Are Ayn Rand books considered hipster material

Julius Plenz - Blog

Git book now under CC license

The publishers Open source press ceased operations at the end of 2015 and returned the rights to publish the texts to the authors. Valentin and I decided to publish both the text of the book and the materials we used for training under a CreativeCommons license. You can find all of this now at http://gitbu.ch. Have fun with it!

posted 2016-01-03 tagged git and personal

Realization of Cyclic Spaces

In what feels like a previous life I was a mathematician, and I just recently heard that appearantly my Master’s thesis is graded now. So here it is, for all you people who are interested in the realization of cyclic spaces!

This is what you’ll find in this 41-page document that took me many, many months to craft:

If you are not a mathematician: Gibberish formulas, arrows and some diagrams that don’t seem too impressive. Also 17 occurrences of the word “obvious”, and 12 occurrences of “it is clear”. Obviously, some of these things I wrote down half a year ago aren’t clear to me any more either, so don’t fret.

Mathematicians, especially those specializing in algebraic topology, might find that this text covers a number of interesting fundamental aspects of the theory of simplicial and cyclic spaces with a rather extensive level of detail. Feel free to use this text if it helps you or others.

The citation I prepended to the thesis, written a hundred years ago by my favorite author, so accurately describes the material at hand and my experience that it warrants a translation here:

It is only when one looks not toward the outside at their utility, but within mathematics itself at the relationships among the unused parts, that one sees the other, real face of this science. It is not goal-oriented, but uneconomical and passionate. - The average person doesn't need much more mathematics than he learns in elementary school; the engineer only enough to find his way around in the collection of tabulations in his technical handbook, which isn't a lot; even the physicist ordinarily works with quite simple mathematical tools. If they should need something different, they are mostly left to figure it out for themselves, since the mathematician has very little interest in such applied tasks. And this is why specialists in many practically important branches of mathematics are not mathematicians. But not far away are immeasurable realms that exist only for the mathematician: an enourmous nerve center has coalesced around the point of origin of a few lesser muscles. Somewhere inside, the individual mathematician is working, and his windows do not open to the outside, but into joining rooms.


There is an interesting story to how this thesis happened: I wrote it while traveling. To me this seemed perfectly normal at the time, but I've since heard that it astonishes people, so let me share the story.

My argument went somewhat like this: If you don't like the cold and desolate winter months (and I don't like them) and you have a bit of money in the bank (and I had some) and your professor agrees to consult with you using Skype (and I thank him for that) and you happen to live in times where one owns devices that can display PDFs - then it only seems natural that you should travel towards the tropics, following the sun, thinking about mathematics wherever it seems adequate. So that's what I did.

This was my route: I started off in Spain to visit a friend and see if the nomadic life suits me (two weeks; early drafts of five introductory pages); it did, so I went back to Germany for three days to pack, and went off to Lebanon (I stayed for one month, writing 10 pages). Then I visited a friend in Dubai (two weeks; five pages and a few diagrams; grappled with fundamental problems of my formalism). On to Oman, where at first things went well and I produced a few pages; however I discovered a fundamental flaw in my understanding which my primary sources didn't deem necessary to address: I painfully remember trying to understand a single, central diagram for eight days in a row, backtracking my way 14 hours a day, becoming increasingly desparate until I gave up and my friend John came to visit me over New Year's. (Time spent in Oman: roughly a month with a short bus trip back to Dubai because of Visa issues. Unclear how much work I put to paper.) Next was Sri Lanka, where I arrived the day before presidential elections, which luckily went down without civil unrest breaking out. In Sri Lanka I mostly wrote in parks and the jungle, after these sandy countries everything seemed so exotic! And by painstakingly going through all I had written, blowing up seemingly innocent one-line statements to one-page proofs just to make absolutely sure I was correct, I finally found my way out of the trap that I had been in while in Oman. After a month in Sri Lanka, I went to Manila in the Philippines for two weeks. What an awful place! I didn't get much done there, being busy with other stuff. From there I went to Sydney for a week (I went for job interview; incidentally, this is also where I live and work now ...). I had three weeks of holidays on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, where my friend Felix visited me; no work was done there. In Singapore I resumed work and was pleasantly surprised that a considerable amount of work was done already (I only stayed there for a week due to budget constraints). I subsequently traded my windowless 12m² room for an equally priced 40m² flat in the heart of Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, where I stayed for a month and wrote most of the remainder of the thesis (15 pages). A short 3-day stint in Venice reunited me with my family, and I traveled back to Hamburg with them, where I did a final pass of the text, corrected numerous details and attended to day-stretching last-minute panics induced by seemingly poor Choices of category-theoretical models in the very beginning. Then I traveled to Berlin and handed my thesis in. - All done, and not a single day was spent in the desolate winter!

posted 2015-11-22 tagged math and life

Ulysses

I was recently in Dublin for the first time and that was reason enough to finally get to grips with the modernist epic Ulysses by James Joyce. But instead of writing here: yes, it is quite exhausting to read - yes, without chapter-wise secondary summaries I would hardly have understood anything - yes, it is eloquent and also quite funny - yes, it is a stylistic and formal work of art - yes, that was my second and last attempt to become a Joyce fan and no, I will not tackle the monstrous things he wrote afterwards ––

So instead of repeating what one reads everywhere, here is an attempt to contrast and relate two central works of modernism: Ulysses versus The man without qualities. Both works are quite extensive, but that is not necessarily off-putting: only they are both complicated and bulky. Joyce's work is not so much based on the plot, but rather on the form: the reader is seldom taken by the hand, one always has to guess the context from the dialogue or is only served raw thoughts. Musil, on the other hand, constantly reiterates and gives context, with a linguistic brilliance that is second to none: only the thoughts are of a very difficult philosophical-dialectical nature.

Both works have one interesting thing in common: they are, in a modernist manner, exact constructed in the time span that they cover (- the shape determines the framework): Ulysses is the story of a single day in Dublin during the Man without qualities Spent exactly one year in Vienna (strictly speaking: would live if the book had ever been written to the end). In the latter case, it is very clear when the action takes place, because the book begins with the following first paragraph:

There was a barometric minimum over the Atlantic; it wandered eastward, towards a maximum overlying Russia, and did not yet show any inclination to evade this northward. The isotherms and isotherms did their job. The air temperature was in a proper relationship to the mean annual temperature, to the temperature of the coldest and warmest months and to the aperiodic monthly temperature fluctuation. The rising and setting of the sun, the moon, the change of light of the moon, Venus, the ring of Saturn and many other significant phenomena corresponded to their prediction in the astronomical yearbooks. The water vapor in the air had its greatest resilience, and the humidity in the air was low. In a word that describes the actual fact quite well, even if it is a bit old-fashioned: It was a beautiful August day in 1913.

