Friday, December 31, 2010

Book of the year

Since I didn't blog about it when I read it during my summer vacation I introduce this book in the special section book of the year: "Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes" by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. This is a hilarious book that present the most important philosophic concepts and schools and illustrates them using jokes. It also makes one think of the anatomy of a joke which stretches common concepts and assumptions to their limit.
In case I didn't convince you to read it, here are the authors presenting their book:

A guy goes to his doctor and asks: "What do I have to do to live 100 years?". And the doctor tells him: "Well, you have to eat a banana each morning for 36500 days".

Happy new year 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another communist secret service (aka securitatea) story unfolds

It's 1974, the year when Ceausescu grabbed all the executive powers in Romania by proclaiming himself ("being elected") chief of the state (until then he was just the chief of the communist party). A high-school student (Stelian Mihalas) wanted to protest against this and distributed a questionnaire among his classmates asking who would they choose for president and about how the country was run. Stelian and his classmates were immediately investigated by the secret police and he was expelled from school although he a was a brilliant student in mathematics. Meanwhile a young student (William Totok - who was in the same circle of friends with Hertha Muller) heard about this story and tried to gather some more details in order to pass the information outside the country. He asked a colleague of Stelian for information, but this guy (Ovidiu Tender) went to the secret police (via his father who was the chief of border police) to tell them about the people interested in this story. William got arrested eventually, spent some time in prison and later on emigrated in Germany (like Herthe Muller he belonged to the German minority living in Romania). Stelian finished his studies in another school, graduated in mathematics, got a Ph.D. in US after the revolution and returned to teach mathematics at Faculty of Mathematics from Timisoara. And, of course, Ovidiu Tender became one of the most wealthy people in Romania, very well connected in ex-communist political circles. (see the full story here and here)

Those were the days of our lives...