Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n'y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n'y a plus rien à retrancher.

It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.
Antoine de Saint Exupery
Wind, Sand and Stars (1939)

Got education? more likely to marry

From the Economist:

Data from the Census Bureau (US) show that married couples, for the first time, now make up less than half (45%) of all households.
This may seem to be bad news, but on the good news front the divorce rate has gone down with lesser marriages. This seems to imply that those who marry these days tend to stay married, or in other words, it is weeding out weak marriages.

There is more to the story, as it seems that marriage is now a privilege of the educated.
There barely was a marriage gap in 1960: only four percentage points separated the wedded ways of college and high-school graduates (76% versus 72%). The gap has since widened to 16 percentage points, according to the Pew Research Centre.
The article quotes that those without a college degree earn less and prefer to raise children out of wedlock as they cannot 'afford marriage'. I find that hard to explain. In the state of Michigan, you could walk over to the courthouse, fill out a few forms and get married for less than $30. You would probably pay more for a meal for two in the City of Ann Arbor than for getting married in court. It is perhaps understood that if that educated are more likely to get married, then they are older as well.

And as for the children born out of wedlock, the disparity is immense:
Only 6% of children born to college-educated mothers were born outside marriage, according to the National Marriage Project. That compares with 44% of babies born to mothers whose education ended with high school.

The article did not comment if those children born were out of choice. Another interesting question is: Are children better off, or rather, no worse-off in single-parent (more like single mothers) families? If there is a significant difference then the huge disparity between kids born to educated, well-off two-parent families vs. lower-educated, poorer single mother families can only get amplified in the decades to come.

Words: Misread and misheard

Over the weekend as I was transferring the clothes from the washer I noticed this scribbled on a piece of paper:


I was struck by the profundity of the message and chuckled at the absurdity of finding something like this in the laundry room. Sometimes life is like that - you never know what you find. Everybody's anger needs fixing. I am glad that the person who wrote that note at least acknowledged it. It drew a much bigger laugh a few minutes later when the reality of the message struck me.

The New Yorker (May 23, 2011) informed me about the 'karma chain' that was set in motion by Lama Pema in New York a month ago. It was an interesting experiment: Lama Pema played a version of 'Chinese Whispers' (called 'Telephone' in the U.S.). The idea was that Lama Pema at the start of the chain of 300+ people would recite three sutras that would be passed from person to person with the author Salman Rushdie at the very end of the chain to receive the final message. The Lama wanted to test the proposition "information can extremely volatile when words pass from person to person". The sutras that he read out (using his iPhone!) to person #1 in line were:

1) Like a shimmering star, or a flickering lamp
2) A fleeting autumn cloud, or a shining drop of morning dew
3) A phantom, a dream, or a bubble, so is all the existence to be seen

Even by the 20th person the messages were largely mangled from the original. Finally at the end, Salman Rushdie read out the final messages

1) Follow the glass stone. Follow the glass stone
2) The droid from hell
3) If anything exists it changes

These were 100% wrong as the Lama said. He said that not a single word that Rushdie read was the same, but in the end 'the words were not my message'. Accidentally and miraculously the listeners had listened to the gist of the message and then had collectively "put words to it". I am not sure I agree 100% with the Lama (considering #2), but it was an interesting exercise.

The scribbled message in my laundry room that sounded profound actually wasn't. It was more mundane and functional than spiritual and insightful than I had imagined. Because of the loopy 'Y' and the hastily scribbled cursive capital 'D', I had misread the first word: it was 'D-R-Y-E-R', not 'A-N-G-E-R'. Clarity had been restored, or not? My original misreading had actually lead to a moment of clarity. Everybody's anger needs fixing. It was a happy misreading.

French Open Final 2011: Final thoughts on Nadal v Federer

So, in the end there are again the same two men in the final. The aesthetically most pleasing player versus the mentally and physically toughest.

Nadal has dominated the French Open (losing only once ever to Robin Soderling), but tomorrow Federer seems to be clearly the sentimental favorite after his heroics in the semi-final. To win tomorrow would be a near-miracle, but it's sure going to be entertaining tennis. I find it bothersome that commentators always about this shot or that, eg, if Nadal's bouncing forehand is going to make a difference. In actuality, it's mostly mental.

Nadal is much tougher mentally than Federer, and perhaps more than any man in the sport today. Nadal has intense focus, is tough to break, is getting to be a better server and his shot selection is impeccable. Federer might have somewhat of a chance on a faster court like the US Open or Australia, but on the red clay Nadal reigns supreme. I have intense respect for his game and his iron-will.

Federer has nothing to more to prove. Is it necessary that he defeat Nadal on the French clay once? Those writing his obituary sound like the fools they always were. He is still just as good if not better. He beat the most in-form man in tennis in a classic display where he out-served, out-played and out-thought Novak Djokovic. True he did not convert all those break-point opportunities and to win tomorrow, or put up some fight he will have to change that. Nadal seems impossible to break (Murray had a few looks, but couldn't make anything out of it). We all want to see somewhat of a contest. For that Federer should serve razor-sharp as he did against Djokovic, and not extend points. He can cover court, but nothing like Nadal, so he needs to hold serve and break Nadal once in a while. If he does go for his shots, taking chances Nadal might be seeing something different tomorrow.

Prediction: Federer needs to win the first two sets to have some chance of winning. If he does win he will do it four sets. Most likely Nadal will take the first set after which will be somewhat close in the second and then he will finish it in 3 sets.

Regardless, who wins tomorrow in Paris, it has been a joy to watch these finals between the two men (I missed the first two French finals). If one had to design two players with contrasting styles they couldn't have come up with something better than we have on hand here. I wish could've been there to watch it live. Looks like there might be one more such final between the finest I've seen.

It may be disputed if Mr. Federer and Mr. Nadal were the best tennis players of all time and if their rivalry was tennis's finest moment, but it beyond dispute that they were the most gracious tennis champions. Most gracious to each other, to the crowd and to the fine sport itself.