Cartoons

Dear reader,

This month I would like to introduce to you another topic which I like it a lot, i.e., cartoons! 🙂

There are basically two types of cartoons:

  • a motion picture based on a sequence of illustrations used for animation and,
  • an image intended for satire, caricature, or humor.

Since this subject is related to reading, the last definition cited above is the one which I’m going to write here.

As far I remember (yes, it’s have been more than forty years) the first cartoons which I enjoyed reading were printed at some newspapers in my hometown,  Porto Alegre. They used to describe some peculiar moments of local life (sometimes at national level) related to soccer, economics, politics, behaviour, etc. They were very important to me because they helped me to understand the way of thinking of adults (I was at elementary school at that time).

When I was a high school student I started to read more cartoons because at that time my country (Brazil) was under a military dictatorship, and consequently, the censorhip was very rigid. Cartoons were the best way to understand the real political and economical situation of my native country during the end of 70’s and the beginning of 80’s.  😉

Even nowadays I enjoy reading cartoons a lot, including some made at other countries too! Therefore in this column I intend to write about the world of cartoons and how they influenced and still influence my way of thinking even almost fifty years later!  🙂

I will introduce some of my favorite cartoonists here including some of their work as well, OK?

As a sample here goes one example of a modern cartoon:

 

 

 

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Algorithm: Definitions

Dear reader (especially those from Computer Science, Electronics Engineering and Physics),

Almost two years ago I wrote an introductory article about algorithms where I tried to explain the origin of the word (who coined it and when). This time I will cite some formal and informal definitions (including the sources) about it.

Let’s start with some very informal definitions since they’re easier to understand, at least for those without any professional or specialized knowledge about this interesting topic 😉 :

Algorithm is

a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer.  (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/algorithm)

a set of mathematical instructions or rules that, especially if given to a computer, will help to calculate an answer to a problem. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/computer)

a set of rules that precisely defines a sequence of operations. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm#Informal_definition)

That seems easy to understand, right? Now let’s take a look at more formal definitions cited by the most popular and famous technical books about algorithms:

Algorithm is

a procedure that takes any of the possible input instances, runs and transforms it to the desired output on a computer program to solve a well-specified problem. (The Algorithm Design Manual, 2nd Edition, 2008, Springer – Steven S. Skiena)

a sequence of computational steps that takes some value, or set of values, as input and produces some value, or set of values, as output. (Introduction to Algorithms, 3rd Edition, 2009, MIT Press – Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest and Clifford Stein)

a finite, deterministic, and effective problem-solving method suitable for implementation as a computer program. (Algorithms, 4th Edition, 2011, Addison-Wesley Professional – Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne)

a set of well-defined rules – a recipe, in effect—for solving some computational problem. (Algorithms Illuminated: Part 1: The Basics, 1st Edition, 2017, Soundlikeyourself Publishing – Tim Roughgarden)

Considering the definitions cited above, can you guess what word most of them have in common? 😉

The answer is … computer (or computational)! 🙂 This means that nowadays (remember that the word ‘algorithm’ was coined hundreds of years ago) algorithms are intrinsically related to computers.

Therefore I define an (ideal) algorithm as a methodical sequence of well-defined steps described initially using only pseudocode and then implemented on a computer program using a suitable programming language with the purpose to produce a desired result (output data) according to some specific parameters (input data) in the shortest possible time.

What about you, dear reader? Do you have your own definition of algorithms? Feel free to comment here!  😉

Best Regards from The Land of Complex Algorithms,  🙂

 

Time

Dear reader,

It’s not coincidence because there are only 28 days available in February, but I really don’t have time to write an elaborate article this month!  😦

Therefore I’m going to write here a very short introduction about … time!    🙂

By the way, do you know how do we define time?  😉

The formal definition (in classical, non-relativist physics) of time implies that it’s a fundamental quantity part of the fundamental structure of the universe – a dimension independent of events, in which events occur in sequence. In other words, its base unit of measurement is the second (symbol: s). Rigorously, a second is defined as “the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom”. This definition is based on the operation of a cesium atomic clock (the most accurate and reliable time standard in the world):

Cesium Atomic Clock

An opposite definition claims that time is instead part of a fundamental intellectual structure within which humans sequence and compare events. This second view holds that time is neither an event nor a thing, and thus is not itself measurable nor can it be travelled. In other words, time is just the order of events (events don’t happen in a independently existing time):

Time is not absolute, except in some special cases … 🙂

As I wrote before I’m really out of time this month, so …. hey wait a minute! That’s depend on which definition above I believe!  😉

Best Regards from Japan (always ahead of you, unless you live in Australia or New Zealand 🙂 )!

