "introduced" to. One of my favourites (and also a favourite of every single Danish woman I have talked to about Danish music!) is Sort Sol (in English, Black Sun), which is one of the 'oldies', but still very much appreciated in Denmark. Unfortunately their website seems to be down at the moment, so here's a very short wikipedia entry in English. They are classified as 'punk, post punk, gothic rock' when it comes to the musical genres they practice (though the Danes certainly seem to have a different idea of what the label 'punk' represents, than the Dutch, for instance...). My favourite song - so far, haven't listened to all their albums- from them is the great piece "Let your fingers do the walking" (lyrics here), which is also the song of the day. Unfortunately I could not find other clips from Sort Sol on YouTube, although it would have been very nice to find at least "Shaheeba Bay" and "Popcorn", which were also hits of their most successful album, "Glamourpuss", released in 1993.

But without further ado, here's "Let your fingers do the walking" in two different live performances: the first is from a concert in Skanderborg, Denmark, in 1993, while the second is from a festival from Sweden, in 1994. With a fantastic guitar play by Peter Peter Schneidermann (the guy that left the band in '95, unfortunately) in both of them!

Quote for week 25th to 31st March '07

The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.

Milton Friedman

Castigatorii "FameLab Romania"

Rezultatele finale (si detalii privind desfasurarea intregului concurs) pot fi consultate aici. Premiantii sunt urmatorii:

  • Locul I: Camelia Chira (Cluj- felicitari juriului de la Cluj pentru desemnarea unei finaliste care a ajuns sa bata Bucurestiul si Iasiul :-) )
  • Locul II: Sebastian Dan (Bucuresti)
  • Locul III: Alina Tanase (Bucuresti)
  • Premiul de popularitate: Simona Mancas (Bucuresti)
As spune ca juriul a facut o treaba buna in ultima etapa, judecand doar in baza informatiilor referitoare la finalistii competitiei. Deci un inceput bun al FameLab in Romania!

The YouTube 2006 Awards

Here. Except the most creative and the most adorable clips, the rest is somewhat of a dissapointment. But this is what you get without using an expert jury. The 2007 YTAwards will definitely be more impressive...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quote for week 18th to 24th of March '07

Etimologia cuvantului semidoct e la indemana oricui; nu-i este deloc greu de recunoscut particula semi-, care inseamna "jumatate" si care se regaseste in cuvinte precum: semicerc, semifinala, semiluna, semiton, semivocala. Neologismul doct ("erudit", "invatat") e binecunoscut si el; vorbitorii fac repede asocierea cu alte cuvinte romanesti precum: doctor, doctorat sau docent, dupa cum cei ce stiu frantuzeste sau latineste il pot raporta la francezul docte ori la participiul latinesc doctus "invatat". Semidoct inseamna "pe jumatate invatat", adica, citand dupa Dictionarul explicativ al limbii romane: "om care are cunostinte putine si superficiale (dar se crede cult), om putin instruit".

Cum se vede, cel mai popular dictionar romanesc pune intre paranteze, in formularea-i lexicografica, precizarea "dar se crede cult", lasand sa se inteleaga, dupa parerea mea cu totul inoportun, ca un semidoct este doar un om putin instruit, care numai uneori se crede cult. Nu este asa: semidoctul se crede intotdeauna instruit, sau, cel putin, se comporta ca si cum ar fi astfel. Pe un individ care nu stie ceva important, nu-l numesc automat semidoct, ci-i spun, dupa imprejurari, fie naiv sau necultivat, fie ignorant ori stupid, fie chiar prost. Nu zic despre un nescolit ca e semidoct, cata vreme el nu-si da aere de erudit. Ii voi spune insa ca-i semidoct unui farsor care-si aroga calitati intelectuale. Atunci cand notiunea careia i se ataseaza particula semi- este socialmente prestigioasa, precum doct, compusul rezultat capata nuante peiorative, fiindca, in asemenea cazuri, orice "imputinare" este jignitoare. (Fenomenul se cunoaste de la diminutive: puisor e gingas, doctoras- ironic.) Tot dispretul si oprobriul, toata ironia si tot sarcasmul (dupa caz) pe care le presupune cuvantul semidoct se trag din impostura personajului numit sau calificat astfel; caci incultura, ignoranta- prostia chiar- pot fi intelese si compatimite, nu insa si... potlogaria.

Ionel Funeriu ("Eseuri lingvistice antitotalitare")

Thursday, March 22, 2007

France just opening UFO files- I know what's going on!

It is very clear why they chose to do this right now. The Franch 'Man in Black' can finally prove that the French 'Lady in Red' (more details here or, particularly, here on Dan's blog and comments section) is a dangerous alien. Go Sarko! Speaking of that, Chirac came to his senses and gave full support to the MiB against the aliens (ergo, the full exposure of the poor ET's on the web- that site seems under heavy alien attack at this very moment, though...don't know how much it'll resist). However, Bernard Salanié is right in pointing out problems in all the candidates' labour market strategies (but France entirely is sort of an alien world when it comes to the labour market and all that). If anything, Bayrou looks more competent. Is his file also to be found among the ET encounter dossiers or is he an undercover MiB ?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Song of the Day: "When the Lady Smiles", by Golden Earring

Despite the fact that Viacom is sueing the hell out of YouTube and a lot of good videoclips had to be consequently removed, the show must/will go on! Long live YouTube! The artists I propose for today are Golden Earring (Wiki entry in English and Wiki entry in Dutch, more complete; an autobiography here), an amazing, incredibly long-lived, Dutch rockband (singing in English all their songs)- btw, I talked previously about another great Dutch band, on this blog- , highly underrated everywhere else except in The Netherlands (Golden Earring is the best Dutch rockband ever!)- and I still do not understand why. Their most famous piece that probably most of you know (and my second favourite from them) is of course the masterpiece Radar Love - here with the original video from 1973 (unfortunately the 10 minutes long live version from their early years, that I had seen before was removed because of the Viacom scandal; but here is a shorter live version from Ahoy Rotterdam, in 2006!) and yet another big hit was Twilight Zone (here in an amazing unplugged version). And a few other very good pieces (unfortunately I could not find all those I was looking for; two such examples are "Devil made me do it" or "Vanilla Queen") I really recommend: Quiet Eyes, Mad Love's Comin' or Gypsy Rose and Love is a Loser- this one might offend some "conservatives"- just check out the lyrics- but the value of the song is and should remain unquestionable (the last two selections are played recently).

But the song of the day and my personal favourite from Golden Earring is When the Lady Smiles (here with the original videoclip that created them many problems at the time of the release- 1984-, many countries simply refusing to broadcast it or broadcasting an edited version, because of the alleged "violation"/"molestation" of a nun... which makes us wonder again what was freedom of expression like, then, and what it is now: to be very clear, I simply think the videoclip is great, a perfect company for this great song). The lyrics are here.

My top 25 movies

I was mentioning recently that I should attempt to make a top 25 of my favourite movies. Now, before anything else, I should say that this is a very dynamic top and hence, it is my top 25 movies at this very moment: for instance, a year ago it looked a bit different and there are still dozens of movies (both old and very recent) on my "must see" list (I really did not see that many...), which could jump anywhere in this top (by the way, your suggestions are very welcome!). Next to that, this ranking below is not very rigid: if you see a movie for the second, third...nth time, you might get to quite different conclusions about it. And last, but not least important, each of the movies in this top are certainly my number 1 on certain specific criteria, otherwise they wouldn't have made it on the list to start with! Thus, the relative ranking of the movies below is flexible and, in fact, I divided my top 25 in five sections of five movies each, so that I do not have to rank the movies in each of the five-movie categories (and even so, jumps between categories, according to which characteristics receive more weight, are very possible). And a (obvious) note: the ranking of the movies does not in any way imply a ranking of the actors in the leading roles, for instance, or a ranking of my favourite movie directors, in general (for those we need a different analysis...).

