Vietnam Memorial at State Capital in Austin Texas

The Deep in the Heart Foundry recently completed a Vietnam War Memorial that has been placed in a park near the Capitol.  I took this picture yesterday.

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I was in the USAF during the Vietnam era serving as a Russian Linguist in Security Service and did not make it to Vietnam.  Many of my high school friends did.  Several did not make it back.

A State for Kurdistan

Kurdistan’s right to secede

Set the Kurds free

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The case for a new state in northern Iraq
Feb 21st 2015 | From the print edition

THE Kurds, at least 25m-strong, are one of the world’s most numerous peoples without a state. Other small nations in their region have a home alongside the Arabs, the Persians and the Turks: the Jews created (or, in their book, recreated) Israel after the second world war; Armenia and Georgia re-emerged as independent as the Soviet Union fell apart.

The Kurds have twice come close to fulfilling their dream, once after the first world war and the Ottoman empire’s collapse, when they were promised a state by the treaty of Sèvres, and again after the second world war, when for ten brief months the Kurdish republic of Mahabad rose up in what is now north-western Iran. Today the Kurdish Region of Iraq, home to at least 6m people, is independent in all but name (see article). It is that benighted country’s only fully functioning part. Since 1991, when the West began to protect it from Saddam Hussein, it has thrived. In due course, it deserves its place in the community of independent nations.

The principle, promoted by America’s President Woodrow Wilson a century ago, is that nations should have the “unmolested opportunity of autonomous development”. A country should be able to gain independence if it can stand on its own feet, has democratic credentials and respects its own minorities. To qualify, Iraq’s Kurds should confirm (again) in a vote that they want their own homeland. As well as being economically and democratically viable, the new state must be militarily defensible and disavow any intention to create a Greater Kurdistan by biting chunks off Turkey, Iran and Syria. It needs its neighbours’ endorsement. And it must settle terms with Iraq’s government, including where to draw its boundary.

Marriage misguidance
A sustainable economy is within the Kurds’ grasp. They are exporting increasing amounts of oil, and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad has at last agreed a formula that will let them keep the lion’s share of the profits. Soon they hope to produce 800,000 barrels a day, worth $17 billion a year at today’s prices.

Democracy is established, though still rough-edged. Iraqi Kurdistan has regular elections, a boisterous parliament, an array of political parties and a raucous media. Certainly its courts are weak, its leaders’ habits feudal, its journalists sometimes harassed and its human-rights record far from spotless. But it is more democratic than most of the region—and far safer than the rest of Iraq, even though the fanatics of Islamic State press against its long border. Suicide-bombings and atrocities of the sort committed by sectarian militias in Baghdad and elsewhere in Arab Iraq are mercifully rare.

The regional politics are trickier. Turkey and Iran have long been opposed to an independent Kurdistan carved out of Iraq, lest their own Kurds try to follow suit, if Iraqi Kurdistan becomes a magnet for neighbouring Kurdish rebel movements.

Yet even here there has been progress for the Kurdish cause. Syria, which is unlikely soon to recreate a centralised state, is hardly in a position to object to secession for Iraq’s Kurds. Iran has forged a pragmatic relationship with them. Relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, the most concerned of its neighbours, have warmed remarkably. For now, the Kurds of south-east Turkey, far more numerous than those in Iraq, seem genuinely to have forsaken their desire for a separate state, seeking autonomy instead. Moreover, most of Turkey’s Kurds, assimilated in Istanbul and elsewhere, do not want secession. Hence Turkey might accept an independent Kurdistan across its south-eastern border.

The longer-term prospects are also good. Other countries based on an ethnic group—Albania, for instance—have resisted the temptation to incorporate the territory of their brethren in neighbouring states. Landlocked Iraqi Kurdistan will need access to markets for its oil, making it all the more vital that it is on decent terms with its neighbours, especially Turkey. Western countries should make plain that an independent Kurdistan will get no help if it stirs up secessionist Kurds across its border.

As for Iraq’s Arabs, the longer they fail to govern their bit of the country the less right they have to stop the Kurds governing theirs. Secession sets a precedent in the Middle East. Even so, the Iraqi Kurds know they must work with the powers in Baghdad and go through a difficult negotiation over oil. Since the fall of Mosul (where Islamic State holds sway), Kurdistan has crept towards de facto independence, with its capital in Erbil. While Islamic State’s maniacs are howling at the gates of Baghdad, a divorce cannot take place. But in due course separation would give the Kurds international protection from any violent Iraqi Arab attempt to reassert control. The Kurds want a country of their own. They have earned it.

