Friday, January 29, 2010


In Judaism, we believe there is only

Update: After much deliberation (see comments), it was determined that this is in fact heresy. But the reason this is not what we believe in illustrates what Rambam (and numerous others) meant when he said that G-d is one but not (just) in a numerical sense (not “one but not two”).


The world intelligentsia responds to the new phenomenon. Click on the images to enlarge.

If you’re ever bored at work... can do things like this (but don’t look if you get disgusted easily, especially by bugs; or if you hate modern art).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Evolution from a student to an employer

Russian realities:

— First we brag how we haven’t spent any time studying but get good grades.
— Then we brag how we don’t do anything at work but get paid good money.
— Then we complain how we pay decent salary to some young punks who don’t know anything and don’t do any work.

North Caucasus

As a special series (see the previous post), I present to you North Caucasus, the birthplace of white people. Click on the images to enlarge.

Dima Chatrov

I present to you the awesome craziness and crazy awesomeness that are the photographs from all over the world by Dima Chatrov. Click on the images to enlarge, but to see the full beauty of it, I suggest you go to his blog (and blog-roll it). Each post with a picture has a link under it with a picture in larger resolution.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pythagorean theorem, etc.

Everyone knows that most truths in the world can be proven from the Pythagorean Theorem. For example, Einstein's Theory of Relativity. And existence of G-d. Amongst other things.

But what is the proof of the theorem itself?

Here is a nice visual version:

Доказательство теоремы Пифагора
(from here)

Also, did you know that 0.999... = 1? Equal mamosh.

And that 00 = 1?

And also: 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + ... = 1

[via Ilya Birman's blog]

Landscapes of sugar, flint and cinnamon

This artist creates rather awesome-looking mini-models of landscapes using materials from everyday life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some quotes by Anton Chekhov

A few selected quotes:

Just eyeball it!

How good are you at eyeballing things visually? I am this good:

So, apparently, somewhat average. How good are you? Take a test.

What is it like to be a bat

In the famous proof that consciousness cannot be material, Thomas Nagel asks a question: “What is it like to be a bat?” The essence of the proof is that even if one were to study and know every single aspect of the bat’s nervous system, one would still not know what it is like to be a bat — to have an experience of being a bat. (The bat is used to make the example more stark. Bats use echolocation to navigate in space. In other words, bats “see” through their hearing.)

So, if you know everything about the system which is physical but still don’t know X (which is part of the system), then X must be not physical. In this case, X is consciousness.

This is a good example of what it is like to know English well enough to understand many (maybe most) words in a text, and have a lot of words sound familiar, but still not to understand what the text is saying:
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.
This is what a game of baseball looks like to a foreigner:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Evolution of a liberal reform

From arbat:
All starts with the leftists finding a “Problem”. Oftentimes the Problem is not really a problem. For instance they think that asset inequality is a problem. Even though it is the main stimulus for the economy’s development. To call it a problem is similar to calling voltage difference in the electric grid a problem that needs to be corrected as soon as possible, so that there is no difference in electric potentials at all. [For those less physically inclined, replace electric grid with a ski resort and the voltage difference with the height difference between the top and the bottom of the hill.]

Having identified the Problem, leftists propose a Plan. Oftentimes the Plan involves people giving up some kind of freedom and the government, in turn, forbidding the Problem away. As a rule, the freedom is indeed taken away. It’s the only part that goes according to the Plan. The original “Problem” remains the same, but in addition to it arise a number of “unforeseen side effects”. Which are of course presented as the next set of “Problems”, which are treated with new Plans (instead of getting rid of the original plan, which caused the problems in the first place), and so on.
Reminds me of someone who’s discovered a prescription pad, a medical encyclopedia in Chinese and a Korean dictionary and works this way as a village doctor, prescribing away.

Also reminds me of public high schools. Teachers treat students as idiots. As a result, the student behave like idiots. As a result, the teachers treat them as idiots, etc. I called it a feed-forward cycle of idiocy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Different approaches

Most people knows this joke: “Americans have spent millions of dollars to develop a pen that would work in zero gravity. Russians use pencils.”

Here is another example of a difference in problem solving, but this time — from real life:

The problem: A centrifuge has 12 spaces for test tubes. Whenever one puts the tubes in the centrifuge, they need to be balanced. For instance, if you number the spaces from 1 to 12, and you’re inserting four tubes, they have to be positioned at the places 1, 7, 2 and 8 (or 1, 7, 3 and 9; etc.). Question: how should you balance five test tubes?