For each of the movies, I'll place links next to the corresponding entries, on both IMDb (a) and RottenTomatoes (b), so that everybody can immediately follow them and eventually read more.
  • places 1-5: Amadeus (a, b); The Godfather I (a, b); Dangerous Liaisons (a, b); Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (a, b); Waking Life (a, b)
  • places 6-10: The Shawshank Redemption (a, b); Pulp Fiction (a, b); Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a, b); Underground (a, b); Hable con Ella (a, b)
  • places 11-15: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (a, b); Léon (a, b); A Clockwork Orange (a, b); Crna macka, beli macor (a, b); Se7en (a, b);
  • places 16-20: Memento (a, b); Donnie Darko (a, b); American Beauty (a, b); The Pianist (a, b); Apocalypse Now (a, b);
  • places 21-25: Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (a, b); Trainspotting (a, b); Snatch (a, b); Good Night, and Good Luck (a, b); La Vita è Bella (a, b);

In a future post I will continue with the next 25 places (which- of course- could eventually replace movies from the list above; the (cumulated) differences among the first 50 positions are after all very small).

Update, 21st of March: As I stated also in the comments section below, as answer to some of the excellent suggestions (in this particular case, of Dan, who followed my example- I am contagious :-) - and published his own top of favourite movies), I discovered that I really left out one of my all time favourite movies and that was Leaving Las Vegas (IMDb entry, RottenTomatoes entry). So the changes are the following: Leaving Las Vegas enters on places 6-10; as a consequence, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind goes down to places 11-15, Crna macka, beli macor goes down to places 16-20, Donnie Darko goes down to places 20-25 and Good Night, and Good Luck is pushed on the immediate next level, thus I will enter it again when I will continue my top from position 26 onwards. It is very unlikely that I've omitted something else, in top 10 at least, among the movies that I have seen. Of course the most important list will be the one of "must see movies- greatest potential", which I will also publish in the near future and where the comments of my readers have been already very helpful.

Scientific Breakthrough: Mapping E8

This definitely calls for celebration in the whole scientific community! Perseverance, a lot of patience, a team of 18 brilliant mathematicians and computer scientists, 64 Gb of RAM: the result is mapping E8, the largest among the exceptional simple Lie groups. Here's the press release of the American Institute of Mathematics. And here, some details of the computation. For a lot more information check the Atlas of Lie Groups and Representations.

Update (same day): the 18-people team involved in the breakthrough (Dan Ciubotaru, a Romanian, is one of the members)

Update 26th of March: Razvan Florian posted my note about Ciubotaru as news on Ad Astra. Science also had as news this fantastic breakthrough, on March 23rd.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Econlinks for 19-03-'07

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Song of the day: Happy Birthday, Mr. President!, by Marylin Monroe

Well, well, the opportunity arises only once a year, so here we go: this classic is dedicated to yours truly. Of course, I'm still searching for THE Marylin and JFK's job is not yet within my reach, but I'm slowly getting there :-). Meanwhile, one has to admit that nobody is better at singing Happy Birthday than lovely Marylin...

PS. Thanks to all good wishes I've received this weekend, from both (potential) Marylins and (less likely) JFK's :-). And now, time to sober up...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Finalistii FameLab Romania

Despre competitia FameLab Romania am mai scris aici. Se pare ca au fost alesi finalistii si se poate deja vota pentru ei, pe prezentarile de cca. 30 de secunde (pentru "Premiul Publicului"). Mai multe informatii despre procesul de selectie pana acum. Finala va fi pe 19 martie, la Bucuresti. Evident toti finalistii merita aplaudati si contributiile lor sunt extrem de interesante; nu va fi foarte usor sa se decida castigatorul si sper ca juriul va functiona dupa criterii extrem de clare (in particular observatia mea ar fi ca se disting totusi cel putin doua "niveluri" intre finalisti, in functie, ca prim factor, de gradul de dificultate a temei abordate). Via Ad Astra.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Economic debate on the role of democracy for economic growth and on the role of human capital for democracy

... hosted by the Wall Street Journal. The two debaters are established stars of the Economics academe, despite being relatively young still, Daron Acemoglu and respectively, Edward Glaeser (by the way, I bet on Ed Glaeser winning this edition's (2007) John Bates Clark Medal- it is also his last chance, given the rules regarding the age of the recipient; Daron Acemoglu was the latest winner, two years ago). There are also plenty of references in the WSJ text, for those who want to read more about the topic(s).

As for the main disagreement ("healthy disagreement" though, as Daron Acemoglu calls it) of this debate, I agree with Acemoglu in that it is not "low education", per se, that impedes the birth of democracies but rather "deep social and economic divides that create intense conflicts" (that is rather vague as well, but a good catchall term). However, what was not at all discussed in here, and where Ed Glaeser might have a point, is what kind of education are we really talking about. There is a lot to discuss here of course, but just shortly, to motivate the idea launched above, think about Europe's postcommunist countries (I am focusing on what I know best, Romania, but the situation is very similar in the other former European communist states). The education there was both broad and deep, but only on the very abstract, highly theoretical disciplines (guess what, all of us always excelled in Maths, for instance), or only on this side of all disciplines- and the situation did not significantly change for many years after, since the system had already roots, tradition.... When you have no clue about why you learn what you learn -and you should have no clue- it is pretty likely that you will not be able to contribute to any "higher goals". Hence, very high level, very sophisticated, education, but missing the "liberal arts" approach, to try a catch-all term, under a dictatorship, say, will not necessarily bring democracy. Au contraire, this education, combined with "ideology training" and the like, worked against democracy. Witness the many years in which communist dictatorships all over Eastern and Central Europe resisted- it certainly wasn't a sudden increase in the already "high" education level that brought them down, finally (no correlation between the changes in education levels and the changes in democracy levels, as Acemoglu rightly puts it). Of course this was an oversimplication, there are many factors at play there, but what I meant to bring to the discussion is really the fact that 'education', if we just take it as a whole, can make you a very technical, competent, person, an expert, a specialist, but it might not raise your "awareness" (by the way, this immediately makes a connection, although it is not direcly related, to "Je suis aware", the funny videoclip of Jean Claude Van Damme - for French speakers only!- oh, well, he isn't necessarily the best to teach us about high level education, but we must admit he does a pretty good job here, in teaching us about awareness, which I believe to be equally, if not even more, important). If we talk about the "other side" of education, "nurturing the awareness" (and provided everybody has equal opportunities for education, here we talk again about social and economic inequalities- empirically the spread, the variance in the education levels, rather than its mean- otherwise- again, oversimplification), Glaeser cannot be wrong.

The link to the Glaeser vs. Acemoglu piece is from Greg Mankiw.