From the print edition: Leaders

Objects That Make Artists Tick

THE OBJECTS THAT MAKE ARTISTS TICK
Edmund de Waal’s netsuke, Peter MacDiarmid/Getty
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~ Posted by Alix Christie, February 13th 2015

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Peering inside 14 different artists’ studios and marvelling at the objects they collect is a fine idea for a show. “Magnificent Obsessions”, at the Barbican in London, appears to promise a satisfying gawk at the cabinets of curiosities assembled by both the world-famous (Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst) and the less well known (Dr Lakra, Jim Shaw). What it turns out to be is its own kind of curiosity. Like any collection, the show contains both gems and duds. It is entrancing in many small ways, but doesn’t always hit the larger goal of illuminating an artist’s work by “spelunking through [their] consciousnesses”, in Shaw’s memorable phrase.

Go for the opportunity to see things you’d otherwise never get close to. These include: the hare with amber eyes, a netsuke made famous by the potter Edmund de Waal’s eponymous memoir; Warhol’s kitschy array of ceramic cookie jars; surreal postcards and Soviet space-dog memorabilia assembled by the photographer Martin Parr; and a riot of puppets, masks, freaky creatures and elephant figurines amassed by the self-described “collecting junkie” Peter Blake, best known for designing the album cover for the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

The notoriety, or not, of the chosen artists is part of what makes the show baffling at times. Visitors are given few clues to the kind of work each artist is best known for: one or two paintings, sculptures or photos are juxtaposed with each collection. Those without deep art-historical knowledge are left to guess. The pieces selected to represent heavyweights like Sol Lewitt and Hanne Darboven, for example—dismembered pages from their photographic books—do not help much to link their overall creative activities to the objects they collected. Darboven’s space is a riot of furniture, sculpture and bric-a-brac that looks just like it was pulled from her overstuffed Hamburg house and attic, as it was. Hirst’s taxidermy collection (stuffed owl, lion, vulture, seven-legged lamb), skulls and unusual creatures (a giant pangolin, not unlike an armadillo) are displayed alongside his “Lost Kingdom” (2012), a six-by-six-foot mirrored display of back-lit butterflies and insects. Looking between them, one is hard-pressed to see much difference, except that the contemporary dead creatures are glitzier and more expensive.

Lydia Yee, the curator, says the objective was never to draw clear links or identify specific inspirations for specific works. It was more about showing the things artists compulsively choose and imbue with personal meaning, which then provides a glimpse into their inner worlds. As a curator who visits artists at work, she’d long been struck by how many surround themselves with special things. I would have enjoyed seeing such studio photos too, to place these objects in their living context. There are several of these, and some nice interview snippets, in the free app visitors can download. But to see them all, you have to buy the catalogue.

The brute openness of the Barbican’s main gallery makes a show this intimate a challenge. Head upstairs: the warren of individual rooms is much more fun. Here we get a feeling for the personal passion that drives collecting, and each cell offers a particular pleasure. Several are true connoisseurs who built world-class collections of African masks and Indian painting. Others offer intriguing tasters: Shaw’s surreal paintings with his hideous yard-sale finds; Dr Lakra’s bizarre ink-on-skin drawings and the LP covers that inspire him; a roomful of mid-century scarves by the American graphic artist Vera, collected in their thousands by Pae White. I was most amazed by a collection of kitsch and mementos amassed by the deceased painter Martin Wong that the artist Danh Vo has turned into a piece of installation art in its own right. There’s something for everyone in this succession of caves, each as close and personal as the secretive, obsessive act of collecting.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is at the Barbican in London until May 15th

Alix Christie is a journalist and author of the new novel “Gutenberg’s Apprentice”. She has also reviewed “Germany: Memories of a Nation” at the British Museum and “Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art” at the British Library

From Behind Enemy Lines in World War II

ESCAPE FROM BEHIND ENEMY LINES

Cartophilia: in the second world war, Allied airmen carried maps printed on fabric—by the makers of Monopoly. Rebecca Willis tells their story

MAP

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, January/February 2015

This map may well have saved a life. Soft, secret and silent, it is made for use behind enemy lines. Thousands of these so-called silk maps were printed during the second world war and issued to Allied servicemen, mostly to air crew who might be shot down and those about to be parachuted into enemy territory. Cloth maps have several advantages over paper ones: they don’t rustle, they don’t tear or disintegrate when wet, and they are easily concealed against the body or sewn into clothing. They can be used to filter water, or double as a tourniquet, a sling or a bandage.

