Atendendo a algumas respostas apreciativas e inúmeras ignorativas, aqui está......

30 abril 2009

Bergamascos e bergamotas

Olmi made a movie "Árvore dos tamancos" which I saw with my mother way back when (only remember it was very dark). I heard of Viterbi's work in my professional capacity. The Brazilian president's wife made headlines in Brazil by showing so little confidence in her husband's work that she took foreign citizenship (though I think I trust him a lot more than many other heads of government).

This Pesenti fellow..... I don't know...... he had some strange S Americans at his wedding.

29 abril 2009

Buiter on the Google monopoly

I don't think Willem Buiter got things right on his post today in the FT. The IBM monopoly ended because of competition from minicomputers in the 70s, workstations in the 80s, and microcomputers in the 90s (respectively DEC, Sun, Microsoft among others). Antitrust regulation had very little to do with it. The Microsoft monopoly is finishing now because of the iPhone, netbooks, and all the web apps. Microsoft has become irrelevant because they are not technological leaders, not because of action by European competition authorities. And I believe Apple flourished when Steve Jobs and his NeXTies were forced to find ways to compete under Microsoft's radar screen, developing the NeXTStep (aka Mac OS X), the iPod, and the iPhone way past what fat and slow corporations were able to.

He may be off in his analysis of Google as well. I used to think that privacy by data overflow was possible. Google and the Great Firewall of China showed it is not. There is no anonimity in the mass of information on the web, and no technological route to privacy. Competition authorities tinkering with cookies will not do, we need to draw a line after which invasion of privacy becomes a criminal offense. The only hope for individual privacy is strong protection from a liberal government. I think that Buiter is close to the right conclusion - that we need strong laws guaranteeing individual freedom - but he arrived there by a tortuous route.

28 abril 2009

Dynamic vision and control

In a 2008 IEEE Conference on Decision and Control paper, Mario Sznaier and Octavia Camps write

"Dynamic vision and imaging is arguably one of the few areas where both further advances and widespread field deployment are being held up not by the lack of a supporting infrastructure, but the lack of supporting theory."

27 abril 2009

On the trains across Pennsylvania

On The Pennsylvanian through Lancaster County. The passenger behind is going to a ceremony at an Episcopal church - she is telling her neighbor the history of each member of her family after freedom from slavery. Two young people in old-fashioned clothes board our car. He wears a wide-brimmed hat, she has a bonnet, and a backpack. Do the Amish ride Amtrak? A cluster of nuclear cooling towers on the left by the Susquehanna - is this Three Mile Island? Would be able to check, if Amtrak had Wifi on board. A train trip through technological time, all the way to not-quite-the 21st-century. Macintosh country is behind - maybe people here use PCs and not Apple, sort of the way they drive Mercurys and Buicks, not VWs and Hondas like everybody. A burnt DC3 at the Harrisburg airport.

News roundup: The bright spot in the economy is the iPhone (good engineering pays). The start-and-stop war in Afghanistan seems to have pushed the Taliban close to taking Islamabad (in the same way as taking antibiotics just until you feel better opens the way to a bad infection). The think tank proposals for the Cabinet were visibly weaker and more timid than Obama's (from reading past issues of Foreign Affairs). I made a bug report for a piece of shareware and got a reply before thinking about it a second time (can you expect this kind of service from a big software company?). Tony Tether, another of Rumsfeld's disastrous innovations, was fired unceremoniously of Feb 20 (the incompetent Darpa head was expected to stay until a successor was found, but they let him go before he could do more harm). Dick Cheney needs to go potty (are there any grown-ups left in the Republican party?).

20 abril 2009

Waterboarding and Guantanamo

According to recently released documents, prisoners at Guantanamo were tortured under order of the Justice department AFTER the CIA had obtained information using conventional interrogation. This confirms that the whole Guantanamo thing had very little to do with terrorists, and everything to do with domestic politics: namely, it was a Rovian plot to break the law and thus force liberals to defend some very unsavory characters. Freedom-loving, law-and-order liberals fell straight into the trap, and lost the 2004 election as planned by the White House. But you can't fool everybody forever. The results of government by deception can be judged reading the papers..... while they still exist.

17 abril 2009

Besteirol dos burocratas acadêmicos

Vale a pena dar uma olhada no artigo publicado pelo Magnífico Almeida Azevedo na Folha de hoje. O ex-reitor escreveu 2 textos incoerentes e confusos sobre tema do qual claramente conhece tanto quanto um leitor de jornal medianamente informado, e cuja publicação só pode ser devida ao amor que a Folha tem por polêmicas gratuitas. Após ser pego em flagrante delito por uma pesquisadora que no mínimo tem o mérito de escrever com cuidado e ponderação, o autor parte para um ataque pessoal, sem conteúdo científico, com insultos frívolos, e citações disparatadas.

