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New Archbishop February 15, 2010

Posted by Elfi in Books, Life and everything.
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A new archbishop of Prague, after Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, who is retiring, is Dominik Duka. Normally, I would noticed this news only superficially, but I am currently reading a book called “Prague, 600 years of its archdiocese” so I noticed a little bit more. From the little I read about Mr. Duka it seems he is the right man for this function. I wish him good luck.

Back to the book, published in Prague in 1944, its quality of writing, objectivity and similar is rather below average, but what makes it interesting is that this is the first book in my collection which ‘proudly’ states who censored it on one of its first pages. It is likely church’s own self-censorship but still, it feels weird.

Other book in my library which I know of that is likely censored, though this time it is a different kind of censorship, is de Sade‘s Justine. The book itself states nothing about it but almost all editions of this book are known to be abridged and censored. I own a Spanish version printed in Mexico around 1960 and I could not find any further information. Not that I have spent more than 10 minutes on it 🙂 It is quite irrelevant and I bought this book mainly for curiosity.


Question Everything January 31, 2010

Posted by Elfi in Books, Movies.
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This weekend I have finished reading Snow, a novel by Orhan Pamuk, and I have seen Agora, a historical drama film by Alejandro Amenábar. Both deserve 5 stars. I liked it a lot.

With good intentions, I would recommend Snow to anyone who thinks he/she has something to say about the integration of Turkey to the European Union.

Source: http://www.orhanpapuk.net.

As for myself, the novel taught me this: While searching for an understanding, even if you think you are open minded, with little or no prejudices at all, question your own cultural heritage now and then. This applies quite generally and you might get often surprised.

No wonder I enjoy this quote from the Agora film:

“You cannot question your beliefs,” Hypatia tells Synesius, “I must.”

Source: Wikimedia.

For historical accounts of Hypatia’s life, a book “Hypatia of Alexandria: Mathematician and Martyr” by Michael Deakin seems to be a good source of known fragments. Here are reviews by J. L. Berggren and Fernando Q. Gouvêa.

Beautiful day January 9, 2010

Posted by Elfi in Books, Life and everything.
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I use to go biking in the snow every year since I bought a mountain bike 3 year ago. Trails in the Rävlanda area are almost non-existent compared to Göteborg but frozen lakes and fields to be crossed are almost everywhere. It was close to -16 degrees of Celsius.

And now it is time to eat something and dive into the New Year’s pile of books. I cannot wait 🙂

Climbing on Kalymnos November 4, 2009

Posted by Elfi in Books, Climbing, Travelling.
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It was great 10 days at Kalymnos, Greece. Me and Hanka had so much fun. I managed to enter the grade 7a with a couple of on-sights at this level (including wished DNA) and Hanka earned the title ‘Blu Swiss Baby Ekavi The Monohiki Hatrefa, Resista‘ resembling the names of routes she successfully or nearly successfully leaded. It was a big step for her since she mostly did top rope in the past.

Happy after climbing DNA 7a, Grande Grotta, Kalymnos. October 2009.

dsc06883Photo: Hana Trefná

Hanka climbing Harakiri 6b, Spartacus, Kalymnos. October 2009.

dsc06964Photo: Unknown climber, thanks!

Climbing Ivi 7a+, Grande Grotta, Kalymnos. October 2009.

dsc06973Photo: Unknown climber, thanks!

Climbing Ivi 7a+, Grande Grotta, Kalymnos. October 2009.

dsc06976Photo: Unknown climber, thanks!

Climbing Ivi 7a+, Grande Grotta, Kalymnos. October 2009.

dsc06968Photo: Unknown climber, thanks!

Port in Pothia, Kalymnos. October 2009.

dsc06922Photo: Miroslav Dobšíček

Convent of Agioi Pantes in Pothia, Kalymnos. October 2009.

dsc06926Photo: Miroslav Dobšíček

The second day off out of two at total I spent at sofa reading Milan Kundera‘s Žert (The Joke) from cover to cover. I liked the book very much. It is quite similar in many aspects to his other novel Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí (The Unbearable Lightness of Being). Existentialism without a message …, wonderful.

The Stories of Mathematics October 17, 2009

Posted by Elfi in Books.
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The stories of mathematics (Příběhy matematiky) is a book by Milan Mareš, 2008. It tells stories of mathematics and people behind it from math’s early days up to the last century. The book is written in Czech and since it is unlikely going to be translated to English, this is mostly a note to myself.


