Wednesday, October 26, 2011

AC Milan - Parma 4-1

AC Milan scored 4 goals again tonight to clinch a comfortable win over underperforming Parma. Similarly to the game on Sunday (Lecce-Milan 3-4), an AC midfielder scored a hat-trick (Nocerino). More importantly I see a genuine willingness on the side of the team to fight back after the bad start of the season. There are a lot of people that think that AC Milan managed to clinch a draw on Camp Nou just because of LUCK. Well, I choose to disagree - I see a team of fighters that keep pushing even if all hope seems gone. I'm for once really optimistic for Milan's future in the CL. The team seems to have regained the motivation and the belief in their own abilities that lacked so much last year against Tottenham. I'm not afraid of the challenges to come - bring them on: our Prince and Zlatan will be ready!

On Time Invariance and Quote of the Day, Day 2 and 3

Most physical processes are time invariant - i.e. they are as likely to happen backward as they are to happen forward. The general notion of an arrow of time exists mostly because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law stipulates that the entropy of an isolated system cannot decrease with time. That is the processes that increase entropy are favored over those that decrease it and the universe is therefore moving inescapably from a state of order to a state of chaos. Entropy is not time invariant - entropy is actually time itself.

The human life seems to somehow contradict the Second Law of Thermodynamics - as we accumulate knowledge, we increase order. However, this is only one side of the process. With every breath we take, we also wear off a little bit more the cells of our body. We are decreasing the entropy on a macro level but be pay be increasing the entropy on a micro level.And then comes the big singularity. Sooner or later, we all die (regretfully in the last few weeks we've lost a lot of great people in the worlds of computing and motor sport). In an instant the entropy increases significantly. Describing his own fear of death, Steve Jobs said:

2."I want to believe in an afterlife, that when you die, it doesn't just all disappear. The wisdom you've accumulated. Somehow it lives on. But sometimes I think it's just like an on-off switch -- click and you're gone."

This quote is from the article "How to live, and die, like Steve Jobs" by Mashable's Pete Cashmore for CNN. I think that somehow he is write - we do not suddenly become chaos - the order that we create lingers on. There are people whose life, we've touched (in the case of Steve millions of them). Steve's legacy is the increased understanding of not only computing, but also marketing and strategic management. Some could say that because of his life the entropy in the communication and technology sector decreased. And somehow his spirit lives in all of us that are willing to learn from his lessons. For Marco and Dan, I can only say that they leave as a legacy the love and adoration their fans felt for them - making the lives of so many people a little happier. We should all remember what Yoda once said:

3."Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not." (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith)

We should all celebrate the life of those we lost because, while becoming a part of the increasing entropy (i.e. heat), they also left order and love behind for us. I hope that this will be the last death-related post. It was certainly not my intention but things outside my control happened. So long champions :(

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interesting Quotes Day 1

I decided to start (hopefully) daily running list of interesting, inspirational or just funny quotes. The first one is from Steve Jobs, who also recently passed away (such a sad month).

1. You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.

This quote is from the article "The Entrepreneur of the Decade" by Bo Burlingham and George Gendron for Inc.'s April 1, 1989 issue. Funny title when you ponder it from perspective. What should be interesting for marketers is the distinction between needs and wants that it underlines. I belief the cause of Apple's amazing turnaround has been precisely the understanding of universal needs. Wants can be culture or time specific, they are only one possible way of satisfying a need. Needs, on the other hand, are general and not related to a particular context. So no, it is not that Apple does not do market research - they simply look for the underlying need and come up with a new way to fill it. You could say that this is precisely the desired "feedforward" loop in research.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

RIP Marco

Another sad day in the history of motor sport. Last Sunday, we lost Indicar champion Dan Wheldon and today we mourn MotoGP youngster Marco Simoncelli. So long Marco, rest in peace. I looked back today on what Michael wrote about Dan on his website ( "All of us, we try to convince ourselves constantly that motor sport nowadays is so safe that nobody has to lose his life, but then unfortunately that`s still wishful thinking. I have heard this morning about the terrible accident which caused Dan Wheldon to die, and it just left me shocked and speechless. My thoughts are now with his family."

I sincerely hope that this will be the end of the sad news for the next couple of years because it is too much and I can't stop wonder - "What if? What if this happened in F1?" The last Formula 1 race was just 7 days ago but it seems like forever. The sport is different now and I pray that this sadness does not leave a mark on the India race.

Losing this young cyclist is so terrifying that I couldn't even process the Manchester derby properly. 1-6. I am speechless. It was on Old Trafford and I've never seen them so unable to fight back. The defense was horrible and I'm slowly losing trust in De Gea's ability to wear Van der Saar's gloves.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Economy and Math

Economist have a very strange relationships with mathematics. They love it when it serves their purpose but when it suggest that the current economic system is a complete rubbish they conveniently disregard it. So when they look at the normal distribution and it conveniently predicts that a market meltdown is an outlier, they really love math. However, when it suggests that you cannot just print more money because 0 does not equal 1,000,000,000, they tend to disregard math because it does not help their case.