Econlinks for 15-03-'07

  • Quite an interesting article in last week's print edition of The Economist about divorce as a business. Essence: it really matters where the divorce is pronounced (tip: don't choose England if you're the rich(er) spouse...). Here's something each of you might want to remember: "The lesson for couples? How you live may determine the length and happiness of your marriage. Where you live is likely to determine how it ends."
  • In the same edition of the Economist, a good short material on Eastern Europe's technology boom with its pluses and minuses, with quite some attention paid to Romania's situation. Some relevant excerpts:

"On the face of it, Romania's software industry could hardly be doing better. Foreign firms such as Microsoft, Alcatel and Hewlett-Packard are piling in, attracted by cheap, skilled and multilingual programmers, and proximity to rich Europe" ;

"Cornelius Brody of IQuest, which writes software for companies including Virgin Atlantic and Lloyd's of London, now employs 160 people after ten years in Romania. He praises the 'multilingualism, multiculturalism and Western-oriented mentality' in the nothern part of Romania, which used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. But business is getting harder. His programmers' salaries are now at 50% of Western levels and are rising by as much as 20% a year. When the discount to Western salary levels drops to around a quarter, it is scarcely worth going abroad, he notes.";

"[...]Ukraine, with a population of 47m, produces 30,000 computing graduates a year. This gives it an edge over Romania, with a population of 22m, which produces only 8,000. Zsolt Nagy, the Romanian government minister responsible, admits there is a bottleneck, but insists that public-private partnerships in education will increase capacity. Yet across eastern Europe, higher education- almost always state-run- has been remarkably resistant to reform. [...]universities are run as "fiefs" where innovations such as teaching by outside practioners are strongly resisted. Higher demand for graduates tends to result in corruption in entrance requirements or a drop in standards, rather than better teaching".

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Quote for the week 11th to 17th of March '07

I probably have more female friends than any man I've ever met. What I like about them is that almost always they're generally mentally tougher, and they're better listeners, and they're more capable of surviving things. And most of the women that I like have a haunted quality - they're sort of like women who live in a haunted house all by themselves.

John Malkovich

Previous week's quote.

3.14, Church of Pi, Cadaeic Cadenza

A bit extreme for my tastes (I am more than fine with 3.14159, which seems to be also an MIT "chant", see below), but well, why not ? Happy Pi Day, everybody! :-)

This is a story about love. About inscrutable complexity and remarkable simplicity, about the promise of forever. It is about obsession and devotion, and grand gestures and 4,000-word love letters.

It is about a curious group of people with an almost religious zeal for a mind-numbing string of numbers. Actually one number, made up of a chain that is known — so far — to be more than one trillion digits long. They are the acolytes of the church of pi.
And once a year many of them gather to talk about pi, rhapsodize about it, eat pi-themed foods (actual pie, sure, but so much more), have pi recitation contests and, just maybe, feel a little less sheepish about their unusual passion.

That day falls on Wednesday this year: March 14. Or 3.14. Obviously.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Song of the day: "O sonho", by Madredeus

The song for today is by my favourite Portuguese band, Madredeus (wikipedia entry)- and I'd like to think I got a bit of "feeling" for Portuguese music (and for many other things related to Portugal) from my very good friends Miguel and Carla. For the connaisseurs no further information on Madredeus is required; for the others, I'll just say that their music is simply heavenly - and urge them to discover that for themselves.

I selected a couple of absolutely great songs by Madredeus, available on YouTube. Try for instance "O Labirinto Parado" (with a close to perfect videoclip here) or "O Pomar das Laranjeiras" (live performance). The song of the day is the masterpiece "O sonho", from the album "O Paraiso" (live peformance in Belgrade, 2000, in this youtube videoclip), which I dedicate to Daria with all my Happy Birthday wishes (or well, Parabens!, to have it assorted...). The lyrics are below:

O Sonho

Quem contar
um sonho que sonhou
não conta tudo o que encontrou
Contar um sonho é proibido

Eu sonhei
um sonho com amor
e uma janela e uma flor
uma fonte de água e o meu amigo
E não havia mais nada...
só nós, a luz, e mais nada...
Ali morou o amor

Amor que trago em segredo
num sonho que não vou contar
e cada dia é mais sentido

eu tenho amor bem escondido
num sonho que não sei contar
e guardarei sempre comigo

Monday, March 12, 2007

Despre colocviul stiintific de la Copenhaga, de sambata trecuta

Evenimentul a fost mai mult decat reusit pentru o prima editie si constituie un precedent care nu trebuie ignorat. Deci chapeau organizatorilor, participantilor, audientei! O scurta trecere in revista, in fuga (si las programul sa vorbeasca de la sine, mai jos): ideea colocviului s-a materializat (intr-un final!) datorita, in cea mai mare parte, efortului si "incapatanarii" lui Alex Nicolin, organizatorul evenimentului, si bunavointei lui Theodor Paleologu, gazda intalnirii. Despre ce e vorba? Sambata dupa-masa, la resedinta din Copenhaga a ambasadorului roman din Danemarca, ne-am adunat cativa dintre romanii activi in universitati sau institute de cercetare din Danemarca, in diferite discipline stiintifice, cu gandul imediat de a ne face o idee despre obiectul de cercetare al fiecaruia si cu perspectiva "punerii la cale" a unei asemenea intalniri periodice, invitand si mai multi romani din "academe"-ul danez, sa incerc un 'catchall term', cu scopuri mai mult sau mai putin academice (aici trebuie spus, draga Alex, ca fara a motiva oamenii cel putin cu o cina si niste vinuri de calitate la final, intr-o atmosfera placuta, dupa o sesiune intensiva de prezentari- pana la urma aici s-ar purta cele mai interesante discutii- mai greu sa aduci lumea din Aarhus sau chiar din Roskilde, chiar controland pentru atractia noastra fatala pentru stiinta, in general- asta ca 'food for thought' pentru ideile tale viitoare si daca nu vrei sa te rezumi la invitati din Copenhaga :-) ).

Audienta (in jur de 20-25 de oameni, Alex va trebui sa ma corecteze daca nu am numarat bine; studenti, masteranzi, atasati militari, stagiari la ambasada etc. ) a fost la inaltime, chiar daca nu a ridicat foarte multe intrebari in timpul prezentarilor (ceea ce totusi s-a facut dupa colocviu, cand toata lumea a prins mai mult curaj). Colocviul propriu-zis a fost compus din sase prezentari 'stiintifice' destinate in principiu unei audiente generale (cu observatia ca parte din audienta s-a plans ca nu a inteles foarte mult din prezentarea lui Eugen, desi a priceput partea esentiala, cea despre televizoarele cu plasma :-)), avand mai mult sau mai putin 20 de minute pe sesiune (a propos, sunt absolut convins ca Alex a taiat din timpul meu, distrugand ceea ce ar fi putut fi, dar nu a mai fost, cea mai buna prezentare :-)). Il citez [si completez, putin] mai jos pe Razvan Anistoroaei, unul dintre prezentatori, care, zic eu, a reusit un rezumat excelent al intalnirii si astfel m-a scapat de sarcina de a face eu unul: multumiri catre gazde si organizatori...a fost deosebit de placut sa aflam si "de la altii" cum se exprima stiinta si tehnica in alte in particular in Danemarca. A fost interesant sa aflam despre aplicatiile plasmei (inclusiv in ecranele televizoarelor moderne:))) la fel cum Nikos ne-a purtat prin inaltimile de peste 50 de m ale eolienelor si ne-a confirmat eventual re-incadrarea acestei energii alternative intr-una conventionala. Ne-am bucurat si de expunerea umanista privitoare la strategiile de razboi facandu-ne sa ne intrebam cate razboaie sunt in realitate in lume la momentul de fata. [Am fost pusi in tema (si dilema...) cu privire la clonare, celule stem, animale cu blana, si dezbaterile politice, mai mult sau mai putin informate, din jurul acestora]. Am aflat ulterior ca, chiar si in elaborarea de pedepse pentru infractori exista o analiza economica minutioasa cu evaluarea tuturor potentialelor consecinte si am incheiat prin a fi informati despre aplicarea matematicii (in modele ipotetice) vis a vis de birocratia functionareasca. Punand in ecuatie si placuta interactie dintre noi in finalul dupa-amiezii, cred ca evenimentul este ceva care ar trebui reeditat, sigur, si cu participarea altor "actori".