Isso não acrescenta nada ao debate sobre o aquecimento global, mas me parece típico de como escreve o povo que quer fazer absolutamente nada. Não prova nada, mas se esses forem os argumentos para não nos preocuparmos, então o problema é sério.

15 abril 2009

Round up of the econ blogs for today

Short version: Obama will have to flunk at least one bank in the stress test to keep street cred. Otherwise the left will say Geithner is a softie, the right will say the recession is over, and Congress will be paralyzed. Please use the comments to bet on which bank will flunk.

Manutenção de aviões

Os engenheiros são a favor; os advogados são contra. Juiz multa empresa de aviação por atrasar vôo para consertar turbina. Para a lei brasileira, o certo é deixar o avião cair. Atrasar o vôo ou fazer pouso de emergência merece punição exemplar.

14 abril 2009

Do we really need all the Web2.0 tools?

Skype with Diego about geometry; email with Vanderlei about filtering; iChat with Susanna about school; Jabber with Spadim about temperature control; Facebook with Katrine about travel plans; Twitter with @jdborges about newspapers; RSS with Gabriella about the meltdown; Safari to read the papers; Camino to erase junk filtered by Gmail; talking of email, 70 non-junk stored in the last 2 days; now Firefox to post on blogspot.

Surely works to keep in touch, and to get work done, but is having so many tools the best way to organize the conversations? Now back to nonlinear estimation.

10 abril 2009

Cuba, 27 estado brasileiro?

O ambaixador Amorim, que adora lamber bunda de tirano, perdeu mais uma oportunidade de ficar com a boca fechada. Dessa vez sobre Cuba, a colônia do império defunto. O Brasil devia oferecer incorporar Cuba à União ante que os Estados Unidos o façam. Se Cuba não virar o estado número 27, vai virar o 51.

07 abril 2009

End of airborne laser program

The nice thing about reading the papers in the last couple of months is that everyday Obama and his team say or do something that is completely obvious, absolutely necessary, and that we had been told could not or should not be done for mysterious reasons we could not understand. Example: ABL was a laser gun on an airplane, meant to destroy missiles. There are a number of issues with the idea, not least that the laser would be concentrated on a very small region of the missile, and it is not clear that a missile is vulnerable to be destroyed by melting any small point.

What is interesting is that control of the laser beam is one of the key issues. I worked for a couple of months on control of the beam. The primary contractor's control scheme was orders of magnitude worse than needed to keep focus, and contained some very primitive errors. Any Controls 101 dropout could have done better, but the large defense contractor did not seem to care. Their attitude was more like "we have done it in this way, we will keep spending money on the design though it won't work, and we will not make any changes unless we get extra money specifically for the purpose of making these changes."

The ABL program had very little to do with missile defense, which had always been a figment on Rumsfeld's imagination. Not to soon to end it. Meanwhile, while Washington had its eyes off the ball, N Korea got their bomb, and the Persians are close to it. Obama's common sense will be on high demand.

04 abril 2009

Academician Bertoleza and the Giant Burocrator

Dear friends,

The Royal Imaginary Press of Boupinel, a dubious imprint operating out of undisclosed virtual locations at former and future lunatic asylums in cyberspace, has published ”Academician Bertoleza and the Giant Burocrator,” a translation of my first work of fiction. (Unless you consider control theory a form of fiction.) No trees have been harmed for the sake of the translation. The release is under a Creative Commons copyleft license, meaning that you can download it freely from:

Academician Bertoleza and the Giant Burocrator

or from the website of The Royal Imaginary Press of Boupinel:

The translation is inferior to the Portuguese original, but contains a number of typographical improvements meant to make reading less painful. In the fullness of time the original should be updated to reflect the typesetting modifications, if you prefer to read Portuguese. But the price is unbeatable, though I am sure everybody will find something to dislike. For example, economists might tell you that books costing less than a penny are a serious form of deflation, a worrying threat in the present crisis.

Published reviews of the original have been less than enthusiastic. I am sure you will agree that the reviewers are no more qualified than the translator, or the author for that matter. Some people may like it, but it is not for everybody. In any case, I would not be sending a link if I did not think that you can find less interesting reads in the New York Times bestseller list.

02 abril 2009

Fim do vestibular

Sou a favor. As universidades públicas não conseguem nem unificar seus vestibulares, no máximo criam grupos de estudo semi-eternos. Fazer um montão de vestibulares não traz nenhum benefício para alunos ou ensino, só serve para criar cargos para os burocratas do ensino. A União está correta em tomar a iniciativa.

Senado anistia imigrantes ilegais no Brasil

Merecem parabéns, os senadores e o presidente. É bom aproveitar a oportunidade de elogiar, quando há. O tratamento que o Brasil tem dado aos imigrantes é lamentável, o projeto de lei é uma boa iniciativa.

Aproveitando, elogio também o Supremo Tribunal Federal por estar preparando o fim da lei da imprensa. A esquerda protesta: é a favor da lei da imprensa da ditadura, e contra o direito de livre expressão garantido na constituição.