‘And the Lord said…’ (Boris Khersonsky)

July 28, 2016

And the Lord said:  Katsap, where is Khokhol thy brother?
And Katsap answered: I am not his keeper Lord
And the Lord said: You sat to eat together
You sang his songs, you put him to the sword!

And Katsap said: Khokhol is himself at fault,
He is a traitor, greedy, he nibbled all the fruit,
He has artillery in the yard and a gun in the vault
And he puts my fist-born right into dispute.

And the Lord said: Not first-born, but born to hate!
Forgetting, Katsap, that the Lord is father to you.
For I will say to Peter, who stands at Heaven’s gate
I will say to Peter, not to open to you.

And the Lord said: Turk, where is thy brother, Khach?
And the Turk answered: Am I his keeper, Lord?
And the Lord said: You thought I would not catch
Weeping from the ground, would not hear, not reward.

And the Lord said: Kraut, where is thy brother, Yid?
And Kraut said, I am not his keeper, nay.
And the Lord said: His blood is yelling what you did,
For vengeance is mine, and I will repay.

И сказал Господь: “Кацап, где брат твой, Хохол?”
Ответил Кацап: “Не знаю, я не сторож Хохлу!”
И сказал Господь: “Ты с ним садился за стол,
ты пел его песни и ты толкаешь его во мглу!”

И ответил Кацап: “Хохол – он сам виноват.
Он – предатель, он жадина, он яблоки все надкусил,
у него в огороде пушка, а в шкафу автомат,
он старшему брату, мне, противится что есть сил!”

И сказал Господь: “Ты не старший, ты страшный брат!
Ты забыл, Кацап, что Отец твой – Бог.
Вот скажу Петру, что стоит возле райских врат,
вот скажу Петру, он не пустит тебя на порог.

И сказал Господь: “Турок, где брат твой, Хач?”
И ответил турок “Не знаю! Я не сторож Хачу!”.
И сказал Господь: “От земли возносится плач!
Ты думал, что я не услышу, что я смолчу?”

И сказал Господь: “Фриц, где же брат твой, Жид?”.
И ответил Фриц: “Не знаю, я не сторож Жидам!”
И сказал Господь “Кровь Жида за тебя говорит.
Ибо Мое есть отмщение и Аз воздам.”

At a conference on the Warta and a stay in Warsaw

July 27, 2016
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River, idle chimneys, and the cradle of the Polish state

Saturday 02 July 

I manage to use the ticket machines to get from Warsaw Airport to the Central Station and then to Poznan.  Since I am sitting by the door of the compartment, people ask me questions.  I shrug.

I plod through Poznan more-or-less in the right direction and manage to find the Ibis.  I have to pay upfront, otherwise it is OK.

Ruth texts me to suggest a meeting.  I go out to have some soup and dumplings.  Then I find her fashionable expensive hotel in the rain.  I toy with a beefburger.  She pays.  She appears daunted by the way people have not done what they said they were going to do.

Sunday 03 July

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Welcome barbecue

I go to the station and buy a ticket to Warsaw.  It costs about 180 zl, as opposed to 80 zl to get here.  I can see what they mean.  I wander through the Old Town and think that the main square looks fake, as Ruth suggested.

I go over the bridge to the University of Technology.  I need to go to the opening ceremony to justify the welcome barbecue, I think.  The choral singing is good.  I secure some food at the barbecue and wave at Ruth passing by.

Monday 04 July

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Opera House in Poznan

In the first session, some guy mumbles on about the Rio Olympics.  I ask him about counterfactuals. Then one Robyn Moore presents a toolkit for getting value from volunteers in NZ.  This is jolly interesting.  Then some guy mumbles on about ethics.  I say that I have a Code, I do not need them.

The next session I go to is about MCDA.  People are turned away at the door.  We look at a picture of a cow that failed to jump over a fence.  I send an email to Robyn Moore.

Then it’s something about education in a very large lecture theatre with very few people.  A guy goes through a routine presentation about…something…in an incomprehensible Italian accent.  Then an old Russian woman reads verbatim some elementary points about education.  There are reinforced by some incomprehensible parallels from the theory of dynamical systems.  Then the session chair (a young woman from Ukraine) has a few touristic slides about Ukraine and two background slides about her summer school before giving up.  Then a survey of the performance of graduates of a university in the Philippines that would have failed as a GCSE Business Studies project.  The most important thing was personal appearance…

Then I get to grips with my polycarbonate lunch.  It is slightly better than I expected, and I can eat almost half of it.

