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Илья Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Илья" journal:

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September 25th, 2016
03:37 pm

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Хамерман знищує віруси
Эту песню нужно проиграть искусствоведам из организации "Офицеры России":

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September 21st, 2016
08:55 pm

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Pushkin Klezmer Band
Последние несколько дней постоянно слушаю этот ролик.



Эту же песню исполняли Псой Короленко и Дэниэл Кан, но с отсебятиной ("пейте "Хрупкий абсолют""), и музыкально не так интересно.

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September 20th, 2016
10:18 pm

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Carl Sagan, Contact (1985). Last summer I motorcycled through Northern California, and stopped at Allen Telescope Array, an array of 42 (potentially expandable to 350, but a technician told me that they don't have the funding for it) 6x7 meter radio dishes that simultaneously perform radio astronomy and search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The idea is that if there is a signal with the frequency several GHz that is only 300Hz wide, it might have come from the aliens. After the visit, I read a book by the astronomer currently leading the SETI project, and was unimpressed, and also reread His Master's Voice by Stanislaw Lem, a novel about astronomers receiving an alien message with a fictional neutrino telescope. Sagan was involved in SETI from the beginning, and as I understand it, this novel describes what he imagined might come of it.

The first part of the novel is reasonably technically accurate ("lanthanide-doped ruby maser", which the main character invented, seems to be fictional, though). Very Large Array, a collection of 27 25-meter radio dishes in the New Mexico desert, receives a loud signal from Vega, a main-sequence star 25 light years away. The signal is amplitude-modulated as a dots-and-dashes sequence of prime numbers, which proclaims its artificial origin. It is polarization modulated as an animated bitmap of an early television broadcast from Earth, with audio in the sideband, showing that the aliens are aware of the earthlings' technological level. It is also phase modulated as a gigantic message containing material from mathematics, logic, physics and engineering, all explained down for humans to understand. Unlike in the Lem novel, humans do understand it, and spend trillions of dollars developing the new technologies described in the message; I must say that the novel Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers has a better treatment of the topic of the humanity and alien technologies. The message directs the construction of a large machine with an unknown purpose, working on an unknown principle. The blueprints of the machine show five chairs, presumably for five people to sit upon. The machine is built, five people do sit on the chairs, the machine is turned on, and the five travel to Vega and on to the center of the Milky Way through a network of wormholes, where aliens welcome the humanity, which they represent, into the galactic community of intelligent species.

When the five return 18 hours later, they find out that only 20 minutes passed on Earth, and they have no physical proof of having been outside the machine. However, the aliens told them of hidden messages inside mathematical constants that were put there by the Creator of the Universe, and at least one of them does discover such a message (issue 10 of the comic strip XKCD is a reference to the novel). I don't think mathematical constants can have hidden messages, but I came up with what I think would be an elegant way for the Creator of the Universe to announce His presence. In addition to the common electron, there are also two unstable elementary particles identical to it in all properties except mass: the muon is 206.7682826±0.0000046 times heavier than the electron and the tauon is 3477.15±0.31 times heavier. These numbers are fundamental constants of our Universe, but their exact values do not matter much, at least now, billions of years after the Big Bang. Suppose that after the alien-designed machine is turned on, particle physicists at CERN measure these mass ratios again, and find that they changed to 271.8281828 and 3141.59, and after it is turned off, they go back to their old values!

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September 19th, 2016
03:04 pm

