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Archive for March 14th, 2022

∏ Day for 2022

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Because the value of π when rounded to two decimal places is 3.14, mathematically minded folks have taken to calling March 14th π Day. Now, π happens to get pronounced in English the same as pie, and in Texas a favorite one of those is pecan pie. That happily provides a reason for this post—which went out at 3:14 in the morning—to show you two venerable pecan trees (Carya illinoinensis). The one above is from Richard Moya Park on February 11th. The one below is from the Copperfield Nature Trail along Walnut Creek on February 19th. In neither case would the gnarly, scaly bark that’s photographically delicious make for a good pie, though you could write a pie-in-the-sky story in which it did. You might even take your inspiration from a fantasy like “The Pied Piper.”

In closing, let me go off on a bit of a tangent by saying I can’t not point out how pi-ous math teachers are [and notice in good algebraic fashion how a double negative makes a positive out of can’t not].


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On March 2nd I linked to a 39-minute video interview with Garry Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player in our lifetime. Having grown up in the Soviet Union, he is also a staunch advocate for freedom and democracy, and currently chairman of the Human Rights Foundation. This time I want to tell you about another great Russian chess player and advocate for freedom, Natan Sharansky, who coincidentally was born in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine that Putin used as a pretext to invade the country. In the 1970s and ’80s Sharansky was among the best known of the so-called refuseniks who worked toward and eventually succeeded in getting many Jews out of the Soviet Union.

Now, in a March 7th Tablet article “Ten Questions for Natan Sharansky,” he offers many insights into the current crisis in Ukraine. For example:

So whether it is Poland, or whether it is Kamchatka, [Putin] sees these all like a czar—all Russian lands—and he sees bringing them back as his historical charge. For this he has worked already for many years. Belarus is practically part of Russia now. He tried Georgia in 2008, and he got Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are now in fact Russia. Chechnya too, of course, though with a lot of blood, but now it’s his. And he is active all the time in Kazakhstan and the other Stans.

But of course the key here was always Ukraine. Even in our dissidents’ prisons, when we all saw that the Soviet Union would be falling apart, because it was too weak from inside, the critical piece we saw then was Ukraine. In our dreams Ukraine was becoming an independent country, like France or something, not only because of the large population but because it had the wheat and coal and metallurgy and missiles and everything.

It didn’t happen exactly so. Because of corruption and other things, Ukraine went through a difficult period. But nevertheless, a democratic Ukraine was born. So that was a big shock to Putin, and that’s why he has to declare openly that Ukraine is not a state and Ukraine is not a nation, and calls them neo-Nazis, and talks about bringing back its “historical status.”

And consider this assessment:

Russia is not the strongest country and Putin is not the strongest leader in the world. In fact, Russia today is something like 3% of the world economy and NATO represents something closer to 50%. And here it is very important to understand Putin’s psychology. From my time among criminals in prison, I know very well that the one who’s the ringleader in the cell is not the one who is physically strongest, but the one who is ready to use his knife. Everybody has a knife, but not everybody is prepared to use it. Putin believes that he is willing to use his knife and the West isn’t, that the West can only talk, even if it is physically stronger.

You can read the Tablet article to learn much more.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2022 at 3:14 AM

Posted in nature photography

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