Saturday, April 26, 2008

Celebrating April 25th with a Spanish director and musicians from three continents

Yesterday was the 34th anniversary of the peaceful overthrowing of Salazar's fascist dictatorship that crippled Portugal for 48 years. Today, by happy coincidence, the San Francisco International Film Festival was showing Fados by Spanish director Carlos Saura. Growing up during Salazar's decline and his colonial war in Africa, fado was for many of my generation backward, sentimental, reactionary. Except that a few musicians like Zeca Afonso in Portugal and Chico Buarque in Brasil knew better. With Chico Buarque's Fado Tropical superimposed on historic footage of the military and popular movement that overthrew the dictatorship (it was so strange to feel that almost surely some of the faces in those scenes were those of people we knew), Saura brings out simultaneously the hope of that movement 34 years ago, the wounds of Portugal's colonial history, and the reborn hope that fado is not just nostalgia, but also a deep stream from the past into the future of the living music of three continents.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sierra wind

My afternoon flight from PHL to SFO flew just south of Mono Lake, Tioga Pass, and Yosemite. The strong winds over the Sierra formed striking cloud streams that poured over the Sierra crest into the Mono basin. The air seemed filled with dust in the sunset light.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reading "The Best of All Possible Worlds"

I'm reading Ivar Ekeland's The Best of All Possible Worlds, and I can't resist posting this quotation:

We are a far cry from Plato, for instance, who taught that the objects we observe are but images, or shadows, of originals, the only true and real Objects, which exist in a world above one own, the world of Ideas. [...] Poincaré points out that science does not need that kind of belief: there is no need for objects to exist in any other way than to relate our sensations with common experience. Clearly there is no more room for metaphysics: science can be concerned with relating only facts, not things.

A residual Platonism often confuses natural science, mathematics, and computer science. Time to read Poincaré.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Franklin Institute Awards

belief network I'll be back to Philadelphia the coming week to participate in Franklin Institute Awards events. I played a small part in the awards process, and I'm delighted that two pioneers of machine intelligence, Takeo Kanade and Judea Pearl, are being recognized.