Friday, November 27, 2020

The World's Universities Ranked and Located; An Update


Once in a while, I  play  with statistics that list and  rank the world’s major universities. At this time, such a game may be a welcome distraction from   the  double nightmare of Covid-19 and Trump’s attempted Coup d’Etat.

 My source is the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU2020.html  The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) was created  in 2003.  It uses six  indicators, including the number of  Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers, number of articles published in scholarly journals, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index, and per capita performance of a university. More than 1800 universities are ranked every year and the best 1000 are published. I don’t know whether their methodology is the best, but they have good credibility, and  at least they can’t be suspected of pro-America bias.

I last wrote such an article about three years ago.  I now offer you an update, with some interesting factoids. All calculations are mine. I hope that  you enjoy perusing these.  I focus first on the top 100 and then on the top 500 universities of the world. 

Table 1. Top Universities of the world. By Region

Region

Top 100

101-500

Total 500

%

Europe

36

147

183

36.6

North America

45

108

153     

30.6

Asia

11

100

111

22.2

Australia-New Zea.

7

19

26

5.2

Middle East

1

11

12

2.4

Latin America

0

9

9

1.8

Africa

0

6

6

1.2      

Anglo Countries

60

157

217

43.4%

 Table 1 shows that a disproportionate number of quality universities are located in  Europe and in  North America - primarily the US -  with North America especially dominant in the “elite” category (top 100).

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Living in the Here and Now



On the advice of my friend Karen, I am trying to live in the here and now. She tells me that it will stop me from worrying and help with my chronic insomnia. That it will bring me bliss and happiness. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I had a choice. Short of being dead or not yet born, don’t we all live in the here and now?

I am being facetious of course. Living in the here and now refers to the mind, not the body. Although it would be quite a trip to move to the past, body and soul. I could shake hands with Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln. I could kick Hitler in the you know what and give my grandmother a big hug and thank her for all the beautiful books she has written and translated. Still, aside from these brief and novel events, living in the past wouldn’t be all that exciting. I would always know what would happen before it happened.

So, here I am, in the here and now, waiting for bliss and happiness to hit me. I am doing my deep breathing exercises, eyes closed, hands on knees, humming and waiting, waiting and humming… My lower back tightens up. My mind tries to focus on my Mantra, but my brain says ‘You need a drink’. The bliss and happiness is in no hurry to arrive.

And where does it travel from? Is it already in the present or does it live in the future? Instead of waiting for it to arrive, I could move to the future for a while and save it some traveling time. The problem is, the future being so immensely vast, I would have to know whose future to move to. Nothing would prevent me from moving to someone else’s future, let’s say some enlightened Guru, who couldn’t claim that future as his, since it hasn’t happened yet. I could grab his bliss and happiness and drag it to MY here and now. Read more...

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Nice Guys Finish First



The suspense is (nearly) over. Joe Biden will be our next president.
 
I am a glass-half empty sort of guy. I often worry about the worst-case scenario. I fear that the expression “nice guys finish last” is true. That’s how I approached the Biden-Trump contest. In 2016, I was one of the rare people who correctly predicted Hillary Clinton’s defeat. This year, I was similarly pessimistic about Biden’s prospects. 

After the 2016 experience, I distrusted the polls. 
On election night this time, I was caught by the “red mirage,” showing Trump initially far ahead of Biden. I was quite despondent when I went to bed on November 3, believing that once again my pessimism was being confirmed by the facts. How incredibly happy I am to have been proven wrong! 

It is common to discuss US presidential elections hyperbolically. I can remember this happening over and over again, all the way back to Barry Goldwater’s candidacy, and beyond. The mantra is always that “this is the most important election you’ll ever vote in.” But you know what? This time it was true. This time the stakes were truly high. And this was understood globally. Much of the planet was on pins and needles, and when the TV networks declared Biden the winner, people reacted all over the world. There were fireworks in the United Kingdom, the church bells rang in Paris, celebrations in Germany, I received e-mails from Holland congratulating me, the social media post notices from dozens of countries, etc. 
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Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Elephant and the Donkey

By Madeleine Kando

On an island in the sea there lived an elephant family and a donkey family. They were not exactly friends but since it was a great big island they usually kept out of each other’s way and lived their lives peacefully by pretty much ignoring each other. At times they had to interact because, as the donkey was trying to build something, he needed the elephant’s strength and discipline to haul stuff. And when the elephant was trying to figure out a repair job he needed the donkey’s brains and resourcefulness to figure out how to fix it. But all in all, they spent their days avoiding each other as much as possible.

