Friends only

This journal is currently 90% friends only. If you know me, think you know me, or want to get acquainted, please leave a comment to this entry.


Журнал ведётся на 90% только для друзей. Если мы знакомы, или возможно знакомы, или вы хотите познакомиться, пожалуйста, оставьте комментарий к этой записи.
Javert - M-s-M

LJI XI - 7: Feckless (~350 words)

Many years ago, I have developed a simple strategy of facing compliments, because they have always made me uncomfortable: it does not matter whether I believe what is being said about me, it only matters if I believe that the person who compliments me is sincere and genuine. If they are, then it is an honour to be seen in such a way through their eyes.

I am still uncomfortable with praise and at some level, I would rather fade into the background (as unity is negligible compared to a million, in maths, a single person's ordinary life should be invisible among millions of similarly unremarkable lives).

However, I am increasingly forced to acknowledge that I cannot hide in plain sight this way.

- My old college department head remembers me personally despite my lack of noticeable achievements in our field;

- my colleagues have recently told me that the way I carry out my duties as the science secretary of our department makes them feel safe and secure (an extremely gratifying thing to hear, which leaves me even more aware of how often I am seemingly only half a step away from spectacularly failing something important);

- when I talk about things that interest me, people listen and would later tell me that they have learned something important (and was not I simply nattering excessively about weird little nothings that fascinate me and are not known by a lot of people at all?);

- and even in theatre, with so many people present, I get recognized by ushers when I come to see a play more than once (like I most often do), and am I not just one of the many in the audience and therefore, safely invisible?

Apparently, not. I am, apparently, noticeable and, in a small way, influential.

Influence is a scary thing to have, because influence is responsibility toward those that you affect.

And having acknowledged this, I can only repeat the phrase one of my Teachers likes to say in response to compliments, "Thank you. I will work to be worthy [of your opinion of me]."

Richard - evil

(no subject)

Давайте поиграем в небольшую экологическую игру.

1. В любом помещении, в котором вы регулярно пребываете (на работе или в любой комнате дома, например) посмотрите вокруг и посчитайте, сколько вы видите пластиковых предметов (не нужно открывать шкафы и заглядывать в ящики столов, - просто на поверхностях). Смотрите внимательнее - некоторые пластиковые предметы настолько обычны и повседневны, что с первого раза вы их можете не заметить.

2. Теперь посмотрите на все эти предметы ещё раз, и посчитайте те из них, которые, по вашим представлениям, вы выбросите или замените в течение ближайшего года.

Можете поделиться результатами со мной, если хотите, можете просто обратить на него внимание. В любом случае, я почти уверена, что они неприятно вас удивят.

[Мой результат]Дома: на кухне около 60 таких предметов (на выброс пока не считала); в ванной - около 50 (тоже не считала); возле моего рабочего места — около 80 (выбросим может быть десяток...пластиковых пакетов, из наличных 3 – 4 дюжин).

Какого чёрта??


Let's play a small ecological game.

1. Go to any room in which you stay regularly (any space at your home, or the one you work in), look around you and count the number of plastic objects you see (there is no need to open wardrobes or look into drawers, just look at what is out there on the available surfaces. Pay attention: some of these objects will be so commonplace you will not notice them at first glance.

2. Now look at all these objects again and estimate how many of them you are going to throw away or replace in the next year.

You can share your results with me, if you like, or just take notice of them. I am almost certain this will be an unpleasant surprise.

[My results]At home: about 60 objects in the kitchen (have not counted the ones I am going to trhow away yet) and about 50 of them in the bathroom (have not counted the second ones here either). Near my table at work: around 80 (were could throw away a dozen...plastic bags out of 3–4 dozen that are hanging out here currently).

What the hell?

LJI XI - 6: Solvitur ambulando (~550 words)

Solvitur ambulando, a Latin phrase ascribed to either St Augistine or the Greek philospopher Diogenes, means "it is solved by walking", or "it is solved by walking around".