With Joyce you have to look hard if you want to know on which day the action takes place: You write the date of June 16, 1904, now known and celebrated as Bloomsday - but this is nowhere clearly communicated, apart from shortly before the end. This information can be pieced together, for example, from the following fragments from chapters three and four, buried deep in confused trains of thought:

He took the hilt of his ashplant, lunging with it softly, dallying still. Yes, evening will find itself in me, without me. All days make their end. By the way next when is it Tuesday will be the longest day. Of all the glad new year, mother, the rum tum tiddledy tum. Lawn Tennyson, gentleman poet. ... (Dedalus musing in 3.489)

He listened to her licking lap. Ham and eggs, no. No good eggs with this drouth. Want pure fresh water. Thursday: not a good day either for a mutton kidney at Buckley's. Fried with butter, a shake of pepper. Better a pork kidney at Dlugacz's. While the kettle is boiling. She lapped slower, then licking the saucer clean. Why are their tongues so rough? To lap better, all porous holes. Nothing she can eat? He glanced round him. No. (Bloom in 4.43)

So we are dealing with a Thursday five days before the longest day in the northern hemisphere, June 21st. Which year? Well, there are several possibilities: June 16 fell on a Thursday between the years 1880 and 1920: 1881, 1887, 1892, 1898, 1904, 1910, and 1921. Other references?

He faced about and, standing between the awnings, held out his right hand at arm's length towards the sun. Wanted to try that often. Yes: completely. The tip of his little finger blotted out the sun's disk. Must be the focus where the rays cross. If I had black glasses. Interesting. There was a lot of talk about those sunspots when we were in Lombard street west. Looking up from the back garden. Terrific explosions they are. There will be a total eclipse this year: autumn some time. (Bloom thinking in 8,564)

Interestingly, however, Wikipedia says: “There was no Total Solar Eclipse visible from the United Kingdom between 1724 and 1925.” - Finally, however, in the penultimate chapter (even if the date appears in different places from the middle, but cannot be clearly assigned) it will explicit: "Compile the budget for 16 June 1904." (17.1456)


Both works repeatedly mention Nietzsche as a philosopher or as part of his works: In Ulysses gets off several times Zarathustra cited; Ulrich gives Clarisse a complete edition of Nietzsche for her wedding. A very central moment in Nietzsche’s philosophy is the dialectic that goes back to the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus Apollonian-Dionysian. What does Dionysian mean? The concise dictionary of philosophy explains the word as follows:

From Dionysus, the Greek god of wine: in addition to the Apollonian, the personification of one of Nietzsche's two principles that guide the fate of the world. While the Apollonian stands for the striving for limitation, for measure and shape, the Dionysian embodies the urge for the unbound, the intoxicating and excessive, that which abolishes the boundaries, destroys the form and throws the formative back into the world.

While the Apollonian approach is that of science, that of exact description and classification, ultimately of rationality, the Dionysian approach is one of the drunk, orgiastic: the original state of man speaks from the unconscious and subconscious.

This leads me to the following central thesis: Musil's approach is inherently Apollonian, while Joyce's is a masterful example of the Dionysian. As an example, I would like to cite a scene that occurs incidentally in both books: the male protagonist meets a woman he does not know in public and has a spontaneous sexual desire for her. When read side by side, these excerpts are excellent examples of the idiosyncrasy of the respective narrative techniques.

In Ulysses (4.145) Bloom is currently on the way to get liver from the butcher for his breakfast:

A kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish: the last. He stood by the next door girl at the counter. Would she buy it too, calling the items from a slip in her hand? Chapped: washingsoda. And a pound and a half of Denny's sausages. His eyes rested on her vigorous hips. Woods his name is. Wonder what he does. Wife is oldish. New blood. No followers allowed. Strong pair of arms. Whacking a carpet on the clothesline. She does whack it, by George. The way her crooked skirt swings at each whack.

[…]

The porkbutcher snapped two sheets from the pile, wrapped up her prime sausages and made a red grimace.

—Now, my miss, he said.

She tendered a coin, smiling boldly, holding her thick wrist out.

—Thank you, my miss. And one shilling threepence change. For you, please?

Mr Bloom pointed quickly. To catch up and walk behind her if she went slowly, behind her moving hams. Pleasant to see first thing in the morning. Hurry up, damn it. Make hay while the sun shines. She stood outside the shop in sunlight and sauntered lazily to the right. He sighed down his nose: they never understand. Soda tapped hands. Crusted toenails too. Brown scapulars in tatters, defending her both ways. The sting of disregard glowed to weak pleasure within his breast. For another: a constable off duty cuddling her in Eccles lane. They like them sizeable. Prime sausage. O please, Mr Policeman, I'm lost in the wood.

—Threepence, please.

His hand accepted the moist tender gland and slid it into a sidepocket. Then it fetched up three coins from his trousers' pocket and laid them on the rubber prickles. They lay, were read quickly and quickly slid, disc by disc, into the till.

—Thank you, sir. Another time.

A bacon of eager fire from foxeyes thanked him. He withdrew his gaze after an instant. No: better not: another time.

—Good morning, he said, moving away.

—Good morning, sir.

No sign. Gone. What matter?

He walked back along Dorset street, reading gravely. [...]

Joyce simply verbalizes what takes place in the head, with all the volatility, impatience and, above all, unreflection that goes with it: Wouldn't it be interesting to examine how it came from within sting of disregard becomes some kind of desire within moments? Obviously none of that interests, and besides, he has to pay. And already the thoughts are elsewhere again, and he reads when he goes home ...