Sa lasam insa programul intalnirii sa vorbeasca de la sine (observatie: prima prezentare a fost de fapt a 3-a, in rest programul s-a respectat). Ii fac copy-paste mai jos, exact asa cum l-a incropit- tragand de noi sa-i trimitem informatiile la timp- Alex (si eliminand adresele email). Dar inainte de asta, sa nu uit, pentru cine e interesat de toata prezentarea mea (desi fara prezentator nu valoreaza prea mult :-)), e accesibila aici (in PDF).

Colocviul cercetătorilor români din Danemarca


14:00 – 14:15 Primirea invitaţilor

14:15 – 14:30 Discursul de primire al Excelenţei Sale Dl. Theodor Paleologu, Ambasadorul României în Regatul Danemarcei

14:30 – 15:30 Prima sesiune de colocvii

14:30 – 14:50 „Teoria partizanului şi noile forme de război”, Excelenţa Sa Dl. Theodor Paleologu, doctor in filozofie politică

14:50 – 15:10 „Lentile tridimensionale cu plasmă – fenomenologie şi aplicaţii în
micro- şi nano-tehnologii”, Dl. Eugen Stamate, doctor în fizică

15:10 – 15:30 „,Energia eoliană. Statut şi perspective”, Dl. Nicolaos Cutululis, doctor în inginerie

15:30 – 15:45 Pauză de cafea

15:45 – 16:45 A doua sesiune de colocvii

15:45 – 16:05 „Controversa mediatico-politică a ştiinţelor bio-medicale”, Dl. Răzvan Anistoroaei, doctor în genetică

16:05 – 16:25 „Economia ca ştiinţă sau despre ‹‹imperialismul economic›› între ştiinţele sociale”, Dl. Sebastian Buhai, doctorand în economie

16:25 – 16:45 „Modelarea matematică a birocraţiei”, Dl. Alexandru Nicolin, doctorand în fizică

16:45 – 19:00 Cină

Excelenţa Sa Dl. Theodor Paleologu s-a născut în Bucureşti pe data de 15 iulie 1973. Parcursul formativ al Dl-ului Paleologu include licenţa în filozofie, Paris I Sorbonne (1992-1998), ancien éleve, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris (1996-2001) şi doctoratul în filozofie politică, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris & University of Munich (1998-2001). Dl. Paleologu a fost „Research Fellow” la University of Notre Dame, USA (2001-2002), New York University, USA (2002), Harvard University, USA (2002-2003) şi Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Germania (2005). În paralel cu funcţia de Ambasador al României în Regatul Danemarcei Dl. Paleologu este lector extern în cadrul Universităţii din Copenhaga unde ţine cursuri de filozofie politică.

Dl. Paleologu este căsătorit cu soprana Sarah Nassif Paleologu.

Rezumat: „La presiunea vremurilor recente canoanele sociale suferă modificări impresionante: ceea ce era văzut odinioară ca ruşine si umilire devine acum publicitate, carnagiile cutremurătoare devin ştiri scurte pe fluxurile media iar zvonurile si bârfele devin ştiri de senzaţie. Războaiele se schimba şi ele: intră într-o faza impersonală, posteroică. Colocviul de faţă va discuta teoria partizanului şi noile forme de război.”

Dl. Eugen Stamate este absolvent al facultăţii de fizică, Universitatea „Al. I. Cuza” din Iaşi, 1991. Asistent la aceeaşi facultate până în ianuarie 1996. Din 1996 până în 2001, doctorand şi apoi lector la Institutul de Tehnologie din Nagoya, Japonia. Bursier postdoctoral al Societăţii Japoneze pentru Promovarea Ştiinţei (JSPS) şi apoi profesor asociat la centrul de excelenţă “Plasma-Nano” al Universităţii Nagoya până în august 2006. În mai 2006 obţine prin concurs o poziţie de „Senior Scientist” şi lider de grup (Reactive Plasma Processing) la Laboratorul Naţional Risø, Danemarca. Este autor a 22 de articole publicate în jurnale cotate ISI şi a peste 50 de prezentări la conferinţe internaţionale din care 5 din poziţia de „Lector Invitat”. Din 2003 este fondator şi preşedinte al Societăţii Româno-Japoneze pentru Ştiinţă şi Tehnologie şi iniţiator al Forumului Academic Român (

Rezumat: „Plasmele reactive stau la baza a numeroase micro- şi nano-tehnologii implicate în procesarea siliciului pentru fabricarea cipurilor electronice (pulverizare, depunere, implantare, corodare, pasivizare, etc.), modificarea unor proprietăţi de suprafaţă (duritate, adezivitate, hidrofilitate) şi obţinerea unor materiale cu proprietăţi magnetice, dielectrice sau supraconductoare deosebite. Scenariul comun al acestor tehnologii implică producerea unei plasme într-un amestec de gaze active chimic. Prin polarizarea materialului ce urmează a fi tratat se formează în jurul acestuia o pătură de sarcină spaţială care accelerează ioni, direcţionându-i spre suprafaţa cu o anumita energie şi un anumit unghi de impact. În funcţie de geometria păturii de sarcină spaţială este posibilă obţinerea unei uniformităţi în domeniul a câtorva zeci de nanometrii pentru obiecte de zeci de centimetrii în diametru sau focalizarea ionilor numai pe anumite zone. Este astfel posibil să realizăm pături de sarcină care să inducă o cinetică controlată asupra fluxurilor de particule încărcate (ioni pozitivi si negativi, electroni). În acest raport vor fi prezentate rezultate experimentale şi simulări numerice care demonstrează proprietăţi remarcabile de focalizare ale unor lentile tridimensionale cu plasma. Pe lângă aspectele fundamentale sunt abordate şi câteva aplicaţii legate de detecţia ionilor negativi şi implantarea ionica.

Dl. Nicolaos A. Cutululis a obţinut diploma de licenţă şi cea de Studii Aprofundate, in 1998 si, respectiv, 1999 de la Facultatea de Inginerie Electrica – din cadrul Universităţii „Dunărea de Jos” din Galaţi. În 2005 i-a fost acordat titlul de doctor inginer, specializarea „Control Automat”, în cadrul aceleiaşi universităţi. Din februarie 2005 a ocupat o poziţie de cercetare postdoctorală şi – în prezent – de cercetător la departamentul de Energie Eoliana din cadrul Institutului Naţional Risø. Domeniul său principal de interes este integrarea puterii eoliene în sistemele energetice, cuprinzând un număr de discipline tehnice: controlul şi stabilitatea sistemelor energetice, modelarea dinamică şi controlul turbinelor şi a fermelor eoliene, statistica fluctuaţiilor vântului, etc.

Rezumat: „Sistemele de conversie a energiei eoliene au cunoscut o dezvoltare considerabilă în ultimii 25 de ani, ajungând astăzi să aibă o pondere semnificativă. În mai multe ţari europene, peste 10% din totalul energiei electrice produse provine din sisteme eoliene, Danemarca fiind lider mondial cu o rata de penetrare de 20%. Dificultatea principală în realizarea sistemelor eoliene este dată de discrepanţa mare dintre caracterul neregulat al energiei primare (viteza vântului fiind un proces aleator, puternic nestaţionar) şi cerinţele extrem de exigente de regularizare a parametrilor energiei electrice furnizate (frecvenţă, tensiune, etc.). Acest aspect este amplificat si de tendinţa generală de a concentra turbinele eoliene instalate în ferme eoliene, de preferinţă offshore. In aceste condiţii, obiectivul principal al cercetării sistemelor eoliene vizează integrarea lor în sistemele energetice naţionale şi capacitatea lor de a funcţiona ca surse de energie convenţională. Astfel, principalele direcţii de cercetare la nivelul fermelor eoliene vizează dezvoltarea unor strategii de control capabile să „ajute” integrarea lor în sistemele energetice. În paralel, la nivel de sistem energetic, se studiază noi tipuri de sisteme energetice: distribuite, inteligente şi cu noi medii de stocare, de ex. baterii cu vanadium”.