The problem with the present economic theory is that it is based on the flawed assumption that just because the mathematics of a certain hypothesis is beautiful or ease then it is necessary true. This is based on the erroneous principle called Occam's razor that the easiest explanation is the true one. This assumption works really well to refute a lot of wrong representation of reality that have too many assumptions that invalidate them but it is contradict by a fundamental part of physics theory. The math of quantum mechanics is not easier then the math of the classical mechanics, exactly the opposite, but it is the true one. Just because an explanation since complex from the point of view of ordinary human experience does not make it a priori wrong. The same holds for mathematical beauty: reality is not judged on the basis on how nice the mathematics seems, it is based on the empirical evidence that supports the math.

The problem is that there is empirical evidence that suggests that the normal distribution and the random walk theory are not applicable to the real world (i.e. you cannot really have 25 standard deviation events three days in a row and assume that the model still holds - such events are assumed to happen only once in the history of the human race) but the economist would not abandon their nice assumptions because "it does not make sense" and "it is not logical" or "it contradicts everything we have been taught by now." Well the thing with science is that sometimes everything you have been previously taught is indeed WRONG and instead of "patching" the old theory, one should start from the ground up and challenge all his assumptions.

Economy is a lot like religion: it produces dogmas in which you have to believe even when they contradict experience. The problem is that it affects the lives of all people on this planet in a way in which even the Roman Catholic church couldn't have dreamed of in the Middle Ages.

RIP Dan Wheldon

RIP Dan Wheldon :(( With all the regulations in Formula 1, you forget how dangerous the race track is. I hope this champion's death is not in vein and it helps his sport to become safer for the participants, the way Senna's did for F1. However, what bothers me is that it seems that drivers dying on the track is not such a big deal in the states: NASCAR, IndyCar. Yes, the speeds are high everywhere but there are avoidable deaths and this is one of them: 34 drivers on the grid is already a recipe for disaster. So long Champion, I hope IndyCar would not perish with you.

Ok, after looking at the accident: they had it coming - there are no safety areas around the track - no sand, no tyres, just the wall. This reminds me of  one of the worst accidents we had in the last 10 years - it was Ralf Schumacher hitting the wall on Indianapolis and here they have the walls everywhere. Horrible! How can they make the drivers race in these conditions?
I completely agree with what Brandell says here.

Vettel Wins in Korea

Sebastian Vettel won the Korean GP with a very comfortable margin. He had a great first lap in which he overtook Hamilton (who started from P1 today) and he did not loosen the grip on the victory even for a second after that. But I was really impressed how happy Seb was at the end of the race that he finally managed to get the fastest lap in the race this year. I mean: he has 10 victories, he is already a double world champion even though he is only 23, he guided Red Bull to their second constructor's title. Why would he need the fastest lap so badly? Because this is who Vettel is. Yes, he is a very nice and polite lad but underneath he is a real champion and a fighter.

Watching the post race interview, I remembered why I like the guy so much. At some moments he reminds me of Schumi a LOT but there is also something else - his attitude - he really seems so nice to everybody around the grid. And he is really positive. Schumi always had a little bit of an attitude - when he was younger, he was just too much into the race and too invested in winning. He is different now; he seems to be genuinely happy just being on the track. When he was still fighting for the world championship, just participating was never enough. It seems for Vettel, however, even a small opportunity to prove himself and make the fans happy means a lot.

This also takes me back to the game last night - Ajax's reserve goalie had the same attitude - he was just satisfied to be out there, in front of the fans. It is really great to see that it is not only business, that these certainly well-paid champions are driven by something deeper than money: by a real love for the sport. Those are one of those moments that make every tear, every time your heart stopped during a game or a race totally worth it. Thank you for the smile Seb and keep it always :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Living in the Netherlands Part 1

I am starting a list of things I find curious about the Netherlands.
1) Trains
Ok, tonight in the train there was a guy playing a guitar and half of the train car was either singing with him or chearing. People here are so friendly and open that it is hard to believe sometimes.
2) Weather
I know that it rains a lot but because of the rain you get to appreciate every second of sunshine more.
3) Football Games
At the start of the game the players throw flowers at the public. How Dutch is that?

