Saturday, February 28, 2009


Dealing with depression, from my experiences, has three important steps:
  1. Facing it
  2. Medical treatments
  3. Changing habits
Here are some clarifications:
  1. Most people, understandably, do not like to lable themselves "depressed". This makes perfect sense as long as the depression symptoms do not interfere with everyday life and do not last for a long period of time. Accepting the label, for most people, seems like a one way road with no return, and to some extent this is true. Treating depression is a long process, that can takes months if not years.
  2. Finding a good doctor is extremely important and nontrivial. Changing doctors, with moderation--when it does not seem to work, is acceptable and recommended. At the same time, depression is highly correlated with bad decision-making, like changing a good doctor when things are working! The BEST rule of thumb: Do not make important decisions when you are in a depression peak.
  3. Changing habits is the LEAST known part of the process. It is very hard to find practical approaches to changing habits. And what works for me does not necessarily works for you. For example, the "Nihil Nimus" recommendations have been consistently helpful to me.
There is a significant luck component in life, but we should remember that luck interacts with trying. The more we try, and not mind defeats, the higher is the likelihood that the luck changes in our favor.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Intuition and Nonlinearity!!!

I gave a midterm exam to my PhD class today, and accidentally, more carefully observed their problem solving methods. Roughly speaking, I can divide students into three groups:
  1. Most linear: They started from the first question and went to the last. Not much variation in the linear path.
  2. Intermediate: They focused on one question for a while to solve it and then went to another, but not in a linear way (jumped from 3 to 1, for example). Inside each problem they followed a linear path.
  3. Most non-linear: They jumped inside problems and outside. Some finished part of a problem and moved to another. An extreme case was a student who sometimes worked a problem out of order (came up with the answer, intuitively, first before going through the math to show it).
Also I can divide the students into two groups based on their math background and intuition:
  1. Those with strong math backgroun but realtively weak intuition (plausibly not much economic background).
  2. Those with economics/business background, better intuition, weak mathematics
Interesting observation: There was a positive correlation between the two measures. That is more technically trained students tend to be more linear, on average (not always, of course).

I have been dealing with this issue in my professional life for quite a while: I have very good math and technical background, how I can develop more intuition. What I learned from "Nihil Nimus" book was a big help. My observation today is another piece of this puzzle. If I am right, to improve intuition I should try to think and work less linearly.

These are mostly conjectures based on limited observations. If you have your own, please write it in the comments!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Persian Jokes

My apologies if some of them are insulting, even though they are jokes:

ترکه میره جنگ قرداش برمیگرده میگن چرا برگشتی میگه پدرسوخته ها به قصد کشت تفنگ بازی میکردن.

دوتا ترک با هم میرن مکه داشتن به شیطان سنگ میزدن که سنگای یکیشون تموم میشه اون یکی میگه کم نیار فحش بده.

ترکه میره حج اونجا نه نماز میخوند نه طواف میکرد... ازش پرسیدن چرا؟ گفت به ما گفتن همه چی با کاروانه.

ترکه پول میندازه تو صندوق صدقات بعد سوارش میشه.

از ترکه می پرسن پتروس که بود؟ میگه یه دهقان فداکار بود که وقتی گرگ به گوسفنداش حمله کرد رفت زیر تانک و انگشتشو کرد تو چشم راننده قطار.

ترکه میره امتحان رانندگی افسر بهش میگه حرکت کن. ترکه میزنه دنده عقب افسره میگه چرا دنده عقب میری؟ میگه می خوام خیز بردارم.

14- ترکه سوار موتور بوده دوست دخترشم ترکش سوار کرده بوده. همینطور که میرفتن دختره میگه چشمات مال منه قلبت مال منه عشقت مال منه.... ترکه میزنه کنار دختره رو پیاده میکنه میگه اگه همینجوری پیش بری لابد میخوای بگی موتورم هم مال توئه

15- بچه: مامان شاهزاده رویاها با اسب سفید یعنی چی ؟ مامان: یعنی یه خری مثل بابات.