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Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies (2016). There is a wonderful book by French historian Marc Ferro called The Use and Abuse of History, which compares and contrasts high school history curricula around the world. This book reminds me of that one, although it discusses a narrower topic: how the war called the Vietnam War in America and the American War in Vietnam is remembered in different countries. Nguyen drives through Vietnam, going to the national museum, the war museum, cemeteries and memorials; the former national military cemetery of South Vietnam is still there, although it is no longer called that, and many gravestones have been vandalized. In San Jose, CA, there is a private museum of South Vietnam and Vietnamese refugees run by a former South Vietnamese Army colonel and his wife. In Phnom Penh there is a museum of Cambodian genocide in a former prison, where a sign hangs, "Laughing is forbidden". In Washington, DC, there is the famous wall with the names of 58,000 Americans who died in the war; the some 3 million dead Vietnamese are of course not mentioned. Nearby there is a statue of three soldiers, white, black and Latino, and another statue of three nurses and a wounded soldier; looking at the statues, one would not guess that the Americans fought not only against the Vietnamese, but also alongside the Vietnamese (there is a Vietnam War memorial in Orange County, CA, with a statue of an American soldier next to the American flag and one of a South Vietnamese soldier next to the South Vietnamese flag, but I didn't see it mentioned in this book). There are also films: "Apocalypse Now", "Full Metal Jacket" and "Platoon" are the most famous American ones, but there are more, including some Vietnamese films; there are also Korean films about South Korea's involvement in the war. There are also the photographs, three of which entered the world's collective consciousness: a South Vietnamese police chief shooting a Viet Cong suspect, a Buddhist monk self-immolating in protest against the persecution of Buddhists in South Vietnam, and a naked girl running away from a napalm attack on her village. There are also many novels and short stories about the war by American writers, some in a science fictional setting, by Vietnamese writers, one of whom is a political dissident, and by Vietnamese American writers.

In addition to travelogue through the museums and cemeteries and plot summaries of the novels and short stories, Nguyen's book also has thoughts about how to escape the particularity of a national narrative, extolling one's own side and ignoring or even dehumanizing the other. He quotes many philosophers: Emmanuel Levinas, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Avishai Margalit, and more; someone more familiar with their work would make more sense of it.

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September 14th, 2016
08:00 pm

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Сексуально-неполиткорректное
Сформулирую кое-какие мысли.

Я спокойно отношусь к существованию мужчин-гомосексуалистов (про женщин-лесбиянок я почти ничего не знаю). Я помню, как я стал гетеросексуалистом в 12-14 лет, когда я выглядел приблизительно так. Это был один из аспектов полового созревания: мой писюн настолько увеличился в размерах, что заслужил другое название; у меня начали расти волосы на лобке, на лице, и по всему телу; у меня появилось половое влечение к девочкам (позже - к женщинам). Это не было чем-то, что я выбрал; это было чем-то, что произошло со мной. Половое созревание - одна из заключительных стадий человеческого развития, которое начинается с оплодотворения, дробления яйца, бластуляции, гаструляции и т. д. Никакого "я", с которым процесс эмбриогенеза может советоваться, у эмбриона нет; у 12летки "я" есть, но процесс пубертата с ним тоже не советуется. Так вот, я спокойно принимаю то, что у некоторых мужчин в результате этого процесса появляется половое влечение, направленное не в ту сторону, что у меня, а в противоположную. Я читаю и понимаю автора: "In my middle teens, I made a discovery. My dad was a pharmacist. In his drugstore, they had a lot of bottles, some of which had a skull and crossbones. That's how I perceived the label "homosexual." I'll wear a skull and crossbones, and I'm not gonna let anybody see this. It's bad, it's a disease, it's poison. This is my dirty little secret."

Человеческие организмы разнообразны. Среди людей есть карлики, дальтоники, левши. Карликовость и дальтонизм считаются болезнями; леворукость - вариантом нормы; гомосексуальность 50 лет назад считалась психическим отклонением, а сейчас не считается - но все это ярлыки, никак не меняющие сути. Я считаю, что все эти люди должны иметь равные права с большинством, и что общество должно в разумных пределах приспосабливаться к их отличиям от большинства. Двадцать лет назад в Майкрософт Оффисе в руководстве по созданию пользовательских интерфейсов говорилось, что элементы интерфейса не могут отличаться лишь оттенками синего, так как им не смогут пользоваться дальтоники. По-моему, эта рекомендация - очень малый груз для трихроматичного большинства. Мой брат - дальтоник; я всю жизнь думал, что дальтоники не имеют права водить машину, но шесть лет назад я был у брата, и с удивлением обнаружил, что у него есть автомобиль и водительские права. Если дальтоники действительно не создают опасности на дорогах, то чиновники штата Массачусетс, которые позволили ему получить водительские права - молодцы. Те же соображения относятся и к гомосексуалистам. Я не следил за тем, почему гомосексуалисты боролись за право вступать в брак, институт, который постепенно отмирает и среди гетеросексуалистов, но раз уж они хотят иметь это право - пускай имеют; я проголосовал за это.