Ajax - AZ Alkmaar

I think I fell in love today. The stadium, the fans, the game. Yes, I know it was not a victory, just 2:2. But this is how I would imagine the perfect game - so many emotions! Ajax had the most amazing comeback - they were 0:2 down in the half time but came out for the second half as a completely different team. I can't recall when was the last time I felt so nervous during a penalty. But it was worth it: just to see the explosion of joy on the stadium. The feeling you get when your team scores and you are on the stadium, it does not compare to anything. It's pure hapiness for a few brief seconds. I think my heart stopped around six times in this game: not only for the two goals, but aslo when Ajax hit the post (twice!) and after that when AZ had two chances to score in the second half.
I hope Vermeer gets better soon but the reserve goalie Jasper Cillessen also did a very good job. He saved an almost certain goal in the last minutes. I expect to hear more about him in the future.
Ajax - this team has a real spirit. All the players are so young but you can see that they are fighters. I haven't felt like this towards a team since 2002. I am probably falling in love with the giants from Amsterdam.

Google Recruitment Puzzle Explained

This forum includes a discussion on the puzzle. The most helpful answer is Morgan Creighton's. It turns out that the key to answering which is the smallest number of weightings one need to determine the heavier ball is the nature of the balanced scale (a more challenging alternative of simply being asked how to do it in two). For every weighting, the scale provides a trinary bit of information (a trit) (left side is heavier, right side is heavier or they are equal). The ternary system includes three numbers to describe three basic outcomes: 0, 1, 2. The single and double digit numbers in base 3 can describe 9 different numbers (decimal number is put in a braket): 0, 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22. Therefore up to 2 digit terniaries are more then enough to describe a system with 8 balls (actually it will work with 9 balls two - the slight amendment in the process will be to have three groups of three balls).

Google Recruitment Puzzle

I was reading an article about how Google recruits and one of the items was an onsite interview. Appearantly such an interview can include the followin riddle: You have 8 balls, out of which one is heavier than the other. How do you decide which one with only two weightings on balanced scale. My solutions is the following:
1) Pick 6 out of the 8 balls
2) Divide the 6 balls from step 1 into 2 groups of 3 each
3) Weight the 2 groups from step 2
4) If they weight the same, weight the remaining 2 balls to find the heaviest among them
5) If the 2 groups from step 3 do not balance, take the group which is heavier
6) From the heavier group in step 3 select 2 balls and leave the third ball aside
7) Weight the 2 balls from step 6 on the scale
8) If they balance, the third ball is heaviest (the one which was left out in step 6)
9) If the balls in step 7 do not balance, then the one that is heavier is actually the ball that was saught in the beginning of the puzzle.
In this way using the decision tree with only 2 weightings, one can determine the heavier ball. When I have time, I will look up the mathematics behind it.

Velvet Goldmine

I saw Velvet Goldmine last week. It really blows your mind. It so strange: I hate the costumes and I am not particularly partial towards glam rock but the cinematography is so painfully beautiful that it grabs you. Ewan McGregor (who spent the better part of the 90's in movies either naked or high) is very convincing as Curt Wild (a character based on musician Iggy Pop), even though I prefer his vocal performances in "Down with Love" and "Moulin Rouge" (they are a little bit more polished). He seems actually to have this aura of the crazy bisexual rockstar as much as he has "the wise old man" aura in the third instalment of "Star Wars." The guy is an artist, you can tell by the interviews in the extras for the movie: he enjoys morphing himself to these different personalities. Regretfully, it seems that his talents are underappreaciated in the rom-com dominated Hollywood.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers's character Brian Slade is a bit more polarizing and probably intentionally he is not as likable. Meyer's Slade seems lost and weak. As does Christian Bale's Arthur: I love the actor and there are a couple of really brave scenes but I never got emotionally invested with the character. Something in his desperation is rather repulsive and the "Citizen Kane" framework is a bit too obvious.

The directing and the writing look promising. The social critique theme on sexuality was very masterfully developed. I think I find quite a few references to Judith Butler's theory on the performativity and fluidity of gender. However, this was back in the 1990's before September 11th, before it became fashionable to be ultra right wing conservative in the states. Also probably because it is a British movie "Velvet Goldmine" get so invested in the discourse on the (dis)stability of sexuality. I wish there would be a mainstream movie that takes this approach instead of Brokeback Mountain's "still deep in the closet" one. I hope there enough brave directors and writers out there because "queer" movies get more and more marginalized lately.

Well, that's it for today, there is the Formula 1 qualification in the morning and it's already quite late here in the Low Lands.

Movies and Sports Day 1

Last year I took a great class in the final term of my BA in the American University in Bulgaria. It was Prof. Hickman's "Film Criticism" course. I know, it is a strange choice for a math and business administration major but I loved it. I honestly enjoyed analyzing movies: not only the stories, but the visuals and the culture hype around them. I realized today (well, tonight) that I miss writing about movies and so I decided to start a blog to indulge myself at least once or twice a week in something that is both challenging and relaxing. I also really love sports and therefore I expect to write about those a lot too. Probably also about social media and cosmology/particle physics.