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As today seems to be the day of cool visualizations on this blog, so on this note I’d like to highlight a really cool way of analyzing the influence of various people (philosophers, coding languages, etc) on history.

One of the basic strategies is to feed the information in Wikipedia info-boxes into a computer program called gephi that creates graphs of influence. The more connections a particular node has the bigger it appears, and distinct groupings of objects have the same color. I won’t reproduce the images here because they are typically so big (>10MB) but they are quite fascinating so here is a list of links to the relevant posts.

  • Graphing the history of philosophy by Simon Raper. Note how the the algorithm successfully manages to recognize distinct schools just by analyzing the number of connections within them. The biggest nodes are those of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx and Schopenhauer which is broadly consistent with general informed opinion on the greatest voices in Western philosophy.
  • Following up on the The Graph of Ideas by Griff’s Graphs (who is also the author of all subsequent graphs linked to here). It goes beyond the above by also including authors (including sci-fi/fantasy) and comedians. We get an idea of the most influential authors – Hemingway, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Borges, Nabokov, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft; though the Big 7 philosophers both within philosophy and overall.
  • This was followed up by a Graph of Ideas 2.0 in which nodes were sized not by direct influence but by the total number of other nodes with which they were connected with (so, theoretically, an obscure ancient Greek philosopher with just one connection to Plato would also have access to Plato’s entire network). This results in a pretty meaningless graph in which the influence of ancient philosophers is over-weighed.
  • Graph of Mathematicians isn’t very useful because too many outright philosophers creep up and achieve prominent (Bertrand Russell? Avicenna?). There is no clearly dominant grouping.
  • The Graph of Programming Languages is more interesting; Haskell, Java, C dominate, followed by a dozen or so of the likes of Algol-68, C++, Fortran, Perl, Python, Lua, Ruby, Smalltalk, Pascal, and Lisp. I do not have the background to assess if this is an accurate representation of reality, though I’ve never heard of Haskell, and would have guessed Fortran and Lisp would be higher.
  • The Graph of Sports Teams.
  • The Graph of Beer though they don’t really influence each other all that much.
  • The Graph of Human Diseases is apparently dominated by colon cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, and deafness.

There is clearly a lot of scope to continue building on these graphs, especially involving ideas (philosophers, politicians, economists, sociologists, authors, etc) though finding or building the requisite databases is a time-consuming endeavour. Interesting patterns will also emerge. For instance, now that I think of it, the most influential person in history is Jesus Christ, and Karl Marx is surely in the top ten. Amazing really how deep Jewish over-achievement goes even on the biggest historical scale.

Another interesting project would be to build a graph of influence in the blogosphere perhaps based on some combination of blogroll connections and visitor numbers. This will of course be a very computationally demanding project given that there are something like 100 million blogs in existence today.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Beer, Big History, Jews 
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Following the precedent I set with Alex Mercouris – why should I write a post on something myself, when one of the commentators has already done something better? – I present this article on Russia’s recent gastronomic revolution by Ivan Golov:

I can assure you that Russia has been going through a mass gastronomic and retail revolution in the last 5 years, and of course I am not just talking about Moscow, but even cities which one might call isolated and remote. Your expectations seem somewhat unrealistic, because you cannot develop an advanced consumer and food-quality sentitive culture over a short time period and especially in a society that is still recovering from the soviet restrictions in this regard. It is more than evident that Russia is very quickly learning to appreciate good food and service at an affordable price.

Just a quick note – I am a repatriated Russian living in Izhevsk (not my home city, and not the first choice for most who come back to Russia seeking a place to settle). I have watched the impressive transformation of the local retail and food landscape during my frequent visits to the city over the last 7 years. I have been living here for almost a year now. What you mention about the quality food and price of wines seems very bizzare. I am not ruling out that Moscow is very different, but if that is the case then you are totally out of touch with the rest of the country and should not generalize here on behalf of Russians living elsewhere.