17- از پیرزنه می پرسن شوهرت بدیم یا بفرستیمت مکه؟ میگه ننه مکه که فرار نمیکنه.

19- ترکه ماشینشو بیمه میکنه. آقاهه بهش میگه خدا کنه هیچوقت ازاین بیمه استفاده نکنی. ترکه میگه الهی تو هم از پول ما خیر نبینی.

20- از ترکه میپرسن چه جوری بستنی کیم میخوری؟ میگه میذارمش لای نون سیخشو میکشم بیرون.

21- ترکه میره مسجد برمیگرده میبینه کفشاش نیست با خودش میگه 4 تا حالت داره:
من نیومدم
اومدم رفتم
بدون کفش اومدم
بعدا میام

22- یه روز ترکه رو برق میگیره. مادرش میگه ننه ولش نکن همین بود که باباتو کشت.

23- به ترکه میگن اگه حالت تهوع بهت دست بده چیکار میکنی؟ میگه خوب من باهاش دست نمیدم.

24- ترکه میره ماه عسل وقتی برمیگرده همه بهش میگن خوش گذشت؟ میگه عالی بود. میگن پس زنت چرا داره گریه میکنه؟ میگه ا ا .... دیدی چی شد؟ اینو یادم رفته بود با خودم ببرم.

26- ترکه تو زمستون یه اسب رو میبینه که از دهنش بخار بیرون می اومده. میره جلو نگاه میکنه میگه ... جل الخالق اسب بخار که میگن همینه؟

27- یه آدم لنگ با کشتی میره مسافرت. وقتی برمیگرده ازش می پرسن خوش گذشت؟ میگه نه بابا همش استرس داشتم چون هی میگفتن لنگرو بندازین تو آب.

29- ترکه داشته یکی رو بدجور میزده هی هم داد میزده کمک کمک. بهش میگن تو که داری اینو میزنی واسه چی خودت کمک میخوای؟ میگه: آخه این گفته اگه بلند شم لهت میکنم.

Critic of a CD !!!

This is a review of the CD, "Hélène Grimaud Plays Bach", that I took from Amazon.
I would like to keep it here for possible future reference. You may find this post unimaginative and redundant :)

8 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars Bach or Grimaud? You have to choose!, February 10, 2009
Polyphony and contrapunct are at the essence of Baroque music. Gould understood it perfectly and knew how to play to reveal it. One can be touched or not by his performances but no one can deny that the basis of this music is ingrained in Gould. It's not a question of taste, but of knowledge and technique.

In the case of the very promoted Miss Grimaud and the 5 voice Fugue BWV 849 for instance, imagine a 5 voice choir in which each chorist could not sing their own voice clearly. Before asking the real questions about the significance of this music, basic technical aspects should be solved.

The difficulty in Bach clavier music is that there is no indication of tempo or articulation. The rare indications -often taken as the rule by superficial editors- are usually exceptions, where Bach wanted something else than usual.

In Bach orchestral music for strings in particular, bowing indications are present and reveal the intent of the composer and the polyphony. It is not the case for clavier music: research has demonstrated that baroque composers did not need to.

Often, string players were only enlightened amateurs or musicians with lesser importance than the Kapellmeisters and keyboardists, regarded as the highest educated musicians. Their knowledge came from in depth studying and they knew how to decrypt the score without the help of indications they would have deemed unnecessary.

The origin of this music comes from Protestant liturgy and chants. The articulation is supposed to imitate the voices. Not only that, but motives are themselves associated with this liturgy. Playing a certain motif then, its meaning was understood by those listening, like a reference to the cross for instance.

So this music is coded by nature. Prof. Vera Nosina from Moscow demonstrated that the Fugue BWV 849 details the acceptation by Christ of his destiny on the cross. There are three themes: cross, suffering and destiny. The evolution and relative importance of the themes during the fugue expose this episode.

