Outside office hours


December 29th, 2007 by myrta

In spite of months of “silence”, I am still alive. As I had promised, I have updated the design of the web to fit the current season (well I didn’t do so for the summer and the autumn…).
In the icy-header now you can see frozen branches of the trees in my backyard (@Amsterdam) against a perfect blue sky.

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spammed away

August 22nd, 2007 by myrta

This is the third day I have to moderate a bunch of spam comments. Together with the “usual xxx” spam I am also receiving 8-10 spam comments per day with links to car rentals and to offers for expensive cars (well this is what they pretend to be, of course I did not check). This has started when for some reason the Google search engine put my weblog at the top of the search list of “rich men drive” (I realized that when looking at the Google search hits of August in my webstats). In fact, this is a part of the citation from Glass soup in this old post. This result is for sure quite bizarre when looking at my web site, definitively rich men driving expensive cars are not its target.

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physics and voting systems

July 27th, 2007 by myrta

When back in Italy it is unavoidable to get involved in Italian politics. This time – I have been in Italy the first two weeks of this month – wasn’t an exception. And this time the matter of the politicians’ squabbles was the vote of the senators-for-life. In fact, since the difference of seats between the government and the opposition coalitions at the Senate is minimal, the vote of the senators-for-life has been, and could be in the future decisive in several occasions. That reminded me of an article I read last year on Le Scienze, the Italian edition of Scientific American on the recent reform of the electoral system of the Italian Senate. This reform introduced a bonus for the coalition with the majority that in principle should enhance the governability and stability. In practice, the authors of this article – researchers in Physics of Complex Systems (that’s where the title of this post is coming from)- show that the effects of this reform are unpredictable, and the “bonus” can increase, decrease or let as it is the number of seats of the majority coalition (this has indeed been the case in the last elections). The reason is that the bonus is given on regional basis. In brief, the authors remark that the actual voting system for the Senate resembles the behavior of chaotic systems which have a deterministic trajectory, but since this trajectory depends on tiny details, can’t in fact be predicted.

Recently signatures have been collected to promote a referendum to change the voting system for electing the Senate. The quota has been reached so probably, if nothing happens in the meanwhile, we will have a referendum (yet another one!) to change the electoral system for both the Parliament and the Senate. That brings me to this second article (that was referred by the previous one, not a physicist this time). The starting point is that while the citizens should choose the electoral system, this choice is technically too involved, and in fact the citizens cannot make this choice directly. As a solution the author suggests that the citizens simply choose what are the values of two parameters related to the representativeness and governability, then the electoral system corresponding more closely to this choice is selected via a purely technical procedure.

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June 27th, 2007 by myrta

I really don’t like SUV (sport utility vehicle). I think they are cumbersome and useless, occupy too much parking space and consume too much fuel. Among SUV, I particularly dislike Porsche Cayenne. Here, aesthetic reasons add up to what I already said — I find it ugly. So I was really delighted when I read this passage from Glass soup by Jonathan Carrol perfectly phrasing my thoughts on this monster:

A brand-new Porsche Cayenne, no less. One of those four-wheel-drive, eighty-thousand-dollar Jeep-y testosterone-turbos that rich men drive to show the world they’re larky, adventurous, but don’t forget I’m rich too. A “Weekend rambo” vehicle.

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June 16th, 2007 by myrta

In a couple of days I devoured Glasshouse, a Science Fiction book by Charles Stross.The reason I like SF is that it is all about imagining possible scenarios for the far future and imagining how human behavior, habits, values would change as a consequence. The reason I like Charles Stross’ books (and Glasshouse in particular) is that they present very interesting and consistent far future scenarios and characters and describe them brilliantly, providing a lot of juicy details (and details matter!). So, if you like SF, my advice is definitively read this book.

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May 31st, 2007 by myrta

It is already (more than) one year that myrta.eu is up and running. For this occasion, the site got a new look, while the content stays -for the moment- unchanged. Not without regrets I removed the glorious but useless “click your star” portal. Now you access directly the home page that coincides with what is supposed to be my blog (I suppressed as well the old, not really successful blog). The header should change with the seasons, or for particular events. See if I find the time for it. At the moment, in the header you have the picture of field of flowers in the Salento (Italy), that I visited last year with my mother.

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