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.  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


Top 100


Total 500







North America










Australia-New Zea.





Middle East





Latin America










Anglo Countries





 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). Read more...

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. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Elephant and the Donkey

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...