Monthly Archives: November 2012

the radio

it’s late night and i’m tired. i’m in a night bus in the middle of nowhere in a 6 hours trip to an airport. i don’t see the outside but i know it’s raining heavily, cold, about to get snowing. thanks to the spotlight that’s illuminating my seat i can also see and get distracted analyzing the funny patterns in the upholstery in the seat in front of me. this tiny space in between these two seats, which i have made mine this night despite many owned it before me, is all i’ll have for the coming 6 hours. that, and the noise of the rain to the other side of the cold window.

i’ve never been able to sleep in a seat, no matter how expensive or comfy. i need horizontality. so in these cases i either switch my brain off to 5% of consciousness, which i find really easy to do, or go the completely opposite way and start thinking heavy or doing some mental homework. despite tonight i’m too tired for this second option, and despite the former seems pretty appealing, i decide to give a try to something new. or, well, something old – i put my headphones and connect to the local radio stations.

gosh, it seems i have to look way, way back in my memories in order to find when it was the last time i did this. i think i can track my relationship with the radio down to when i was 23 and i would listen to it while studying (mostly by osmosis) the electric field propagation equations for waveguides. yes, i think the last time i listened to the radio was about ten years ago. i used to do it as a way to make my last-minute-and-therefore-desperately-long-studying nights easier to make through. i remember being awake till 4 and 5 am studying, writing equations, looking at pictures, and trying to build an intuition around then. in the darkness of those winter nights, freezing cold outside, most of the times raining and a few rare times snowing, with the only company of my little spotlight lamp, in that rented apartment that others owned before me but that was mine now, i would switch the radio on and listen to some weird late night radio cast.

tonight i caught a program on literature. they read fragments of new books with delightful stories, do clever analysis of their styles and content, and they tell the context of the writing and the author all with pretty words, beautiful sentences, constructions, structures and ideas, in mellow yet assertive voice. i quickly start feeling the sweet tickles and the pleasure of my brain being massaged by all these wonders. suddenly, the perspective of 6 hour in this tiny space under the spotlight with the sound of the rain to the other side of the cold window doesn’t feel any bad at all.

so comfortable

for one hand, i had been a long time that, when face to face, i had stopped pretending all i cared about her were her big eyes. it had been a long time, indeed, that i felt comfortable enough to sporadically but naturally rests my sigh in the gracious features of her visage, despite i could tell she was seeing me do it, despite she knew that i could tell she was seeing me do it. i had gotten used to being explored by her as well in a similar fashion. it was a non spoken yet mutually granted license. perhaps nothing more than that. perhaps too, that’s why it felt so comfortable.

for the other, it had been a long time we could talk about pretty much any topic. free from conventions, prejudices or established assumptions, it had become easy to think far and big together, and therefore, see big and far. also, often, we could go the other way around and talk small, intimate and personal, with equal lack of conventions, prejudices or established assumptions. all topics welcome, all issues accepted, but never anything demanded, owed or expected. that’s probably why it felt so comfortable too.

spice not allowed

somebody found a wedding video in the free-shelf, next to all that stuff people donate when they don’t need it anymore (polite way of saying getting rid of).

the first reaction of the people here was to naively assume it had been “forgotten” or involuntarily left there. the second comment was the following joke: “good thing it wasn’t the honeymoon video!”

these two reactions feel way too artificial to me. so much, that i can’t help but conclude i’m hitting another cultural difference yet again.

my people would assume that the video had been put there obviously on purpose, with a very clear intention and tragic poetic meaning. nobody wouldn’t have done that naive comment of “somebody forgot it there” for it would actually have being taken as a cruel acknowledgment of the fact that somebody had decided to publicly state that his/her marriage was worth nothing. instead, people would have directly jumped to the second comment, which should have been a little bit more spicy: “oh yeah, probably it’s the honeymoon video!!! who has it right now?? please share”

it’s all so different here. and this (i believe pretty much artificially self-imposed) lack of spice and annoying extreme political correctness in (and only in) public spaces is killing me.

we . are . the . robots

17² – making squares in the mathroom

some years ago i discovered that for a long time i had misunderstood how the greek though of mathematics. what today we think of “squaring a number” wasn’t an abstract operation to them. it wasn’t even an operation for them, but a figure, a shape. a square, more precisely. they didn’t really have the concept of “multiplication” but of “area”, they didn’t think of square roots but in terms of “sides of a square” and they didn’t even add numbers really. numbers were not just quantities for them, but content, like length, area or volume. lacking a symbolic language to describe operations, they couldn’t really do algebra. instead, problems that today we reduce to a single line of compact mathematical expression, would require long paragraphs of text and a few drawings. the disadvantage was clearly the lack of a mechanical methodology to problem solving. the advantage, however, the need of a very visual understanding of the mathematics. it’s not a coincidence that geometry was, until the times of Newton, the only “true” mathematics.