Dl. Razvan Anistoroaei a obţinut recent titlul de Doctor în Ştiinţe Veterinare şi Animale la Facultatea de Ştiinţe ale Vieţii din cadrul Universităţii din Copenhaga, specializarea Genetică. În momentul de faţă dl. Anistoroaei ocupă o poziţie postdoctorală în cadrul aceleiaşi facultăţi, preocupările sale cuprinzând cartarea genică, genetica culorilor şi hărţile genetice integrate. În cadrul relaţiilor dezvoltate cu Asociaţia Crescătorilor de Animale de Blană din Suedia, Dl. Anistoroaei a fost invitat sa se alăture activ dezbaterilor politice pe tema implicaţiilor socio-economice pe care le-ar avea promovarea unor legi restrictive privind creşterea speciilor de animale de blană.

Rezumat: „Clonarea, celulele stem şi nu în ultimul rând animalele de blană sunt doar câteva dintre cele mai mediatizate, dezbătute şi controversate subiecte din sfera bio-medicală, atât la nivel mediatic cât si la nivel politico-decizional. Într-o societate democratica, aşa cum se pretinde lumea postmodernă de astăzi, cu toţii avem dreptul la informaţie, la dezbatere, la putere. Şi totuşi, quo vadis strălucirea bio-medicinei astăzi, quo vadis înţelegerea noastră vis à vis de ştiinţă. Acceptam sa consumăm French fries proveniţi dintr-o clonă dar respingem categoric o frigăruie provenită dintr-un viţel clonat, consumăm un vin bun provenit dintr-o viţă de vie marcotată (clonată) dar refuzăm consumul unui pahar cu lapte ‹‹clonat››. Ne opunem cercetărilor pe celule stem dar ne-am dori o minune când vine vorba de a salva pe cineva drag. La fel cum avem ceva împotriva animalelor de blana dar totuşi purtam pantofi lăcuiţi din pielea cea mai fină. Cât avem dreptate şi cât nu? Cât credem că ştim şi cât ştim de fapt? O încercare de a vă introduce sumar în partea ştiinţifică a ceea ce astăzi este mediatizat şi controversat în lumea bio-medicală”.

Dl. Sebastian Buhai (n. 1979, Cluj-Napoca) îşi încheie studiile universitare în 2001, la University College Utrecht, Utrecht University, cu licenţe în ştiinţele exacte (fizică/matematică) şi ştiinţele sociale (economie/drept). Continuă în acelaşi an în cadrul programului postuniversitar al Tinbergen Institute, institutul de cercetare economică/econometrică al University of Amsterdam, Free University Amsterdam şi Erasmus University Rotterdam, fiind doctorand din toamna lui 2002 şi obţinând masterul de cercetare în 2003. Vizitează Departamentul de Economie al University College London în 2005. Din octombrie 2005 este cercetător asociat la Departamentul de Economie si Centrul pentru Performanta Corporativa al Aarhus School of Business. Interesele sale în cercetarea economica includ, dar nu se mărginesc la, economia pieţei muncii, econometria aplicata, economia reţelelor sociale. Prezintă lucrări ştiinţifice în numeroase conferinţe majore şi seminarii invitate în universităţi şi institute de cercetare prestigioase, din UE si SUA. Are un număr de iniţiative în politica şi managementul ştiinţei din România, colaborând cu asociaţii de cercetători şi diverse publicaţii cu secţiuni dedicate educaţiei si ştiinţei. Detalii la

Rezumat: „Teza acestei prezentări este că economia este o ‹ştiinţă››, în toată puterea cuvântului. Voi încerca demonstrarea acestei teze printr-o trecere în revista a modus operandi folosit în cercetarea economică, punând în evidenţă asemănarea acestuia cu metodologia aplicată in ştiinţele naturale, şi diferenţele sale vis à vis de practica celorlalte discipline sociale. Argumentele vor fi însoţite de scurte exemple sugestive de cercetare, din subdomenii economice care îmi sunt familiare. Similar oricărei ştiinţe naturale, economia se bazează pe elaborarea unor ipoteze falsificabile şi pe validarea acestora prin procedee statistice. Trei caracteristici de baza ale cercetării economice contribuie atât la localizarea disciplinei pe axa ştiinţe fizice—ştiinţe sociale, cât si la ‹‹imperialismul economiei›› în rândul ştiinţelor sociale, i.e., utilizarea extensivă a metodologiei economice pentru a investiga probleme existente sau pentru a ridica întrebări inedite, din afara setului economic ‹‹tradiţional››. Aceşti piloni ai economiei ca ştiinţă sunt: construcţia bazată pe agenţi raţionali care îşi maximizează utilitatea; interesul în starea sistemului (social) în echilibru; şi focalizarea analizei pe eficienţă. Voi discuta aplicarea inferenţei economice în modelarea unor fenomene cum ar fi: acumularea capitalului uman, interacţiunea agenţilor în cadrul familiei, dinamica pieţei muncii şi interacţiunea strategica angajat-angajator, organizarea şi managementul interior al firmelor, comportamentul discriminatoriu şi interacţiunea grupurilor sociale.”

Dl. Alexandru Nicolin (n. 20 oct. 1981 Bucureşti) este doctorand în fizică în cadrul Institutului Niels Bohr din Copenhaga unde studiază dinamica neliniară a gazelor foarte reci (aşa numitele condensate Bose-Einstein). Dl. Nicolin are un M.Sc. obţinut în cadrul aceluiaşi institut. Înaintea studiilor doctorale a lucrat ca „Research Assistant” la Laboratorul Naţional Risoe. Interesele sale cuprind dinamica sistemelor neliniare/complexe si analiza numerica a ecuaţiilor cu derivate parţiale. Dl. Nicolin este editor al revistei Gamma ( şi corespondent în Danemarca al revistei Ştiinţa şi Tehnică ( În afara matematicii şi fizicii interesele Dl-ului Nicolin se îndreaptă spre ştiinţele tradiţionale.

