Saturday, July 1, 2017

Let's Try Q & A And Whatever Else Sticky Post

Here is the post which I will try to keep sticky for people to ask questions and share their thoughts which are not on topic. This, I think is known as Open Thread. Fire away.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Some Introspective Per ACM-ICPC World 2017 Finals.

Some people abroad sometimes ask: how come that Russia whose population is hovering slightly above 146 million mark still remains in a race in many truly hi-tech fields globally. Well, there is no secret here. Admiral Hyman Rickover knew it all along with his "Russian educational menace" as early as 1960.   
Obviously, many things go into the competitiveness, but one of the pillars of this competitiveness remains national educational level in STEM--Science, Technology, Engineering And Math. Mind you, not in journalism, music or political science. One of subdivisions of this STEM is the field of programming languages and software engineering. So, yesterday, the results of World Finals in International Collegiate Programming Contest 2017 have been published. Here is a screenshot of first 10 places.

Out of 10 first places, 4, that is 40%, are taken by Russia's colleges. Out of first 20, 7, that is 35%, are taken by Russians. This is what is called a preponderance. This absolutely doesn't mean that while traveling somewhere in Irkutsk (a lovely city, very sophisticated) or in Magadan (former capital of GULAG) and seeing Russian gopniks,    
This is a basic Russian model
These are Czech gopniks at their convention in Prague
you would expect them discussing peculiarities of formal logic going into program languages or methods of OOP (Object Oriented Programming). Not at all. But you may expect a very tough STEM curriculum in any Russian institution of higher learning in appropriate field and, also, in many public schools, including those in Magadan. Russians simply know how to prepare own elite. It is really very simple, basic statistics. As Clausewitz' dictum goes: the more nation is involved in war, the more numerous are the instances of military genius. The same applies pretty much to any field and it just happened so that it is STEM--always was, is and will remain so--that happens to be the most important of them. Humanities follow, in the end--the best philosophers are very often produced in the field of precise sciences. Be it Rene Descartes or one of the fathers of Russian Cosmism (and the father, one of, of spaceflight) Constantin Tsiolkovsky. So, technical nerds do have this knack for serious generalizations which transcend the world of pure numbers. Many of them wax philosophical and do it very often better than some Ph.Ds in philosophy. Indeed, who knows them other then some pretentious nerds, yet Doctor Michio Kaku is known globally and the whole world (yours truly included) reads his books and find them compelling not only in scientific but in a larger philosophical sense. 

So, there you go--some of the "secret" to Russians still being around in military, science, technology, economy, high art, what have you--teach them well, they will later pay it back by becoming excellent engineers, scientists, teachers, designers of name it. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

And... As Was Expected.

I wrote about this earlier this year.

Well, evidently there is, sort of, and too late. But as beaten to death cliche goes--better late than never. 

The main question, however, remains--what is this "support", what goes into it, how does this "support" manifest itself? What does "some level" stand for, what is definition of this level? Russians lecturing Taliban on Theory Of Operational Research and getting those Afghan dudes into the neck of the woods of Osipov-Lanchester Differential Equations or Salvo Model? Or maybe consulting them on Net Centric Warfare? Providing "intelligence", maybe? Considering what passes for "intelligence" today in US, one may assume that giving local civilians a weather forecast for a week may be considered an "intelligence". Who knows what is the semantics of this newspeak and, boy, are we entering this territory fast, the next stop--a thought-crime. But at least it is good that someone of some standing admitted that they've not "seen any physical evidence", for Orwellian reality it will suffice. 



The horror continues and the tragedy in Manchester is, sadly, just another one in a vicious circle of terrorism unleashed on Europe.  My heart goes out to the victims of this barbarity and to people of Manchester. But the question remains--is Europe ready to do something about this? Will it even put up a fight before dying? Terrorist acts are becoming, sadly, an almost everyday occurrence and yet, both US and UK are deeply involved with main sponsors of ISIS--KSA and Qatar. It defies common sense.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Russian-Chinese Wide Body Aircraft.