Being a personal reflection on the differences and difficulties between generations among the people around me.

World War II has left a long-lasting trace on the lives of the people all over the world, a trace that continues to be felt now, almost 75 years after it ended, and still will be for years to come.

Some people call the post-war generations boomers, lost, millenials, zed. In this story, let us call them, children of the war, children of war survivors, and those who arrived in the world later still.

Children of the war, those who were born in the late 1930s and 1940s, like my parents, had their childhood and youth largely stolen from them. They may or may not remember the perils and deprivations of those long six years and the restoration that followed, which was, in many places, almost as hard, but from a too early age, a lot of them were thrust into positions of authority and responsibility, when their parents and grandparents, who had fought in the war, either perished in it or shortly after, or could no longer support them like parents do their children in times of peace.

On the one hand, there was that early responsibility and few or none being there to cut them any slack, and on the other, the "do or die" mentality of the surviving elders. My elder colleagues still remember how the old soldiers chose people into positions of authority. "Would you let him have your back on reconnaissance duty?" they asked themselves and the others, and meant it life-and-death seriously.

The children of war survivors, born in the late 1940s and 1950s, hold a similar mindset, if maybe not quite as rigid.

And then there are the current 30- and 40-years-old, the people of my generation, children and grandchildren of the two previous age groups, people whose "time" has already come to front the same positions of authority.

Do not get me wrong, a lot of us do. Another lot of us though—

The war babies, after having done their best to ensure that we have had the safe and secure, even pampered, childhood that they were denied see us as soft, weak-willed and unreliable. And so they cling to their, once well-earned positions of authority, not trusting us with it until they cannot help it anymore, until the situation becomes as dire as delegate-or-die-from-strain.

And yet the bitter irony in this vicious circle is this: like some things cannot be learned from books, some qualities cannot be seen in people who are not practicing them. You have to speak a foreign language however you can at first to speak it well, you will continue to write badly if you do not write a lot unless you are a born genius, and unless you are a born leader, you will only learn to carry responsibilities if you are trusted to carry them, if it falls to you, and only you, to resolve certain kinds of situations.

Javert - M-s-M

(no subject)

Сегодня впервые в жизни звонила пожарным. Из принципа, увидел горящий мусорный контейнер – позвонил, даже если ты с этим сообщением десятый (а вдруг первые девять не позвонили, потому что подумали, что кто-то уже это сделал?) Не представляю, как там операторы работают. Моя ситуация была некритичной и не особенно срочной, и то мысли бегали как тараканы в разные стороны (я вообще правильно делаю что звоню? ой, заряд на телефоне щас кончится посреди разговора! бля, посреди моего звонка дядечка с ведром воды прибежал, залил, и чё теперь делать?) А каково слушать людей у которых всё действительно плохо, и "вынимать" из них нужную информацию?

Я так поняла, что звонить надо? А про ведро воды мне сказали, что всё равно надо пожарным пролить, а то всё опять загорится.


Today, I called the emergency services, for the first time in my life. On principle: you see a burning garbage container, you call about it, even if you are the tenth person to do so (what if the first nine thought the same and did not call?) I don't know how people work in such call centres. My situation was neither critical nor urgent, and yet my thought ran in ten different directions at once (should I be calling at all? OMG, my phone battery is going to be dead before the call is ended! ZOMG, a man just ran out a nearby house, mid-my-call, with a bucket of water, and poured it into the container, and it is no longer burning but smoking, what do I do?) How do they extract pertinent information from people in real distress?

So. You should call someone in such a situation? And I was told that the firefighters should still thoroughly drench that container because otherwise, it could flame again.

Richard - evil

LJI XI-5: My enemies are all too familiar. They're the ones who used to call me friend (~1050 words)

1.1. The police in the Soviet Union, and later, in Russia, were called militia until several years ago. A slogan about them, popularized by newspapers and movies, read "Our native (own) militia keeps us safe".