Tea: Production

Dear reader,

My sincere apologies for not writing an article last December.  I was so busy at the end of last year that I couldn’t find enough time to post here…  😦

Anyway, this month I just wanted to post a very short article describing the current production of tea in the world. Can you guess how many countries actually produce and / or export tea these days?

Tea production and export around the world

I will not list here all the current tea producer countries in the world, but the largest ten tea producers countries are:

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Kenya
  4. Sri Lanka
  5. Turkey
  6. Indonesia
  7. Vietnam
  8. Japan
  9. Iran
  10. Argentina

I think the only countries above which I have already proved their tea so far are China, India, Sri Lanka and specially Japan since I current live here. What about you, dear reader, have you tasted tea from all the countries cited above?

In the next article about tea (scheduled for the first semester of this year) I intend to write about some different kinds of tea plants including their taste and how they are processed.

Until there let’s just enjoy a delicious cup of green tea…

Best Regards from The Land of Green Tea!  🙂

Tea: Origins

Dear reader,

On last July ago I wrote a small article about the origin of coffee, the favourite drink of most Brazilians, like this amateur writer  😉 This time, however, I will try to write a short review about the origin of tea, definitely the most consumed drink in the world, after water of course! 🙂

Tea plants are native to East Asia. According to Wikipedia (Tea) “some studies indicate that likely a single place of origin exists for Camellia sinensis (a species of evergreen shrub or small tree whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea), i.e., an area including the northern part of Burma, and southwest part of China (Yunnan and Sichuan provinces). Tea drinking may have begun in the Yunnan region during the Shang Dynasty in China, when it was used for medicinal purposes.” Also, “the earliest known physical evidence of tea was discovered in 2016 in the mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Han in Xi’an, indicating that tea was drunk by Han Dynasty emperors as early as the 2nd century BC. It was popularized as a recreational drink during the Chinese Tang dynasty, spread later to other East Asian countries. Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to Europe during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable among Britons, who started large-scale production and commercialization of the plant in India to bypass the Chinese monopoly.”

Tea plantation in Anshun city, Guizhou province in southwest China

Tea leaves (Camellia sinensis species)

Also, “the etymology of tea can be traced back to the various Chinese pronunciations of the word. Nearly all the words for tea worldwide, fall into three broad groups: te, cha and chai, which reflected the history of transmission of tea drinking culture and trade from China to countries around the world. The Chinese character for tea is 茶, originally written with an extra stroke as 荼 (pronounced , used as a word for a bitter herb), and acquired its current form during the Tang Dynasty. The word is pronounced differently in the different varieties of Chinese, such as chá in Mandarin, zo and dzo in Wu Chinese, and ta and te in Min Chinese. One suggestion is that the different pronunciations may have arisen from the different words for tea in ancient China, for example (荼) may have given rise to ; historical phonologists however argued that the cha, te and dzo all arose from the same root with a reconstructed pronunciation dra, which changed due to sound shift through the centuries. There were other ancient words for tea, though ming (茗) is the only other one still in common use” (Etymology of tea).

In my native country, Brazil, we say chá and here in Japan people say ocha ( or おちゃ).  😉

It’s worthwhile to mention here that the tea production in Brazil has strong roots due to the country’s origins in Portugal, the strong presence of Japanese immigrants and also because of the influences of their neighbour’s yerba mate culture. Brazil had a big tea production until the 80s, but it has weakened in the past decades. Right now, there’s only a few families trying to reorganize the tea production, facing strong competition against cheap prices from tea producers in Asia and also against coffee companies!  😦

On the other hand, here in Japan tea was brought in a very long time ago! As mentioned in another Wikipedia entry (History of tea), “tea became a drink of the religious classes when Japanese priests and envoys, sent to China to learn about its culture, brought tea to Japan. Ancient recordings indicate the first batch of tea seeds were brought by a priest named Saichō in 805 and then by another named Kūkai in 806. It became a drink of the royal classes when Emperor Saga, the Japanese emperor, encouraged the growth of tea plants. Seeds were imported from China, and cultivation in Japan began. In 1191, the famous Zen priest Eisai brought back tea seeds to Kyoto. The oldest tea speciality book in Japan, Kissa Yōjōki (in English its title would be “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea”), was written by Eisai. The two-volume book was written in 1211 after his second and last visit to China. The first sentence states, “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” Eisai was also instrumental in introducing tea consumption to the warrior class, which rose to political prominence after the Heian Period. Green tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan – a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes. The tea ceremony of Japan was introduced from China in the 15th century by Buddhists as a semi-religious social custom. The modern tea ceremony was developed over several centuries by Zen Buddhist monks.”