Musil, on the other hand, uses a very similar chance encounter to - as a distraction, a completely different train of thought is spun beforehand - to reflect how charity is actually a hypocritical concept, and generally: why do you like people at all without actually liking them knows well ?! But that reads, as the saying goes, "as printed" (3rd part, chapter 23):

[...] his thinking already lacked the intention to seek a decision, and he readily allowed himself to be distracted. Two men had just bumped into him near him and were shouting uncomfortable remarks at each other, as if they were trying to get rough, which he participated in with refreshed attention, and when he had barely turned away his gaze collided with that of a fat woman , on the stem was nodding flower. In that pleasant mood mingled in equal amounts of feeling and outward attention, he noted that the ideal requirement to love one's neighbor is obeyed among real people in two parts, the first of which is that one Can't stand his fellow men, while the second makes up for that by getting into sexual relations with one half of them. Without thinking about it, after a few steps he too turned back to follow the woman; it still happened quite mechanically as a result of the contact with her eyes. He saw her figure under the dress like a large white fish that is near the surface of the water. He wished he could see him harpoon and fidget manly, and there was as much aversion in it as desire. Barely noticeable signs also gave him the certainty that this woman knew that he was behind him and approved of it.He tried to find out where she might belong in the social stratification, and advised the upper middle class, where it is difficult to determine the position exactly. »Merchant family? Official family? ”He asked himself. But various images appeared at random, including that of a pharmacy: he felt the sharp-sweet smell on the man coming home; the compact atmosphere of the home, no longer noticeable of the twitching under which she had recently scanned a burglar's lamp. No doubt it was hideous, yet dishonorably alluring.

And while Ulrich continued to follow the woman, really afraid that she would stop in front of a window and force him to either stumble on stupidly or to speak to her, something was still undistracted and wide awake in him. "What can Agathe actually want from me?" [...]

Similar to Proust, Musil is an author who, like a spotlight, illuminates very specific angles for a very wide period of time: The year of the holiday is chronologically chronologically only incidentally, mostly this only serves as a transition to a situation that Musil (in the form of Ulrich, usually thinking alone or in a quasi-monologue) allows you to pause for several dozen pages on a train of thought. Ulysses is the antithesis here, great socio-philosophical theses simply go under because it is at night and everyone in the conversation is drunk:

BLOOM: I stand for the reform of municipal morals and the plain ten commandments. New worlds for old. Union of all, jew, moslem and gentile. Three acres and a cow for all childern of nature. Saloon motor hearses. Compulsory manual labor for all. All parks open to the public day and night. Electric dish scrubbers. Tuberculosis, lunacy, war and mendicancy must now cease. General amnesty, weekly carnival with masked license, bonuses for all, esperanto the universal language with universal brotherhood. No more patriotism of barspongers and dropsical impostors. Free money, free rent, free love and a free lay church in a free lay state.

(Then Bloom starts to sing and someone throws a shoe at him. Although that might only happen in your mind, you don't really know. In any case, nobody really listened to him.) -

Finally, in addition to the Apollonian-Dionysian opposition, another central motif of Nietzsche's philosophy is the unconditional and not always rationalizable affirmation of life, a constant and insistent saying yes to life - an essentially anti-nihilistic attitude. Joyce lets Ulysses deliberately end with the word “Yes” (even if the intention behind it is admittedly not necessarily life-affirming: instead, according to a letter from Joyce to Frank Budgen, the word completes the verbal symbolism for the feminine that pervades the chapter). - In contrast, he creates Man without qualities a great philosophical apparatus to rationalize the affirmation of life - but then does not take the decisive step of realization: the book remains unfinished.

posted 2015-08-15 tagged bookdump

Bookdump

It's been a while since the last article, and while I've mainly been doing math, it has built up a lot.

It is surprisingly informative and easy to read FoucaultsMonitor and punish, and of course more topical than ever.

The collection of essays Arguably of Christopher Hitchens is a nice hodgepodge, with some very impressive contributions. Little did I know, for example, that at the time the practice of waterboarding was being dragged into the public eye, Hitchens himself had subjected himself to this torture method - simply to find out how it felt - and to be able to report on it.

Is considered a very mathematically motivated author J. L. Borges. His short story collection Maze I liked it, even if the mathematical aspects of his literature, at least in this selection, are mostly reduced to processing the inherent paradoxes of recursion and infinity. But he is an author who glorifies dreaming and repeatedly illuminates the limits of knowledge, such as in Avatars of the Tortoise:

‘The greatest magician (Novalis has memorably written) would be the one who would cast over himself a spell so complete that he would take his own phantasmagorias as autonomous appearances. Would not this be our case? ’I cojecture that this is so. We (the undivided divinity operating within us) have dreamed of the world. We have dreamed it as firm, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and durable in time; but in its architecture we have allowed tenuous and eternal crevices of unreason which tell us it is false.

I was impressed by Henry Thoreau, the American naturalist associated with Walden a work has achieved what shaped the "exit thought" even before industrialization, and explains the philosophical and practical aspects of a life far away from society, alone in the forest and self-sufficient:

But I would say to my fellows, once for all, As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.

I am partly sympathetic to his nutritional views (even if not in the justification) -

I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind.

- but I do not share his views on wine and coffee:

I believe water is the only drink for a wise man; wine is not so noble a liquor; and think of dashing the hopes of a morning with a cup of warm coffee, or of an evening with a dish of tea!

Faulkner: As I Lay Dying - Wow, I can't stand such efficient stream narrative at all.

Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead - The book is like a traffic accident: as terrible as it is, you can't look away. I have seldom read a book in which the prose is so bad and the characters are drawn in such woodcut style. Back then there must have been an incredible social climate for a book like this to be successful. Still captivating. And: No illustration of the buildings does justice to the underlying idea. (At this point I would like to link to the blog of a good friend of mine: cncrt abstraction deals with Brutalism architecture, which I think is not too far from the essence of Howard Roark's buildings.)

It is of course highly praised among classic sci-fi writers Philipp K. Dick. To get started VALIS reading was probably not the best decision, as it is more of a late work and very autobiographical. Much better for me then Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich liked, quite hallucinatory-dystopian, all in all, but not concrete and vivid enough for me. Another classic Kurt VonnegutsSlaughterhouse-five, I liked it reasonably well, but nice that it was so short. The fact that the narrator is constantly jumping in time and space reminded me of Hilsenrath's “Fairy Tale of the Last Thought”.

I was very impressed with Jean-Paul SartresNausea (German: Disgust):

... The past is a property owner’s luxury.

Where should I keep mine? You can't put your past in your pocket; you have to have a house in which to store it. I possess nothing but my body; a man on his own, with nothing but his body, can't stop memories; they pass through him. I shouldn't complain: all I have ever wanted was to be free.

I was also motivated by it The Age of Reason read, but was really annoyed halfway through and just skimmed the rest. Of course, one of the French existentialists is also one of them Camus, but, be Myth of Sisyphus is good and nice, but packed literarily I can do more with such a philosophy.

Tom Wolfe writes a bit like Jonathan Franzen. The Bonfire of the Vanities was an impressively multi-layered story, lovingly constructed, but also a momentary panorama epic.

