What's in between mathematics and politics? Humankind.

What's politics? Applied religion.

How many Destroy&Rebuild Cycles it takes?

How many times have you said/been told, NO!, It doesn't work this way!, Neither that!, Nor the other!?

Few, a few, a hundred?

Check out to see what the late conductor Sergiu Celibidache had to say:

From the comments, submitted by one of his students:
What a great fortune and honor has been for me studying with him, even if briefly!

Every time I see this video I remember how many times he told me to quit smoking ...

How many memories. Thank you, Maestro, to have existed. And thanks for letting me meet the fate.

He was a man who could destroy you in the most violent and terrible ways. But he never did with malice, he did it to destroy your beliefs that were almost always wrong, and then rebuild. And when you rebuilt, he did it with love and dedication that was really touching. One minute he spoke sternly terrifying, the next minute we were close and I smiled with great love. He lives until today; I feel his love in me.

Sergiu Celibidache -- Teaching Session

Transcribed from Audio Recording Conducted in English,
Curtis Institute of Music, February 1984

This is a small glimpse of what happened during the classroom sessions at Curtis in 1984. There were two sessions each day, each lasting two to three hours. And this went on for about ten days. Even so, this short excerpt presents some points fundamental to Celibidache's teaching. In particular, it was essential to understanding Celibidache to distinguish between sound as an acoustic phenomenon and sound asexperienced by the human mind. The fact that these two things are not the same is now completely uncontroversial. However, it is amazing the degree to which music students continue to find it a baffling thought!

-- Paul Henry Smith

Celibidache: If you look in an encyclopedia under phenomenology, it is sixty pages long in order to explain it. But what we intend under phenomenology is the approach to the sound and all its aspects. What is sound? Not the physical definition of sound, or the acoustical definition. This is of no value for us. Secondly -- the main object of phenomenological study -- how does sound work in the human mind? And in order to make it less abstract, yesterday I gave an example of repetition. There is not such a thing like repetition. When we hear something we got already fecundated. Our sensibilities are engaged; the second time it's different. So, the third time it does not interest us because a repetition is not a fact in itself. It finds itself in a context. So, what about the third time? It depends what comes. The most critical object of that view is the fact of sequences. Bach said that more than three sequences will let anything down. This did not stop Vivaldi from making eleven sequences! He was a man who didn't have any idea of harmony or whatever his style understood under harmony. He had no idea of music.

So, on one side: the study of sound. On the other: how does sound work on us? And the results are away from any form of individualism. They work on you as they do on me. For example, we have a melodic interval [descending minor third]. It is definitely so that I hear the second phenomenon [i.e., note] in function of the first. For the first has left already an impression on me. This is "priority in time." You, me and him -- it makes no difference -- we all hear the first note first.

Due to Husserl we came away from the idea of an objectivity in itself. And we came higher by the following idea: I have to find myself in you and you have to find yourself in me. The only tie that makes that objective is the fact that it's not dependent only on me, but on you also. He calls it, "intersubjective Betreffbarkeit."

Questions please.

Q: You spoke of the necessity to empty our minds. I recall having read about the alpha waves from the human being from birth to adulthood and that from birth to about age six these alpha waves are the slowest --

C: Yes, but it's not the same process. No, alpha waves cut you away. They dominate you and cut you away from the world. You are nearly asleep when you are in that state. It's not it at all.

Q: That's not the emptiness you were -- ?

C: Not at all! My emptiness -- "my" ... I cannot call it "my," but -- the emptiness we're thinking of is the highest activity. When Brentano says "every consciousness is a consciousness of something" and we learn every day through yoga that there is a consciousness that is a consciousness of nothing, it does not make sense intellectually. You're away. You do not want. No, no, no, no -- in order to say a perfect yes.