A mathematician’s/physicist’s approach: First balance three tubes. Do it by placing one tube and then placing two tubes such that they are equidistant from each other and from the first tube. Having balanced the three tubes, insert the other two such that they are also balanced. For example, you can have the tubes at the positions 1, 5, 9, 2 and 8.

A biologist’s approach: Hmm. Five doesn’t divide in two. Hmm. Take a sixth test tube, fill it with enough water to approximately balance one of the test tubes. Now we have six test tubes. Put them in the positions 1, 2, 3, 7, 8 and 9.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And all the nations will fear you

As everyone knows, our sources say that a Jew wearing tefillin is a source of fear for the nations:
Rav Avin Bar Rav Adda said in the name of Rav Yitzchak, “What is the source that Hashem lays tefillin? As it says נשבע ה' בימינו, ובזרוע עזו, Hashem has sworn by His right hand, and His powerful arm… (Yeshayahu 62:8)

…בזרוע עזו, with His powerful arm — this refers to tefillin, as the verse states: ה' עז לעמו יתן, Hashem gives might to his nation (Tehillim 29:11). … And where is the source that tefillin are עוז, might and power for the Jewish people? As it is written וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה' נקרא עליך, ויראו ממך, and all the nations of the world will see that the name of Hashem is called upon you, and they will fear you (D’vorim 28:10). … Rav Elazer the Great said this verse is referring to the tefillin worn on the head.” (Brachos 6a)
Today, in a US airplane, a tefillin-wearing Jew was a source of fear to at least one stewardess and a pilot. News flash:

If grandmother had a beard...

... she would be a grandfather.

If Guy Ritchie was born in the Soviet Union, he would create a Sherlock Holmes like this:

If Soviet cartoonists were making a horror movie in Hollywood, they would make something like this:

I have to say, I prefer this version of the Soviet Sherlock Holmes trailer, with the original music:

A musical pause

Something Classical (I assume everyone knows Chopin):

Something classy (I assume everyone knows the tale of Bremen Musicians):

Something Russian (I assume most Americans don’t know Garik Sukachev):

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ear of beholder

A real-life conversation:
Sherlock Holmes: Watson, I thought you liked music!
Dr. Watson: Music? Yes. But this... I thought someone was sick, or maybe a cat got stuck in a chimney.

Making Ж539; Inner life of cell

I have no idea what’s going on here (if you do, leave a comment; if you can’t, tell somebody who can), but the video is entertaining.

Art is cool. But so is Biology:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some celebration

Congratulations to fellow conservatives, libertarians, anti-liberals and generally speaking, people with functioning cerebral cortex. The once–freedom loving state of Massachusetts has a Republican senator.

I opened my last Corona to drink for this. Virtual l'chayim to all freedom-loving world.


Thanks to tRP for this map.

Europe from the point of view of Hungarians.

Click to enlarge.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why this MA election is interesting

Paraphrasing from Arbat:

At first it was supposed to be regular boring MA election, in which Brown was supposed to lose with a huge difference. That’s why it was boring. Then it turned out that the difference was not as huge as it had seemed originally. Republicans decided to use this small opening to shove their foot into and show that if in Massachusetts of all places Democrats are winning with difficulty — watch out Congressmen of other states.

Liberals decided not to turn this into a referendum on Obama. But in their infinite wisdom, their created a slogan: “Voice for Brown is a voice against our reforms”. Which, of course, made this election into a referendum on Obama.

Some say that Brown is ahead. The only poll that makes sense to follow is the one at the voting booths. Or Rasmussen, which is usually correct and which gave Marta 49 and Brown 47. So, the chances, taking error into account, are about the same.

Thus, it’s not important whether Brown will win. After all, it’s MA. It can’t be kissed by a princess and turn into some Texas. If Brown wins, it will be a miracle of miracles. But a regular simple everyday miracle is already enough.

If you don’t live, you won’t have to die

Thanks to TRS for inspiring me to write this post.

Dedicated to today’s Rambam, a song from Russian movie, Irony of Fate (the clip with the song — man singing — is below):

If you don't have a home,
The threat of fire means nothing.
And your wife won't leave for another,
If you, if you,
If you haven't a wife, if you've got no wife.