Some specific non made up or theoretical examples of decent food at affordable prices: at work, we regularly go to a chinese cuisine restaraunt for lunch. Its a 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive to get there. This restaurant opened just a few months ago and the lunch offers they have are very cheap and tasty indeed. Last time (just a few days ago) for lunch I had pork soup, a generous serving of Gong Bao chicken with rice, chinese bread and tea. All in all cost me around 140 roubles, which in my opinion is extremely cheap. The lunch menu is cheaper of course than what you would pay in the evening, but I wont complain about that )) My colleagues don’t have any problems affording this kind of meal :) I could give you many more examples, but I think a simple link will be sufficient. This is one of several local restaurant holdings – they control a number of restaurants throughout Izhevsk and you can find the menu and prices here Wine may be more expensive overall, but I will write a separate paragraph about that

When it comes to beer, you have only yourself to blame if you go for the expensive imported beers. I don’t see the point because there are some excellent local beers to be enjoyed. To substantiate my claim – on Friday I enjoyed a few beers at a local summer cafe where they offered a decent locally brewed beer which cost only 90 RUR per 0.5 L. Is that expensive by your standards? At the shop I purchase 1L of fresh Zhigulevsky keg beer brewed locally for 100 RUR to accompany me while watching football (sadly, not so much anymore since the awful performance of our team yesterday)

You cannot possible complain about the wine. I remember 5 years ago I was not aware of a single store specializing in wines in Izhevsk, and the wines on offer were either CIS-origin suspicious red mixtures or were ridiculously overprices with disregard to quality. Today you have absolutely incredible variety (in comparison) and much more affordable prices. Today, the big chains and independent importers are much more sensitive towards quality and can import large quantities of good wines and other booze. Growing competition means that they will sell these imported goods at prices which the market will accept. If you get ripped of in Moscow, then perhaps you should move to a smaller city, you may also find that there are a lot less traffic jams. :)

I would argue that american-style steak houses are somewhat exotic in Russia at this point. They are expensive because the meat is imported from USA or Australia and there is little local beef of sufficient quality being produced today. However, this will change very quickly because there are several gigantic agricultural projects happening in Russia at the moment. One of them in Bryansk involves investing billions into angus meat breeds that will be fed with quality Russian grain to produce the same quality meat that is being imported today. Then Onishenko will do his magic, and voila! :) If we are talking about meat in general, then why don’t you settle for decent Russian or Caucasian shashlyk? It is affordable and delicious! Check out the prices in Izhevsk

Retail is absolutely booming, if you are primarily talking about food products then there is sufficient variety and quality in Izhevsk. That said, my main complaint would be that there is not enough Russian fruit and vegetables being sold, a lot seems to be imported from other countries. I would contribute this to the risky and long invesment cycle (much like the beef situation described above), but I also predict that it will change significantly over the years. In the past 5 years I saw at least a dozen of large shopping malls and retail chain superstores opening in Izhevsk. Many of the federal retailers have showed up here and there are also strong local players which seem to be able to compete against them

Btw. from my knowledge many western countries, especially the ones in northern europe with a historic lack of sensitivity towards food quality, all went through a very similar gastronomical transformation fairly recently as society became more rich and open to the outside world. Norway or the UK would be prime examples of this

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
The method, art and philosophy of drinking lots and lots of vodka.
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The ability of Russians to drink prodigious amounts of alcohol before getting knocked out is legendary in the West*. It is a subject at once of grudging respect for the hardy Russian soul and airy condemnation of their shallow barbarism. Actually, there is nothing particularly supernatural or mysterious about it, nor is it a result of genetic resilience to the embrace of the green serpent acquired over generations. It is a simple procedure that anyone can learn, albeit mastering it is more of an art. With the ongoing Christmas and New Year festivities, as your drinking guru I feel it is my duty to inform you of how to drink lots of spirits and enjoy it.