Rezumat: „Mergând pe urmele unui celebru fizician danez (Per Bak) voi discuta un model extrem de simplu care încearcă să explice ştiinţific lentoarea funcţionărească de care ne lovim zi de zi. Pornind de la presupunerea că nici unui funcţionar nu-i place să aibă prea multe dosare pe birou, modelul descrie drumul dosarelor de la un birou la altul, demonstrând totodată formarea unei aşa-zise stări critice în care dosarele circula haotic de pe un birou pe altul”.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Voinescu si balcanizarea

Cred ca e cel mai prost articol pe care l-am citit in ultimele cateva saptamani, in presa noastra (si a intrat in competitie cu multe altele, deci nu a fost usor deloc sa castige!): o pledoarie pura, subtila ca un tanc rusesc, pentru balcanizarea perena. Domnul Voinescu nu se dezminte, e pe traiectorie descendenta de ceva vreme si nu are de gand sa devieze. Pe mine ma sacaie mai mult lipsa de logica din articol (totusi e vorba de un om care scria lucruri interesante, odinioara, in Dilema Veche, unde cred ca l-am citit prima data) si nu neaparat parerea exprimata (care spune insa multe despre ce are domn Voinescu in cap, cel putin in momentul de fata); articolul musteste de contradictii flagrante la fiecare pas- macar consistenta, domn Voinescu, macar aia... Dar ce sa facem, americanii vor fi super incantati sa se pricopseasca cu unul (oficial, reprezentandu-ne pe toti, daca ar merge de capul lui i-as ura cale batuta) care functioneaza dupa motto-ul "sa nu fim obiectivi" (eu zic ca daca declara asta in public de cateva ori, va fi persona non grata si trimis inapoi sa-i tina de cald lui Base). Eu inca sper sa nu-i preafericim si pe englezi, unde alt fost 'mare' "obiectiv" de care a mai ramas doar ego-ul fara backup, e preferat (fara surprize, domn Basescu a fost intotdeauna direct, mai bine zis, nu e capabil de altceva) de Presedintie- in mod foarte sincer, l-as felicita pe domn Tariceanu daca nu face tradeoff-ul aici (TRU la Londra vs. Cioroianu la MAE, oricum in guvernul acesta nu mai are importanta cine e la MAE, cu kebab sau fara kebab tot infometati vor ramane...). O tara fabulospirituala, fara principii si fara competente.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Econlinks for 08-03-07

Sometimes learning is costly...but always worthwhile!

This is about a nice interview with Economics Nobel Laureate Myron Scholes, in the WSJ Editorial Page. I think the way the interviewer introduces Scholes is just great:

You know him better as a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. You may also recall him as a principal of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management (LTCM), which went belly-up in the late 1990s. Indeed, to the authors of a certain type of financial potboiler, he'll always be the mad scientist who almost blew up the world.

A better description would be a lifelong student of risk, and why we humans need risk, how we manage it and why we'd be unhappy without it.

And two great general "life" quotes among Scholes's answers:

In life, it would be kind of boring if there was no risk. On the other hand if there's too much risk, too much uncertainty, too much chaos, we can't handle it either. We simultaneously want order and disorder, simultaneously want risk and quiescence


In life you pay tuition, right? Sometimes you pay too much tuition. Sometimes learning is costly.

Read the whole interview. Link via Greg Mankiw.

Quote for the week 4th to 10th of March '07

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Fabulospirit" e doar un alt termen, mai 'fabulos', pentru "branding Romania". Punct si de la capat

Au mai fost doua episoade "Fabulospirit" la mine pe blog: vezi episod I si respectiv episod II.

Lucian Georgescu clarifica niste lucruri in interviul pe care i l-au luat cei de la Hotnews. Nu sunt detalii in interviu, tocmai pentru ca nu exista deloc... detalii, dupa cum vom vedea; suntem exact la punctul de unde am inceput, totul a fost o furtuna intr-un pahar cu apa sau lucru la 'platforma de comunicare' "Fabulospirit" (110,000 euro, totusi baietii nu sunt foarte ieftini...), branding-ul abia acum incepe, se poate include orice de fapt. Toata chestia e, dupa mine, lipsita de sens, eventual aratand doar cat de bine se descurca Georgescu (meritul lui, desi...vezi mai jos) si cat de fraieri sunt cei de la MAE (ceea ce nu ar fi grav, daca (in)competenta lor nu ar costa banii si imaginea contribuabililor romani). Niste randuri despre interviul cu managerul GAV Scholz&Friends:
  • In primul si primul rand faptul ca MAE nu a organizat o licitatie pentru idei, pentru concepte, pentru "platforme", in faza initiala, e de rau, e o greseala imensa (si Georgescu o trece rapid sub covor in interviu). Faptul ca agentia lui Georgescu s-a remarcat cu alta ocazia NU poate justifica contractarea lor fara concurs in prealabil (si asta lasand la o parte faptul ca o campanie internationala de branding pentru "Sibiu-Romania" nu e deloc acelasi lucru cu o campanie "Romania-Romania"). Nu e evident vina agentiei, aici e vorba de MAE. Care e dilema? Nu poti sa stii ex ante ca nu ar fi fost alte idei mult mai bune, nu poti sa stii ca daca aveai grija sa existe competitie (care e necesara la orice pas) rezultatele nu ar fi fost superioare; competitia e intotdeauna cel mai bun lucru si doar asa functioneaza eficient o piata, inclusiv, sau mai ales, cea a ideilor, a conceptelor. Deci aici e prima si cea mai mare greseala. Mai ales cand e vorba de imaginea Romaniei, nu ai cum sa contractezi un singur agent, chiar daca asta ar fi, formal, cel mai bun la ora actuala. Nu ai cum. Cu un brainstorming Georgescu & co, chiar daca acestia ar fi foarte capabili, nu ai cum sa inlocuiesti o concurenta acerba, o concurenta pentru un premiu mai mare decat 110,000 de euro, mult mai mare: practic ai ocazia sa definesti imaginea, brandul Romaniei (sau macar "platforma" pentru asta- vezi mai jos-). Intre altele, nu e deloc lipsit de realism sa intre in competitie si actori complet noi, de care nu ai auzit, dar extrem de competitivi, tocmai avand in vedere miza enorma care e in joc aici. Deci MAE ar trebui sa demisioneze in grup, toti.
  • Mai departe, Georgescu spune ca "Fabulospirit" e doar o "platforma" si ca de fapt nu s-a decis nimic concret referitor la ce va fi pe platforma aceasta, la ce va cuprinde "template-ul" acesta (si aici MAE a anuntat ca va organiza licitatie, ceea ce e sine qua non in caz de orice intreprindere de branding, as spune, dar vine doar la pasul II...). Deci practic nu avem inca nimic, doar ce am avut la inceput, cu exceptia ca acel nimic se numeste "fabulospirit". Georgescu chiar "clarifica" treaba asta spunand ca "orice" se poate include in fabulospirit, inclusiv vinuri, diferite obiective turistice, Cioran, povestiri de succes etc., adica...orice. De ce a fost totusi nevoie sa platesti 110,000 de euro (plus costurile implicite si explicite ale campaniei de presa, atat cons cat si pro "fabulospirit"...) pentru un 'concept' care nu e slogan, nu e brand, nu e nimic altceva decat 'vectorul' care cuprinde diferite branduri pana la urma (ceea ce mie personal mi se pare absolut normal pentru un brand de tara: acesta ar trebui sa cuprinda mai multe componente-brand), chit ca Georgescu insista mult pe cat de mult s-a muncit si cat de importanta e aceasta "platforma de comunicare"- evident omul trebuie sa-si justifice banii, pe mine ma lasa insa rece? Cu alte cuvinte, suntem exact la inceput, mai putin faptul ca ceea ce facem acum nu se mai numeste "branding Romania" ci "filling in the Fabulospirit". Pentru ca am vrut sa devenim fabulosi. Bani aruncati pe geam, timp pierdut, dar totusi, totusi, nu e atat de rau ca avand sloganul "fabulospirit", ceea ce toti am crezut initial. Deci uf, ne-am speriat degeaba, domnul Georgescu a fost doar smecher si a luat 110,000 pe nimic (sau, pentru a-l pune serios pe treaba, vezi mai jos- omul pare foarte capabil pana la urma- a fost nevoie de o mica prima si justificarea ei nu a putut fi facuta altfel... si acum abia incepem serios...) Bon, ne-am luminat.
  • Daca stai si citesti cu atentie interviul vezi ca Georgescu chiar nu are idei rele absolut deloc cand vine vorba de lucruri concrete de inclus in "template" (dar atunci: why this 'Fabulospirit' nonsense then? This "template"?). Exemplu: de cand lumea il mentionez pe Alex Balanescu (vezi aici sau mai vag, aici) pe blogul meu ca unul care ar fi in stare sa faca branding Romaniei, pe 'coordonata muzicala', sa zic asa, si uite ca il mentioneaza si Georgescu (care il include la "fusion" impreuna cu Shukar Collective, ceea ce iarasi nu e deloc o idee proasta). Asta e excelent si mie, personal, imi arata ca Georgescu are cap si potential (deci un prior excelent pentru faptul ca poate "GAV Scholz&Friend"s sunt intr-adevar cei mai buni la ora actuala, de la noi). Dar asta nu scuza faptul ca nu are principii (cand e vorba de "branding Romania"- mai ales daca esti agent roman!- zic eu, exista lucruri care ar putea fi prioritizate, inainte de oportunitati financiare de scurta durata, situatie de arbitraj de altfel, datorata lipsei de informatie si experienta la MAE) si ia o prima doar pentru a se "incalzi" si pentru a framanta si a induce in eroare opinia publica, chiar daca asta e indirect. Din nou insa, aici e primordial vina MAE, Lucian Georgescu a fost agentul economic perfect si doar atat (asta daca treaba cu "fabulospiritul" trece pe background intr-adevar, adica, "well, just a template, we also call it "fabulospirit" in Romania, you see, but don't worry about that" si se trece la lucruri concrete; ca economist, prea putin il pot acuza, sau chiar deloc, motivul bazat pe principii de mai sus nu tine d.p.d.v. pur rational, utilitatea agentului poate pune mai putina greutate pe "principii" si asta e perfect posibil, omul si-a maximizat utilitatea). Deci, daca e asa si am inteles corect printre randuri ce ne povesteste Georgescu, inca nu e nimic esential pierdut. Suntem fabulosi din nou! Sau, mai precis, Lucian Georgescu e fabulos, MAE deloc! Asta ar fi tot. Punct si de la capat cu branding Romania (oops, acum se numeste "completarea platformei fabulospirit").

