Sunday, January 30, 2011

O Xangô de Baker Street

A paragraph from the first chapter of O Xangô de Baker Street by Jô Soares:
Como se tudo não passasse de uma cena exaustivamente ensaiada de Grand-Guignol, o homem de negro lança-se sobre ela com uma adaga numa das mãos de abre-lhe o pescoço com precisão cirúrgica. Pela goela escancarada jorra uma cascata de sangue misturada à primeira golfada de vômito que já passava pela garganta. Sem pressa, o homem ajoelha-se ao lado da jovem puta. Com a faca, corta-lhe fora as duas orelhas e as guarda zelosamente no bolso da sobrecasaca. Levantando-se, revela finalmente o volume que a capa ocultava. Nem pacote nem garrucha: um violino. Ele arranca uma corda, o mi, e, erguendo a saia da moça, enrola o fio arrancado da cravelha nos pêlos crespos do púbis do cadáver. Saciado, sai tranqüilamente pela rua do Regente, tocando um dos vinte e quatro capricci de Paganini nas três cordas restantes do instrumento.
I can't believe this is what we'll be reading this semester in PORT 140: any book with this much blood and Paganini in the first chapter has my undivided attention. My only qualm is that Soares doesn't specify which of the 24 caprices the murderer chooses to play.

Perhaps Caprice No. 13, nicknamed "The Devil's Laughter," would be the most appropriate?

Here's Heifetz.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Green Revolution

Below are excerpts from a forward-looking article in CultureMap titled "Can a Green Revolution Transform Houston's Future?" by Laura Spanjian, Sustainability Director of the City of Houston.
Today, Houston is at an historic juncture. Decision drivers for the city and the region are no longer only economic. There is an emerging recognition that the city has the building blocks to be one of the most livable, equitable and sustainable places in the nation, and lead the next revolution: The Green Revolution. What are these building blocks? 
Forbes Magazine placed Houston as the number one city for young professionals. And young professionals drive innovation and use new thinking to solve old issues. Houston has a business-friendly environment and a plethora of large companies. Houston also has high average incomes and a concentration of graduates from elite colleges from across the country. 
In addition, Houston has an extremely fast-growing population. The Houston-Galveston Area Council has forecasted that the Houston region will grow by 3.5 million people in the next few decades. Houston has a unique opportunity to encourage growth, expand the economy, all while using less resources. 
At the turn of the last century, rich resources made Houston a national economic leader. At the turn of this century, rich resources will do the same. Texas has, by far, the largest installed wind power capacity of any U.S. state. The city of Houston capitalized on this and has been recognized by the EPA as the number one municipal purchaser of green power and the fourth largest overall purchaser in the nation. And Houston business leaders are at the forefront of building and expanding renewable infrastructure, so wind from Texas can be moved easier, faster and cheaper. 
The city has a robust partnership with the University of Houston College of Architecture’s Green Building Components Program. Their innovative faculty has designed the first movable solar powered container office/generator, and the city, through a grant, is working on purchasing this technology for emergency preparedness and other uses. 
These new resources and cutting-edge technologies are the first of the building blocks of Houston’s green future. Houston is poised to bring to the mass market and make affordable what others only dream of now: nano-solar PV cells (think solar-powered paint that generates energy), algae biofuel (ExxonMobil is looking at it), nuclear fusion power, high efficiency solar power, and carbon recapture and storage. 
But in the future, Houston will not only create cleaner ways to use energy, Houston will actually use less energy. The city knows about energy efficiency: over 80 city facilities are expected to achieve guaranteed energy use reductions of 30% with paybacks of, on average, less than 10 years. And it’s not just energy efficiency, Houston embraces green buildings. The Houston area ranks sixth on the EPA’s list of cities with the most Energy Star rated buildings (133 total) and second in the nation in square footage. 
Houston can imagine a city with hundreds of green buildings. Mayor Annise Parker has imagined this, and she has created a goal to become number one in the nation in Energy Star and LEED certified building, and launched initiatives such as the Green Office Challenge and Energy Efficiency Incentive Program to help us get there. 
One of the most impressive pieces of the green revolution is the emphasis on public transportation and new transportation technologies. Soon, Houston will have three new rail lines (North, East End and Southeast lines), with others on the table. The city’s readiness for electric vehicles, with partners such as NRG launching the first private investment in EV infrastructure, is another building block. And we won’t have forgotten our history: compressed natural gas (CNG) is being considered for many closed-loop transit systems. 
Biking will be embraced by Houstonians, and the infrastructure will match the demand. In addition to the robust off-road bike network that Houston has built, the average bicyclist will feel safe, as the infrastructure of bike boulevards, lanes, and traffic calming encourage safe biking. On-street bike sharing will be commonplace all over the city. And every Sunday in the spring and fall streets will be closed to vehicles for biking and pedestrians to stroll and enjoy. 
And the city will expand is leadership in local food production with partners such as Urban Harvest – reducing truck transportation emissions as well as providing savings and health benefits to Houstonians. In the future, the city will have hundreds of vegetable gardens throughout Houston, robust and vibrant farmers markets with hundreds of vendors and access to fresh and local food in all of Houston’s food deserts.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


It was weather like this that made me vow, as a freshman at boarding school, that I would never again choose to live north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Alas, I haven't quite crossed back over the Line yet—I'm only a hundred miles or so south of where I was six years ago—but hopefully I'll make it back to warmer climes before all of my blood turns into antifreeze.

"Die kalten Winde bliesen / Mir grad ins Angesicht / Der Hut flog mir vom Kopfe"

It also doesn't help that part of Yale's response to higher energy bills seems to be cutting off the heat in areas such as stairways and common rooms. Trim the landscaping budget or cancel some weekend trip subsidies if necessary, but, dear Yale, please don't cut costs at the expense of our physical well-being.