After that, a very interesting session on Defence & Security, with an outstanding paper on what one can say about the (semi-) rationality of terrorist organisations.  David Lane comes and sits next to me and then goes away again.  There are also good papers on terror queues (aka resource allocation of secret agents), evacuation and police positioning.

Then a mildly interesting walking tour.  Many buildings had been built by the Germans.  So they looked German.  I had noticed that.  Also the people are very orderly and disciplined as well.

Tuesday 05 July

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Animated crowds converge on conference dinner

I go to a techy session and the thing on text analysis for plagiarism is quite interesting.  Then a thing on charitable orders comes down to putting some prices = 0.  This makes it more difficult that the general problem.  WTF.

A thing on implementation in plenary recommends greedy algorithms, since you are too confident in your view of the future.  Like the cow jumping the gate.

I spend some time sitting in a room with Ana Isabel Barros in case someone wants to be mentored.  They don’t, so she talks with her mates in Dutch.

There is no coffee.

A session on decision support.  A Serb is cross-examined about skiing injuries.  The session chair shows a picture of her car crash, which explains why there is not a lot in her paper.  A guy gives an incomprehensible presentation on sepsis, followed by a DNA.

I manage to find my way to the conference dinner and even sit next to Sally Brailsford, who seems happy to see a familiar face.  Then Brian Dangerfield joins us and we do not get drunk this time.  The duck is nice.  We find our way to the Ibis on the tram.

Wednesday 06 July

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Polish retro-kitsch, with a touch of Cezanne

I wake at 0400 from a dream where I am taken captive by Islamic terrorists.  I do some packing.

In our session, David Lane talks about norovirus and we have an interesting discussion about eliciting transmission parameters–I even defend him.  I do my talk and have a little difficulty with the controls.  Then a Turk seems to have provided volunteer support by a direct method, which is interesting.

Complex societal problems starts with a paper on food rescue, but it’s really routeing.

Then I attend respectfully as Ruth presents our workshop.  We start with three people and end with ten or so, she does an excellent job.

I sit through various speeches, then I plod to the station.  The other two guys in the compartment keep silent.  In Warsaw, I manage to find the Chopin Boutique B&B through rain, wind and darkness.  The Polish retro-kitsch room appeals to me.

Thursday 07 July

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Warsaw Old Town, for those who like that kind of thing

I walk up Nowy Swiat and skirt the fuzz guarding the NATO summit.  The Old Town does not appeal to me.  On my way back I check out ulica Bronislawa Moniuszki, thinking that the -i looks like a feminine ending.  A camera crew wants my opinion on something in Polish, and I have to disappoint them.

I have lunch at Dawne Smaki, which turns out to be very sensible in spite of being recommended in my guidebook.

In the evening I turn on the TV.  I watch Germany lose 2-0 to France and feel no pleasure.

Friday 08 July

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The other tourist attraction in Warsaw

I wake up and go to breakfast.  A bloke identifies himself as our host.  Neither of us is happy about Brexit. He says that Czech is very like Polish, but the countries are different.

I go outside.  It is peaceful.  I come back and try checking in online.  Bastard Airways want to charge me for hold baggage,

I go outside with the idea of visiting museums.  But I decide it is too much like effort and come  back instead and put some stuff on Twitter.

Saturday 09 July

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Numerous attempts to use the self check-in machine fail.  I stand in a long line of people wanting to fly to our right little, tight little, shite little island.  It does not move.  After a long time, a young woman takes me to the machine again so that I can fail under supervision.

Now that I have failed under supervision I can join the other line.  The clerk says I can put my bag in the hold without charged since the flight is full.  Thank you, Shittish Airways.

But the flight is fine.

When I get home I see that the back garden is overgrown.

An enigmatic pipe fitting

July 25, 2016

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At first I thought the problem was just that this thing (whatever it might be) had  come off the soil pipe (as I suppose it is) at the back of the house.

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But it turned out to be split.  In fact, the whole point of the iron thing in the middle was to rust and make it split.

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Since neither Wickes nor B&Q nor two hardware stores in Lewisham had anything at all similar, it was a case of bodging up a job with plumbers’ putty:

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Further investigation shows no sign of such a thing on the Internet. Maybe it doesn’t exist. Certainly the self-splitting pipe fitting doresn’t sound like such a good idea…

Some resources on written communication

July 22, 2016

Words

George Orwell very wisely says the following:

What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose — not simply accept — the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

The general principle also applies to expressing yourself in a foreign language.  Starting from English words will very rarely do-you need to see what it is you want to say, and then the words (constructions, grammar) will find themselves.