Myself, for instance: Before we start a concert, if I do not succeed in emptying myself, it will be memory. "I know the horn starts. I know the ..." No. This is against me. It will materialize out the function of memory. Music hasn't got anything to do with memory. Memory is related to the past. Hope is related to the future. Music is not related to anything. It is a spontaneous process of creation. The performer creates. What has the composer done? Shown you the way: "Look, if you go over those stages, those conflicts, you might come to this point."

Q: So, basically you're saying that you have to put yourself --

C: Yes, but if you say, "you have to put yourself" it looks like an act of will. It is not. The more you want to get empty, the less you are. You are possessed by a strong wish: to be empty. That is wrong. How one comes to it nobody will ever be able to explain.

Q: Could you describe the difference between spirit and all the bunches of experience that make our consciousness?

C: Very complicated approach. I hate to talk about spirit because in Germany there is nothing but spirit. And nobody knows what spirit is. What is spirit in your idea?

Q: Well, you can relate some of my idea if you read the bible where it says, "God created man in his own image." Which image? Is it the nose, the hair or the eyes? Well, not in MY mind.

C: But you still do not answer my question. What is spirit?

Q: [no reply]

C: You see, in the whole philosophical generation (I cannot speak about the States) there is not one who will find out what it is. We all talk about spirit. "You should think in the spirit of Washington." "You are a man without spirit." "A performer who sticks the visible aspect of music is not in the spirit of Beethoven." What is spirit, finally? This is the most devalued notion philosophically and also in the field of phenomenology. Yes, but if I relate the facts and if I go through the whole devaluation of that notion, everybody is right. This is what is spirit. And when the French say "vous avez de l'esprit," they mean you are very funny.

So, again, the consciousness in exercise of its absolute freedom. Now, why freedom? Because any other approach will be influenced by your personal bunch of aversions and acceptances. It is then that you will be able to follow the creative processes of the composer. You know, there is no definition for it. There is no definition for so many other things.

Q: What sort of preparation is necessary before a performance for one to be free and have a successful performance?

C: Before I will find an answer for you, I will be God in heaven! I cannot tell you more than how I do it myself. And this is not a method to be tried! "I sleep. I do not eat. I --" This will not touch it.

Q: I'm speaking in terms of the music and the instrumentalist or performer, conductor or --

C: Yes, but you can apply it on any field. So, when we do music, we must bring those people out of the state of "receivers of orders." Everyone in the orchestra is a performer accompanied by all the possibilities of that task. If they are not free, the whole performance will be an imitation of something --either the idea of the conductor, or the idea of the score. "For me the clarinet is important there." What is not important!? All the degrees of importance obey a state of priority. So, I can't tell you how we should prepare, but I can tell you one thing: the whole study of phenomenology will show you what music is not. What is a rehearsal? A series of no's. "No, you are too loud." "Too quick." "Not at the point." "No, no, no!" We never say what it is. We never say, "yes." A yes is what he does when he matches the exigences of the piece. The whole study is nothing but, "no, no, no, no."

Q: Is that necessary?

C: No, it's not necessary. I contend that people have never performed the 9th of Beethoven yet, and I'm going to prove that to you with the score. Are you content with that? Are you content that an idiot like Toscanini ruled sixty years long above everybody else? I am not. I am not content that the world has not discovered that music is not an amusement or a source of joy or satisfaction. It is much higher than that.

Q: But what I'm trying to get at is instead of saying "no," if you do what you did last night, then ...

C: You do not say "no," you open all the doors to a definite and eternal "yes." You do not say "no."

Q: Well, I'm talking practically now --

C: Yes, practically!

Q: Rather than say "no," say what the positive things are that you want in order to get your ...