The title is not misleading and I am not being a Russian nationalist when putting Russia in this project in the first place. Today, Russia and China finalized the agreement for production of Russo-Chinese wide body commercial jet known as COMAC C929 which basically underscores some issues with Chinese aerospace. Yes, China recently conducted a maiden flight of her indigenous COMAC C919. It is an undeniably huge achievement for Chinese commercial aviation but, COMAC C919 is not an "answer" to Boeing, Airbus, nor it is an answer to MC-21, whose maiden flight is planned for early June this year. To start with, COMAC C919 has two major problems:

1. A very heavy wing;
2. Absence of indigenous engine. 

This makes C919 only good for China's internal  market. C929, however, is a totally different game. It gets into the B787 and A330 NEO markets directly both in China and, eventually, internationally. It will be doing this with traditionally superb Russian air-frame and PD-35 jet-engine, a larger, more powerful version of PD-14.  So, the stage is set for a big play in the most "hot" commercial market. Of course, others didn't sit idly:

Boy, talk about big money. C929, judging by a model, is a beautiful jet and it was Andrei Tupolev's dictum that: "Only beautiful planes fly beautifully".  


Saudis Did It.

An excellent note from Colonel Lang on US-Saudi relations after Trump's visit to Riyadh.  

In the Middle East the village headman is usually referred to as the Mukhtar, the chosen one, chosen by the ruling force in the country, selected to administer the district with the backing of the government's money. I watched the show in the reception palace in Riyadh with eyes that may have seen the proceedings differently than many other people. What I saw was a carefully staged spectacle in which the Saudis brought together most of the political leaders in the Islamic World to witness President Trump's acceptance of Saudi leadership in the Middle East. In the Arab World when someone submits to you and accepts your money as a follower and tool, the culturally authentic thing to do is to make the experience as painless as possible. The Saudis will now expect that the US will understand that their $110 billion in defense purchases and $40 billion in contributions from the Saudi state's sovereign wealth fund will buy power in Washington and that their carefully and politely stated demands will be greeted with great receptivity in the future.

Considering a mammoth size of the contract signed between US and well known terrorist state of KSA, one has to now observe Russian-Iranian dance. As B of Moon Of Alabama noted:
I, frankly, can not see any possibility of Saudis producing anything, let alone hi-end weapon systems, for a simple reason of this barbaric culture being good only at avoiding any productive labor by all means. The picture of some Saudi operating a 5-axis CNC, or some complex assembly line--sorry, folks, doesn't compute. If any Saudi atrocity (supported by US) in Yemen is any indication, Saudis and hi tech weapons simply do not mix. All this disaster in Yemen, mind you, being committed by the country whose military budget in 2015 was larger than that of Russia.  And, yet--look at Yemen "operation". 

It is, of course, too early to pass a sound judgement on what has transpired in Riyadh, but I am sure Tehran is getting closer to calling Moscow by now and it may be totally justified. As Colonel Lang observed, Saudi Arabia just bought herself a tool and its anti-Iranian nature is obvious. Iran knows that Moscow will not allow Iran to fall, so the game about to begin. But here is a catch for Saudis, unlike them, Iranians do manufacture things and seeing Iranian running 5-axis CNC is nothing special. I know for a fact, that 10-15 years ago Iran had excess of engineers and physics majors, some of whom, and you may have guessed it already, were taught in Russia.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pavlov's Dog.

I remember early 1977 and us staying in the front of turntable in some flat in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky listening to Pavlov's Dog album Pampered Menial and being floored by David Surcamp's amazing voice and band's stunning musicianship. We thought it was a British band. Of course, David was rated as the #3 vocalist behind Ian Gillan and (IIRC) David Coverdale then. Boy, we were wrong--an American band from St.Lois, Missouri, created a Gothic music of unimaginable beauty and depth. This was the progressive rock at its best. 

I have it all, in LP, CD and MP3. We thought (and they were at some moment of time) they were the greatest band in the world. ABC signed them at half-a-million dollar contract--the largest ever in recording history then.  

Each time I hear this I long for those times, when the music was good.... no, it was outstanding, so much so to take it with you to the island and be lost. 

Ah, yes, those melotrons and that crazy At The Sound Of The Bell.

I want to be buried to this.