this morning i was getting out of my long hot water shower. as usual during my showers in the mathroom i had been distracted with stupid stuff. today i was computing how much 17² is (the reason has to do with raytracing, micropolygons and the way shading is done by Pixar’s Renderman). i had tried a couple of times to do the long multiplication in my head, you know, the way they teach you at school: multiplying 17 by 7, remembering that quantity, then adding 170 to it, etc. the problem is that at those times in the morning my brain is more parasympathetic than conscious and, basically, it can only respond to basic stimulus, so i miserably failed to perform my computation.

so i gave up on it, closed the water and shifted the curtains in order to leave the bath. i started drying my right foot before stepping outside, while my eyes posed on the tiles in the floor outside the bath. and then, withing the same tiles that i had been seen daily for the last two years, i saw a figure that i had not seen before there, but that i had seen somewhere else. in a trice, i remembered Euclid’s Elements books on geometry, 2400 years old now, and the square made of four different rectangles.

eureka! suddenly, i performed this computation 17²: 256 + 32 + 1 = 289. piece of cake!

the big square tile became of side 16 (area 256, as any coder knows), the small squared tile became of size 1, and the two lateral rectangular tiles were therefore of size 16 each, which all together made an imaginary square of side 17 and size 256 + 32 + 1 = 289. and yes indeed, 17 times 17 is 289. no long multiplications performed nor injured.

this is how the greek though of maths really. i’m not sure they knew how to multiply two numbers or how to square one, or if they were interested in that really. i do know that, by lacking a symbolic language, what we usually write as

(a+b)² = a² + 2ab + b²

they did actually write with these literal words instead:

“if a straight line be cut at random, the square on the whole is equal to the squares on the segments and twice the rectangle contained by the segments”

which means that a line (a+b) cut in segments a and b, extrudes into a square of size equal to the square obtained by extruding a, plus the square resulting from extruding b, plus the two rectangles resulting extruding a by b and b by a.

asymmetric love

which reminds me that i believe i love words more than they love me

but i know not all loves are symmetric, and, sometimes, i’m fine with that

leave it this way

sometimes poetry happens spontaneously, casually, naturally.

and that’s the most beautiful poetry of all, the one that nobody writes, the one that instead makes itself available to us as a gift, not through words but shapes and colors.

i found this on the floor at lunch time while walking and chatting. in a fraction of a second a poem formed in my mind after these marks of leaves drying away, making room for this new fallen glowing intense yellow leaf.

still now the poem is vivid, clear and sharp in my mind and heart, but any attempt of mine to put it in words would miserably fail and render the poem impure. that’s why i think it’s best if i leave it as it is, as an image.

celestial wordplay

she proudly claimed “i’m the brightest star in the sky!!!”

to what Polaris answered, “you must be kidding me… are you Sirius“?

happy birthday

a couple of friends of mine turned 27 years old the same day, and i made this for them

which is pretty accurate (to 4 decimal digits), and comes with a square pie!

correlation does not imply causation

this is a well known fact among scientists, but it’s never bad to get reminded of it.

for example, a fact: counties with a major university tend to vote democrat. so yes, there’s a big correlation between higher education and progressive political tendencies.

now, does that imply that gaining education makes people vote progressive? no! perhaps the correlation simply highlights a common cause for both measurements – like people with more desire to know have also less fear to change (but knowing doesn’t imply wanting change). or, perhaps, the correlation highlights a simple statistical bias towards youth in the age of these counties with universities, which in turn might be the cause of the political tendency. or, perhaps, the correlation simply doesn’t explain anything at all, and it’s pure coincidence!

yet, since the major reason for our actions are causes, and since indeed many things in nature do have causes and identifying them has been terribly useful to as species, we humans are used to see causes in everything around us, even where there aren’t. we think in terms of causes (and action – reactions, which is a form of causation), we are hardwired it. there’s a reason children can obsessively ask “why?” to everything.

yet, in nature, in reality, correlation does not imply causation. good to remember

do your homework!

i already expressed many times my opinion on bizarre art being gratuitously thrown to the general public without further explanations or context.

people of course often dislike it, and they read it as awkwardness, craziness, masturbation and stupidity from the artist. and you know what, i think they are within their rights to do so. i don’t blame the public. if anybody, i blame the authors.

it’s not rare that weak artists feel addictively comfortable in the crying, complaining and shouting “I’m misunderstood” role. but maybe, these artists should remember than [a] the public is not stupid or uneducated, and [b] the public don’t actually need them, the world is doing pretty fine without their art, just saying.