А вот существование транссексуалов я не принимаю. Если мужчина кастрируется, начнет себе вкалывать женские гормоны, и объявит себя женщиной, то я не верю, что он действительно станет женщиной, а не изуродованным мужчиной, и что женщина, которая начнет себе вкалывать мужские гормоны, и объявит себя мужчиной, действительно станет мужчиной. В принципе, я знаю, что некоторые человеческие качества, которые обычно считаются неизменной частью идентичности, на самом деле могут меняться на протяжении человеческой жизни. Светлейший князь Анатоль Ливен в книжке про Первую Чеченскую войну пишет про советского немца, которого в 1941 году депортировали из Украины в Казахстан; там он встретил чеченку, влюбился в нее и в ее народ, выучил язык, перешел в ислам, и переименовался из Вильгельма в Мухаммеда, а в горбачевские времена стал даже хаджи Мухаммедом. Полвека спустя он был уважаемым старейшиной деревни и тейпа, отцом и дедом чеченцев. Но разница между мужчиной и женщиной куда глубже, чем даже разница между немцем и чеченцем. Я - отчим выросшего мальчика и отец девочки, и я своими глазами видел, что мальчики и девочки по-разному думают, играют, мечтают, ведут себя, начиная с дошкольного возраста. Когда моей дочке было 6 лет, она написала сказку: "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. She saw a prince. They got married." Вскоре после этого, я с ней пошел в бассейн, где были два мальчика ее размеров, увлеченно играющие с игрушечным штурмовиком Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. "It shoots down another plane..." Я им сказал: "This is a ground attack aircraft; it can destroy a tank, but it cannot shoot down another plane" (я был не совсем прав, но к теме записи моя неправота не относится). "It fires a missile - shshsh... It blows itself up - boom!!!" В прошлом году я сидел в библиотеке в дочкиной школе, и девочка лет 11и без остановки рассказывала другой девочке, кто с кем дружит, кто с кем не дружит, кто в кого влюблен, и так далее ад наусеум; моему пасынку в этом возрасте было интересно, например, Ю-ги-о. И так далее; девочки-девушки-женщины отличаются от мальчиков-юношей-мужчин хоть в 6 лет, хоть в 11, хоть в 20, хоть в 40, хоть в 60. Вот я не верю, что человек может преодолеть эту разницу усилием воли и гормональными инъекциями.

Я прав или неправ?

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September 12th, 2016
08:08 pm

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Семантическое
Запишу, чтобы не забыть. Контекст, в котором предложение "Это предложение ложно" осмысленно и истинно.

"Первое предложение официальной биографии Ким Чен Ира утверждает, что он родился 16 февраля 1942 года в партизанском лагере на горе Пэктусан. Это предложение ложно. На самом деле, он родился 16 февраля 1941 года в селе Вятское Хабаровского Края в СССР, где его отец Ким Ир Сен командовал 1м батальоном 88й отдельной стрелковой бригады РККА."

Я не помню, придумал ли это я сам несколько лет назад, или где-то прочитал (если прочитал, то, скорее всего, оригинал был про что-то еще, а не про Ким Чен Ира; это явно отсебятина с моей стороны).

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September 7th, 2016
07:31 pm

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Reading log
Людмила Улицкая, "Лестница Якова" (2015). Сага о четырех поколениях одной семьи: экономисте и музыканте (1890-1956), его жене-танцовщице и педагоге (1890-1975), их единственном сыне-инженере (1916-1989), его единственной дочери-театральном художнике 1943 г.р., ее единственном сыне-джазовом музыканте 1975 г.р.; роман кончается рождением в 2011 году его сына, названного в честь прапрадеда. Все эти люди влюбляются, женятся, разводятся, рожают детей, учатся, работают, читают, думают. Сын доносит в НКВД на отца, о чем через полвека узнает внучка, ознакомившись с делом своего деда в архиве КГБ. Правнука посылают в Америку к отцу (фактически отчиму), чтобы он не служил в Советской Армии; там он становится героиновым наркоманом; мать выдергивает его обратно в Россию, где он излечивается. Кое-где встречаются анахронизмы: термин "квантовый компьютер" придумал Дэвид Дойч в 1985 году; советские эмэнэсы не могли его употреблять в 1970е годы, и вообще они скорее бы говорили об ЭВМ, чем о компьютерах. Также маловероятно, что в 1981 году пожилая московская драматургиня, упоминая голод 1932-1933 гг. на Украине, употребила бы термины голодомор и геноцид.