Essentially, the stories told there cover the history of western mathematics. There are a few scattered notes about eastern thinkers but it is really just for curiosity. I wonder whether this is due to missing recorded history or just the impatience of the author to dig in non-English sources. This applies to many historical books about mathematics.

For someone who have already read about Archimedes, Banach or Cauchy, and many others, there is one story in the background, in my opinion the most important one, and that is how applied mathematics become pure. Then, a little bit unfortunately the book culminates in (want to be with but it is in) cybernetics. Cybernetics is the research field of the author so some understanding for this professional deformation is required.

On a related note, a paper How applied mathematics become pure by Penelope Maddy, 2008, is on my to-read list.

Regarding criticism, the book falls short when treats Fibonacci numbers along with the Golden ratio merely as an interesting toy. In fact, Fibonacci numbers played a crucial role in the solution of Hilbert’s 10th problem. The thing is that every positive integer has a unique representation in Fibonacci numbers (Zeckendorf representation) and thus in a weak sense Fibonacci numbers can play a role similar to primes (see the Fundamental theorem of arithmetics). While this is just an omission the author really did a bad job in the paragraph which describes the P vs. NP problem. His choice of words makes it incomprehensibly wrong.

One more thing I would like to mention is that in the last essay “Could something had happened differently” Mareš concludes that unlikely so since every discovery in mathematics was in the air at about the time it was discovered. I think it is worth to be reminded how much is western thinking under the influence of Christianity and herewith the school of Aristotle. Had the catholic philosophy built on Plato, stories of mathematics could have been very different.

Overall, the text is ideally suited for hooking kids into mathematics, it reads very easily and Mareš has a very nice sense of humorous perspective. Occasionally, it made my day.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 October 9, 2009

Posted by Elfi in Books, Movies.
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I usually don’t follow the hype around the Nobel prices. Unless media remind me I can quite easily even miss it, .. let us say like Easter holiday 🙂

However, during past years I appreciated the Nobel prize in literature as a good hint for new reading. In 2006, Orhan Pamuk and his book “Istanbul: Memories of a City” was such a pleasant experience. This year the prize was awarded to a Romanian-born German novelist, poet and essayist Herta Müller.

Quoting Wikipedia:

… noted for her works depicting the harsh conditions of life in Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceauşescu regime, the history of the Germans in Transylvania, and the persecution of Romanian ethnic Germans by Stalinist Soviet occupying forces in Romania.

I am looking forward to read one of her books.

While thinking about it a quote “a devastating microcosm of life” just popped up in my mind. That quote is the very best characterization of a movie Bure baruta (The Powder Keg) by Goran Paskaljevic, 1998, and I am curious how Müller’s work will compare, in whatever sense, with it.

Btw, The Powder Keg is one of the only two movies which left me shocked, doubtful, didn’t know what to do for more than a couple of days. The other was Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom) by Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975. Spinal cord is shivering again.

De Apice Theoriae October 2, 2009

Posted by Elfi in Books.
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I recently finished reading a Czech translation of a book entitled “De apice theoriae” written by Nicolaus Cusanus in 1464. Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464) was a German philosopher and theologian, today widely considered as a great thinker of the 15th century.

He is credited by people like Giordano Bruno and Johannes Kepler with respect to his cosmological views (denying the finiteness of the universe and the Earth’s exceptional position), important renaissance men such as Leonardo da Vinci and John Amos Comenius admitted openly ideas of Cusa (in some sense Cusanus even got his fingerprints into the Last Supper) and Cusa’s work on infinity and infinitesimals, the concept of coincidentia oppositorum from “De Docta Ignorantia” (1440), is believed to be influential to Gottfried Leibniz and Georg Cantor.


Cusanus wrote De apice theoriae during the Easter in 1464 as his last book. Likely being aware of his age, he took the opportunity to write his short final statement on the nature of God and humanity’s imperfect capacity to perceive it.

It was the first philosophical book of this kind I read and I appreciated very much that the ratio of the number of sentences per paragraph was strictly larger than one :-). This, clean and concise style, and the fact that the book is less than 20 pages long made it actually a worthwhile reading/experiment.

If I ever get my Latin beyond the point of rehearsing a couple of irregular verbs once a year, this might be the book to start with. The original Latin text can be found here.

Btw, there is a news channel in Latin on the Internet. If you feel like you don’t understand a word then you are reading the Finnish content, not the Latin one. Have fun 🙂