Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan
Archives

:: Saturday, February 15, 2003 ::

Good point
Colin Powell in an interview with the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram:
Are you going to respond in kind if Iraq uses WMDs?

We never discuss that. Why don't you worry about Iraq using WMDs, rather than, 'Would you respond if Iraq uses WMDs?' Will you scream bloody murder if Iraq uses these terrible weapons that [it] says it does not have? How could they use them if they don't have them? Now, if they use them, the United States has no intentions of doing anything that would hurt the people of Iraq. But we will do what is necessary to defend ourselves. But I hope before everybody asks what the United States would do, somebody would say: 'My God. They did have them. They were lying.'

5:37 PM
A powerful testament
I just saw "The Pianist" a coupe of days ago, and while I don't think it's better than "Schindler's List," I do think it's brilliant, beautifully filmed and acted. I had never seen or read much of anything about the particular experience of people like the main character--hiding by themselves in unused apartments, unable to do anything but wait for the end of the war, totally reliant on supplies from the underground. The main character's father makes an interesting comment early in the movie. He accuses the "Jewish bankers" in America of not doing enough to convince the US government to join the war. It's ironic that a belief held by anti-Semites for so many centuries--that Jews have huge power over governments because they control the money--could disappoint a European Jew by virtue of its being false.
12:49 PM
:: Thursday, February 13, 2003 ::
Hey, I tried to make it comprehensible :)
Thanks for the link, Meryl, so I'm just gonna have to go public with this thing! Meryl was wondering about a puzzle that ends up being based on the following mathematical fact: if you take any two digit number, add its digits together, and subtract that from the original number, you get something that's divisible by 9. For instance, take 23, add its digits to get 5, and then 23 - 5 is 18. So why is the result always divisible by 9, no matter what number you start with?

The shortest (and thus probably the best) explanation is given here by Robin Goodfellow in NZ Bear's comments. The more general explanation that I tortured Meryl with involves thinking about the remainders that come from dividing one number by the other. Like when you divide 41 by 9, you get 4 (the quotient) with a remainder of 5. The concept that's useful here is called "modular" arithmetic. Normally when you divide one number by the other, you care mostly about the quotient. But in modular arithmetic, you only care about the remainder.

The shorthand term "mod" is used for taking remainders, which shows up in a lot of programming languages. "A mod B" means the remainder of A when it's divided by B. So 20 mod 9 is 2, 13 mod 7 is 6, 28 mod 7 is 0, etc. A couple of nice facts about mod are that for any numbers X, Y, and Z, you have:

(X + Y) mod Z = (X mod Z) + (Y mod Z)

(X * Y) mod Z = (X mod Z) * (Y mod Z) [* means multiplication here]

Any two digit number AB is really (A*10) + B. So when you divide AB by 9, here's what happens to the remainder:

AB mod 9 = (A*10 + B) mod 9 = (A mod 9) * (10 mod 9) + (B mod 9)

But 10 mod 9 is 1, so we have AB mod 9 = A mod 9 + B mod 9 = (A + B) mod 9. Now when you take AB - (A + B), which is what the game Meryl linked to tells you to do after you pick a random number AB, you're subtracting two numbers that (as we just saw) have the same remainder when you divide each of them by 9. This means that the result will be 0 mod 9, which is the same as saying that it's divisible by 9. So no matter what two digit number you think of initially, you'll always end up calculating a number that's divisible by 9. The same thing would be true even if you initially picked a three digit number, or a four digit one, or actually one with any number of digits, a fact that becomes a lot less mysterious if you use "mod"!
11:10 AM
:: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 ::
Still more dominance
Another ranked team gets pounded by Kentucky, as the Cats beat Georgia 87-67 at home in Lexington. It's been a month since the Cats played a game that they won by fewer than 15 points.
3:45 PM
:: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 ::
Let the pointless prognosticating begin
The Oscar nominations were announced early this morning. Of course it all doesn't add up to much in the end, but you gotta take a swing. I'll go ahead and guess that the Best Picture/Best Director will split this year, with "The Hours" and Martin Scorsese winning in those categories. That's not really based on anything besides the Golden Globe winners, plus the fact that they probably want to give one to Scorsese after he's gone this long without winning, but there's never any consistency from year to year behind the reasons people win. As I guessed from the Globes, Paul Newman is up for Best Supporting Actor for "Road to Perdition" instead of Jude Law. Too bad, but it's a decent bet that the very talented Mr. Law will win one some day.
4:52 PM
:: Monday, February 10, 2003 ::
An inside scoop?
JPost correspondent Janine Zacharia has an article in TNR this week about the lousy relationship between the Bush administration and the various Iraqi exile groups. She makes an interesting statement here about Iraq's near future:
Since December, the United States has grown disillusioned with the exiles and is increasingly shunting them off into relatively minor advisory tasks. Washington has already settled on a former American military figure--not an exile leader--who will probably run Iraq's civil administration for an indefinite period immediately after a war. In return, the exiles, who believe they should be in charge of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, are growing increasingly disillusioned with the United States.
I haven't seen any speculation before about a former American military figure being in charge of an Iraqi occupation. I wonder who it might be. Norman Schwarzkopf? He expressed some reservations about the war just a couple of weeks ago, although he apparently lost them after the State of the Union address.

UPDATE: The Washington Post appears to have given the answer:
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who commanded security operations in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, has been named as coordinator for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. He would report to Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of U.S. forces in the region, who would be the top-ranking U.S. official in postwar Iraq.

4:36 PM
Not as self-evident as it seems
A frequently sounded warning about an Iraq war, acknowledged even by some of its proponents, is that it would create more terrorists. Opponents of the war almost always state it as a fact. It might be true, but it ignores a couple of points. First of all, extremist Arab terrorism isn't just a response to this or that US policy decision in the Middle East, which is understood by most people who take these issues seriously. It comes from a combination of a number of factors, mainly a lethal combination of failing states in the Arab world--which has some relations to US policies, dependence on oil being the most obvious one--and centuries-old resentment of the West in the Islamic world, which has nothing to do with US policies. So maybe an Iraq war would add more fuel to this fire, but it's not clear that it will directly lead to more terrorism.

Second, there's the stuff that Arab propaganda already blames the US for with regards to Iraq. There's the sanctions in place since the Gulf War, which already make us the punching bag for an unjust aggression against the Iraqi people. So the warning that a war will create new terrorists who will blame us for innocent Iraqi deaths downplays the fact that we're already being blamed for that. Then there's the troops in Saudi Arabia, cited in the past by bin Laden himself as the main political grievance against the Great Satan. Toppling Saddam would allow us to get our troops the hell out of that country, which could very well lead to a decrease in grassroots Arab support for jihadist terror.
1:53 AM

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