The traditional party begins with a meal in the evening and lasts well into the night. If you are a healthy, non-East Asian adult male, you can expect to consume around about 500-750ml of 40% vodka (that is, the equivalent of 2-3 13% wine bottles, or 4-6 litres of beer) during a typical “zapoi”. Adjust upwards if you have exceptional alcohol tolerance, adjust down if you are a woman (smaller body mass, higher percentage of fat), a pure-blood East Asian (many of them lack the gene that breaks down alcohol) or have health problems, particularly heart or liver related. Or if you’re a child…unlike the French, Russians are generally strict on this. At best you’ll get a glass of low-alcohol apple cider before being sent to bed sometime around 10pm. Now 500-750ml of vodka sounds like a really big amount, inducing a certain sense of fear and loathing in the average Westerner. But spread over several hours and consumed according to a certain procedure, you should overpower this beast with no problems.

The key principle is to fill your belly up with foods that slow down the transfusion of alcohol into the bloodstream. This should prevent the dangerous spikes in alcohol levels that knock out the uninitiated, albeit it does mean that you’ll remain drunk as late as next midday. This means that you should eat lots of fatty, starchy and salty stuff. A typical (hopefully) set-up for a zapoi will include some of the following: fried potatoes and onions; salads like Olivier, vinaigrette or potato salad with their heavy mayonnaise or oil-based dressings; cucumber, cabbage and other pickles; cheeses, sausages and hams; oily fish like sprats, herring or sardines, preferably pickled or oil-preserved. Perhaps the ultimate “zakuska” (something you “bite over”) is salo, salted pork fat. Personally I’ve always found it rather disgusting and refrained from eating it, regardless of my state of inebriation. It is important to eat a zakuska immediately after downing a shot so as to soak up the vodka and release it into the blood steadily rather than suddenly.

There is a large body of etiquette surrounding traditional Russian vodka drinking. The most important is that of the toast. When it’s your turn, pour everyone their “fifty grams”, think up of some noble ideal to drink to (world peace, the generosity and other many good qualities of the host, victory!, etc – creativity is encouraged) and announce it in as theatrical a manner as you can manage without overdoing it. When you’re sufficiently buzzed, judging how much you’re pouring by eye becomes hard – it’s much more effective to count out the appropriate measure in your head. This applies especially when you have to fill heterogeneous glasses. Everybody drinks at the same time – downing shots by yourself is disreputable, since that is associated with alcoholics. Follow it up with a zakuska, as mentioned above.

If you start feeling unwell or if you’re a drinking noobie, bow out of a few rounds by covering your glass when the bottles is coming round. By drinking with enthusiasm and honor at the start, you’ve shown your respect for the host and the other guests; getting stone-dead drunk is disrespectful. Folk tradition involves blowing out through your noise, downing the shot and breathing in with your first over your nose – nobody really does that anymore and I fail to see the need for it. Following the above advice, you should power through the appetizers and small talk, the main course with its weightier discussions and the desert with cakes and tea with lemon. You will have drunk a very respectable amount of vodka, but should remain at nothing more than a pleasant buzz.

Don’t make any of the mistakes stupid Westerners make (the further west they are from Russia, the stupider they tend to be). Eat before and while drinking. Don’t eat anything very spicy. Do not drink anything carbonated – that just accelerates the rate at which alcohol gets into the blood. Although purists strongly recommend against mixing, I am agnostic on it. Some people’s bodies seem to react badly when vodka and beer, or whiskey and wine, etc, mix; otherwise, if your body is OK with that, what matters is the level of alcohol intake per unit time independent of the beverage. As long as you keep a close eye on it things should stay under control. Especially in the late hours, when people become very drunk vodka can become like water and what I’d call a “race to oblivion” ensues; try very hard to avoid this temptation.

Damage control. Most importantly, drink lots and lots of water before going to bed. I know it requires discipline, but you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches up the road. Take a few multivitamin pills if you don’t want to feel like a poisoned zombie next morning. Water and vitamin pills fight the dehydration and leaching of vitamins brought on by alcohol poisoning (however well you drink, the fact remains that consuming a vodka bottle in one night will poison you).