Silk maps vary in size, colour, scale and material—the early ones were printed on silk left over from making parachutes, but most were on polyester or rayon, as this one is. The size of a large table napkin, it charts parts of north Africa, to a different scale on each side, with the ink showing through. “It’s quite small-scale, so it’s not much use in getting you out of a particular hole,” says Peter Barber, head of map collections at the British Library in London, where it resides. “But once you’re out of the hole, it would help you get out of the country.” He points out the pre-war country names: Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Italian Libya, and the administrative districts of Libya that ceased to exist in 1963—Cyrenaica, Fezzan and Tripolitania.

Shortly after the start of the war the British government created a department called MI9, responsible for escape and evasion. Its mission was to help resistance fighters and Allied troops in enemy-occupied territory, often by providing equipment, such as compasses hidden inside buttons or pens. Christopher Clayton-Hutton was the intelligence officer behind a whole range of ingenious gadgets; it may not be a coincidence that he worked on the floor below Ian Fleming. He regarded a map as “the escaper’s most important accessory” and realised that one made of cloth would have huge advantages, not least because it could be hidden inside a cigarette packet or the hollow heel of a flying boot.

Clayton-Hutton enlisted the help of the manufacturer of Monopoly, Waddingtons, which was used to printing on fabric as it also made bunting and souvenirs for jubilees and fêtes. Letters between MI9 and Waddingtons reveal a quest for the lightest and most durable maps. Code words were used in case the letters fell into the wrong hands: maps are always referred to as “pictures”, and rather than being delivered to the War Office, the finished maps were sent to the left-luggage desk at King’s Cross station, to be collected later.

This fascinating correspondence survives only because, when Waddingtons was being taken over in 1994 by Hasbro, which had no interest in its archives, Peter Barber received a phone call from a member of staff there. The man was trying to find a home for the silk maps, but mentioned that he’d just thrown out all the letters relating to their creation. Barber asked him to fish them out of the skip, at once. “And now they’re one of our prized manuscripts. If I hadn’t been in the office that day…” History hangs by such slender threads.

In conditions of great secrecy, Waddingtons started by printing ordinary silk maps. Later in the war, it produced lighter versions on tissue paper that could be smuggled into prisoner-of-war camps inside playing cards, chess sets or Monopoly boards. These sometimes gave directions to the nearest border and advice on how to cross it. Subtle differences on the Monopoly boards indicated which map was inside: a full stop after “Free Parking” meant Germany and northern France; a full stop after Marylebone Station denoted Italy.

Reading the directions on some of these maps leaves you breathless. They still give off the smell of danger, all the sharper for their matter-of-fact, military tone. “As this road heads west to Italy, it is important to turn left as soon as it is reached.” That one shows the route from Salzburg to Mojstrana in the then Yugoslavia, held by Allied-friendly forces—a distance of 290km, which, according to Google Maps, would take 61 hours on foot, and presumably more if trying to avoid fascist troops. “Frontier guards usually go alone and seldom in more than pairs. If pursued on open mountains, make for loose rocks which can be rolled and avoid solid rock. Besides the cover, one near-miss with a 10lb rock will often scare off a man. Roll five small rocks rather than one large one. Approach to the frontier along a spur is harder going but far less likely to be spotted.”

Not being spotted was what the maps were all about. It is estimated that, of the 35,000-plus Allied troops who made their way back from behind enemy lines, about half would have had a silk map about their person.

Rebecca Willis is our associate editor and a former travel editor of Vogue

Image Colin Crisford

Why the Mona Lisa Stands Out

WHY THE MONA LISA STANDS OUT

Mona Lisa

Top 12 of 2014. No.1: when a work of art is considered great, we may stop thinking about it for ourselves. Ian Leslie weighs the evidence

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2014

In 1993 a psychologist, James Cutting, visited the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to see Renoir’s picture of Parisians at play, “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”, considered one of the greatest works of impressionism. Instead, he found himself magnetically drawn to a painting in the next room: an enchanting, mysterious view of snow on Parisian rooftops. He had never seen it before, nor heard of its creator, Gustave Caillebotte.

