Thursday, December 02, 2010

A missed story

Here's an excerpt from Manu Joseph's recent article:
... we have a situation where a corporate PR person, representing two companies with interests in telecom, is mediating between the Congress and its ally when a battle is on for the telecom portfolio. This is the kind of story any journalist would love to report. How could [Barkha] Dutt miss that? Dutt’s situation reminds me of a magic realism novel that a friend had written, in which a lowly journalist is in search of a great story. Every day, when he comes home defeated, he speaks to his talking lizard. I find this novel absurd because any journalist would know that a talking lizard is the greatest story ever in the history of journalism.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Golden Rule of Authoring

Here's an exerpt from Moshe Vardi's editorial in the July 2010 issue of CACM:
... we are the authors and we are the reviewers. It is not "them reviewers;" it is "us reviewers." Hillel the Elder, a Jewish scholar, 30 B.C.-10 A.D., said "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." This is known as the Silver Rule in moral philosophy. The Golden Rule, which strengthens the Silver Rule, asserts "do unto others as you would have them do to you." Allow me to rephrase this as the Golden Rule of Reviewing: "Write a review as if you are writing it to yourself." This does not mean that we should not write critical reviews! But the reviews we write must be fair, weighing both strengths and weaknesses; they must be constructive, suggesting how the weaknesses can be addressed; and, above all, they must be respectful. After all, these are the reviews that we would like to receive!
I'm inspired by this. So inspired that I decided to hazard a conjecture for the Golden Rule of Authoring: "Write a paper as if you are writing your last paper and you would like it to be your best paper, ever." A conjecture that by no means should be a surprising one.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Idea's share

An excerpt from John Regehr's blog:
I'm arguing that the “generating ideas” part of research is over-rated. The important thing is to have just enough good ideas — one of my colleagues likes to say you only need a good idea about every two years — and then to build a competent research program based on those ideas.
Emphasis added by me.

Let Them Alone

If God has been good enough to give you a poet
Then listen to him. But for God's sake let him alone until he is dead;
no prizes, no ceremony,
They kill the man. A poet is one who listens
To nature and his own heart; and if the noise of the world grows up
around him, and if he is tough enough,
He can shake off his enemies, but not his friends.
That is what withered Wordsworth and muffled Tennyson, and would have
killed Keats; that is what makes
Hemingway play the fool and Faulkner forget his art.
-- Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

Came across the above thanks to this essay by Oded Goldreich.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Two personalities

Stamps on a letter received from home:

Mother Teresa and Indira Gandhi, two of India's highest civilian awardees, in their personalities, had much in contrast and, arguably, much in common too. It's just as well that they find themselves next to each other, stamped together, on a random post.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Suum cuique

An excerpt from a German visa application related document:

To each his own, isn't it?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
--- William Ernest Henley, 1875

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

An over-arching vision

Barry Mazur in his remembrance of Serge Lang mentions:

With my highlighting, I wonder how Mazur would've rendered Lang's vision had he been less charitable and chosen to put it just technically, in all its glory.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Time and chance

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.
-- Ecclesiastes

Thursday, January 07, 2010

An act of integrity and grace

Bertrand Russell on Gottlob Frege's response to his letter:
As I think about acts of integrity and grace, I realise there is nothing in my knowledge to compare with Frege's dedication to truth. His entire life's work was on the verge of completion, much of his work had been ignored to the benefit of men infinitely less capable, his second volume was about to be published, and upon finding that his fundamental assumption was in error, he responded with intellectual pleasure clearly submerging any feelings of personal disappointment. It was almost superhuman and a telling indication of that of which men are capable if their dedication is to creative work and knowledge instead of cruder eff orts to dominate and be known.