The elephant spent his time stomping about, making sure that nothing was disturbed in his domain. He liked things to be nice and tidy. His waterhole undisturbed by foreign creatures, the sandpit where he liked to roll around in, nice and dry and his little elephant babies all in a row, marching to his beat behind him. And no one dared to oppose his wishes, seeing that he was a great big elephant.

The donkey also liked things his way. He made up for what he lacked in bulk, by his wit and stubbornness. He was an adventurous little fellow. His brood showed him respect even as they wandered off to explore some foreign-looking object on the beach. He didn’t mind that much. He himself was endowed with a curious nature and instinctively realized that stunting his children’s sense of adventure wouldn’t serve them well in the long run. He was clever and because he was so small compared to the elephant, he often covered himself with a lion skin when he went foraging. Even the elephants ran off as they saw him approach, which made him chuckle.

As the island became more popular with the outside world, things started to change. Many other animals were drawn to this beautiful, bountiful island. Some liked to play with the donkeys, others liked to march with the elephants and for a long time life was good on the island. Read more...

Friday, October 30, 2020

America’S Ranking



 Regarding Covid-19, there is quite a bit of talk about “herd immunity” lately. This is the view that the best response to the pandemic is neglect. That is, let the epidemic spread until a majority of the population is infected, after which most people recover and become immune. In this approach, mitigation measures are kept at a minimum; as is damage to the economy... and more people die. 

Sweden is one country which tried this route initially. However, when its Covid-caused death rate soared, it changed course. In the US, it is the Republicans and the Trump administration of course who advocate “herd immunity.” The president himself, having survived the virus, is more than ever convinced that the pandemic will blow over and that there is little need for major mitigation. 
 
Absent a vaccine, “herd immunity” can only be achieved if, say, 75% of the total population goes through the wringer (= catches the virus). But how many people die? 

I fervently hope that our nation does not throw in the towel, and does not resign itself to “herd immunity,” i.e. to accepting the current astronomical rates of infection and death as the new normals. 
However, our record so far is not promising. Read more...

Monday, October 19, 2020

An Immigrant’s America

By Madeleine Kando

In a poem le Rondel de l’adieu’, French poet Edmond Haraucourt writes the famous phrase ‘partir c’est mourir un peu’ (leaving is dying a little). It best describes the true meaning of farewell. Each time we say farewell, it is as if we die a little.

For me, even leaving on vacation feels a bit like dying. My old self is dying to make room for my new, yet undiscovered self. The thought of going shopping for a new self always brings a smile to my face.

Leaving has played a constant role in my life. I got my first taste of leaving when I was 4, when my parents left Hungary, the country where I was born, to settle in Paris.

Back then, I already considered leaving a place as something positive, like a soldier who adds stars to his uniform. The more places you leave, the higher you rise in the ranks. It was exciting and my age safeguarded me from seeing the risks that is always attached to leaving the familiar.

Since I settled in America, my last stop after so many moves, I have been trying to bridge the gap between two continents, like a giant standing on two floating icebergs in the middle of the Atlantic. If you ever tried to balance on two wobbling structures, that is how I feel about me living here in the US, but part of me also being in Europe.
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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Did Trump Invent the Shoulder Shrug?



I gave up expecting Trump to say something remotely interesting a long time ago. His descent into the abyss of incoherence is accelerating by the day, be it a result of mental deterioration or an unwillingness to step outside of his adolescent comfort zone.

His body language, however, has fascinated me since he became President. In the Movement Therapy profession, we talk about a person’s ‘movement vocabulary’, similar to a verbal vocabulary. I witnessed the lack of this nonverbal vocabulary when I worked in a state mental hospital, here in Massachusetts. On the locked wards of this asylum, patients moved about like robots, mostly a result of over-medication. They had lost all their capacity to express emotions through movement. Some approached us with a rambling gait, eyes staring at this new apparition in their otherwise monotonous existence, then went back to rocking in their corner, smoking one cigarette after another. In the dark, pea green halls of this medieval place, we witnessed what untreated, overmedicated mental illness can do to a human being. They were the forgotten souls of our profession and the health care system in general.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the rich and expressive vocabulary of the dancer, the clown and the mime. The late Marcel Marceau was a nonverbal virtuoso. I invite you to relish this amazing mime in action here: Marcel Marceau I Bip As A Skater [1975] 