The Plain English people have followed up with some similar guidance here.  You can see how well you have followed these rules by using a readability checker.

If you want to write about statistics (numbers, etc), the ONS have produced some guidance here.  They also have Effective Tables and Graphs  guidance, and it’s good.

Checking grammar

Word-processors will of course check grammar and spelling for you.  There are also tools online, such as onlinecorrection or SpellCheckPlus.  The latter  will indeed query hypercorrection along the lines of in case of trouble, please speak to John or I.

Style analysers

These can be quite fun.  Among others, there are expresso, textalyser and hemingwayapp, which is rather good.

On a more overtly fun level, you can play with I write like (Orwell writes like Orwell; most text ends up being ascribed to David Foster Wallace if it mentions anything modern or H.P. Lovecraft).  Or you can try Gender Guesser, where Orwell comes out as Weak MALE Weak emphasis could indicate European.

Presentation

There is some advice here that usefully balances more technology-driven approaches.  In fact, it almost comes down to handing round a paper with a few relevant charts and graphs.

Barber Shop, Thomas Lane SE6

July 20, 2016

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We present the opening times for this barber’s in Catford, since there doesn’t seem to be any reliable information on the Internet. It was certainly open at 0915 today…and I got a haircut…

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Two weeks in Ukraine

July 13, 2016
Monument to Great Famine, Kiev

Monument to Great Famine, Kiev

Sunday 19 June  

I get to Gatwick in spite of cancelled trains.  Then Ukraine International Airways take a long time to find the plane.  I am met at Kiev.  It is hot.  I have a headache.  I get lamb stew and mashed potatoes at a restaurant that apologises for being on a trial basis.  It costs 300 UAH.  I manage to eat the mashed potato.

Monday 20 June

I join Kiran and Nalini, the other 2/3 of our party, together with boss Igor, guide Natasha and driver Vlad.  We see some churches, and have lunch in a place where I do not lose my wallet.  In the afternoon, we visit Pyrohovo–a kind of open-air museum of peasant huts.  Vlad gets a permit to drive round.  I have a burger in a place called The Burger.

Hut in Pyrohovo

Hut in Pyrohovo

Tuesday 21 June

We go to the Lavra.  It is hot.  A different guide takes me and Kiran down some caves with holy dead bodies.  Then we escape an exhibition of micro-miniatures and get Scythian gold instead.  I give Natasha some money in an envelope.  Kiran gives her some money not in an envelope.

A long day awaits without hotel room, toilet, air-conditioning.  I go to Petrovsky Market and it is far too hot.  Then I have some expensive lager in an underground ‘pub’ off Khreshchatik.  I eat in a decent place called Prepuce.

Vlad appears.  We drive to the station.  We wait.  We get on.  It is hot and humid.  My cell-mate contrives a through draught by wedging the door open with a shoe.  Sleep.

Lunch at Puzata Khata

Lunch at Puzata Khata

Wednesday 22 June

Lviv station

Lviv station

We arrive in Lviv.  Welcome signs of recent rain.  We drive round some places–main interest is drawing up to the kerb so that Nalini can get in and out.  Kiran and I do a walking tour. At least we get to sit in the Armenian church.  Typhoid and the paraffin lamp were invented in Lviv.

Thursday 23 June

Building in Zhovka

Building in Zhovka

We go to Zhovka, a small town.  It rains, unfortunately not enough to keep us in the minibus.  We proceed to a monastery at Khrekiv, where Brother Dmitri says he had earlier been a violinist in an orchestra.  Irina the guide and I walk to a magic well, leaving Nalini on a bench.

Nalini says that her grandfather sold his land.  We are cheerful on the way back to Lviv.

Friday 24 June

I wake up early and look at the computer.  The referendum is going badly.  It gets worse.

At breakfast a Dutchman tells me how bad Brexit is.

Determined trudge from Kiran and Nalini at Kamenets-Podilsky

Determined trudge from Kiran and Nalini at Kamenets-Podilsky

We drive towards Kamenets-Podilsky.  I brood about having left my two-pin adaptor behind and how I will manage if so.  K-P is like a Ukrainian version of Durham, with tourist facilities but without tourists.  Our guide is keen to get on with things.