Liiceanu, "dizidenta" si de ce avem nevoie in Romania

Am scris initial despre treaba asta aici. Intre timp Gabriel Liiceanu a raspuns cu mai multe detalii si unele au sens perfect (a propos, insa, vezi si la finalul postului meu, cel care ii ia interviul, il si "conduce", e o practica josnica in jurnalism, autorul trebuie ca e un bigot, asta in cazul "bun", care vrea sa-l scoata pe Liiceanu cu orice pret de unde, posibil, sa nu poata fi scos); de exemplu, este ca treaba cu plagiatul e subtire de tot (si parea astfel de la inceput), dar, dupa cum ma asteptam, Liiceanu e foarte vag si evaziv referitor la acuzatia de a fi "dizident postrevolutionar" -si poate chiar mai grav, in context general, de falsificare a istoriei (antedatarea unor documente, chiar personale, scoaterea unor pasaje cel putin 'compromitatoare' din texte mai vechi, in loc de asumarea si explicarea lor s.a.m.d.)- de care de altfel Paul Goma il acuzase probabil primul si indiferent de vendetele personale si supararea generala pe lume a domniei sale (si acuzatiile mai recente de antisemitism unde domnul Goma nu poate iesi chiar basma curata, oricat ar incerca unii sa il apere), Paul Goma este -si ar trebui sa fie considerat astfel- SINGURUL care se apropie asimptotic de definitia unui dizident politic (ceea ce nici Mircea Dinescu nu e, cu tot respectul meu pentru dumnealui, nu poti fi dizident 'pasiv' pana in cvasi-ultimul moment!) si singurul care nu si-a tinut parerile undeva prin noptiere incuiate si care nu a dat la nici un moment dovada de cameleonism. Dar sa nu mai facem digresiuni aici.

Sorin Matei a scris si el interesant pe marginea 'scandalului' din context si in mare parte sunt de acord cu postul sau de pe (face exact ce faceam si eu in postul initial pe tema, dar chiar in mai multe detalii, incearca sa extraga ce ramane intre flegmele lui Victor Roncea...). Sunt si mai mult de acord cu mesajul lui Sorin din articolul sau din Adevarul (a propos, unde apar niste comentarii la articolul sau care te fac sa regreti - pe moment- ca te-ai nascut roman si ca deci esti cumva legat, fara voia ta, de asemenea specimene inutile, care fac umbra pamantului, specimene care fac dovada imbecilitatii pure- asemenea specimene mai citesc din cand in cand "Adevarul", sa stiti si voi), ar trebui sa "ne asuman istoria" si sa intelegem ca fiecare (chiar intre noi) poate avea parti bune si rele, iesiri la rampa superlative si caderi de necrezut. Si mai ales - si aceasta e de fapt esenta-"România are nevoie de o nouă generaţie de jurnalişti, biografi, istorici şi analişti ". Corect, e nevoie de oameni care nu pornesc cu idei preconcepute, nu mai e nevoie de bigoti, e nevoie de oameni care nu trateaza lucrurile doar in alb si negru (de cele mai multe ori imposibil- ajungandu-se la compromisuri dezgustatoare), nu mai avem nevoie de maniheisti, domnule Cornea & co! Chapeau, Sorin!

Monday, March 05, 2007

The song of the day: Haka, the Maori War Chant

... in the interpretation of the best "musicians" possible in the case of this "song" (much more than a song or chant or dance, much much more), The Mighty All Blacks!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

'Waking Life' or 'Salsa Dancing with My Confusion'

I've just found this very nice short clip on YouTube about the 'making of' one of my favourite movies of all times (on certain criteria it is in my top 5 and for sure on top 10 all movies I have ever seen- which , by the way, gives me the idea of compiling a list with my top 25 or so, for a future post). The movie is Richard Linklater's "Waking Life"(see its description on IMDb and on RottenTomatoes, respectively)- the only other movie directed by Linklater that I have seen is Tape (IMDb, RottenTomatoes), which is also in my top 25 (or 50 for sure, have to compile that list...), so my prior is that this guy is an excellent director.

I like to think of this movie, in a one line characterization, as "salsa dancing with my confusion", which is the punch line of one of the characters, perhaps my favourite one, Speed Levitch, playing... himself (his whole phrase is "On really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion."; another superb line from him is "Life is a matter of a miracle that is collected over time by moments flabbergasted to be in each others presence."- watch the movie for more!). I highly recommend this to everybody; in my case even after seeing it four times (cinema, dvd), I would still take the opportunity to watch it again, anytime. It's even better if you actually have a background on at least some of the dialogues that take part throughout most of the movie (it is impossible to master all that compilation of ideas, for instance, just the 'pure philosophical' dialogues, to label them somehow, already span several major subfields and schools- and you get just a glimpse in each of them...) , but for a first view you can also do without. Just relax and become one with the characters. The soundtrack (I would say it is a must to have that separately: it is a great soundtrack album) is also superb. And once you watched the movie entirely (but not before!), there are plenty of excerpts of dialogues from the movie, most of them self-contained, on YouTube.

Academic tenure: to be or not to be?