With this background in mind, what are we to make of Trump’s nonverbal lexicon? Where does he fit into the spectrum of what is possible for a human being endowed with a body that can convey a practically infinite amount of nonverbal messages? 
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Politicize This

 

As the covid-19 pandemic was starting to affect the US half a year ago, the idiots on the right began to politicize the issue right away. Responding to my  article  Mother Nature?  (March 23, 2020), an anonymous reader wrote the following:

“Tom, following your penchant for statistics, Coronavirus deaths per million population: - Italy 206 - Spain 194 - Belgium 71 - Netherlands 68, France 54 - Switzerland 53 - UK 35 - Sweden 24 - Denmark 18 - Austria 16 - Ireland 14 - USA 12

Thank you President Trump for acting rapidly in blocking European flights!”

He added: “Contrary to your assertion, the death stats show that Western Europe remains the epicenter of the Coronavirus, every other stat is just a question of who measures the most. Besides, when our summer becomes the southern hemisphere’s winter, the southern hemisphere will become the epicenter. While I recognize we all have a problem, my previous point was to show statistically that we have more competent executive branch leadership (reacting faster and minimizing loss) than the other European democracies, and that I personally am grateful that Trump is president rather than the senile idiot the democrats are about to nominate. I would also point out that while Italy by far appears to be the most incompetent and ill prepared of the European nations, at the same time New York which has almost 50% of our Corona cases is ironically led by two Italians named Cuomo and DeBlasio!"   

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Decline and Fall of America



When I came to America in 1960, it towered over the rest of the world economically and politically. It played a dominant and generally benevolent role in the world. It had saved the world from fascism, rebuilt Europe and much of Asia, including its former enemies, and it was containing communism.
After the Vietnam debacle, the US was less sure of itself. By the late 1970s, during the Carter presidency, the country seemed to be in retreat, while the Soviet Union was still on the march. The dominoes seemed to be falling. After Cuba and Vietnam, next to go were Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, soon Afghanistan...
The Third World was more sympathetic to the USSR than to the US, which was frequently isolated in forums such as the United Nations. Despite generous foreign aid to dozens of countries, international anti-Americanism was widespread, as was US flag burning in many parts of the world.
While the US and its ubiquitous CIA did engage in some mischief, this country was not morally bankrupt, certainly not so in comparison with its great geo-political communist rival.
Today, of course, the Soviet Union no longer exists.

In the 1970s, America remained by far the richest country in the world. More importantly, the distribution of wealth was much more equitable than what it has become today. The average CEO’s compensation was 20 times that of his employees. Now the ratio is 300 to 1. Taxes were more progressive, Unions were far more powerful, the public sector was not being starved, the US resembled the Western European welfare states more than now. Read more...

Friday, August 28, 2020

Memories from Wisconsin



On August 23, Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back by a cop in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This reminds me of some of my own experiences with racism in that state when I lived there: Nothing as horrific as the Blake case, but “interesting” even so:

In 1968-69, I had my first job as an assistant professor at a branch campus of the University of Wisconsin. - Stout, in the godforsaken town of Menomonie.

I had just gone through a nasty divorce. I was broke, miserable and lonely, renting an apartment in the snowbound college town. My girlfriend Nicole lived in Chicago. I tried to visit her most weekends and holidays.

To save money, I advertised for a roommate to share the rent. Several students applied. I ended up selecting Clark Dawson, a fine young black guy.

Clark dated a white girl. Her name was Sylvia and she was an attractive, intelligent, soft spoken, brown-haired, bespectacled girl. The first time Clark brought her back to the apartment, I recognized her immediately, because she had taken my introductory Sociology class.

At first I thought that Clark had brought her home for a study session, but my roommate promptly dispelled that misunderstanding by saying, “Hi Prof. Kando (he still didn’t call me by my first name), let me introduce you to my fiancĂ©e, Sylvia.”
To tell the truth, I was briefly taken aback. Not because I disapproved, to the contrary. All my life I have had the unswerving conviction that the future of mankind lies in the total integration of the races at all levels, social and biological. However, the percentage of interracial couples was still infinitesimal in 1969, certainly in the upper Midwest. I was just surprised by a statistical anomaly. Read more...