C: What which is positive? "I want you to be spiritual." How does he manage that? But, if I tell him,"Look, you are the third part of a string quartet. If you pull on the D too much bow, the harmonics disappear. They stay in the air. They do not mix with the others." How could he know when they do mix? "You should play less and on the top of the bow ... Yes, can you hear something? Once again, 1st violin and 2nd violin alone ...Can you see what they do? The 2nd violin contradicts a little bit the 1st, then neutralizes, and then finally they go together. So, you are the third part which is supposed to back, to influence, and to put into value this little quartet. If you pull your bow (considering your heart is alright and the bow is not rough) and you do not hear how much damage is done by your individual position, I could offer you any theory and you will not buy it. But if I say, "A bit more. No, that's too big." (All of a sudden something comes out). Have you heard it? "Yes!" "Who played that?" Nobody did. But you structured so perfectly well that those values came out.

There is not one orchestra where two instruments will go together from this spiritual point of view. Together rhythmically ... no problem, and America is perfect. Technically, pitch ... perfect.

What's it all about? What is the second movement of Eroica? Is it a march? This is good for the press and for young, unsatisfied girls. What are you looking for, the pleasure of C minor with G major? It is a pleasure. Nobody will be able to destroy it. Even a military band will get it. Even a child playing the piano gets that primitive stuff. But how are they related to each other? From C
minor to G major what happens to the tension? Does it increase, or does it stay the same, or does it go down? Who taught us this? Nobody. Who taught us to find the end in the beginning? How does that happen? Who taught us that the essence of it is simultaneity?

Q: It seems to me that part of what you're saying related very closely to a sculptor who is involved with chipping away everything that doesn't belong in order to arrive at what does.

C: Yes, but what does not function is that the sculpture appears to you statically, and music doesn't. Music originates in time (whatever you understand under "music"). This is a static idea when I say "a landscape." "Every piece of music has a landscape." This is not correct, but I don't have another possibility to illustrate to you that there IS something which you cannot touch.

Q: But, perhaps it is not static to the sculptor, only to the person who is perceiving it. So, if it is not static to the sculptor, how would he bring the person who looks upon it to look upon it the same way he sculpted it?

C: Yes, for the sculptor it's not static because the whole process, the whole biography of how the piece comes into being is a time condition. He starts somehwere. This after that. Each alternative a time condition. For us it is "yes, I like it" or "yes, I do not." I cannot have the same approach to music. Where is the fifth of Beethoven? You think on the records? My goodness, this is the wrongest falsification of any musical truth. There is no substitute for space. So, what you've got is a kind of photography on the record. And then, who makes the record? How far is that man, concerning the structure of music? Most all of them are out. They stick to the notes because they do not know what else to do.

So, about the static: Music hasn't got a single static element. Even a constellation of different sounds is not static. So, what is finally the question? The sculptor's creative work is in time. But when he chops away the first piece, he knows how the head should lie at the end. So, it's identity -- end in beginning. But not for us, because we see the final result. (But there is an American, McClosky[?], who said that the whole biography of the scrap of hair is alive and that you should find out where it started and where it ends.

Q: What would be an ideal performance for you? Do you try to communicate anything to the audience?

C: I do not have any intention to communicate anything.

Q: Why perform for an audience, then? Why are they there?

C: Because they want to do the same as me.

Q: You would like them to experience music as you would?

C: No, no, not at all. I cannot think for them. I am one consciousness only. If they want to do the same as I do, they can. I cannot control what brings an individual to a concert. But, if I judge from the short span of my life, they try to find something which I already know. Many of them do. Like the Queen of Hanover who said "Maestro, it IS so." If she made that perception, then she was as free as I was. So, I cannot animate myself by the desire to give them something. Through my concentration (or whatever it is) something comes into being, and they might get it.

Q: So you are just presenting them with something?

C: What is there to be presented? That's static. Something, with your help, my help, and the musicians' help might come into being. I follow the recommended line of the composer and I could feel, more or less, what moved him to do so. So, if you (the audience) can do the same, it's all right. But I do not do it for you.

Termites and Towers

Termites and Towers
Originally uploaded by jurvetson
Follow the link for some notes, taken by Steve Jurvetson, from a brain spa at the Santa Fe Institute, a weekend symposium on the multi-dimensions of evolution.