That was what got him thinking.

Have you ever fallen for a novel and been amazed not to find it on lists of great books? Or walked around a sculpture renowned as a classic, struggling to see what the fuss is about? If so, you’ve probably pondered the question Cutting asked himself that day: how does a work of art come to be considered great?

The intuitive answer is that some works of art are just great: of intrinsically superior quality. The paintings that win prime spots in galleries, get taught in classes and reproduced in books are the ones that have proved their artistic value over time. If you can’t see they’re superior, that’s your problem. It’s an intimidatingly neat explanation. But some social scientists have been asking awkward questions of it, raising the possibility that artistic canons are little more than fossilised historical accidents.

Cutting, a professor at Cornell University, wondered if a psychological mechanism known as the “mere-exposure effect” played a role in deciding which paintings rise to the top of the cultural league. In a seminal 1968 experiment, people were shown a series of abstract shapes in rapid succession. Some shapes were repeated, but because they came and went so fast, the subjects didn’t notice. When asked which of these random shapes they found most pleasing, they chose ones that, unbeknown to them, had come around more than once. Even unconscious familiarity bred affection.

Back at Cornell, Cutting designed an experiment to test his hunch. Over a lecture course he regularly showed undergraduates works of impressionism for two seconds at a time. Some of the paintings were canonical, included in art-history books. Others were lesser known but of comparable quality. These were exposed four times as often. Afterwards, the students preferred them to the canonical works, while a control group of students liked the canonical ones best. Cutting’s students had grown to like those paintings more simply because they had seen them more.

Cutting believes his experiment offers a clue as to how canons are formed. He points out that the most reproduced works of impressionism today tend to have been bought by five or six wealthy and influential collectors in the late 19th century. The preferences of these men bestowed prestige on certain works, which made the works more likely to be hung in galleries and printed in anthologies. The kudos cascaded down the years, gaining momentum from mere exposure as it did so. The more people were exposed to, say, “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”, the more they liked it, and the more they liked it, the more it appeared in books, on posters and in big exhibitions. Meanwhile, academics and critics created sophisticated justifications for its pre-eminence. After all, it’s not just the masses who tend to rate what they see more often more highly. As contemporary artists like Warhol and Damien Hirst have grasped, critical acclaim is deeply entwined with publicity. “Scholars”, Cutting argues, “are no different from the public in the effects of mere exposure.”

The process described by Cutting evokes a principle that the sociologist Duncan Watts calls “cumulative advantage”: once a thing becomes popular, it will tend to become more popular still. A few years ago, Watts, who is employed by Microsoft to study the dynamics of social networks, had a similar experience to Cutting in another Paris museum. After queuing to see the “Mona Lisa” in its climate-controlled bulletproof box at the Louvre, he came away puzzled: why was it considered so superior to the three other Leonardos in the previous chamber, to which nobody seemed to be paying the slightest attention?

When Watts looked into the history of “the greatest painting of all time”, he discovered that, for most of its life, the “Mona Lisa” languished in relative obscurity. In the 1850s, Leonardo da Vinci was considered no match for giants of Renaissance art like Titian and Raphael, whose works were worth almost ten times as much as the “Mona Lisa”. It was only in the 20th century that Leonardo’s portrait of his patron’s wife rocketed to the number-one spot. What propelled it there wasn’t a scholarly re-evaluation, but a burglary.

In 1911 a maintenance worker at the Louvre walked out of the museum with the “Mona Lisa” hidden under his smock. Parisians were aghast at the theft of a painting to which, until then, they had paid little attention. When the museum reopened, people queued to see the gap where the “Mona Lisa” had once hung in a way they had never done for the painting itself. The police were stumped. At one point, a terrified Pablo Picasso was called in for questioning. But the “Mona Lisa” wasn’t recovered until two years later when the thief, an Italian carpenter called Vincenzo Peruggia, was caught trying to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The French public was electrified. The Italians hailed Peruggia as a patriot who wanted to return the painting home. Newspapers around the world repro­duced it, making it the first work of art to achieve global fame. From then on, the “Mona Lisa” came to represent Western culture itself. In 1919, when Marcel Duchamp wanted to perform a symbolic defacing of high art, he put a goatee on the “Mona Lisa”, which only reinforced its status in the popular mind as the epitome of great art (or as the critic Kenneth Clark later put it, “the supreme example of perfection”). Throughout the 20th century, musicians, advertisers and film-makers used the painting’s fame for their own purposes, while the painting, in Watts’s words, “used them back”. Peruggia failed to repatriate the “Mona Lisa”, but he succeeded in making it an icon.