Sometimes you run out of books and then you have to take what you get. On the island of Palawan, for example, I had to stock up on an Australian and a Canadian, who had both retired there and sold used books for one euro each from their verandah: Still a little bit exciting Stephen Leather: Hungry Ghost, but it is only pathetic and bad Morris West: Summer of the Red Wolf. A still unknown to me thriller by Ian Rankin, A Question of Blood, I found there too, as well John le CarrésAbsolute friends, which I could no longer say what it was all about.

Every now and then you have to read books that fit in your pocket. Henry James has with The turn of the screw created a nice horror story that luckily gets to the point quickly. I suspect Andre Gide: The Immoralist bought, and would have expected more immorality.

When crime novels or thrillers appear everywhere around the world, that's an indication that they are at least exciting. Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl it is too, but such a bad ending, it hurt. I didn't like the book adaptation that I saw immediately afterwards.

It has happened to me quite often that I read a book about which critics wrote: "full of ideas ... grand in scope" - and I found a story that was at most impressive because of the expansiveness of the text, in other words: They are often stories that would have been better exposed or short stories. over Zia Haider Rahmans Debut novel In the Light of What We Know I stumbled because of the quote from Alex Preston on the cover: "The novel I'd hoped Jonathan Franzen's› Freedom ‹would be." - Yes, in typical "Grand Scope" fashion, a leitmotif of the book is Gödel's incompleteness theorem (abstract ! Mathematics and logic!), But where other books would have tinkered with real world analogies that inevitably seem ridiculous for anyone who has studied a little mathematics, the protagonist's father, a professor of physics, appears in various situations, Richard Feynman quotes several times and also exhaustively explains that no analogy ever does justice to the facts. - In addition to many other topics that the novel deals with, the central topic is already dealt with in a strikingly exact manner in the title exhaustively: Reality cannot be controlled in the same way as mathematics allows: knowledge acquired afterwards can be considered correct at the time categorized assessment of a situation abstruse - while a mathematical proof is true or not. The book is also very interesting because it gives insights into worlds that remain closed to most people. This review sums it up well:

It is a novel that displays a formidable familiarity with élite knowledge, and takes for granted a capacity for both abstract and worldly thinking.

Daniel Suarez: Influx - Already exciting but also a bit flat and predictable.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby - such a classic. You can, but you don't have to. As I hear, nowadays they (again?) Have "Gatsby parties" ...

If an author manages to create a well-known one Ism then it is usually advisable to have read at least a little bit of the original. (Example: Darwinism. But be careful: Almost all communists have their own ism, and just because Trotskyism has a few followers does not mean that you have to read Trotsky.) - What I'm getting at: If someone can do it, he Coining the term sadism, which is so very much a separate word that hardly anyone knows the author behind it, then it is interesting to research who de Sade was. And so I sat down - not least motivated by Adorno & Horkheimer's treatment of the topic - and two central works by Marquis de Sade read: First Justine, or the sufferings of virtuethat after 500 pages with a downright epic cliff hanger ceases; followed by the continuation of the story, this time from the sister's point of view: Juliette, or the benefits of vice. - The Justine is unfortunately a bit repetitive and would be more interesting if it were half as long. The Juliette but has a good length of almost 300 pages. Both novels are shortly before the transition 18./19. Century emerged, that is, a long time before amorality, egoism, atheism and anti-Christianism, and of course: open talking about sexual acts of any kind and color were socially acceptable topics (if they ever were; let's say: literary, man remember that yourself Lolita couldn't find a publisher in the USA, was then published in “liberal France” by a rather unreliable publisher, but was banned there for two years a short time later - and that was in the nineteen-fifties!). - Well, de Sade creates something that I would not have thought possible: you open any of the two books at random and read 20 pages - and these twenty pages put any hardcore scat BDSM snuff porn in the shade ( - is there anything like that in the combination?). When the older generation says: “But today's youth is so brutal!” (Keywords: killer games, violent videos, porn consumption), then I say: If we are one, then we are - historically speaking - quite civilized in the overall social design of our sexuality -, violence and killing fantasies. Really.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the times of cholera. A little expansive, but good.

I live in Sydney now, and to get a bit of trivia knowledge, I have to Bill Bryson: Down Under read: Funny and informative. - But it is a really incredible book Bruce Chatwins report The Songlines about his journey through the Australian outback on the trail of the oral tradition of the Aborigines. Yes, it is anecdotal and the text is quite idiosyncratic from the middle through excerpts from his notebooks; one should also show a certain skepticism towards his theory about humans as originally nomadic. But interesting and thought provoking is this book in any case.

Roberto Bolaño: Third Reich. More old works are being excavated ...

Cormac McCarthy: The Road. - Keep me up for one night.

posted 2015-07-06 tagged bookdump

Palawan

I've just arrived in Singapore from a 3-week trip to Palawan, one of the larger islands in the southwestern Philippines. You can imagine the sights as something like this: Beautiful, deserted beaches with clear water, rice fields and impenetrable jungle:

You will find unique and expansive eco-systems, e.g. huge mangrove forests or the Underground River, a UNESCO world heritage site in the form of a long river flowing through a dripstone cave, home to approximately 40,000 bats.

While Palawan is definitely a place to approach with a backpacker mentality - expect bumpy, curvy roads, small villages with electricity only in the evening hours, and a hot shower only in the most up-market places - the tourism sector is a big communal employer (Despite the rather small number of guests) and tightly controlled by the government, so prices and service are in general good and rip-offs rare. Put differently, it is very easy and rewarding to travel there.

It feels like a small paradise at the end of the world.

posted 2015-03-07 tagged life

Sri Lanka

I didn't take a lot of photos in Sri Lanka, but here’s an impression of the beaches south of Colombo (which are trembling when the train passes not 20 meters behind your back) and Negombo.

Signs that you’ll see in the streets in Sri Lanka tend to be really very considerate of the reader, always apologizing and wishing the best. It's a really cute custom, and a little friendliness goes a long way! Here are some examples.

posted 2015-01-27 tagged life

Sur, Wadi Shab and Nizwa

I was joined in Oman by an old friend, and our first stop was Sur:

The next day we went on a day trip to Wadi Shab. Instead of swimming in the upper ponds, we ventured to explore a route that featured huge boulders which were at times difficult to scale, especially with 10 liters of water in a backpack. Compared to the wadi, which was really rather crowded, we didn’t meet a single soul during the hike. When we came back - it was already an hour after dusk -, the boats that carry people over the initial, 400m wide and rather deep pond to the entry of the wadi were gone. Since we wanted to travel the next morning, we tried hard not to get the backpack and spare clothes wet, and succeeded - although we had to take turns swimming part of the way around areas impossible to climb, in order to lift the backpack up a three-meter vertical slope ... Generally not advisable.