Wake up with the Sun, drink a can of beer and take a walk – cool air and dawn light has wonderful recuperative qualities. Even better, do some physical work. If you feel sick, then it’s better to be sick – pushing a finger down towards the back of the throat over the toilet does the trick. It’s unpleasant but you’ll feel a lot better afterwards. Unless you had the misfortune to be drinking bad moonshine, or medical spirit diluted with water and lemon juice (you never know what the crowd will insist upon when the conventional vodka runs dry!), then chances are you’ll still be somewhat drunk until around midday, but the hang-over should be mild and you’ll be pretty much OK by the afternoon.

The above generally assumes the party is a conventional, more or less respectable one. Of course, some are held just for the purpose of getting really drunk. This typically occurs when a smallish group of people, usually men, want to bond. In this case the zapoi can be continuous and may last as long as several days. Can’t really recommend much here, since I’ve never been in an extreme zapoi (and don’t intend to any time soon). For obvious reasons this should be done very infrequently unless you want to die of liver cirrhosis at fifty.

A drunk will never lie or do things he or she does not really want to do. As such, vodka is the enemy of hypocrisy. As I’ve noted many times on this blog, Russians know that they live in the matrix; Westerners point to them and laugh, unable to understand that they are laughing at a mirror. For Western civilization is systematized hypocrisy; this is not to condemn, but to explain – its self-belief and affirmation of itself as universal is probably its greatest strength, with hypocrisy an unavoidable consequence.

In contrast, Russian life is remarkable free of hypocrisy – it is either very open (even the old folk sayings tell – beware those who don’t drink, they’re untrustworthy), or very hypocritical (called Sovietism); but since the latter is so transparently hypocritical, it is easily negated. While Soviet citizens may have professed to believing in the party, the open reality was that the true object of belief was vodka. That is equivalent to belief in nothing and everything, in absolute relativism, in other words, the level beyond systematized hypocrisy, which inevitably leads to oblivion. And this Russian belief in nihilism, is every bit as universal in its own way as Western systematized hypocrisy, yet both are forms of spiritual suicide; their union will be the cardinal event of this century, in which one will die and one will live, but both will be.

Which leads to the next observation about the vodka binge – it is like a dream. What is clear and lucid and sublime in the Zone, blurs to incomprehensible psychobabble upon awakening. It reminds one of the Borgesian parable about how reality is a grim prison, while dreams can give us an image of freedom. When Dante was old, lonely and dying, God came to him in a dream and told him of the secret purpose of his life; “Dante, in wonderment, knew at last who and what he was and blessed the bitterness of his life. Tradition relates that upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something he would not be able to recuperate or even glimpse, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of men.” One has to live the dream to know it. Vodka is nothing more or less than a mirror into the soul. A mirror might be an illusory, sinful thing; but is all the more irresistible for that.

Therefore, I consider getting drunk to be a most spiritually uplifting activity (although as with most things, its the quality, not the quantity that counts). When you are in this Zen-like state, you may experience life-changing revelations and it is amazing how even a normally dull or stupid person is capable of making the most acute philosophical and psychological observations. It is interesting to speculate that in some form or another much of the world’s stock of epiphanies and doctrines may have first been expounded in a humble peasant izba or workers’ commune, rather than in the hallowed halls of academia of the bourgeois world…

And this brings us to the last point I want to make about Zen and the Art of Vodka Drinking… Should you ever become an alcoholic, talk like I do above. Intellectual drunks are funny, everybody likes them and you’ll get no shortage of small change from admiring strangers to fund your habit.

I do not remember whether or not I was drunk when I wrote this post.

* I use the “West” and “Westerners” and “Russia”, etc, as a civilizational generality in the tradition of Spengler and Huntington and Co., rather than the panoply of individuals and nations (or “imagined communities”) that come in whole or in part under those labels. Actually, saying so is a tautology, since the problem of defining the “West” is well-known, ancient and still unresolved, as is the subproblem of whether Russia is a part of it. Still, pointing out the obvious is sometimes necessary to avoid having to later justify myself before irate cyber warriors.

Legal disclaimer: The author cannot verify the truth or falsity of the above information – use it at your own risk. The author does not necessarily endorse what he wrote about drinking alcoholic beverages and may or may not have done the things aforementioned.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.