For an early taste, check out:
The trickle down theory of creation was “obvious” to people.
The bubble up theory of creation provides one unified perspective, one elegant synoptic model.
Darwin and Turing present a strange inversion of reasoning.
Turing showed that the computer does not need to know what arithmetic is. Computers have competence without comprehension.
Understanding is the effect, not the cause.
Natural selection is an automatic reason-finder. It doesn’t have to know what it is doing. The “Need to Know” principle in the intelligence community has an analog in the biosphere, driven by thrift rather than security.
We attribute more understanding than there needs to be. We lack a familiar conceptualization of semi-understood quasi-representations.
Like life being made of non-living parts, comprehension can be made from non-comprehending parts.
Our brains are more like termite castles than Turing’s computers.
Italian newspaper headline, translated: “Yes we have a soul, but it’s made of lots of tiny robots.”
Branching neurons are descendants of free-swimming organisms.
When running cultural software, brains become minds.
It’s not magic; it’s teamwork.
Words are memes that can be pronounced.
For evolution, you need high-fidelity copying, but it can’t be perfect copying.
The sea shapes the designs of Polynesian boats. If the boat makes it back home, copy it.
Memes are software viruses.
We are the first intelligent designers in the tree of life.

In response to my question about inscrutability of evolved artifacts:
“Yes, reverse engineering the brain may prove infeasible.”

This was Daniel Dennett quoted by Steve Jurvetson

Barbara Liskov on helping the mind go the distance

During the question-and-answer session that followed the talk, Liskov was asked the secret of her success. Part of her answer — which must have chagrined some members of the audience — was that “I don’t work that many hours a day.” “I always went home at night, and didn’t work in the evening,” she said. “I always found that downtime to be really useful.” She also, however, emphasized the importance of pursuing research that’s interesting — rather than, say, the research that will generate the most publications. That way, she said, “at the end, if you fail, at least you did something interesting, rather than doing something boring and also failing.” After the laughter died down, she added, “Or doing something boring and then forgetting how to do something interesting.”

Barbara Liskov, winner of the Turing Award, instrumental in laying the foundations for today’s programming languages

roadmap for tough times

TK Sung
San Francisco, CA

Yes, life is but a chemical dream in your 3 pound universe. Just enjoy the ride without clinging to delusions. That will keep your head from drying up of dopa/sero in tough times.

The Other Minds

on learning

You sure do know a lot!

I'm rather thirsty for learning.
Amazing, how do you do that?
I only live once, I don't want to come back!

anselm23 said:

Two of the things I learned at the Learning & The Brain Conference at Avon Old Farms this year was the importance of learning cycles, and the value of face-to-face time. The brain takes in 4,000,000,000 bits of information per second through the sensorium of hearing, touch, taste, smell, sight, and kinetics.

The RAS processes this information (compresses it or filters it, we don't know) down to 2,0000 bps, and then the Amygdala analyzes it for stress or danger. If there's no stress or danger, the brain turns on its own reflective mode, and learning can occur, as the brain releases dopamine and seretonin, and a host of other neuro-chemicals to activate first working memory, and then long-term memory.

However, that cycle is short; you only have about 6-8 minutes of time before the neurotransmitters get re-absorbed and the mind begins to become bored. The only way to stimulate it is with a new burst of novelty that is neither stressful nor dangerous (to keep the Amygdala placated and happy).

Hence, the need to use Visual (V), Auditory (A) and Kinesthetic (K) methodologies to create novel, happy experiences so that the brain remains in a relaxed, happy, multisensory mode for a 40-minute period — the average length of a class at my school. Furthermore, there must be a priming — through homework, through classroom modification, through exposure to art, and through exposure to vocabulary — beginning a month to six weeks before the material is taught in the classroom.

