Friday, June 17, 2011

Festschrift for Václav Klaus

I wish happy birthday to Gene!

Yesterday, Leonard Susskind and his exp(exp(exp(exp(120)))) clones in the hypermultiverse celebrated their 71st birthday, congratulations, too.

Your humble correspondent has just returned from another celebration - of the Czech President's 70th birthday - which took place at the Prague Castle. Václav Klaus is an unmatched heavyweight of Czech politics. Having spent more than 21 years at the very top of the Czech politics, he has already beaten the founder of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who was our president for 17 years (1918-1935). Well, just to be sure, Franz Joseph I of Austria was our emperor since 1848 to 1916 - almost 68 years. ;-)

There are many legends about Klaus's extraordinary abilities etc. Many of them sound as jokes but all of them are true. :-) Our leader is clearly in a top Olympic condition. You want to be in this shape when you're 70 - and maybe even when you're 60 or 50. :-)

In total, 54 authors have contributed to the Festschrift for Václav Klaus. About 20+ of them are Czechs; about 30+ of them are from abroad. Most of the readers will be more likely to know that latter group - so let me mention some names: Spanish ex-PM José María Aznar; geologist Bob Carter of Australia; Martin Feldstein of Harvard, an ex-adviser of Ronald Reagan; climatologist and new ice age proponent George Kukla; Nigel Lawson, baron of Blaby, chancellor of the exchuequer under Thatcher; and many others.

There are very famous names among the Czech authors, including current prime minister and many past ministers and directors of TV and so on but I am afraid that the typical TRF readers will only know your humble correspondent from the list. ;-)

It was of course intimidating to be in the same Ball Game Hall of the Prague Castle. I knew almost no one. More precisely, I knew almost everyone but almost no one knew me. :-) Czech readers will know the names who were there - others are encouraged to jump to the next paragraph. I shook my hand with current PM Petr Nečas and other famous people and saw ex-PM Miloš Zeman, ex-ministers Dlouhý, Kočárník, ex KB director Salzmann, Mr Bátora, Ms Bobošíková, an a hundred of others.

Helpfully enough, there was also soil physicist and climate skeptic Prof Miroslav Kutílek who was kindly enough the only person without a standardized suit so I could chat with someone who didn't belong to the world of politics/economics, either. ;-)

When I was giving our president my very modest gift - a somewhat fancy box with some robust but not too expensive pens, something that only maverick among his fans may dare to do haha - he praised me again for being one of the authors who actually understood how a contribution to a Festschrift should look like (it was a somewhat technical essay about the climate sensitivity). I was telling him I was grateful for the compliments but he told me that these were no compliments but rather rational analyses what he saw.

When I praise someone who has done something whose qualities I genuinely appreciate, I am actually often using the very same formulations emphasizing that what I am saying about him or her is not just some diplomatic babbling that anyone could say in any context and that didn't take any work to be determined :-). So I realized that I shouldn't be playing this silly game about pretended compliments and I told Dr Klaus that I appreciated his analysis and I believed it had be right because my analysis has also determined that I was able to adjust the genre properly while I was pretty much certain that many others could not. :-)

In the morning, I violated my unwritten rule that there should always be 40-140 spare minutes in any non-Pilsner city to waste before any event. So I had only 2 hours to move from a random place of Pilsen to the Prague Castle. More than 1 hour is taken by the bus from Pilsen to Prague. In the very bus I realized that my schedule was pretty ambitious. As a result, I was running through Prague (its subway and the vicinity of the Prague Castle) wherever I could (my estimate is that I was running for 3 kilometers at 10 km/h, with a somewhat heavy suitcase and a terribly dark suit, with 3 layers in total, something you don't want to do in 27 °C and clear sunny skies) which made me sweat in a comparable way as I do at the end of the Sunday floorball matches (floorball is a left-wing sport I dare to play). The message is to avoid experiments with things such as untested timing schemes. (I overreacted: if I spent 10 more minutes by the transfer through Prague, nothing bad would have happened - things would have been better.) There is a very good reason why I always like to have at least 40 minutes to waste before any event in Prague - to avoid looking as a marathon runner is a part of the reason.

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