(Talking about general travel advices: If there is the slightest chance there will be water - and there always is -, carry passport and phone in watertight ziplock bags, so that you have the fail-safe option of simply swimming with all your stuff. )

Then on to Nizwa, which is surrounded by seemingly infinitely stretching chains of rather small and steep but impressive mountains. Easy to fall apart (due to the iron content being washed out?), They are covered by debris and pebble of varying size which makes them fun and yet challenging to move in. Also: Ancient defense walls!

posted 2015-01-05 tagged life and oman

Muscat, Oman

posted 2014-12-29 tagged life

Graffiti in Dubai

posted 2014-12-07 tagged dubai and graffiti

Git book, second edition

Long in planning, but now it is finally available: The second, revised edition of the Git book by Valentin and me. Since I'm not on land at the moment, I haven't held the book in my hands yet, but Valentin took a picture because the book has the new Git logo on the cover:

The first edition was published in mid-2011. A little more than three years later, it is sold out, and so much has changed in Git that it is worthwhile not just reprinting the old text, but working through it (and correcting the errors). I quote from the preface:

In the 2nd edition, we limited ourselves to cautiously recording the changes in the use of Git that were introduced up to version 2.0 - in fact, many commands and error messages are more consistent today, so that this corresponds to a significant simplification of the text in some places . Interspersed are, inspired by questions from Git training courses and our own experience, new tips on problems, possible solutions and interesting functionalities.

Some of the changes are only minimal and aim to teach newcomers the “modern” syntax of the commands: Instead of using, for example, a merge is canceled (instead of a hard reset), and the preferred Pickaxe tool is, no more (a subtle difference!).

Sometimes new options and best practices (!) Are discussed, and new, but probably little-known options are presented (e.g. the new strategy options of the recursive merge strategy, with which you can merge or rebase conflicts caused by whitespace nonsense can often solve automatically).

A not inconsiderable part of the changes is the kind that you as an author can be happy about: For example, we have rewritten the entire part about "Subtrees" compared to "Submodules", so that git subtree is used, which is now part of Git . This means that a dozen difficult-to-remember commands are omitted and replaced by a subcommand that has its own man page.

We have mainly received very positive feedback on the text over the three years. In particular, experienced users often praised the fact that we use complex examples and “get to the point quickly”. The biggest point of criticism certainly came from the Windows faction: Here, some people were somewhat irritated by how much Unix-centered text and content are. After careful consideration, we have decided Not to deviate from this course - in particular, we have discarded the idea of ​​discussing a selection of GUI clients in detail. We were able to gain a lot of experience in Git training courses, especially with "EGit" (Eclipse), and our conclusion is essentially negative: The tools cannot even begin to offer the comfort and flexibility of the original Git, and have problems in some key areas - EGit has only been known for a few months, for example, and there isn't even a button for it in the fetch dialog ... how can you work efficiently with branches ?! - and also change far too quickly for printed documentation to help.

The new edition should actually appear at the end of the summer. The fact that it took so long was mainly due to technical reasons: The first edition was written in LaTeX, but in the meantime the Open Source Press-Verlag has switched to the specially developed Textovia publishing system, which AsciiDoc uses in the background.

We are very grateful to the publisher for the initial conversion of approx. 780 KB LaTeX source code! However, when we went through it several times, we noticed remaining LaTeX and conversion artifacts in various places, and we could not implement some simple LaTeX hack in AsciiDoc without problems ...

Switching to the new format makes it easier enormousto produce a print version in parallel with several EBook versions; In particular, however, it is now in the print text no Page numbers are referenced more, but only section numbers. We hope that the conversion did not lead to too many new errors.

In addition to the fact that the new edition is more modern and consistent, it offers a very important innovation that was often missed: Every printed book contains a code on the first page with which you can download a PDF version of the book: So the book is pleasant to read on paper, but at the same time easy to search through.

posted 2014-12-06 tagged book, git, gitbuch and life

KaLänder and donations

First Advent, beginning of December… The question arises: What should I give friends and acquaintances for Christmas? Because it's not long until the twenty-fourth.

The answer can be so simple: Just give a "KaLänder" as a gift!

The KaLänder was designed by volunteers from the exchange organization VIA e.V., and that - with constantly changing teams - for the fifth time. As always, the proceeds from the sale are passed on to selected projects.

The easiest way to order is simply by email. Tip: Forward the links to colleagues and acquaintances in your area beforehand, talk to you and make a bulk order!

And for those who are now thinking: That's right, actually I still have no idea what to do with the rest of my 13th annual salary ... I would otherwise have an idea.

The project (Watoto Wetu Tanzania, formerly Friends of Don Bosco), in which I worked for a year, is unfortunately tight as always; In particular, like every year, it is difficult to collect the disproportionately high school fees, because the majority of the children supported spend the year in other cities on boarding schools.

You can donate directly to this account (and VIA e.V. can also issue donation receipts on request):

Account holder: VIA e.V.
IBAN: DE79 2405 0110 0065 0887 83
Credit institution: Sparkasse Lüneburg
Purpose: WAWESG (please specify!)

Every donation helps! If you have any questions or would like more information about Watoto Wetu Tanzania, please contact Robert Hörner and me.

posted 2014-12-01 tagged donation and tanzania

Jounieh, Lebanon

posted 2014-11-20 tagged life

Valencia and Granada

posted 2014-10-26 tagged life and pictures

Bookdump

It's been a while, and I've probably forgotten a few again ...

With the new release of Noam ChomskysHow the World Works it is a collection of a few old texts and edited interviews from the 1990s. Two excerpts:

Recall that about ten years ago, when David Stockman [director of the Office of Management and Budget in the early Reagan years] was kicked out, he had some interviews with economic journalist William Greider. There Stockman pretty much said that the idea was to try to put a cap on social spending, simply by debt. There would always be plenty to subsidize the rich. But they wouldn't be able to pay aid to mothers with dependent children — only aid to dependent corporate executives.

And:

You still find plenty of poor, uneducated people smoking; In fact, tobacco has become such a lower-class drug that some legal historians are predicting that it will become illegal. Over the centuries, when some substance became associated with "the dangerous class," it’s often been outlawed. Prohibition of alcohol in [the US] was, in part, aimed at working-class people in New York City saloons and the like. The rich kept drinking as much as they wanted.