If you don't have a dog,
Your neighbor won't poison it.
And you won't fight with your friend
If you don't have a friend.

The orchestra rumbles with basses,
The tuba player blows his horn.
Think for yourself, decide yourself,
To have, or not to have.
To have or not to have.
If you don't have an aunt,
You won't be able to lose her.
And if you don't live,
Then you won't have to die.

If you don't have an aunt,
Your neighbor won't poison her,
And your wife won't leave you for your friend,
If you don't have a friend.

The orchestra rumbles with basses,
The tuba player blows his horn.
Think for yourself, decide yourself,
To have, or not to have.
To have or not to have.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


“Back in the day, the technology was less advanced but more charming.”

That’s what people like me (backward, old-fashioned romantics) like to think. I don’t know if it’s true or not. Reading this and this posts, I am thinking there might just be a chance that people took their jobs more responsibly. But who knows?

Who is to blame? I think PETA.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It makes me uncomfortable

Let’s imagine a scenario. Someone comes to a representative of a group X and tells him, all of a sudden: “Something that X does makes me uncomfortable.” For instance, someone comes to a Chabad shliach and tells him: “The fact that in Chabad Houses rabbis quote the Rebbe all the time makes me uncomfortable.” Or, someone comes to a biologist and says: “The fact that in biology labs scientists kill animals all the time makes me uncomfortable.”

Now, this is not done with malice, in a rude form, or anything like that. That’s not what bothers me. I am just slightly confused: what is this person's purpose in sharing his feelings? It’s not like he is answering a question, for instance, “Why do you never come to Chabad shulls?” It’s not like he made a statement about something specific that he things is wrong that one could address. (“Killing animals is wrong, because...”) He just shared his feelings. What is one supposed to do with that? Hold his hand? Do a psychoanalysis session looking into his past for the reasons of this feeling? Prescribe a medication?

I know. He is he looking for a discount for the next time he visits a Chabad House (or a biology lab). No?

Should I, perhaps, present the problem in such a way that will make all his worries go away?

Ah. That’s what it is. So, he wants us to play a game of the “shrink’s office”. After I, perhaps, alleviate his problems, he will in turn alleviate mine: “The fact that some strings on your tzitzis are blue makes me uncomfortable.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A rule in Judaism

Here is a very important rule that many people ignore:

“L’hatchilo (a priori), in an argument about most choices in life, one can never use hashgacha protis (Divine providence) to negate one’s freedom of choice.”

For instance, you can never say “because Hashem did X” or “Hashem will make the best thing happen anyway" to excuse your inaction in some area where your action is required according to the laws of nature. For instance, not going to a hospital, not pursuing a shidduch, not fixing your car, not eating your food, not doing another run of polymerase chain reaction to double-check your results.

OK, I confess: I made it up. It’s not really a rule in Judaism; at least, as far as I know. But it should be.


My Byzantine history professor once said something like:  “Civizalitions of Eurasia from time to time were shocked by invasions of barbarians that were mass-produced in the factories somewhere on the steppes of Russia.” It’s quite amusing that whenever Hashem wanted to stir things up in Europe (or in China), he sent a wholesale order for some barbarians to somewhere in Siberia, Mongolia or Central Asia. And things would start moving: civilizations would fall and rise.

Well, from musical point of view, gypsies remind me of this somewhat. Although originating in India (in most languages of Eastern Europe they are called “tziganeh”, pointing at the valley between Indian rivers Tzi and Gang), they’ve had a disproprtionate influence on music of Europe. Russian, Czech and Hungarian music comes to mind, but I am sure there are other examples.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery

The original:

See this article and click on the middle square in the last row (the one with the guy in a beard and a hat) here. This was three years ago.

From this year. The article. And the gallery:

And now the other version:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

So, you think you’re tough?

In one of his books from the Aubrey-Maturin series (one of which was made into the Master and Commander movie), Patrick O'Brian describes Dr. Steven Maturin performing a surgery on himself, removing a bullet.

Well, that's a work of fiction. This, my friends, was for real: a Russian surgeon, Leonid Rogozov,  performed an autoappendectomy in Antarctica during a 1961 expedition. That, my friends, is removing your own infected appendix surgically in the middle of frozen wilderness and living to tell the tale. This guy had some guts (pun intended). And some spine. And some brains. (If I was a grub goy, I would say a few words about a set of his other organs.)