We drive to Ivano-Frankivsk, where the Nadiya is quite nice and I do have the adaptor of course.   I can’t work out how to get into the hotel restaurant and go to place called Desyatka.

Ivano-Frankivsk

Ivano-Frankivsk

I speak to the waitress in Russian, she replies in Ukrainian, I agree with everything and it works out fine.  Young people in brightly-coloured clothes are happy to be alive.  I have chicken and rice and beer.

Saturday 25 June

I have some black pudding at breakfast, a change.  We walk round I-F with the guide Marta.  There is a gallery-style thing in the foundations of a fortress.

Child-cooling apparatus, Ivano-Frankivsk

Child-cooling apparatus, Ivano-Frankivsk

We drive towards the Carpathian mountains.  It is all right.  We arrive at the sadyba, which is somebody’s house they are renting out while living in the one opposite.  We go to a museum where the daughter of a man who taught himself 50 musical instruments gives a demonstration to us and a large group of Americans.

Sadyba kitchen

Sadyba kitchen

I spend the evening searching the sadyba for my glasses.

Sunday 26 June

I wake at 0539 to look for my glasses.  They are in the bag with the computer stuff.

We see a picture of Indira Gandhi done by a peasant artist from a newspaper.  We drive somewhere else and get on a chairlift.  They stop the chairlift so that Nalini can get on.  We look at a view.  We come back.  We drive to a souvenir market.

Shadows of the Carpathian Chairlift

Shadows of the Carpathian Chairlift

Marta wakes me up to have my dinner.  It is quite nice.

Monday 27 June

We go to a museum of the film ‘Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors’ by Paradjanov.  It’s on YouTube too.  The woman speaks for a long time.  Then Martha interprets.

Call that a waterfall?

Call that a waterfall?

We go to Yaremche, where we see an exhibition of models of buildings in Carpathia.  Then somewhere else with a souvenir market and what was a waterfall.  Marta tell us about her tour company.

Marta sees us off

Marta sees us off

We get on the train in Ivano-Frankivsk.  The provodnitsa complains when I do not buy anything from her.  I lock the door.  The floor of the toilet is very wet.

Tuesday 28 June

The train reaches Odessa.  We are driven to the Aleksanrovskiy Hotel.  We have a city tour.  It is hot.  We stay in the minibus.

Main street in Odessa

Main street in Odessa

Wednesday 29 June

We get in the car and drive to Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, where there is a castle.  Then we go to a winery with many steps and see some films and an exhibition about the Swiss who worked there.

OK, it's a castle.  With a tower.

OK, it’s a castle. With a tower.

We have lunch.  Kiran gives instructions about his tea and the milk.

We come back to Odessa.

Thursday 30 June

We go to the caves and the partisan museum.  Igor the boss has reappeared and interprets for Ksenia the interpreter, who is not having a good day.

Kiran and Nalini in the partisan's underground schoolroom

Kiran and Nalini in the partisans’ underground schoolroom

I do not go to the Literary Museum.  I worry about buying train tickets in Poland.

Friday 01 July

We drive.  At Sofyivka Park they say they know nothing about us, we have to pay 50 UAH to stand inside the gate, it is not possible that the guide has been paid for in advance.  We retreat to the car and get the driver to phone Igor.

Discussions.  We get our money back and begin to amble round after the guide.  She says that Euripides was the first Greek playwright.

Sofyivka

Sofyivka

In Kiev I find I have left my soap and flannel behind.  I manage to buy something that wil do as a flannel.  Then the security tag sets off alarms in the supermarket. I have a decent meal at the Prepuce.

Saturday 02 July

I get up about 4am.  My passport is missing.

Fuck.

I find it again.

The girl at the airport check-in desk acts like she is pleased to see me.  They finally locate the plane and send us to another gate.

Farewell Ukraine, hello Poland!

 

 

 

I return to work after three weeks away

July 11, 2016

lightgreen

0527  Wake up.  Where am I?  In Warsaw? I can recognise the picture and the bookcase, but the room is green and my bed is surely in the wrong place. Do I have a lecture to go to?  Stay awake and worry.

0904 –Where is that smell of stale sweat coming from?–The man sitting next to me is reading The Sun.

0927  Jon catches up with me as I cross the road and asks what I am working on.  I have no idea, I mutter something about operational projects and evaluation.