William S. Burroughs much celebrated Naked lunch - Well, luckily the book was so short. Just bizarre. I actually really like it when a kind of story is told. - I liked it better then Jack KerouacsOn the road, but it didn't really move me either.

Dave Eggers: The Circle - You read that off on a Sunday. Nicely written and the plot well predictable, but it is a contemporary portrait of the zeitgeist and as such will probably have lost its relevance in a few years.

James C. Scott: Seeing Like a State - An agronomist gets lost in a topic that is quite interesting for a couple of years and summarizes his findings in a very accessible non-fiction book. The book is a call to celebrate diversity and to respect, preserve and actively use local knowledge (especially in the context of indigenous peoples). The basic theme of the book is the "legibility of a population", for which social and environmental conditions are usually measured, that is, expressed in comparable numbers (hectares of standard forest, education index, population cross-section, etc.). Scott examines some examples in more detail, and the conclusion can be roughly summarized as follows: "The metric is not only too simple, it is so simple that it actively harms the population and creates new realities adapted to this metric." - Worth reading, if you can get excited about such a topic.

After reading Huxley again, I had to try again to compare Orwells novel 1984 read. I am still of the opinion that Huxley is “more” right in our current development - but Orwell has to be credited with the fact that his invention of “Newspeak” is very forward-looking and still very topical today.

David Benioffs bestseller City of thieves is a fine book about friendship in times of war - but in a way a World War I book that is very reminiscent of other novels on the subject since the 2000s. There is a certain lightness in it that was not possible before, but is by no means new.

Per Petterson:Out stealing horses - A surprisingly beautiful novel. Holiday literature, I think. - For Khaleed Hosseinis novel A Thousand Splendid Suns I think I'm a bit of the wrong target group. In any case, the book didn't touch me that much, and while reading it remains a bland aftertaste similar to when you leave the cruise ship for a few hours as a tourist in "exotic countries" and "get to know a culture" in the most superficial way possible ". -

Glenn Greenwald: No Place to Hide is an important book. If you've followed the revelations a bit, you already know a large part of the image shown (but Microsoft gets off really badly). The first 90 pages about contacting Snowden are pure thriller. The last part is a little too much howling from Greenwald.

Thomas Pynchon: Gravity’s Rainbow - What can you say about the book ...? The first three hundred pages are completely confusing. Towards the middle a coherent plot seems to develop - but that quickly subsides. From page 700 on, I was just furious about what a waste of time the book was. The jokes may make you smile at first ... but at some point it's enough, and “funny situations” like the following: A woman is robbed, but has a speech defect and cannot pronounce umlauts, and instead of “Pretty robber” she calls out - yes, you do guesses it, “helicopter robber”, “helicopter”, haha, which then causes someone a few doors down (it's 1920, nobody knows what a helicopter is ...) who happens to be studying aerodynamics (ah!) to do something - well, I only find such a situation funny because it is so badly enforced.

But one has to admit to Pynchon that he has to have an almost unbelievable general education. The book sometimes drifts in directions that are completely unexpected: One afternoon I am reading in a small park in Neukölln, and suddenly the story takes place in Neukölln too - that's pretty crazy, and I wonder a little whether I did not understand most of the references. And a relatively unknown aspect of German colonial history, the Herero genocide by German colonial rulers in what is now Namibia - for which the German government does not feel responsible to this day - plays a not insignificant role.

Max Frisch: Homo FaberJohn Williams: Stoner, a really impressive and unpretentious book. - Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go, I had already seen it as a film, so it felt familiar all along. Not really recommended ... - Cynan Jones: The Long Dry, one of the "new discoveries", but it didn't bother me. - Ned Vinzinni: It's kind of a funny story, I wasn't exactly the right target group either, but it highlights an important point: the fear of failure that we instill in young adults. - Hubert Selby Jr .: The Room - I couldn't do anything with that. - Hermann Hesse: Siddhartha - Yeah, mythological-romantic ... but not his best work. - Strugatski: Monday starts on Saturday, one can read. But you don't have to.

Inspired by Franzen's essay Mr Difficult, I have William Gaddis ’ novel The Recognitions read ... I liked it a lot, even if it was very confusing in some places - you could say, for example, that the completely passive main character loses his name (forgets?) after about a third of the book, and so does the literal speech that anyway is only indicated with dashes and not indicated who is speaking becomes even more confusing, because the protagonist is either no longer addressed directly or is only addressed as "my dear fellow". Overall, the book reads like a 50s hipster party, interspersed with indissoluble, general world doubt - peppered with a good portion of Christian mysticism.

To educate myself a bit, I also have one of the short story volumes by the Nobel Prize winner for literature Alice Munro read: Runaway I liked it a lot, especially because it wasn't always clear how closely the stories really were related.

Robert Charles Wilson: Spin - That kept me up all night. Very exciting. More science fiction? A friend gave me Richard MorgansAltered carbon, which is also recommended.

It was a new discovery for me Knut Hamsun: I have hunger and then the Mysteries read. Reminds me a bit of Dostoevsky, just not so Russian.

I felt the death of Frank Schirrmacher was a bitter loss. I was able to take new food for thought from each of his features articles. I felt the same way Ego - game of life, definitely worth reading, especially given the historical perspective it offers.

With the best will in the world, I can't remember how I came to write a classic tennis self-help book on my list. But also outside of tennis (or sport in general) W. Timothy Gallweys 100 pages The Inner Game of Tennis good advice: "Too much thought is a hindrance to excellence."

A friend is interested in how one can combine Far Eastern ideas with Western philosophy and he told me Alan Watts given, The Tao of Philosophy. I think the style is too much like a recorded radio speech that Erna (83) from Norderstedt should understand.

On the other hand, I was completely impressed by Adorno / Horkheimers plant Dialectic of Enlightenment. Dialectics is a rather multifaceted term, but reading this text was the first time I saw masterful dialecticians at work. It must be said, however, that the text is not easy to read. I had to look up words all the time, sometimes unnecessarily, because the authors use pompous terms like Fungibility and Usancerather than simply Interchangeability and property. They also tend to nest sentences in a very complicated way and to subject processes so that you often have to think twice about what is meant - but then you will be rewarded. Would you like a taste?

In the reduction of thinking to a mathematical apparatus, the sanction of the world is resolved as its own measure. What appears to be the triumph of subjective rationality, the submission of all beings to logical formalism, is bought with the obedient subordination of reason to what is immediately available.To understand what is there as such, not only to note the abstract spatiotemporal relationships in which one can then grasp them, but, on the contrary, to think of them as the surface, as conveyed conceptual moments that only emerge in the development of their social, historical, Fulfill the human sense - the whole claim of knowledge is abandoned.