Excellent post of Steven Levitt on whether giving tenure in the academic environment (in Economics, in particular) makes any sense. Of course- and Levitt should know that, but maybe he doesn't, since he does not say anything about it- both Richard Posner and Gary Becker extensively talked about this (and about tenure in general, though they did focus on the academic and judicial settings) on their common blog, more than a year ago (they also came back on the topic with answers to comments received on the initial posts, see Posner's reply to comments and Becker's reply to comments, respectively). All arguments are in there and I can really not think of anything substantive to add to what Posner, Becker and Levitt already stated so clearly. They all seem to agree (mind you, these are all Chicago people) that all universities should get rid of tenure (and they are all willing to give up on their own tenures, although, mind you, these people mentioned above would be most likely hired anytime anywhere anyway, on the basis of their academic status quo achieved already and, I'd say, particularly given they hold such opinions; my absolute respect and admiration for each of them!), that this is not necessary any longer in today's academic setting. Perfect. And I think Levitt's idea of particular universities moving alone with the decision of offering only non-tenured jobs would be worthwhile and could potentially start a "race to the top" in terms of standards (I am talking about the USA and similar systems where they still offer tenure- most academic systems in the world, basically): in my opinion, it is enough that two or three universities in the world top 5 do just that (I think the critical mass is more than 1, so a coordination of two top ones is necessary...). It is interesting though to see what was the problem with the universities that tried the system but reverted to the old one, so something must have gone wrong (Levitt mentions that in the end of his post and, if I recall correctly, Becker mentions Boston Univ. in the comments to his post on tenure)

I will just copy-paste below some short relevant excerpts from the posts linked above:
I do not think tenure makes a great deal of sense any longer in the academic setting, and I expect to see it gradually abandoned. (It has already been abandoned in England, for example.) If a university wishes to offer its faculty protection against political retaliation for unpopular views, it can do that by writing into the employment contract that politics is an impermissible ground for termination. Tenure is no longer needed because of an absence of performance measures. These measures exist in abundance. Quality of teaching is readily measurable by student evaluations, provided care is taken to prevent teachers from courting popularity by easy grading and light assignments and student evaluations are supplemented by faculty observation of the classroom. Quality of research is readily measurable by grants, prizes, and above all by citations to the professor’s scholarly publications, weighted by the quality of the journal in which the citations appear (Richard Posner)

In some fields, such as mathematics, there is generally a significant falling off in academic output at a young age, and there is fear that without tenure these faculty would be turned out to pasture long before retirement age. But this is no different from the situation in professional sports, modeling, and other youthful occupations, where it is handled by an alteration in the wage profile. If a career in mathematics entails a sharp fall-off in market wages after, say, age 40, the academic market will compensate by offering disproportionately high wages to young mathematicians; otherwise, talented mathematicians will choose professions, such as economics, in which math skills are valued but productivity does not decline steeply with age. (Richard Posner)

Perhaps the strongest argument for academic tenure is that without it academics would be reluctant to undertake promising projects with a high risk of failure. But the situation is no different in "knowledge" firms such as software and pharmaceutical-drug producers, which encourage their scientists to undertake high-risk projects--and do not think it necessary to offer tenure. If most good new ideas are produced by young academics, then an institution that raises the average age of faculty, namely tenure, seems likely to reduce academic productivity. An interesting empirical project, therefore, would be to study the effect of England's abolition of tenure on the average age and productivity of English university faculties. (Richard Posner)


The traditional justification for academic tenure is that otherwise professors would be unwilling to express unpopular views for fear of being fired. This argument for academic tenure is extremely weak in the United States where several thousand colleges and universities compete for professors. In fact, tenure only became common at American universities in the 1920's. It is possible for academics with extremely unpopular views to gain an appointment with tenure at different institutions, as seen from the tenure of faculty who deny the holocaust, or a Ward Churchill at The University of Colorado with outrageous views on terrorism and other issues. The case for tenure is stronger in countries where governments control all universities, and can block academics with unpopular opinions from gaining and keeping appointments. Yet even that argument has become weaker with the rapidly growing international market for good academics. (Gary Becker)

Are there other persuasive arguments for academic tenure? Some have been made in the economics literature, including the alleged difficulty in judging the quality of teaching and research, the non-profit nature of universities, and still others. I have not found any of them persuasive- for example, there is rather widespread agreement in most departments about which are the good teachers, and also to a large extent about who has produced the more influential research. (Gary Becker)


If there was ever a time when it made sense for economics professors to be given tenure, that time has surely passed. The same is likely true of other university disciplines, and probably even more true for high-school and elementary school teachers. (Steven Levitt)

What does tenure do? It distorts people’s effort so that they face strong incentives early in their career (and presumably work very hard early on as a consequence) and very weak incentives forever after (and presumably work much less hard on average as a consequence). (Steven Levitt)

The idea that tenure protects scholars who are doing politically unpopular work strikes me as ludicrous. While I can imagine a situation where this issue might rarely arise, I am hard pressed to think of actual cases where it has been relevant. Tenure does an outstanding job of protecting scholars who do no work or terrible work, but is there anything in economics which is high quality but so controversial it would leave to a scholar being fired? Anyway, that is what markets are for. If one institution fires an academic primarily because they don’t like his or her politics or approach, there will be other schools happy to make the hire. There are, for instance, cases in recent years in economics where scholars have made up data, embezzled funds, etc. but still have found good jobs afterwards. (Steven Levitt)

Absent all schools moving together to get rid of tenure, what if one school chose to unilateerally revoke tenure. It seems to me that it might work out just fine for that school. It would have to pay the faculty a little extra to stay in a department without an insurance policy in the form of tenure. Importantly, though, the value of tenure is inversely related to how good you are. If you are way over the bar, you face almost no risk if tenure is abolished. So the really good people would require very small salary increases to compensate for no tenure, whereas the really bad, unproductive economists would need a much bigger subsidy to remain in a department with tenure gone. This works out fantastically well for the university because all the bad people end up leaving, the good people stay, and other good people from different institutions want to come to take advantage of the salary increase at the tenure-less school. If the U of C told me that they were going to revoke my tenure, but add $15,000 to my salary, I would be happy to take that trade. I’m sure many others would as well. By dumping one unproductive, previously tenured faculty member, the University could compensate ten others with the savings. (Steven Levitt)

Late update (8th of March). Greg Mankiw does not agree with Levitt (and implicitly, although he also doesn't seem to know Becker's and Posner's stance on the topic, with Becker and Posner). I just see it as Chicago Econ vs. Harvard Econ, really :-), and here I very much support the opinions of the mentioned people from Chicago; I don't think all Mankiw's (and others') concerns are in fact concerns, though some points are valid (Levitt also mentions those in counterbalance in his post, example: if this was a better mechanism, why isn't it applied in practice already?).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Unul care gandeste pe Hotnews

Intre multa lume care de obicei freaca menta pe blogurile hotnews (fara suparare, in ultima vreme s-au inmultit), "Doc" e cu un cap peste ceilalti. Excelent comentariu, chiar ma gandeam ca nimanui nu ii mai pasa de termenii corecti, concreti, de adevar... ("fabulospirit" la propriu...), mai ales dupa ce pana si SAR-ul a dat-o in bara (relax insa, nu e prima data...). Doc, chapeau!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Update la fabula cu fabulo-spiritul

Fabulam despre fabuloasa fabula fabulo-spirituala a MAE intr-un post precedent. Intre timp am aflat si cat de substantial il va arde la buzunar pe contribuabil fabulospiritul. O nimica toata, suntem fabulosi: 110,000 de euroi pentru conceperea fabulei si intre 3 si 5 milioane euroi (fabuloasa precizie) pentru povestirea ei. Foarte interesant (esential!) e faptul ca nu s-a organizat nici o licitatie pentru concept (uite motivul pentru care M.R. Ungureanu ar fi trebuit sa demisioneze; restul a fost furtuna intr-un pahar cu apa), dar ca o fabuloasa licitatie se va organiza pentru implementarea conceptului. Fabulos!