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

30 janeiro 2012

Aposentadoria compulsória por idade é inconstitucional

O diretor da Poli, @profcardoso pergunta no Twitter: "O que você acha da aposentadoria compulsória dos juízes passar de 70 para 75 anos? E para os professores da USP?"
A aposentadoria compulsória discrimina por idade e viola um direito garantido pela Constituição do Brasil. Vejam:
Título I - Dos Princípios Fundamentais. Art. 3o Constituem objetivos fundamentais da República Federativa do Brasil: ...
IV - promover o bem de todos, sem preconceitos de origem, raça, sexo, cor, idade e quaisquer outras formas de discriminação.
Evidentemente, o Constituinte entende que nenhuma medida legal que restringe o bem de indivíduos por meio de preconceitos de idade é inadmissível. Adicionalmente:
Capítulo II - Dos Direitos Sociais. Art. 7o São direitos dos trabalhadores urbanos e rurais, além de outros que visem à melhoria de sua condição social: ...
XXX - proibição de diferença de salários, de exercício de funções e de critério de admissão por motivo de sexo, idade, cor ou estado civil;
O Constituinte explicita que a discriminação por idade no exercício do trabalho viola direito do trabalhador. É verdade que a aposentadoria compulsória é assunto de leis, decretos, e até da própria Constituição:
Capítulo VII - Da Administração Pública, Seção II - Dos Servidores Públicos. Art. 40. Aos servidores titulares de cargos efetivos da União, dos Estados, do Distrito Federal e dos Municípios... § 1º Os servidores abrangidos pelo regime de previdência de que trata este artigo serão aposentados ...
II - compulsoriamente, aos setenta anos de idade, com proventos proporcionais ao tempo de contribuição;
Porém o artigo acima está em flagrante contradição com direitos fundamentais garantidos pela Constituição. É portanto necessário corrigir o deslize do Constituinte e eliminar toda e qualquer referência à aposentadoria compulsória por idade da Constituição e de todos os outros diplomas legais.
Alguém vai dizer que essa opinião é irrelevante porque não possuo diploma de advogado. Digam o que disserem, tanto se me dá. O leitor deve lembrar da intenção de certos membros do Congresso Nacional de instituir o voto indireto para o Congresso, em violação à cláusulas pétreas da Constituição. Enquanto a quase totalidade da imprensa e dos juristas se escondiam atrás de filigranas legais para focar a discussão em argumentos partidários, mesquinhos, e politiqueiros, esse blog se insurgiu contra a tentativa de golpe institucional e obteve sucesso completo: a proposta desapareceu das discussões.
Com a publicação deste artigo inicio campanha, deflagrada pela pergunta do Professor Cardoso, para acabar com a discriminação inconstitucional por idade. Espero que a campanha obtenha o mesmo sucesso retumbante que a campanha pela defesa do direito ao voto livre e direto promovida por este blog em 2011.

27 janeiro 2012

Stone, steel, and fire

Heard NPR during lunch. Good news first, according to the analysts: more car & truck sales, housing starts. The bad news: rising cost of education & health. Question for the occasional economist visiting this blog: why is it that transactions in the "male" sectors of the economy - steel, fire, and stone - are considered as growth, a positive thing, while transactions in the "female" sectors - health and education - are considered as a drag to growth, a cost to be lowered?

As far as I know this is an invariant of the press coverage of economic news: North and South, right and left, deep or shallow. If you find a counter example in the African or Asian press, or perhaps in distant Northern Europe, please let me know.

I thought the science of economics was supposed to be without a judgement of value on specific products and services - if there is a consumer, a producer, and a market to clear the transaction, then you add to the national accounts without judging the value of the good. Personally I might think that certain a Cadillac, or a Canon photo camera, or an HP printer, just to give examples, is a pile of junk, worth less than the plastic used to manufacture it; but presumably it satisfies a need of the buyer, so the economist doesn't and shouldn't care.

The exception is the classification of the economy into 2 main sectors: "male" goods, and the "female" service sector which is not so good. (The one exception is the price of gasoline, which counts as a minus even though it is in the "fire" sector, presumably because it gets on the way of car sales. But when more gas is burnt, that's ok, so perhaps it's not a real exception.) Isn't this distinction anti-scientific?

20 janeiro 2012

Kodak

Someone linked to a bad article about Kodak, which reveals more about the writer and the paper that publishes it than about the photo company. Not completely wrong; but "some part of an error is always right" (yes, this is just an excuse to quote Tartakower.