I had read the Odyssey shortly before, so I particularly liked the excursus on the dialectics of myth and enlightenment using the example of Odysseus. What I ask myself is: To what extent did Homer see through this dialectic? I couldn't tell from the text whether the authors were reinterpreting Homer's text or just reading something from it whose profundity had not yet been recognized as such.

posted 2014-10-26 tagged bookdump

So you want to write to a file real fast ...

Or: A tale about Linux file write patterns.

So I once wrote a custom core dump handler to be used with Linux’s core_pattern. What it does is take a core dump on STDIN plus a few arguments, and then write the core to a predictable location on disk with a time stamp and suitable access rights. Core dumps tend to be rather large, and in general you don’t know in advance how much data you’ll write to disk. So I built a functionality to write a chunk of data to disk (say, 16MB) and then check with if the disk has still more than threshold capacity (say, 10GB). This way, a rapidly restarting and core-dumping application cannot lead to “disk full” follow up failures that will inevitably lead to a denial of service for most data handling services.

So ... how do we write a lot of data to disk really fast? - Let us maybe rephrase the question: How do we write data to disk in the first place? Let's assume we have already opened file descriptors and, and we just want to copy everything from to.

One might be tempted to try something like this:

"But ...!", You cry out, "there's so much wrong with this!" And you are right, of course:

  • The return value is not checked. It might be. This might be because e.g. we have got a bad file descriptor, or because the syscall was interrupted.
  • A call to will - if it does not return - write at least one byte, but we have no guarantee that we will actually write all bytes to disk. So we have to loop the write until we have written bytes.

An updated and semantically correct pattern reads like this (in a real program you’d have to do real error handling instead of assertions, of course):

We have a total number of bytes to read (), the number of bytes already read (), and the number of bytes already written (). Only when are we done (or if the input stream ends prematurely). Error checking is performed so that we restart interrupted syscalls and crash on real errors.

What about the parameter? Of course you may have already noticed in the first example that we always copied 1024 bytes. Typically, a block on the file system is 4KB, so we are only writing quarter blocks, which is likely bad for performance. So we'll try different block sizes and compare the results.

We can find out the file system’s block size like this (as usual, real error handling left out):

OK, let's do some benchmarks! (Full code is on GitHub.) For simplicity I'll try things on my laptop computer with Ext3 + dmcrypt and an SSD. This is “read a 128MB file and write it out”, repeated for different block sizes, timing each version three times and printing the best time in the first column. In parantheses you'll see the percentage increase in comparison to the best run of all methods:

Mh. Seems like multiples of the FS’s block sizes don’t really matter here. In some runs, the 16x blocksize is best, sometimes it's the 256x. The only obvious point is that writing only a single block at once is bad, and writing fractions of a block at once is very bad indeed performance-wise.

Now what's there to improve? "Surely it's the overhead of using to get data," I hear you saying, "Use for that!" So we come up with this:

Admittedly, the pattern is simpler. But, alas, it is even a little bit slower! (YMMV)

"Surely copying around useless data is hurting performance," I hear you say, "it's 2014, use zero-copy already!" - OK. So basically there are two approaches for this on Linux: One cumbersome but rather old and known to work, and then there is the new and shiny sendfile interface.

For the approach, since either reader or writer of your splice call must be pipes (and in our case both are regular files), we need to create a pipe solely for the purpose of splicing data from to the write end of the pipe, and then again splicing that same chunk from the read end to the fd:

“This is not true zero copy!”, I hear you cry, and it's true, the 'page stealing' mechanism has been discontinued as of 2007. So what we get is an “in-kernel memory copy”, but at least the file contents don't cross the kernel / userspace boundary twice unnecessarily (we don't inspect it anyway, right?).

The approach is more immediate and clean:

So ... do we get an actual performance gain?

“Yes! I knew it! ” you say. But I'm lying here. Every time I execute the benchmark, another different approach is the fastest. Sometimes the read / write approach comes in first before the two others. So it seems that this is not really a performance saver, is it? I like the semantics, though. But beware:

In Linux kernels before 2.6.33, out_fd must refer to a socket. Since Linux 2.6.33 it can be any file. If it is a regular file, then sendfile () changes the file offset appropriately.

Strangely, works on regular files in the default Debian Squeeze Kernel (2.6.32-5) without problems. (Update 2015-01-17: Przemysław Pawełczyk, who in 2011 sent Changli Gao’s patch which re-enables this behavior to [email protected] for inclusion in Linux 2.6.32, wrote to me explaining how exactly it ended up being backported. If you're interested, see this excerpt from his email.)

“But,” I hear you saying, “the system has no clue what your intentions are, give it a few hints!” and you are probably right, that shouldn't hurt:

But since the file is very probably fully cached, the performance is not significantly improved. "BUT you should supply a hint on how much you will write, too!" - And you are right. And this is where the story branches off into two cases: Old and new file systems.

I'll just tell the kernel that I want to write bytes to disk now, and please reserve space (I don't care about a "disk full" that I could catch and act on):

I'm using my workstation’s SSD with XFS now (not my laptop any more). Suddenly everything is much faster, so I'll simply run the benchmarks on a 512MB file so that it actually takes time:

Wow, so this thing is a real improvement! It seems reasonable enough, of course: Already the file system can prepare an - if possible contiguous - sequence of blocks in the requested size. But wait! What about Ext3? Back to the laptop:

Bummer. That was unexpected. Why is that? Let's check while we execute this program:

What? Who does this? - Glibc does this! It sees the syscall fail and re-creates the semantics by hand. (Beware, Glibc code follows. Safe to skip if you want to keep your sanity.)

And you guessed it, just does a on the first byte for every block until the space requirement is fulfilled. This is slowing things down considerably. This is bad. -

“But other people just truncate the file! I saw this! ”, You interject, and again you are right.

Indeed the truncate versions work faster on Ext3:

Alas, not on XFS. There, the system call is just more performant. (You can also use directly for that.)

And this is where the story ends.

In place of a sweeping conclusion, I'm a little bit disappointed that there seems to be no general semantics to say "I'll write bytes now, please be prepared". Obviously, using on Ext3 hurts very much (this may be why is not employing it). So I guess the best solution is still something like this:

Maybe you have another idea how to speed up the writing process? Then drop me an email, please.