Насколько я понимаю, это драматизация реальной семейной истории Улицкой, но, честно говоря, "Московская сага" Аксенова мне больше понравилась.

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August 28th, 2016
12:43 pm

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Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (2015). A US-educated captain of the South Vietnamese secret police survives the Fall of Saigon. He is an aide-de-camp to a general, and with the help of a CIA operative they are whisked away to a refugee camp in Guam in the nick of time, and then go on to the USA. There, the captain works as an administrative assistant to a professor at the university where he studied years before. The general opens a liquor store in Los Angeles using the gold and dollars smuggled out of South Vietnam, and hobnobs with a conservative Republican Congressman, who knows a famous film director (bearing more than a passing resemblance to Francis Ford Coppola), who is shooting an epic film about the Vietnam War (bearing more than a passing resemblance to "Apocalypse Now"). The captain gets hold of the draft of the script, criticizes it to the director, and gets himself hired as a cultural consultant. The film is made in the Philippines; the captain hires extras among Vietnamese refugees in the country; at first, the South Vietnamese Army veterans don't want to play Viet Cong guerillas, but relent when the captain gets the director to pay them twice the going rate for extras. The general then organizes a company of exiles to invade Vietnam from Thailand and launch an anti-Communist rebellion (apparently, this was an actual historical event, which I didn't know about before reading this novel). The captain goes along with his scheme, even assassinating two other South Vietnamese emigres who might potentially inform the Vietnamese authorities. The invasion fails miserably; those invaders who are not killed are put into a reeducation camp. The conceit is that the bulk of the novel is the confession written by the captain in the reeducation camp, and the rest is what happens to him after he writes the confession, which he is allowed to copy for himself and to add on to.

At age 14, the captain swore a blood oath with two other boys. One grows into an honest anti-Communist and South Vietnamese patriot, and becomes an assassin in the Phoenix program, killing potential Viet Cong sympathizers, and in America, assassinating one of the emigres together with the captain. The other grows into a Communist, and so does the captain. While serving the general in Saigon, he photographs his files and passes them on to his Communist blood brother, who, presumably, passes them on all the way to Hanoi. In America, he lets his blood brother on to the details of the invasion scheme. It was on his blood brother's orders that the captain went to America to spy on the exiles, and to the Philippines to subvert the film. So he is a divided man, loyal to two causes and two countries. The blood brother orders the captain not to join the invasion, but he disobeys. At the end of the novel, the third blood brother is revealed as the commissar of the reeducation camp, not recognized because he had been disfigured in a napalm attack. The captain's complex identity is out of place in the newly unified Vietnam of revolutionary and nationalistic purity, so the commissar arranges for his two blood brothers to be smuggled out of the country together with other boat people.

Most novels about the Vietnam War in English are about Americans fighting the war abroad or protesting against it at home. There are a few novels by the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong guerillas published in translation. This is the only novel I am aware of where the Southern side in the civil war is given a voice through the spy narrator with divided loyalties, adding to the complexity and the tragedy.

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August 20th, 2016
07:01 pm

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Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano (1952). Around 1950, several American companies experimented with numerical control of machine tools: having a punched tape or cards control a servomechanism that moves the tool instead of a human operator, the way a piano roll controls the keys of a player piano. Nowadays, microprocessor-based numerical control does a better job, but this was way before the invention of the microprocessor. At that time Kurt Vonnegut worked as a publicist for a GE research laboratory in Schenectady, NY, and learned about these experiments. He extrapolated them into the future. Some time after World War III, all skilled work is done by machines, which are programmed by a small number of college-educated corporate engineers; the majority of the (male) population is deemed to either serving 25 years in the military or doing scutwork in the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps aka Reeks and Wrecks in poverty. The plot revolves around an engineer who is supposed to infiltrate a Luddite organization but ends up leading it, and around the Shah of a fictional country visiting the United States and commenting on what he sees.