so, because of [b], many artists decide to stay away from the mainstream world. which is okey. but if they wanted to earn the privilege of staying around and being admired by us, then they should stop complaining about uneducated audiences, misunderstanding and mee mee mee, and start doing an real effort instead. for example, en effort to explain to the world what they were actually trying to accomplish with their piece. what the context was, why they did it. for don’t these artists proudly and mechanically claim art is a form of expression? well, then, express yourself, do your fucking homework!!

in the meanwhile, don’t expect the (very educated) public to stop expressing their opinion too about their art..

more doodling

i have one hour to spare. too short to jump into any of the big projects i’m working on, it’s not worth starting to work on something knowing i’ll have to stop by the time my brain is fully warm up and ready to actually be useful. so instead i go into yet another doodling session, with voronoi patterns again. this time i’ll spend half the time doing the formulas for the visuals, and the other half hour writing some weird ambient sound/music.

i think we are doing it right

i just donated some money to the Wikipedia.

see, the last time in history that a serious attempt was made to gather and organize all the world’s knowledge into a place for public consultation that i know of, was the library of Alexandria 22 centuries ago (probably the chinesse had something too, much earlier, but what do i know about asian culture!)

just as in the ancient egyptian library, all of the world’s knowledge, no matter which culture it comes from, which philosophical or political tendency it’s biased towards, no matter which branch of science, music, arts or history, is added to the Wikipedia by the people, in a serious attempt to keep it accurate, impartial and up to date.

but the most important point here is that “the people” in the last sentence.

for in one hand it means that it’s the people who actually build it, as opposed to some moral or political authority. that is something good, and it has challenged the governments of both fundamentalist and also the so called liberal countries all around the world. lacking of a moral authority is a consequence of the adulthood of humanity, the no longer need of a paternal moral guidance. nietzsche would be still be disappointed by seeing were we still are in this regard, though, but the Wikipedia is perhaps one of those examples that makes me hold to some hope.

in the other hand, this encyclopedia is made by the people indeed, which also has a negative twist to it – the people tend to bias the knowledge both voluntary and involuntarily to their own particular believes and understanding of things. the wiki system has been criticized because of this, and therefore it has improved too. but of course, there’s no perfect solution (just like democracy is not the best solution for government, but it’s the best we have so far). the management of the honesty, accuracy and expertise of the people/authors that contribute to the Wikipedia is difficult, and will continue to be so for a long time. my take on this is that at some point humans must accept and learn to deal with their own human imperfect nature, and move forward with the only real tool of the trust in each other and faith on themselves.

anyway, in more practical terms, one cannot deny having learnt something from the Wikipedia, having being inspired to know more, or having just wandered in its pages simply for the pleasure of reading. so since this electronic encyclopedia happens to be free (not only as in authority independent, but as in “gratis” too), when i saw they were looking for donations and that helping it was just a couple of clicks away, well, i did it.

i still have a few unresolved feelings with it all, but in overall i’m happy to have done it. i think this is the way to go.

first impressions as a tourist in my own country

i’ve been less than 24 hours in my home country, and there have been quite a few idiosyncratic or cultural mini shocks that i have gone through already:

Good: people dress elegant (not at Japanese levels, but still, pretty good)
Bad: waitress and shop assistants are super impolite and can be very, very rude.
Good: food is eaten with real forks, knives, glasses and plates, never with plastic cutlery (or your hands!), glasses or paper plates
Bad: the cold rainy snowy weather. It’s so cold.
Good: there’s no problem with topless in magazines or tv, or in real life in public spaced for the matter. The decision of appropriateness is left to the good judgement of the toplesser (morality is built from the people, not from the state)
Bad: nobody talks english. I fear isolation from the world, as in inability to openly learn from and contribute to it
Good: the shops, the noise, the umbrellas, the lights! These are real cities!
Bad: the politics. Seems like this is a country of retards, lead by retards
Good: no vegan fanatism – the choices in the airplane food were only “chicken or beef”. Fuck yeah!
Bad: everything is so expensive
Good: the language is so relaxed in grammar and content (no censorship!) – the humor is different
Bad: people look all the same, to the point it gets really boring. Nobody dares be different

i know…

i always thought contemporary dance had gone really bizarre lately in europe (and i wandered how Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham or Jose Limon would like it if they were alive today). yet, i’ve never disliked it myself, although i have some reservations and opinions about how these sort of pieces should be executed, and also some thoughts about what to do about the gap they leave in the area of more choreographic (traditional – or modern as they call it here) dance. anyway, see this video from the very prestigious european channel “Arte”, as it’s a good example of what you might see if you go to a random theater in central europe:

flavours don’t combine linearly

i like cornflakes. i like strawberries. but i don’t like special-k.

or in other words, flavours don’t combine linearly nor form a vector space. they don’t even follow the triangle inequality!