I have never had much to do with the militia. I have been to a precinct thrice of my own volition: at 18, to receive my first passport; at 21, to receive my second after the rules regulating passport issue were changed, and at 22, when said passport, along with a couple other documents, went missing from my open bag at a book store. On this third visit, I was persuaded to report the documents as lost. Luckily, some nice shop workers found them several days later and called me to come and get them.

One other time, we had to call the militia when our apartment was broken into and our first home computer was stolen, likely by some young hooligans who targeted it specifically because nothing else was taken. Nothing ever came out of this theft complaint.

2.1. When I was a child, my parents voted in every election. They would take my brother and me and go to the local school (most polling stations are located in schools in big cities). It was quite exciting to be allowed to tag along on "adult" outings, even if we had to wait in the hall while mother and father disappeared into the voting "cabins" made from plush red curtains.

There was a lot of red on election days. The tables of the election committee were covered with a red cloth and red banners proclaiming the will of the people in bold white letters hung on the walls and above door frames.

1.2. During my first year at college, I discovered the detective story writer Alexandra Marinina (her Wikipedia page and a few translated works on Amazon) who, herself, is a former law enforcment officer. In her works, she presents the militia as the same people as everbody else. Good people and not-very-good people, family men, singles, hard workers and hangers-back.

After reading her novels, my opinion of the militia was to wait and see, and that I did not have a reason to not trust them.

2.2.The first few times I voted myself, in the late 1990s, one of the options on the bulletin was "against everyone". It was abolished several years later.

Another voting requirement, that of a minimum election attendance, was suppressed some years after that. (The attendance has never been mandatory, only encouraged, and there is no fine for not performing this civil duty.)

1.3. The only encounter I have had with the law enforcement after it was renamed into police happened two years ago, when I was fined for jaywalking. Yes! It happens!

It happened mid-December in a quiet street between two official crossings at street lights. The people getting out of the nearby metro station always cross there because it is convenient (and because the official crossing closest to the station is iffy despite the street lights, seeing as the street turns around a block of houses there and the cars become visible at the last possible moment).

The road police stationed their car in a little lane nearby and started pulling jaywalkers in to be fined one-by-one, forming a line of offenders, which, when I joined it, consisted of women, pensioners, and a young couple.

One of the duties of militia was educating people and preventing crime.

The street police who stopped us did not explain what we did wrong or what we should have been doing instead unless asked directly. Nor did they mention the partial amnesty for street code violations that was in effect at the time (you only paid half the fine if you did it within 30 days of receiving it).

Most importantly, they never mentioned another rule, that first-time offenders (like me) are allowed to be left off not with a fine but a reprimand.

Flashback to my half-forgotten first-ever encounter with the militia when I was six years old. My granny and I were crossing a road in a similar should-have-street-lights-but-doesn't place. A militsioner (militia man) stopped and reprimanded us. I still remember the acute embarrassment I felt when he asked my granny if she realized what kind of exmaple she was setting for her granddaughter.

2.3. I have, with one exception, always cast my votes, and I always will.

In recent years, however, election results have been becoming more and more predictable. No matter how I vote, no matter how those whose choices I know do, the majority party gets elected with an overwhelming majority of counted votes.

Election attendance is plummeting.

1.4. & 2.4. Things came to a head this summer, both on the voting scene and with the police.

In the run-up to the elections of the local parliament in Moscow (an election nobody usually cares about), a vast majority of independent candidates were refused registration under the pretext that most of the singatures that they had collected to fulfill the quota required to be registered were fabricated.

In response, the candidates submitted a request to the authorities for a meeting to protest the refusal of registration. Their requests were repeatedly denied.

Angry with the refusals and with their singatures being designated false, the people went on to protest without permission, several times.

The authorities declared these peaceful protests held in the form of a "walk" around the city centre, mass riots, and went on to arrest several thousand people with fists and rubber sticks, charging the protest leaders with organizing riots and many of the protesters with attacking police officers.