0950  My desktop icons have disappeared.  I ring up.  They reappear.

1015  I ring up.  They find some very old email folders.

1110  Not much in the inbox.  A demand for a quarterly report and a slide for a meeting on Wednesday I declined some time ago.

1120  OK there’s some crap about Performance Management and the slide to do this afternoon.  I may be OK.

1127  Carly says that cherry liqueur chocolates are her favourite.

1200  I can go to lunch.  Maybe I will feel better after.

1245  Lunch was nice.  Let’s go out for a bit and see how much a new computer costs.  Sofia’s meeting will take up part of the afternoon and I can do some of the other crap in draft and fix it tomorrow.

1417  So I miss the Programme Managers’ meeting because I am doing a Programme Slide.

1525  Maybe I can just put the requirements in the PM thing and fill it in later when I have some time.  I can go home in a couple of hours.

1603  When can I go home?

1630  I must last out to going-home time. That’s what matters.  Concentrate on that.

1713  Prepare to start packing up to go home.

1723  Go home.

Mozart & Salieri (Rimsky-Korsakov in Catford)

June 1, 2016

mozsal

We are informed:

Following a successful run at Phoenix Artist Club, Time Zone Theatre‘s immersive take on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera MOZART & SALIERI comes to the Broadway Theatre Catford for two performances only on 13th & 14th July – info and booking here

Where next for Pro Bono OR?

May 25, 2016

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In view of the success of the UK Operational Research Society’s Pro Bono Scheme, which links OR professionals with charities to their mutual benefit, participants in the upcoming European OR Conference will be keen to learn which of their countries it can most easily be expanded to.

In an attempt to answer this question, the chart above shows a measure of the penetration of Operational Research in each country (the number of members of the national OR Society per million population) against a measure of the importance of the charitable sector in that country (the percentage of the population claiming to have given money to charity over the past four weeks), for those European countries where both data items are available.  Clearly one would be looking for countries with a large charitable sector and a high penetration of Operational Research.

The UK is in the lead on both indicators, followed at a respectful distance by the normal suspects in North-Western Europe together with Croatia and Slovenia.  The fact that Norway/Sweden, Germany/Austria/Switzerland and Hungary/Czech Republic are all very close to each other gives us some hope that we are actually measuring something real here.

Whether one can implement such a scheme successfully probably depends on having some central body that can make it happen, and it is nor clear that other European countries have an infrastructure comparable to the UK Operational Research Society.  Even more importantly perhaps, one needs a driving force who is determined to make the thing happen in the first place.

With regard to the variables employed, membership of national OR societies is probably a reasonable measure of the penetration of OR in particular countries, and it would be hard to find anything else without a great deal of effort.  As ever in international comparisons, the size of the charity sector is subject to definitional problems, for example where you have churches funded out of taxes (as in Germany) or charities contracted on a large scale to carry out what would otherwise be functions of the State (as in the US or the UK).

Data on OR Society membership comes from the EURO website, while that on population is from Wikipedia.  Data on donations comes from the CAF World Giving Index 2015.

 

London classical music listings

April 13, 2016

NUMBERS OF ITEMS BY SOURCE AND DATE

Guardian Time Out concert-diary visitlondon londonclassical concerts classical-music.com bachtrack
11-Apr 2 3 2 9 N/A 2 2
12-Apr 8 5 2 12 3 2 3
13-Apr 5 6 3 10 2 2 9
14-Apr 7 9 5 14 2 5 8
15-Apr 6 7 8 18 3 8 12
16-Apr N/A 6 8 15 1 8 9
17-Apr N/A 4 4 14 0 4 10

An enquirer on Tripadvisor wants to know the best classical music listings for London.

So we put ‘classical music listings london’ into Google and discounting individual venues what we get is as follows.  Time Out is horribly clunky and incomplete.  Concert Diary is quite neat but also incomplete.  Visitlondon.com is comprehensive but pretty clunky and difficult to get useful information out of.  Londonclassicalconcerts.com seems to be a site for selling tickets at some of the main venues.  Classical-music.com is also pretty clunky but gives you a lot of detail on a restricted number of concerts.  Bachtrack is whizzy and gives useful information quickly and neatly, as well as being reasonably complete.  By way of comparison, the hard-copy Guardian listings are also neatly laid out, but not especially complete.

So we recommend Bachtrack, supplemented by Visitlondon.com if you think you might be missing something.


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