Thursday, February 23, 2006
I have always wondered why past civilizations built massive buildings and temples. We have been told that they were tombs and passages to the after life, or the result of showy rulers who wanted to be remember for all eternity.
We don't build such things anymore. Our architecture has evolved to a more utilitarian style: pack as many people as possible into our shrinking city areas. In addition, it would be really hard to convince thinking citizens that a 100 ton piece of granite needs to be moved hundreds of miles because some capricious ruler decides to build his or her own house for the after life ahead of time.
Although our achievements of the 19th century would seem that much capricious to anyone looking back: "put a man on the moon," "spread democracy all across the globe," and many others.
Ayn Rand would argue, rightly, that our contemporary monuments of achievement, which are comparable to those ancient structures, are the shorelines of our major cities (New York, comes to mind) with their massive display of wealth and the produce and accomplishment of "advanced" civilizations.
So my questions still stands: why would anyone commission the construction of a pyramid, and specially at such massive scales as the Great Pyramid in Egypt or the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico. What drove these two civilization, separated miles and ages apart, to build these similar solid-geometrical-stone things is anybody's guess. And, again, why a pyramid? A cube would be much easier to build.
Anyway, there are quite a few web sites and books about this particular topic. I found the following resources to be of particular interest:
Monday, February 13, 2006
I thought that my idea of Statistical Democracy
was the result of one of my rambling fits, but I found out that the whole concept may not be so crazy after all.
A couple of days ago, I bought the book The Wisdom of Crowds
, by James Surowiecki, and encountered in the last chapter (Ch 12) that the idea that I proposed in Statistical Democracy
has been studied and somewhat implemented by political scientist James Fishkin.
Surowiecki writes (page 260):
Deliberation Day, which Fishkin and Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman proposed, would be a new national holiday on which, two week before major national elections, registered voters would gather in their neighborhoods, in small groups of fifteen and large groups of five hundred, to discuss the major issues at stated in the campaign.
The concept of Deliberation Day is eerily similar to my Statistical Democracy. They are both based on the effectiveness of information and the fact that our democracies are a function of "crowd wisdom," which is the whole premise of the book.The Wisdom of Crowds
is an interesting read, on all accounts, specially if you are interested in the functioning of the stock market. The book is an easy read and it should not be taken as a deep study of Statistics or the mechanics of free market economies. However, the main points are well explained and explored. To clumsily summarize the book: groups of independent individuals will generate better solutions to complex problems than expert individuals in certain conditions.
Wikipedia has a more in depth review of the book
and summarizes the requirements for crowds to achieve wisdom as follows:
Diversity of opinion: Each person should have private information even if it's just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
Independence: People's opinions aren't determined by the opinions of those around them.
Decentralization: People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Aggregation: Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.
If you get a chance to read the book (or have read the book), you will find this entry to border on the thin line of irony. To be more specific: if you buy the book because of my site, you will be following the crowd doing what the crowds does best--follow--thus, proving Surowiecki's hypothesis.
It is not a regular Holiday
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people who will feed me
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
in Ghana are doing these days I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathingFrank O'hara
A man of the times
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Maybe not of the times, but more of the "me too" type.
Yesterday (January 31, 2006), I signed up for google's AdSense, and also downloaded Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 7-Beta.
I signed up for AdSense to see how it works--perhaps I will make use of such advertising in the future.
I downloaded IE7-Beta to see what Microsoft has been working on for months. So far, I am not impressed: the browser crashed on me once, and the address bar can't be moved at will (I don't like it on top). As per the tabs now available, they are nice, but Opera and Firefox have been doing it for a while (nothing really new there). What can I say, I have high expectations of Microsoft's software.LinksDownload IEv7
.Sign up for AdSense
.New ToysNew Ad Revenues
$0.14. That's right, a whole fourteen cents...