My answer on G+: I found the article nonsense. It's essentially an apology for chief executives, which happens to be precisely the mission statement of Forbes and the WSJ. Sure the remote location in Rochester played a role - a small town lacks the positive externalities of a large own, such as a large and skilled workforce. And companies suffer or disappear when technology changes.

But Kodak was killed by bad management - for comparison, Fujifilm is doing fine; Digital Equipment and Data General were killed by bad management, not by their Boston location. Kodak's current CEO came from the HP printer business, and decided to remake Kodak as a competitor to his previous business - it must have been a decision borne out of personal desires for revenge, who would think of inkjet printing as a growth field in 2005? Sadly the story parallels HP itself - its former chief executive decided to remake HP into a competitor to the software business from which he had been fired, with equally disastrous results. And the destruction from HP follows from hiring a chief executive out of the team that destroyed AT&T and Bell Labs. Here we have a connection between the destruction of the 3 great American technology companies of the 20th century.

Kodak might have reinvented itself as smaller company using its leadership in digital sensors and other technologies - a point that the article ignores, looking only at the consumer camera side. But admitting that would violate the tenets of Forbes and the Journal: that a company has to grow; and that upper management can do no wrong unless it pays attention to the needs of employees, consumers, and society.

 A better article by a competent journalist appears in a serious newspaper.

18 janeiro 2012

Greve!

13 janeiro 2012

Apple University next week?

Apple is planning an education event at the Guggenheim in NYC next week. Judging by how little attention the event is receiving from analysts, it promises to be big.

I believe Apple University will finally be announced. Judging by the lack of attention it has received during the 3 years since the first preparations were made public, Apple university promises to be significant. I guess it will be an educator support system, in the same way that the Apple store supports software developers, and the iTunes store supports musicians. I expect Apple university to include a richer set of educational and multimedia tools, beyond a distribution and sales system, and will not be surprised if, unlike the app and music stores, Apple funds part of the costs out of the generosity of Steve Jobs.

Privatdozenten of the world, rejoice! I am preparing my first two courses. Are you?

11 janeiro 2012

Why I'm voting for Huntsman in the primaries

If Huntsman is still running in March when Massachusetts holds primaries, he'll have my vote. Reasons include:

0 - I'm a Yankee independent and I can vote for whomsoever I want.
1 - Now that I am a US citizen and can spend as long as I wish outside the country, I don't want to be laughed at when I do.
2 - Teddy Roosevelt, the last great Republican president, died of illnesses contracted in Brazil; as an apology I owe him a vote for someone he would at least consider worth shooting, perhaps even shooting with.
3 - I'm voting for my Worker's Party buddy Fernando Haddad for mayor of S Paulo this year, so I should vote right-wing in the Northern Hemisphere to balance.
4 - I don't want my daughters to be ashamed that a person without any morals or principles is running for president in their country.
5 - I am afraid someone who wants to fight the Cold War again, but this time make sure the Free World loses, might actually become president.
6 - I am afraid someone who wants to fight the Second World War again, but this time make sure the Free World loses, might actually become president.
7 - I am afraid someone who wants to fight the Civil War again, but this time make sure that that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall perish from the earth, might actually become president.
8 - I am afraid someone who wants to go back to the good old Depression era, but this time make sure we stay there, might actually become president.
9 - I believe the presidential election should have two candidates who are willing and able to actually think and talk about real issues.

Chances that I would actually vote against President Obama remain negligible.

10 janeiro 2012

An engineer goes back to photography

I got stuck at a subtle point while thinking about complex barycenter methods for direct optimization. So I checked out news on the just announced Fujifilm X-Pro1. It is a fascinating piece of engineering.

A year ago I started looking at cameras because I wanted to take pictures again. Except for a toy camera, a gift to Hannah, and the iPhone, I had so far passed on digital photography. Actually I had barely photographed since she was born, my interest turned off by the gift of a Canon Rebel 2000 - a low point in the history of photo technology, the photographic equivalent of Windows Millenium Bug.

In any case, the photo industry has long been rather uninteresting. Engineering progress after the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic and the Olympus OM-1 was evolutionary, and uneven. Electronics was used to make film cameras more foolproof (bakachon in the unpc Japanese expression) with the predictable result that mostly fools wanted to use them. Exposure controls familiar to photographers were replaced by pre-programmed modes designed by marketers; classic rangefinders and focusing screens were killed by dubious autofocus schemes.