Therefore not only to play the polyphony is of utmost importance but it is within this polyphony that resides the meaning of the piece. Of course the soloist can insist on a particular aspect while respecting the style of the epoch. This way, many interpretations can co-exist provided they keep in style and thus stay meaningful.

To transform this polyphony in a simple -and thus simplistic- homophonic melody/accompaniment is to romanticize and to occult the meaning of this music. When it is about transcriptions it is not a problem because they are by nature romantic re-works. But when it comes to Bach original Urtext, it is a "contre-sens".

Rules of small speech-like articulation do provide us with a sense of impeccable Baroque style and also with a terrain for the expressivity to come through. They are an opportunity for each artist to find and discover unknown aspects in this rich music. Thus a diversity of meaningful inetrpretation can co-exist provided the basic polyphony is there.

In her promo interview video Ms. Grimaud suggests that Bach would have enjoyed playing on a modern Steinway as her reply to the quarrel between moderns and period instruments proponents. Such quarrels are as if one were to focus on the different quality of brushes used by Vermeer or Monet. Who cares!

The real question has to do with the content and how to express the polyphony that is the essence of this music. Obviously quarreling about instruments is a good way to avoid the crux of the problem while keeping appearances.

In conclusion, and to come back to Ms. Grimaud poor romantic effort, despite an interesting programming choice, she obviously does not know how to bring Bach polyphony out and thus can only glaze over the meaning of this music. This is painfully evident in the 5 voice Fugue BWV 849 from the WTC book 1, and throughout this disc.

The orchestral part in no way redeems this disc. The Concerto in D minor lacks architecture and becomes a long stretched out repetitive noodle. The slow movement is oozing out of place romantic yearning while the finale combines homophonic unimaginative lines and poor pianism. This is all about Grimaud, complacent, self serving and commercial. The Rachmaninov transcription that ends the program stops almost unexpectedly: what has been said? What was the point of all this exercise? Go figure!

In the name of "musical diversity", it is a commercial hegemony that blankets the media and if the marketing header is proof, every critic will play its part, including a "Diapason d'Or" award. So far only Rick Phillips of "Sound Advice", a former CBC program has dared being mildly critical of the product. But for every record of this pretentious soup sold, it is the intelligence of other artists that is muzzled and reduced to be measured according to this pseudo-reference.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lost Years

  • Twenty years ago. Preparing for the national exam (KONKOUR). I had come up with a nice schedule of study intervals of 20 min. - 10 min. break. I could go about 10-12 hours a day easily, sometimes up to 16 hours a day! And I enjoyed it ...
  • Got a fabulous result in the exam. Among the best for me. Things changed. I wanted to learn more deeply. One thing led to another. Depression, pessimism, self-doubt ...
  • A couple of months ago. I started working in short intervals (15-5). It feels good and many things started to change, again.
  • Those 20 years ... are lost? I feel that I was simply lucky to get a shot at the rest ... :)
  • Will keep you posted on the result of this new experiment!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Romanticism and trust

I used to be a romantic, as many youngsters are, but I am convinced that romanticism for me is worst than spirituality. The best cure for romanticism is trusting that life does not have any significance, without feeling sad, betrayed, or rebellious. Cycles of life and death of all beings, interconnected as they are, are the result of a big coincidence. Each life is simply the extrapolation of other lives ending in total purposelessness!

We tend to look at trust, especially in relationships, as a romantic subject, whereas in reality, it is very mechanical. In Kyudo an archer must trust the equipments. For example, the right hand that pulls the string is inside a hard glove. The structure of the glove is such that archer can pull the string and at the same time keep the right hand relaxed. Trust has two main components: First, a physical training of the correct form such that the glove can actually perform, and second, relaxing the hand while pulling the string.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Social Networks

According to "Nihil Nimus", research by social scientists indicate that, "People who rely most on `weak connections' (i.e., acquaintances but not close friends) fare best in making wide and useful social networks (Gladwell, 1999)."

IT'S NOT ...

.. ``It's not your spread, and it's not how strong you are, and it's not how fast you are, because you have all those thing...