Although many have tried, it does seem improbable that the painting’s unique status can be attributed entirely to the quality of its brushstrokes. It has been said that the subject’s eyes follow the viewer around the room. But as the painting’s biographer, Donald Sassoon, drily notes, “In reality the effect can be obtained from any portrait.” Duncan Watts proposes that the “Mona Lisa” is merely an extreme example of a general rule. Paintings, poems and pop songs are buoyed or sunk by random events or preferences that turn into waves of influence, rippling down the generations.

“Saying that cultural objects have value,” Brian Eno once wrote, “is like saying that telephones have conversations.” Nearly all the cultural objects we consume arrive wrapped in inherited opinion; our preferences are always, to some extent, someone else’s. Visitors to the “Mona Lisa” know they are about to visit the greatest work of art ever and come away appropriately awed—or let down. An audience at a performance of “Hamlet” know it is regarded as a work of genius, so that is what they mostly see. Watts even calls the pre-eminence of Shakespeare a “historical fluke”.

Shamus Khan, a sociologist at Columbia University, thinks the way we define “great” has as much to do with status anxiety as artistic worth. He points out that in 19th-century America, the line between “high” and “low” culture was lightly drawn. A steel magnate’s idea of an entertaining evening might include an opera singer and a juggler. But by the turn of the 20th century, the rich were engaged in a struggle to assert their superiority over a rising middle class. They did so by aligning themselves with a more narrowly defined stratum of “high art”. Buying a box at the opera or collecting impressionist art was a way of securing membership of a tribe.

Although the rigid high-low distinction crumbled in the 1960s, we still use culture as a badge of identity, albeit in subtler ways. Today’s fashion for eclecticism—“I love Bach, Abba and Jay Z”—is, Khan argues, a new way for the bohemian middle class to demarcate themselves from what they perceive to be the narrow tastes of those beneath them in the social hierarchy.

The innate quality of a work of art is starting to seem like its least important attribute. But perhaps it’s more significant than our social scientists allow. First of all, a work needs a certain quality to be eligible to be swept to the top of the pile. The “Mona Lisa” may not be a worthy world champion, but it was in the Louvre in the first place, and not by accident.

Secondly, some stuff is simply better than other stuff. Read “Hamlet” after reading even the greatest of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, and the difference may strike you as unarguable. Compare “To be or not to be”, with its uncanny evocation of conscious thought, complete with hesitations, digressions and stumbles into insight, to any soliloquy by Marlowe or Webster, and Shakespeare stands in a league of his own. Watts might say I’m deluding myself, and so are the countless readers and scholars who have reached the same conclusion. But which is the more parsimonious explanation for Shakespeare’s ascendancy?

A study in the British Journal of Aesthetics suggests that the exposure effect doesn’t work the same way on everything, and points to a different conclusion about how canons are formed. Building on Cutting’s experiment, the researchers repeatedly exposed two groups of students to works by two painters, the British pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais and the American populist Thomas Kinkade. Kinkade’s garish country scenes are the epitome of kitsch—the gold standard for bad art. The researchers found that their subjects grew to like Millais more, as you might expect, given the mere-exposure effect. But they liked Kinkade less. Over time, exposure favours the greater artist.

The social scientists are right to say that we should be a little sceptical of greatness, and that we should always look in the next room. Great art and mediocrity can get confused, even by experts. But that’s why we need to see, and read, as much as we can. The more we’re exposed to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference. The eclecticists have it.

Top Flocking to her: the “Mona Lisa” in her room at the Louvre, surrounded by admirers. Or are they sheep?

Ian Leslie is the author of “Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It” and tweets @mrianleslie

Game Theory, Poker, and Real Life

Game theorists crack poker

An ‘essentially unbeatable’ algorithm for the popular card game points to strategies for solving real-life problems without having complete information.