Then low-quality light sensors were matched to low-quality optics to start the digital photography revolution. The most successful brands, Canon and Nikon, were concerned with preserving their market share in the single lens reflex market rather than with advancing camera design - not that they didn't have very good engineers. Smaller makers fought the silly megapixel race. European brands abandoned any attempt at innovation for some notion of prestige - only Leica is left, catering to people stuck with pricey legacy lenses.

But things are changing. From unexpected corners: large Japanese corporations without a heavy commitment to the DSLR format, which is a lousy compromise that doesn't take good advantage of modern technology. Sony matched their electronics with optics and camera designs from traditional manufacturers. Fuji realized that the film business was disappearing, and made the best out of their technological expertise (unfortunately Kodak, which had a bigger lead, was occupied by HP executives who were passed over in the quest to destroy HP and proceeded to destroy Kodak instead). The new Fuji expands and explains the engineering design ideas that were present in the X100, the best camera ever made. Optics, electronics, materials science, mechanical design, signal processing, software and interfaces - it's all there. Read about it!

This all happened in the last year or so. Before that, both Sony and Fujifilm produced nondescript cameras. Olympus and Panasonic have the interesting 4/3 standard, but Sony and Fuji seem to be far ahead of everyone else. Nikon and Canon may be waking up - they have great engineering, but still fear that good designs will cannibalize their market share.

Meanwhile the pace of computer innovation is likely to slow. An interesting time for an engineer to go back to photography.

09 janeiro 2012

Randall Stross's columns

Letter to the NYTimes:

Dears,
I'm an avid reader of the Times. I am also a professor of electrical engineering.

If you would like my advice, I'm writing to say that Randall Stross's columns are mixture of the obvious with the obviously wrong. Some people may disagree, but his writing is well below the NYTimes' standard. It pains me that no one seems to have noticed that a paper that prints columns by Paul Krugman and David Pogue, among others, could do a lot better in the area of internet and digital communications.

Thanks for considering the opinions of your readers!
Sincerely, Felipe Pait

08 janeiro 2012

Bode's integral formula

Bode's integral formula can be useful for: a) People who can't keep a plan, and continue making phone calls until there is a communication failure. b) People who check their GPS repeatedly until they get lost.

07 janeiro 2012

Denúncia de corrupção no futebol

Só tenho uma coisa a dizer, correndo o risco de ser repetitivo:

O Corinthians quando ganha,
Alegria do povão.
O Corinthians quando perde,
O juiz é que é ladrão!

 Se a vitória é roubada,
Alegria é dobrada.
Se a derrota merecida,
Pega os porco na saída!

06 janeiro 2012

Joint Mathematics Meeting seen by an engineer

I am attending the Joint Mathematics Meeting as a form of vacation, and will share some observations with the three of you. It is much larger than the IEEE Control and Decision Conference. The crowd is a lot more diverse than the usual bunch of engineers. Mathematics is a much wider subject.

I am mostly attending plenary talks (called invited addresses). The regular sessions are very specialized, not unlike a controls conference, and probably incomprehensible for the uninitiated - a category that for many talks includes pretty much anyone but the coauthors.

Some addresses are very good, and a good fraction are given by women. Conjecture: the 2 facts are related. However they are not heavily attended. Perhaps because the math community is more fragmented, and because there are parallel sessions simultaneous with the plenaries. In general the schedule is a non Cartesian mess. The sessions are not synchronized, and the presentation timing is not uniform. Session hopping would be a challenge. Brings to mind the schedule that an Usp student has to fight against.

The best engineering work holds its intellectual ground compared to the mathematics presentations, but there may be a higher proportion of high level work in mathematics. Control theory in the math community seems to occupy a small corner of math, and cover a small corner of controls. Mathematical control theory at an engineering conference is richer.

The PC is dead. Mostly you see Macs around, many iPads, and a few PC, probably mostly running some sort of Linux. Windows is becoming a niche product for people under the yoke of corrupt and incompetent information technology managers, or left-wingnut government trade protectionists.

The exhibits are incomparably better than at a control conference. More better books by many more publishers, plus puzzles, artwork, t-shirts, and the like. Unfortunately the scarves for sale do not have mathematical motives or patterns - it is cold in Boston.