Update 2014-05-03: Coming back after a couple of days ’vacation, I found the post was on HackerNews and generated some 23k hits here. I corrected the small mistake in example 2 (as pointed out in the comments - thanks!). - I trust that the diligent reader will have noticed that this is not a complete survey of either I / O hierarchy, file system and / or hard drive performace. It is, as the subtitle should have made clear, a “tale about Linux file write patterns”.

Update 2014-06-09:Sebastian pointed out an error in the mmap write pattern (the write should start at, not at). Also, the basic read / write pattern contained a subtle error. Tricky business - Thanks!

posted 2014-04-30 tagged Linux and c

Bookdump

Once again, a lot has accumulated:

Robert A. Caro: The Power Broker - the monumental biography of a person and the city that he shaped significantly. I had never heard the name before, and I had never been to New York City. It is more than impressive to read how such an extraordinary person, through political influence, intelligence, willpower and the exploitation of seemingly trivial legal loopholes in a non-democratic way in a democratic system, rises to the de-facto sole determiner of building projects and thus the reality of the New Yorker Definitely in everyday life. (Attention: The book has 1300 pages and weighs a good 1.5kg, so it is only conditionally suitable for carrying around ...)

At the urging of a friend, I got one of Hannah Arendts read central theoretical works, Vita Activa (engl. The human condition). I didn't really like her style: she tries too hard to "prove" by examining the etymological origins of words in Greek or analyzing word compositions in other languages ​​and trying to extract intrinsic truth about the terms from the corresponding connotations.

Hermann Hesses novel The Glass Bead Game is one of the gentlest, most intellectually constructed stories I've read. The devotion and sincerity with which Joseph Knecht pursues his job as Glasperlenspielmeister is so impressive and simply "beautiful", the whole world of Castalia is so lovingly and detailed portrayed that I hardly wanted to put the book down - until I got to the appendices, the fictional ones Knecht's résumés came up: which I only half-heartedly skimmed over; The Buddhist, spiritual, recurring-and-holistic-philosophical thoughts come through too strongly, which I always (also with other authors) as evasive, not deep and transfiguratively pissed off. Too bad. (My former roommate Sergei, then a mathematician a dozen semesters above me, always raved about the cohomology theory as a “true glass bead game” - and after reading it I finally know what he always meant and am inclined to agree with him.)

A little later I still have Hesses Demian read. Also a beautiful story.

Michel Houellebecq: Expansion of the combat zone - I didn't like the writing style and the protagonist so much, but reading it is rewarding: here and there pointed, socially critical passages flash up that have it all - and which at least I won't forget anytime soon.

A classic among adventure books, Jon Krakauers Report of a Mount Everest expedition that ended catastrophically in the spring of 1996 with the very appropriate title Into Thin Air, I devoured one evening in snow and -10 ° C outside temperature: extremely exciting. In a meticulous manner and with a trained eye for local conditions, Krakauer explains not only the ascent, but also the planning (mostly away from the paying mountaineers), the background of his fellow mountaineers and, last but not least, shows in a captivating way how much the human body is in icy cold and much too thin air forgets the last remnant of imagined rationality - without even noticing it. He also has the difficult task of being one of the survivors of an expedition to others summit push day A total of 10 people gave their lives to discover mistakes in themselves and in others involved - and to reflect on how it is possible to return to “normal life” after such an incident. Absolute reading recommendation.

The blinding of Elias Canetti I started at the age of 18 and put it down yawning after 100 pages. When I read it again, the book was actually quite good: a weak middle section - too many predictable and exaggerated headbirths from people for me - but strong first and last parts. You can already read.

The new novel by Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetarywas not my cup of tea.

Yevgeny Zamyatins 200 pages We appeared as early as 1920, that is, before Huxleys Brave New World and Orwells 1984 - and I have to agree with the epilogue:

Nevertheless, there are fundamental differences between the three works. Zamyatin's prophetic achievement is far above that of the other two: when he wrote his novel, totalitarianism only existed in the embryonic state - when Huxley wrote, monopoly capitalist rationalization had reached its first climax in America (Ford); when Orwell wrote, Stalinism was in the Zenith of power. In return, the two Englishmen were able to draw the face of the modern world more precisely and more pointedly.

With development aid and policy, there is such a thing: How should one treat the “third world”? Direct help? Helping people help themselves? Leave in silence? What really helps? - In essence, development aid, when it does not consist of arms deliveries, is almost always about countries whose populations are largely extremely poor: the people who live on less than one US dollar a day. The two economics professors Duflo and Banerjee analyze in their book Poor economicshow economy works in “poor”: there are no banks (why not? who lends the money and at what interest rates?); there are no health and social security systems (how to save in an emergency? what if the harvest goes bad?); the risk of total bankruptcy is always imminent (how to deal with it?). - In short: the economy works very differently when you have almost no money. The question that naturally arises is: Are there ways of creating institutions or policies to improve these conditions? Duflo and Banerjee criticize the "monoculture approaches" of J. Sachs ("More money solves the problem") and W. Easterly ("No help allows you to find your own solutions"), and move from case to case through various approaches to solving specific problems and evaluating their effectiveness. This is the aim of the book:

This book is an invitation to think again, again: to turn away from the feeling that the fight against poverty is too overwhelming, and to start to think of the challenge as a set of concrete problems that, once properly identified and understood, can be solved one at a time.

Recommended reading for everyone who wants to deal with development aid.

In the past few months I have Jonathan Franzen discovered for me: First I did Freedom read: relaxed and easy, but enough dilemma so that the panorama doesn't seem too casual. In some places the novel seemed quite autobiographical. Compare the following text fragment Freedom

In a pocket of his khakis was a handful of coins that he took out and began to fling, a few at a time, into the street. He threw them all away, the pennies of his innocence, the dimes and quarters of his self-sufficiency. He needed to rid himself, to rid himself. He had nobody to tell about his pain [...]. He was totally alone and didn't understand how it had happened to him.

With this report (archived) of a trip Franzens in Germany:

Real anger, anger as a way of life, was foreign to me until one particular afternoon in April 1982. I was on a deserted train platform in Hanover. I'd come from Munich and was waiting for a train to Berlin, it was a dark gray German day, and I took a handful of German coins out of my pocket and started throwing them on the platform. There was an element of anti-German hostility in this, because I'd recently had a horrible experience with a penny-pinching old German woman and it did me good to imagine other penny-pinching old German women bending down to pick the coins up As I knew they would, and thereby aggravating their knee and hip pains. The way I hurled the coins, though, was more generally angry. I was angry at the world in a way I'd never been before.

Then I have one of his essay collections, How to be alone