When faced with such weather conditions, I generally avoid venturing outdoors and, when being outside is unavoidable, try to close my eyes and imagine myself bathed in sunlight on a warm beach. Try it sometime—I swear it works. (Except ask me first about the time I literally ran headfirst into a snow plow.)

But sometimes, there's magic in fighting fire with fire—or, more accurately in this context, 以冷治冷. Like naengmyeon in winter, for example (which I've actually never quite understood). Or in my case, eating ice cream in the courtyard last night while listening to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's rendition of Schubert's Winterreise (Winter Journey). 

Here's "Der Lindenbaum," the fifth song in the 24-part cycle, sung by English baritone Andrew Ashwin:

(Link to translation)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fresh Powder

Mt. Snow, Vermont

Friday, January 14, 2011

Why I'm Excited About My Classes

1. There are only 5.0 credits' worth of them. This might not seem like a big deal to some of you—5.0 is still a slightly above-average course load at Yale—but this is the first time I've taken this few credits during my time here. The reduction in number will be offset somewhat by the more challenging material, but who knows—perhaps I'll have a bit more free time than in previous years.

1.5 Lunch. Partly as a consequence of reason number 1 above, I'll actually have time to eat lunch every day. This is definitely something I have not taken for granted during the past half-decade of my life.

2.5. No problem sets, no sections, no finals, few exams. None of the courses I've selected have weekly problem sets or huge tests. (Portuguese will be my only class with regular exams.) In other words, a lot less busy work and more opportunities to read and write about topics I'm genuinely interested in.

3.5. Small class sizes. My only lecture-style class, with about 60 students, is MGT 562 Behavioral Perspectives on Management, a graduate business course taught at the Yale School of Management. The sizes of my four other classes range from only 5 students in the Junior Seminar in Cognitive Science to 12 in Social Enterprise in Developing Economies.

4. Reading lists. How could anyone not get excited about titles like How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of Ideas and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits? (Both for INTS 427.) I'm also particularly looking forward to reading O Xangô de Baker Street, my first Portuguese novel. "The adventure of Sherlock Holmes that Conan Doyle neglected to tell," reads the back cover. "A missing Stradivarius, cut ears and their respective cadavers bring the famous Sherlock Holmes to Brazil." 19th-century Rio de Janeiro, a cold-blooded serial killer and my childhood hero—what's not to love?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Spring 2011 Courses

Back in New Haven, ready for Term No. 6. Here are the courses I've selected for the semester.

CGSC 390 Junior Seminar in Cognitive Science
Discussion of historically important papers in cognitive science. Topics are varied and reflect student interests. Some attention to planning for the senior project. Intended for juniors in the Cognitive Science major. 

MGT 562 Behavioral Perspectives on Management
Good managerial decision making requires both the ability to predict how others will decide and behave and an appreciation of one’s own biases, shortcomings, and behavioral tendencies. Toward this aim, behavioral researchers in psychology, marketing, economics, finance, organizational behavior, and political science have studied how people actually make decisions and how they actually behave in real-world contexts. This research has revealed how people are surprisingly limited in their rationality, their willpower, and their self-interest. Indeed, people are more prone to bias, myopia, and charity than rational models – and most managers – assume, and this fact has profound implications for managerial and public policy making. In this course, you will gain a realistic understanding of human behavior, and you will learn to apply this understanding to many perspectives relevant for management. In a course that features guest lectures by a diverse group of School of Management faculty engaged in cutting-edge behavioral research, you will learn how you can make better managerial and policy decisions – both by overcoming biases in your own decisions and by better understanding those whose behavior you are trying to change. 

INTS 427 Social Enterprise in Developing Economies
Harnessing the power of markets in the fight against poverty has been an area of much study and experimentation over the past 30 years. Increasingly, entrepreneurs are using market-based business practices as a means to bring sustainable social benefits to locally impoverished regions of the world and provide a financial return to investors. Commensurately, many socially-oriented and innovation-minded investment groups are looking for these types of investments – bringing additional capital to this nascent marketplace. Philanthropic organizations and corporations also seek development of a unified system of metrics to measure the impact of grants, program related investments or base of the pyramid investments. Through required readings and case study examples, this class will explore the increasing importance of social enterprise as a means of fostering local empowerment to establish the building blocks of regional economic development. Structured as a seminar to promote active class participation, we will discuss and explore the many financial, political and cultural challenges faced by socially entrepreneurial organizations and their sponsors in each of their unique circumstances. In addition, students will be required form and work in small teams to identify, research and present the work of a social enterprise of their choice anywhere in the developing world. Students will be expected to spend part of their 2011 summer break completing field research with the organizations they choose. 

PSYC 495 Research Topics in Psychology
Discussion of current and advanced topics and/or ongoing research projects. Specific areas of research correspond to 700-level courses. 

PORT 140 Intermediate Portuguese II
Continuation of PORT 130.

Monday, January 3, 2011

T minus 5

I'm back in the northern hemisphere, which means coping with winter weather—yes, even in Houston, January means flirting with freezing temperatures—with a steady diet of peppermint bark, Turkish coffee and goji berries.

Only five days left until the Constitution-violating full-frontal assault of sub-freezing temperatures that is winter in New England. Five days to unpack and repack, see friends and family, get a flu shot, work out at Life Time, organize my computer desktop, resuscitate or replace my ailing phone, frequent the driving range with Pops, go on a semiannual vitamin run, and check out a friend's newly opened restaurant. I also need to select courses for the new semester and apply for summer internships.

So much for the 休 in 休斯敦...

Saturday, January 1, 2011