Finally, the picture below shows the best regions in the world to plant and harvest tea. Not surprisingly most of places are located in Asia, especially in China, with some exceptions like Argentina and South Africa:

The world’s best places for tea cultivation

I hope you have enjoyed this introductory article about tea. In a near future I will definitely write about production and types of tea as well, so stay tuned!  😉

Works Cited

  • “Tea” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 November 2017. Web. 30 November 2017.
  • “History of tea” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 November 2017. Web. 30 November 2017.
  • “Etymology of tea” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 September 2017. Web. 30 November 2017.

Choices…

Dear reader,

Have you sometimes thought why determined events happened in your life and others did not? Have you guessed ‘what if’ you had done this instead of that? What would be the outcome for you? Occasionally I make the same questions to myself…  🙂

For years I have been thinking why some people have a better life than others, why other people have a very miserable existence and why some people just try to survive during their pale presence on this chaotic planet?

There are of course many reasons such as lack (or not) of formal education, (good or bad) health, a nice (or not) family, (good or bad) luck, and probably many others that we could cite here. However, I think that every single moment of our lives is just a matter of choice! I mean, we are constantly making choices, usually not the correct ones (that’s why most of us are always complaining)…

Most of people don’t realize that some of the choices we make on a daily basis are unconscious ones. For example, you didn’t want to talk with someone today because you were so busy or thought that it wasn’t important. Because of that maybe you missed an interesting opportunity in your life… Another (opposite) example: you greeted someone at your work or at school and because of that you started a conversation with him (or her) that resulted in something good (or bad) to you later.

There is an quite interesting metaphor fork in the road, based on a literal expression that by analogy means a point where from only two possibilities to be taken a choice has to be made.

                              A real fork in the road, in Carlsbad, California – US                                         (unfortunately it was removed later)

We are always deciding which route to take (although most of the time we don’t realize it). Only the fact that you have spent some time to read this post (thanks a lot! 🙂 ) can make (or not) a difference in your next move though your long journey in this world.

Therefore, when possible, you always should ask yourself:  Which path should I choose?  😉

Our future is set by the choices we make every single minute…

I will finish this article (I hope you liked it) with a beautiful poem, entitled The Road Not Taken, written in 1916 by a famous American poet called Robert Lee Frost.

It’s really worthwhile to think about it… 😉

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Books

Dear reader,

Last month I wrote a brief introduction about magazines, so nothing more logical than writing now about books.. 😉

I really do love reading books, although I haven’t read much of them during my childhood if compared to magazines and comics. Probably the biggest reason was because comics and magazines are in general more appealing to kids since they’re colourful and easier to read.

However, there is something that books can offer and we don’t find it in magazines and comics. I mean, since most of the books don’t have so many illustrations we have to immerse ourselves in the story or narration with the purpose of understanding deeply what the book author wanted to say to us. In other words, our imagination goes wild! 🙂

This happened to me when I was at the middle-school (I think I was twelve or thirteen years-old). During almost six months I read a lot of books related to Tarzan adventures in the jungle. It was quite challeging because they didn’t have any pictures at all, so I had to imagine everything: forests, animals, weather, etc. It was like watching a movie with closed eyes!

From that time I have learned an important lesson: If you want to become a critical thinker you should read as much books as you can. 😉 Otherwise, if you just want to stay an empty minded person then watch TV all the time… 😦

Unfortunately I haven’t read so much fictional books as I wanted, most of them were just related to my profession, i.e. , electronics (hardware and software included). Anyway, I hope someday to start changing it. Even during this digital age I do love the smell of a printed book!  🙂

Best Regards from the Land of Literate People,

A critical thinker is like a human bookstore: his (or her) knowledge acquired through the years is immense!

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