I have been reading Vonnegut for some 30 years, but never gotten around to reading his first novel until now, and frankly, it is not well-written. Read The Sirens of Titan or Mother Night instead.

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July 31st, 2016
01:21 pm

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John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona (1999). Haynes and Klehr are historians of the American Communist movement. In 1992 they published a one-volume history of the movement, where they said, "Ideologically, American Communists owed their first loyalty to the motherland of communism rather than to the United States but in practice few American Communists were spies. The Soviet Union recruited spies from the Communist movement, but espionage was not a regular activity of the American party." As they were writing this book, the Soviet Union fell, and the Yeltsin government of Russia opened the archives of the Stalin-era CPSU and of the Comintern to Western researchers. Haynes and Klehr started studying the documents stored at the Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History, and its workers asked them whether they might be interested in the CPUSA archive. They were astonished that such an archive existed in Russia, since there was nothing like it in the USA. A study of this archive led to two more books in 1995 and 1998, where they showed that they were wrong in their first book: not few, but hundreds of American Communists were spies, and the party's national and regional leadership was actively involved in espionage. Books about the people mentioned in the CPUSA archive talked about Venona, an American codebreaking project that identified Soviet spies; the existence of the project was publicly known, but the decrypted messages themselves were still classified. In 1995, Haynes and Klehr argued before the Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy that classifying 50-year-old decrypted messages made no sense, considering that related Soviet documents were freely available in Russia, and they were declassified. This book is an analysis of these messages.

In 1943, a U.S. Army colonel in charge of military intelligence heard rumors that the Soviets were negotiating a separate peace with the Germans, which would enable the Germans to turn the might of their military machine against the British and the Americans. He ordered some of the cryptographers under his command to try codebreaking Soviet diplomatic cables, judging that the peace negotiations, if they existed, would be reflected in the Soviet diplomatic correspondence. They succeeded in 1946; the war was over, and there was no separate peace. The decrypted messages showed something else, though: that the United States teemed with Soviet spies. The decryption effort continued until 1980, but only a fraction of all messages yielded to cryptanalysis; most remain unbroken even today. The decrypted messages showed that 349 American citizens, immigrants and permanent residents were involved in espionage for the Soviet Union; no one knows, how many individuals are mentioned in the undecrypted messages.

What did these people do? First, atomic and industrial espionage. Scientists Harry Gold, Julius Rosenberg, Klaus Fuchs, Theodore Hall, and technician David Greenglass all spied on the American atomic bomb program; there were two more atomic spies, with the code names Quantum and Fogel/Pers, who have not been identified. Ethel Rosenberg knew of her husband's work and helped him in a minor way; the electric chair was a punishment grossly disproportionate to her offense, but she was not innocent, as the Rosenbergs' children have maintained for decades (until the 2008 confession by 91-year-old convicted spy Morton Sobell, they also maintained their father's innocence). In addition to the atomic bomb, Soviet agents reported on the development of airborne radar bombsight, synthetic rubber, industrial aerosols and the such. Second, fighting enemies of the Soviet Union, such as the Trotskyists and Soviet defectors, in the United States. Third, passing American military and diplomatic secrets to the Soviet Union, as Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss did.

The substance of the secrets was passed to the Soviet Union through diplomatic mail, not through encrypted cables, so decryption of the cables cannot answer the question, how much damage the spies did to the United States. What is clear, say Haynes and Klehr, is that the espionage assault by the Soviet Union on the United States in 1942-1945 was something a nation would normally direct at a wartime enemy, not at a wartime ally giving it billions of dollars' worth of aid. In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse Five, a pro-Nazi American visits American POWs in Dresden in February 1945, and attempts to recruit them into a unit fighting the Red Army, saying, "You are going to have to fight the Communists sooner or later. Why not get it over with?" As this fictional character was saying this, real American Communists and the non-Communist Americans they have recruited have been fighting the United States for years on behalf of the Soviet Communists. When they were discovered, as they would sooner or later have to be, this discovery was one of the reasons for the real Cold War.

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