8 May 1961

I didn’t permit myself to think about anything other than the task at hand. It was necessary to steel myself, steel myself firmly and grit my teeth. In the event that I lost consciousness, I’d given Sasha Artemev a syringe and shown him how to give me an injection. I chose a position half sitting. I explained to Zinovy Teplinsky how to hold the mirror. My poor assistants! At the last minute I looked over at them: they stood there in their surgical whites, whiter than white themselves. I was scared too. But when I picked up the needle with the novocaine and gave myself the first injection, somehow I automatically switched into operating mode, and from that point on I didn’t notice anything else.

I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders — after all, it’s showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time — I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them... I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4–5 minutes I rest for 20–25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and...

At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it’s going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix...

And then I realised that, basically, I was already saved.
This is what one of his assistants (remember, these people had nothing to do with medicine) wrote:
When Rogozov had made the incision and was manipulating his own innards as he removed the appendix, his intestine gurgled, which was highly unpleasant for us; it made one want to turn away, flee, not look — but I kept my head and stayed. Artemev and Teplinsky also held their places, although it later turned out they had both gone quite dizzy and were close to fainting... Rogozov himself was calm and focused on his work, but sweat was running down his face and he frequently asked Teplinsky to wipe his forehead... 
The operation ended at 4 am local time. By the end, Rogozov was very pale and obviously tired, but he finished everything off.

Don’t eat pork

Even if you’re not Jewish.

Seriously, it’s some nasty stuff. You want to eat something treif, eat rabbit. Eat black caviar. Eat some OUD cream cheese.

Political joke of the day

For those who don’t get the joke, on the right is the former Russian President (current Primer Minister) Vladimir Putin. On the left is current Russian President, Mikhail Medvedev. And in the movie Avatar, the guy on the right is supposed to take over the blue body on the left through mind control (hence the name of the movie).


Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunny bunny

When my grandparents were my age, they probably listened to this kind of music (no words, just instrumental):



Recently I mentioned to TRS that I hate Manhattan because it’s full of narcissistic people (which he found amusing, because we were discussing the quality of Manhattan in a different realm).

Here’s a great illustration of narcissism from Artemiy Lebedev. Look at this picture (click to enlarge):

In the picture is a monument to the victims of Golodomor, a famine in Ukraine (1932–1933) which some people say was orchestrated by Stalin, y"sh, as a genocide against Ukrainians. (Others say that it’s propaganda by Ukrainian nationalists, and there was a famine everywhere in the Soviet Union due to socialist economic policies. I don’t care at this point about who’s right and who’s wrong in this argument. I don’t care whether, even if it was a genocide, Ukrainian politicians are really using it as a tool to inspire anti-Russian feelings. I don’t care how any of that compares to the Holocaust. There was a famine. Millions of people died.)

Lebedev comments on the picture [slightly edited for language]:
People love nothing more in the world than themselves. That is why every person loves to have pictures of himself taken. So that nobody can accuse him of nasty narcissism, one takes a picture of himself next to something else, to take off the feeling of awkwardness. If there is nothing nearby, he will take a picture next to a branch of a tree, or a bush. If there is a famous building — yay, we are saved! A monument? Excellent, even better.

To take pictures of the famous sites without yourself is not interesting. There is enough of this junk on the postcards. And there is nothing to hold the guests’ attention with — they saw enough of the castles on the TV. This way you kill two birds with one stone [in the original: “two hares”] — show off yourself, and not just wherever.

That is why people come to a monument, stand like morons next to it, and make a special photo-taking face. Take :-) a :-) pic :-) ture :-) of :-) me :-)

Later they will show the album and say: “Here I am in Kiev”, showing off, in reality, themselves. Here I am, such a handsome guy, with the bags, with a haircut. And I don’t give a damn that next to me is standing tortured by terrible famine little poor Ukrainian girl.
Of course, the point is strengthened by the fact that the guy looks like a typical post-Soviet zhlob, with his moronic bags and his Eastern European chochmurte ponim. But I don’t know if I’d like it any more if it was a typical post-Soviet middle aged woman with her circular earrings and standard short haircut of the standard color. Or an American tourist showing off as many teeth as possible.