Philip Ball
08 January 2015
Article toolsRights & Permissions

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maxuser/Shutterstock

Robots are unlikely to be welcome in casinos any time soon, especially now that a poker-playing computer has learned to play a virtually perfect game — including bluffing.
A new computer algorithm can play one of the most popular variants of poker essentially perfectly. Its creators say that it is virtually “incapable of losing against any opponent in a fair game”.

That means that this particular variant of poker, called heads-up limit hold’em (HULHE), can be considered solved. The algorithm is described in a paper in Science1.

The strategy the authors have computed is so close to perfect “as to render pointless further work on this game”, says Eric Jackson, a computer-poker researcher based in Menlo Park, California.

“I think that it will come as a surprise to experts that a game this big has been solved this soon,” Jackson adds.

A few other popular games have been solved before. In particular, in 2007 a team from the same computer-science department at Alberta — including Neil Burch, a co-author of the latest study — cracked draughts, also known as checkers2.

With regret
In poker, the main challenge is dealing with the immense number of possible ways that a game can be played. Bowling and colleagues have looked at one of the most popular forms, called Texas hold’em. With just two players, the game becomes heads-up, and it is a ‘limit’ game when it has fixed bet sizes and a fixed number of raises. There are 3.16 × 1017 states that HULHE can reach, and 3.19 × 1014 possible points at which a player must make a decision.

Bowling and colleagues designed their algorithm so that it would learn from experience, getting to its champion-level skills required playing more than 1,500 games. At the beginning, it made its decisions randomly, but then it updated itself by attaching a ‘regret’ value to each decision, depending on how poorly it fared.

This procedure, known as counterfactual regret minimization, has been widely adopted in the Annual Computer Poker Competition, which has run since 2006. But Bowling and colleagues have improved it by allowing the algorithm to re-evaluate decisions considered to be poor in earlier training rounds.

The other crucial innovation was the handling of the vast amounts of information that need to be stored to develop and use the strategy, which is of the order of 262 terabytes. This volume of data demands disk storage, which is slow to access. The researchers figured out a data-compression method that reduces the volume to a more manageable 11 terabytes and which adds only 5% to the computation time from the use of disk storage.

“I think the counterfactual regret algorithm is the major advance,” says computer scientist Jonathan Shapiro at the University of Manchester, UK. “But they have done several other very clever things to make this problem computationally feasible.”

Bluffing game
As part of its developing strategy, the computer learned to inject a certain dose of bluffing into its plays. Although bluffing seems like a very human, psychological element of the game, it is in fact part of game theory — and, typically, of computer poker. “Bluffing falls out of the mathematics of the game,” says Bowling, and you can calculate how often you should bluff to obtain best results.

Of course, no poker algorithm can be mathematically guaranteed to win every game, because the game involves a large element of chance based on the hand you’re dealt. But Bowling and his colleagues have demonstrated that their algorithm always wins in the long run.

The problem is only what the researchers call ‘essentially solved’, meaning that there is an extremely small margin by which, in theory, the computer might be beaten by skill rather than chance. But this margin is negligible in practice.

Bowling says that the approach might be useful in real-life situations when one has to make decisions with incomplete information — for example, for managing a portfolio of investments. The team is now focusing on applying their approach to medical decision-making, in collaboration with diabetes specialists.

New Year Resolutions

Doing Better in 2015

For some reason, I continue making resolutions for each coming year even though my track record is somewhat worse than mediocre. Being, in a minor way, a creature of habit I am doing so again this year, though adding a resolution to keep more than three fourths of them. Some are for self improvement; fitness and mental agility, while others deal with relationships with others, including family and friends.

So, here they are:

Ride my bicycle at least 5,000 miles in 2015
Run two half marathons
Take an inch off my waist
Other than wine, consume no simple carbohydrates

Finish my Latin 1-3 course on Rosetta Stone
Finish a Spanish course
Take more pictures for my online gallery

Listen more attentively to family and friends
Collect more stories from them and tell fewer of my own.
Get around to writing my first novel.
Tell my wife I love her at least twice each day even when we are apart
Live in the present rather than in the future
Continue denying that I am getting old: older is okay, but old is unforgivable at my age.
Become more active and less cynical about local politics

I will give a report card this time next year.

Good luck to you with your resolutions.

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