Once in the classroom, this chart comes into play, quite literally. The priming feeds the cloud of energy that could/should occur in the classroom. Novelty initiates the first lesson, which encourages the students to learn by playing with, and then reviewing, a new concept every six-to-eight minutes. In a 40-minute class, this should happen 5-6 times. Furthermore, by combining this path of learning in the classroom with Ned Hallowell's FIVE STEPS of learning, any student (EVERY student) can in fact connect-play-practice-'master'-and-be-recognized in a 40-minute period. If I as the teacher am aware that the first 8-minute period is devoted to trying to get everyone to connect to the classroom's Daily Main Idea, then everyone should get connected. The second 8-minute period is about playing with a new concept or skill. The third is about practicing that new skill; the fourth is about working that skill to become much better at it. The last 8-minute period is about reviewing the day as a whole, and recognizing each student for what they have accomplished that day.

Then there follows a period of reflection or fermentation, where the student isn't in your class, but is interacting with and connecting to other ideas. The ideas bubble into long-term memory, and then have a chance to re-emerge during that night's homework. With luck, the ideas explored in class and in homework then are explored in dream that night — when we do a substantial part of the processing of information and data. Further, the homework ideally contains some element that primes the learning for a lesson in the next week, and the next month.

How long/deep is a crisis
historically informed perspective

Broadly speaking, financial crises are protracted affairs. More often than not, the aftermath of severe financial crises share three characteristics.

First, asset market collapses are deep and prolonged. Real housing price declines average 35 percent stretched out over six years, while equity price collapses average 55 percent over a downturn of about three and a half years.

Second, the aftermath of banking crises is associated with profound declines in output and employment. The unemployment rate rises an average of 7 percentage points over the down phase of the cycle, which lasts on average over four years. Output falls (from peak to trough) an average of over 9 percent, although the duration of the downturn, averaging roughly two years, is considerably shorter than for unemployment.

Third, the real value of government debt tends to explode, rising an average of 86 percent in the major post–World War II episodes. Interestingly, the main cause of debt explosions is not the widely cited costs of bailing out and recapitalizing the banking system. Admittedly, bailout costs are difficult to measure, and there is considerable divergence among estimates from competing studies. But even upper-bound estimates pale next to actual measured rises in public debt. In fact, the big drivers of debt increases are the inevitable collapse in tax revenues that governments suffer in the wake of deep and prolonged output contractions, as well as often ambitious countercyclical fiscal policies aimed at mitigating the downturn.

The Aftermath of Financial Crises
Carmen M. Reinhart
University of Maryland. NBER and CEPR
Kenneth S. Rogoff
Harvard University and NBER
...ever get amazed by how far wrong idea(s) can lead us before changing course? People even build systems round such ideas and congratulate themselves for their (temporary) internal consistency.

On the other hand, has it ever been anything but (later-proven as) wrong ideas leading us from here to there?

… Because being alone

Has penetrated the bone,

I have misplaced the meaning

of pleasure; displaced

the measure of its loss.

Because being lost

has become my treasure,

daily I grow more flagrant

in my courtship of vagrant nowhere …

Louis Nordstrom
Each time, I try to tell a brief story revolving around a raw material that I transform and a journey.

À chaque fois, j’essaie de raconter une histoire courte autour d’une matière que je transforme et d’un voyage.

Jean-Claude Ellena


McKinsey publishes an interesting interview with Alberto Alessi, the 3rd in family line at the helm of the Italian design house Alessi. From that interview, here's an excerpt about how Alessi quantifies the odds of a new product success, testing, and how marketing informs decision making:
When I tried to explore the reasons for each product’s life, I came out with four parameters. All four were equally important for the final customer, but only two were central parameters for Alessi; the other two were peripheral for us.