(By the way, I mostly care about his point on the monument. The rest I translated because I enjoy the cynicism, whether or not I have the same opinion. If you don’t care about strong language and would like to see Lebedev’s view of the human society, see this.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010


There is a Russian saying: “Love is a toothache of the heart.” (Articles pending.)

I propose a new saying: “Love is New York traffic of the heart.”

Having experienced both today (the toothache and the traffic), I definitely think my version is much more fitting. (The saying assumes that love always leads to a broken heart. It’s a Russian saying, after all.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


One of my favorite songs from the wartime. In this instance, only the music (no words), played on guitar by Garik Sukachev.

(it takes a few moments to load on my computer; if it doesn't, click on the icon... or something...)

The unholy alliance

How many famous musicians can you recognize?

What about here?

I smell a rat

Since I was accused of being anti-industrialist tree-huger for my recent post, I will try to redeem myself with this video. Which, at the same time, is my response to tRP’s recent post. I recommend clicking on the movie to see it in full glory.

I think the movie takes place in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some music for weary feet

Thanks to the Real Pianist for sharing. “A waltz.”

As one of the comments said, “Απλά υπέροχος”.

Sergei Prokofiev. Piano Concerto №3. First movement: Andante-Allegro. Director: Vladimir Spivakov. Pianist: Samwise Gamgee. Prokofiev is da bomb.

Garik Sukachev, “Your whisper and laugh”.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Taken from the water

Recently, I read a rather interesting story on I won’t copy the whole story, but this part, quoting Rebbe Rashab himself, caught my attention in particular (the point of the post is not just to share the story, so keep reading):

Strict guidelines

From Daily Torah Thought blog:
"One may not place anyone on the Sanhedrin unless he is a person of wisdom, a good appearance, a person of physical stature, a person of age, a person knowledgeable in sorcery, and a person who knows seventy languages, so that the Sanhedrin will not need to hear testimony via an interpreter." (Talmud, Menachos 65a)

Ki Hinei Kachoimer

Translation here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A rather marvelous wedding

I think I've posted this before, but it deserves to be posted again.

Click on the view to see it in full glory.

A rather marvelous instrument

Thanks to Dowy for posting a video of two people playing two rather remarkable instruments: hang drums. This is the first time I see them being played.

Here is one up close:

Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей

There is a Russian saying, above: Nye imey sto rubley, a imey sto druzey (I am transliterating to demonstrate that it rhymes). It means: “Don’t have one hundred rubles; have one hundred friends.” (It made more sense back in the days when one hundred rubles was relatively a lot of money.)

My car’s thermostat went bust, as a result of which my antifreeze was not cycling back into the radiator. The pressure built up, and the opposite pipe burst open, leaking out all the antifreeze. As a result, my engine obviously started overheating. Only when the smoke filled the car, I realized that something was wrong (I know approximately as much about mechanics as a regular mechanic knows about Neuroscience; the fact that the temperature needle went all the way to the right and that heating stopped working meant nothing to me).

My neighbor (the son of my landlady) replaced the pipe and the thermostat (and drove me to the AutoZone to buy all the parts and the antifreeze). The whole affair cost me about $36. My local mechanic would probably tell me that I need to replace the whole radiator.

When asked “What do I owe you?”, my neighbor answered: “Nothing. I like fooling with this kind of stuff.” (I am still going to buy him a case of beer, though.)

Hence the above Russian saying.

(Need I mention that he is from Russia? Need I mention that he is Jewish?)

It's Moses' cadillac

I have to admit, when I saw the title of this, I thought it would be some pseudo-scientific talk on how the absence or presence of archeological clues changes nothing about our beliefs in the validity of the account of Exodus.

Comparative ethnography

The following post is a joke and not an attempt to insult anyone (I know, a surprising statement and sentiment coming from me).

Typical members of intelligentsia of the three Slavic countries of the former Soviet Union:

Cup of socialism, anyone?

This is beautiful, my friends. Regulators of all the world unite.

[via arbat]

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Maybe Thomas Jefferson was right

Сахалин, Сахалин,
Чудесная планета!
Двенадцать месяцев зима,
Остальное — лето.

This is a thought I had on Friday. It may seem at first like some Chassidic fundi type of thought, but it's actually a rather green, hippy, liberal kind of thought. It may also seem like a depressing thought, but it is merely contemplative. And not a major chiddush, just an observation.