lunedì 17 settembre 2007

Tyler Cowen - How to work and play a little better

The Economist, September 8th 2007

Mr Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virgina, and a co-owner of, one of the best economics blogs on the internet.

“Discover Your Inner Economist” joins a recent school of books demystifying and popularising economics that began with Steven Landsburg's “Armchair Economist” in 1993, and conquered the bestseller lists in 2005 with “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. It stands apart from its predecessors by making its revelations not so much about the way the world works as about the way we ourselves work (and play) and how we can take practical steps to do both better.

Tyler Cowen: Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist - Dutton 2007

Lustiger, cardinale cattolico, ed ebreo

From The Economist, Aug 16th 2007

Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger, cardinale di Parigi, ebreo di origini polacche; sua madre morì ad Auschwitz.

AT THE funeral of Jean-Marie Lustiger, at Notre Dame de Paris on August 10th, his second cousin Jonas Moses-Lustiger read a psalm in Hebrew and placed on the coffin a jar of earth that had been gathered on the Mount of Olives. Then another cousin, Arno Lustiger, bent over the coffin to recite Kaddish. Only when those things were done was the body of Cardinal Lustiger carried inside the cathedral, where Catholic panoply took over.
There was no question of mixing the rites; the cardinal, said his staff, would not have liked that. Yet they were mixed in himself. He was a Jew by birth, instinct, emotion and devotion; he was a Catholic by conversion and conviction. He cracked Jewish jokes, and put on a suit and kippa to go to synagogue, although the evening would find him in his soutane again. For him, Christianity was simply the fruit of Judaism; his first religion came to completion in his second. Christ, in his eyes, was the Messiah of Israel, his cross worthy of a yellow star. And since the mission of Israel was “to bring light to the goyim”, preaching the gospel became his own mitzvah.

Every detail of his funeral, with its two rites, he carefully arranged himself. Then he wrote his epitaph:
I was born Jewish. I received the name of my paternal grandfather, Aaron. Having become Christian by faith and baptism, I have remained Jewish. As did the Apostles.

martedì 11 settembre 2007

The Chimera of Software Quality

by Les Hatton, in IEEE Computer, August 2007.

"Nobody knows how to produce a fault-free program. Nobody even knows how to prove it even supposing one we were magically provided. I teach my students that in their whole careers, they are unlikely ever to produce a fault-free program and if they did, they would never know it, they could never prove it and they could not systematically repeat it. It provides a usefully humble starting point.

[...] I've analysed enough failed systems in my time to know that there are two classic symptoms of a system on its way to the fairies. First, no independent audit is allowed and second, talking heads tell you everything is fine when the ultimate users tell you the opposite.

[...] The Linux kernel is now arguably the most reliable complex software application
humanity race has yet produced, with a mean time between failures reported in tens and in some cases, hundreds of years. Poetically, the development environment of Linux, which leverages the contributions of thousands of Web volunteers who give their spare time for the public good, breaks just about every rule which software process experts hold dear."