The courts have recently sentenced someone who threw a plastic glass at the police to several years in jail, and another protester, who was beaten by the arresting policeman so violently, he (the policeman) sprained his arm, to several years of imprisonment as well.

Several people are still detained awaiting court dates.

The police and several businesses, including the Moscow underground, went a step further, and filed demands for the protest leaders to be fined millions of roubles: the police, for doing their job, and the businesses, for lost business opportunities during the protests.

These demands were upheld by the courts.

Personally, I don't have a reason to trust the police anymore.

Master and Commander - beat to quarters

LJI XI - 4: Impossible (~600 words)

A short comic is floating around online these days*. In it, a stick figure is crawling up a mountain, which is drawn like a ragged line that almost, but not quite, reaches the top of the panel. "Getting there," says the figure in the first panel titled "high school". "Almost done," it mutters as it approaches the top in the next frame labelled "college". Then—"Oh, shit" is all the poor thing has to say after coming into "adult life", the final box of the comic. In it, what previously seemed the top of the mountain is revealed as but a small peak on the side of a much larger mountain of life, which is so tall, its top does not fit in the final box.

More often than not, I feel like such a stick figure crawling up the mountain of physical effort with no end or respite in sight.

My body, if it is left to its own devices, does not produce enough energy for a decent life. I can do anything and everything I need doing, and then some, but I "don't want to" do a lot of things because it is hard and tiring and because being active brings not the joy it should but excessive fatigue.

Paradoxically, the cure for this low-energy funk is spending more energy and being more active despite how hard it is sometimes to do something through the fog of tiredness.

In careful increments, doing a little bit more than what feels comfortable day in and day out for weeks and months on end, I can energize my body and persuade it to give me more strength to work with, but it always, always, gives a little bit less than what I need to expend to "keep the juices flowing".

This constant uphill battle makes me feel like the stick figure in the comic, only the mountain is covered in a thin layer of ice and if you don't cling to it and climb constantly, you slip down to more and more unacceptable low levels of energy.

The image I have drawn probably makes my situation seem worse than it really is. This is because right now, I am climbing back after a major slip.

This year, I have finally found a way to ease the struggle. Creating specific routines and consciously keeping them no matter how much energy I have on a specific day makes keeping myself on the right track easier. These routines include: going to sleep no later than 1 a.m.; getting at least 6 hours of sleep every night (and aiming to get at least 7.5); not staying up late on weekends; not getting up after noon on weekends; doing my morning exercises; meditating; getting stuff done and off my plate at work and home every day instead of just coasting.

All of this is still tiresome and irksome and often requires conscious effort (yes, I am doing this—because the following benefits outweigh not doing so), but it works wonders for long stretches of time.

I just have to accept and always remember that I am a stick figure on an iced-over mountain and that I will slip down some days, and slip a long way down when I am sick or allow myself too much leeway.

But it's all right. I know the way now. I know how awesome it feels to be energized. I will simply have to keep climbing my mountain and learn to slip down less.

*I have described the comic from memory. Here is what it looks like.


LJI XI - 3: Everything looks like a nail (~550 words)

After you do something repetitive, you would often dream about it at night or see its image superimposed over whatever else you do during the day.

During school summer breaks, I would often dream of strawberries and blackberries after my mother, brother and I would spend half a day in the woods, bringing back several litres of berries each.

At exam time at college, I would be playing with my dog yet keep imagining various lines, parabolas and hyperbolas slowly swim in an imaginary mathematical space.

For the last two weeks at work, a vast majority of my time has been consumed by preparing scientific texts for publication.

Do you know what the dark side of writing for science is? It's neither the experiments, nor processing the data, nor understanding and clearly explaining the results. It's formatting.