1. The first central parameter is the degree to which people say, “Oh, what a beautiful object,” which represents the creation of a relationship between the object and the individual. We call this SMI, which stands for sensation, memory, imagination.
2. The second is the use that people can make of an object in order to communicate with other people. By this I mean that objects have become the main channel through which we convey our values, status, and personality to others—fashion is a typical case in point. Because people freely choose certain objects from the ones they come across, they tend to charge them with social meaning, as signs for communicating—in a visible, intelligible way—their distinguishing values. Objects can have status value or style value. By way of example, a gold Rolex watch is a status symbol, which suggests economic wealth, whereas a style symbol may be exemplified by an Aldo Rossi teapot, which reveals cultural sensitivity and familiarity with the architectural domain. Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist, brilliantly expounded concepts like these.

3. The peripheral parameters are function and price. Each of these parameters has five degrees.

The formula doesn’t work for everything. But when we have a long history with a product, it works perfectly. If I have to evaluate a pot or a coffee maker or a kettle, for example, the score indicates exactly the number of pieces that we can sell.

When we are exploring a new area—for example, when we were designing a pen, which was completely new terrain for Alessi—then it becomes more difficult. The formula needs to be tuned in a different way. But the principle is the same.

The Quarterly: How does the formula differ from traditional consumer testing or market research?

Alessi: Testing isn’t really appropriate as a description. Unlike typical market research, which is often conducted by outside experts, this is organized by us, drawing on our experience. Our reactions to the test are very different too: a lot of companies would develop a prototype and test it with consumers, and, if the initial consumer reaction was negative, they would pull the plug on that product.

On the other hand, we and our designers are extremely interested in understanding, in advance, what the reaction of final customers would be—but not necessarily to help us decide what to produce or not produce. If I believe it is a good project and that it has to be done, I will support it. But negative feedback can be useful in helping the designers to modify something. Not all the time, but sometimes.

Fundamentally, we use the formula so we can afford more risk. I don't want to reduce the risk. Given my business, it makes no sense for me to reduce risk. I just need to determine where I am in order to have the opportunity to take a bit more risk.
“If you don’t brand yourself, Google will brand you.”

Sherry Beck Paprocki

Sense making amidst loss of control,
or Why randomness naturally fools so many

Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception
Jennifer A. Whitson & Adam D. Galinsky

We present six experiments that tested whether lacking control increases illusory pattern perception, which we define as the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli. Participants who lacked control were more likely to perceive a variety of illusory patterns, including seeing images in noise, forming illusory correlations in stock market information, perceiving conspiracies, and developing superstitions/u>. Additionally, we demonstrated that increased pattern perception has a motivational basis by measuring the need for structure directly and showing that the causal link between lack of control and illusory pattern perception is reduced by affirming the self. Although these many disparate forms of pattern perception are typically discussed as separate phenomena, the current results suggest that there is a common motive underlying them.

too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed

When I used to earn my living as a corporate employee, I would react to the too many meetings syndrome by asking if there was a vaccine against meetingitis, the virus whose vector is e-calendaring. I also remember when visiting Intel, there was a brief list on a wall in each conference room, a leftover from Andy Grove, reminding employees to keep meetings on topic, short, and with deliverables associated to individuals at the end.

Here's a set of recommendations from Reid Hastie, professor at the University of Chicago, who contends that “every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.”
  • Whoever calls a meeting should be explicit about its objectives. This means specifying tangible goals and assigning responsibility for creating, summarizing and reporting on them. Ask yourself this question: Specifically, what do we want accomplished when we walk out of the room?
  • Everyone should think carefully about the opportunity costs of a meeting: How many participants are really needed? (Almost all business teams and committees are too big.) How long should the meeting last? Set a definite ending time. Anyone who doubts that the meeting is necessary, or thinks it’s too long, should speak up.
  • After productive or unproductive meetings, assign credit or blame to the person in charge. Then, if people have track records of leading ineffective meetings, don’t let them lead future sessions. When their expertise is essential, make them subordinate to an effective meeting leader.
Happy Meetings!