Given the capabilities of modern technology, many publishers today require that the articles be submitted in the "ready for publication" format, forcing someone on the authors' side to learn all the tiny details of how the text should be presented. At work, that someone is me, and here are a few examples of what is considered proper:

- unit modifiers (two or three words used together as an adjective) are usually hyphenated (a five-letter word);

- yet a law that combines two and more names of scientists separates them with an en-dash and no spaces (the d'Alembert–Lagrange principle); the same goes for a range of parameters (the 60–72 F, or 15–23oC, weather is pleasant);

- as for the em-dash, one of its uses is to replace some words in the sentence, for example, for emphasis (The dark side of writing for science? Not the experiments, not processing the data, not understanding and clearly explaining the results.—Formatting);

- no space separates the percent (%) or degree (o) sign from the number (23oC; 100% humidity is hard to bear);

- you only write the units after the last number of a range (15–23oC), unless it is an angle, o, (the cone rotated 0o–180o).

This list is infinite, but the worst part of the job is not even hunting formatting errors, which are ignored and even dismissed by a lot of authors as unimportant, although they can only be compared with ugly pimples on the face of your article. No, the worst part is that different publishers often set different format requirements.

In Journal of Physics: Conference Series, for example, the reference to a (quite imaginary) article will look like this:
Smith A N, Gore L V and Mansfield T 1997 Nucl. Fusion 37 1000 (in layman terms, the Nuclear Fusion journal, volume 37, published in the year 1997, page 1000), while the same article cited in Plasma Physics Reports needs to be written as follows:
A. N. Smith, L. V. Gore, and T. Mansfield, Nucl. Fusion 37, 1000 (1997) (every comma, full stop, space and font change is important.)

Formatting is an anal, largely thankless but necessary job, which I, surprisingly, enjoy but having to finish the work on two issues of the above-mentioned journals at the same time left my brain feeling bruised and stuffed with cotton. I keep seeing the different reference lists and texts swim in my mind's eye, like I saw berries at school and algebraic curves at college.

Javert - unraveling - ад

LJI XI - 1: Resolution (~550 words)

...and in the midst of her turmoil he sent a demon of his to tempt her. And came the demon, and stood it invisible by her side, and whispered it in her ear, soft as a breath of air, light as an inspiration, clear as the best of thoughts: ”It does not need to be so hard, you know. Your college department is pressing you so hard to publish another article with your dissertation research? Go ahead, publish it. All you have to do, is not include the man you fear to discuss the results with among the authors.”

The machine that I work at, a stellarator (a much smaller one than those described in this article), has been in operation for over 40 years and it has collected large amounts of data. It is possible to process the data statistically and obtain new results. My younger colleagues want to do it, my older ones resist the change.

For my dissertation, I have been working on a possible processing algorithm for part of the data, but so far, it was like this little pet project, a side project, a toy, and it's been slipping through the attention of these older colleagues, although I have been studying the data obtained by one of them.

And continued the demon cajolingly, "For what you have been labouring at, is it not a but game? It is not that important, and what you have done has been approved by others, besides. You could exclude this man's name from the authors, and publish the article, and get the pressure released from you. It would be simple, it would be easy. You need not include him, for the fruits of your labour are but mist in the air that will dissipate after you make use of it."

I could continue as I have done, write my results up, present it, then shelve the dissertation with all those (quite a few!) other ones that were presented here and whose research was then discontinued. It is an awkward and not very honest way out, and the possibility of doing so has been weighing on me for a long time.

And she listened to the demon, and she imagined vividly how easy it would be, to do the thing it was whispering in her ear, and felt relieved. And she wanted very much to do as it suggested, but her mind would not be at peace and kept nudging her. And later that day did she realize that the road the demon had shown her was not a road at all, but dishonesty. And she grew a resolve to explain her work to everyone, that it be not a toy to be shelved and forgotten, but an instrument useful and practical.

Alternately, I could do battle about what I have done, explain it to everyone and give it a chance to be used later on. I was very tempted to follow the easy road but then realized that I could not. Fighting for this is likely going to be hard and horrible, but I will not respect myself if I do not try. Also, the staggering relief of realizing what the right way is in no way compares to the relief of contemplating the easy way.

Many thanks to Cislyn, Ro, Hafnia and Toni for beta-work and suggestions.