Monday, March 30, 2009

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data

Following the post of David's Wienberger on his excellent blog. I read the article written by some Google's scientists carefully. I must admit - it is fascinating.

First, its title "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data" is fully intentional, admitted reference to “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” by Eugene Wigner. Nice play with titles, but it is a bit misleading. The role of mathematics in natural science is just the opposite to the role of pure data in human knowledge. I could elaborate on it longer, but - what strikes me deeply, is another thing.

It seems that authors dismiss the message of Semantic Web advocates, among them, Tim Berners-Lee, for reasons that are not very clear.

Let me cite: " (...) But even if we have a formal Semantic Web “Company Name” attribute, we can’t expect to have an ontology for every possible value of this attribute. For example, we can’t know for sure what company the string “Joe’s Pizza” refers to because hundreds of businesses have that name and new ones are being added all the time. We also can’t always tell which business is meant by the string HP.(...)”

Well, in all Semantic Web proposals we do not care what "Joe's Pizza" or "HP" means!

We care about one thing - that "Joe's Pizza" is The Company Name.

We do not need ontology for the name itself, we need it for a different potential "Company Name" concept !!!

Not everything in this article is plainly bad, though.

What I liked, was the call "So, follow the data" - in some vague sense they reaffirmed the principle of least action of Tim Berners Lee. I also must admit, that the distinction of “Semantic Web” from “Semantic Interpretation” is very convincing and it is another good part of the article.


Finally, I often think, that Google would be The One who could push Semantic Web forward. And for some reason they don't.

They could simple cry out loudly: "Hi webmasters around the world - use RDF or microformats to mark your contact/author data and we will use it in our search engine!"


Apart from conspiracy theories, there is something in this article, written by Google researches that justifies their unwillingness to start the ball rolling...

This post was first published as comment on David Weinberger and Seb Schmoller blogs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Inheritance - admonition or realism ....

For some time now I will switch to reading non-fiction... Not because I do not like it any more, but because I will love to return to it :-)

My first non-fiction attempt is very political and timely. It is David Sanger's "Inheritance - The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power". The main thought behind the title of the book seems to be an assertion that Obama inherited unimaginable problems from Bush. And it IS convincing.

I just started, so it is not a review yet - but I already can tell two things: that the book is written in a very exciting and good-to-read language and ... that it is scary to read it....

I just finished the chapter about Iranian atomic program - not only there is certainty that they are on the path to the bomb, but there are not too many options the world, US, and Obama have - to stop them from that deadly path. Unfortunately, some of the reasons for this inability are due to mistakes Bush's administration made in handling Iraq, terrorism etc ....

Terribly true. I must however, admit something. For many years I was a very strong supporter for Bush. My eyes opened not very long time ago. So I do not blame him or people who supported him. As far as I understand myself, I understand them - and him. We are just mere mortals and we stray so often ...

Post written during a 15 minutes break in my lecture about Project Management in a small town Blonie near Warsaw, Poland ....

Friday, March 27, 2009

The power of music

Akin to previous post, this one, very short (I'm at work and have no time for longer), refers you to increadible article in New York Times.

The article should make us ponder how deeply true was the Inspiration Speech of Karl Paulnack ...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects"

Sometimes a short post or speach makes such an impact on us that it is comparable to what a book can make...

I just read the amazing "Inspiration Speech" by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of Boston Conservatory. The text is short, it will not take more than 15 minutes to read. You can also find it here.

Entitled "The Value of Music" in simple words tells us what we basically know, but what we tend to forget... Music is something of utmost importance in our lives - something that studies "invisible relations" - sometimes spatial, sometimes temporal, but always - spiritual...

So take time, read it - and even if you are not musician, don't skimp on next several $ to buy a record with what you love....

On my part, I slowly prepare to great event - listening to Mahler's VIII.....
Stay tuned, I will write a post after the concert (that takes place in my home next weekend) ....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Am Not The Messenger - I Am The Message

Another great book by Marcus Zusak. Another amazing experience of prose close to poetry. However, unlike in The Book Thief, the poetry of the prose does not stand out as explicitly. We hear the sound of Australian suburbs and their lingo instead.

The story is about Ed Kennedy, a 19-year-old cab driver who lives alone with a strange old dog Dorman - a true canine coffee addict! Ed has not much ambition to do anything else with his life, besides driving taxi and playing cards with his three friends. His mother despises him, and after his father died a year before – he does not have any goal in life.

Until something happens - something totally out of the blue - and he gets a series of messages to deliver, acts to perform, deeds to do. I will not tell too much - I do not want to spoil it for you.

Till the very end of the story Ed doesn't understand the meaning or the purpose of the messages he was chosen to deliver. But the whole process marks a first serious awakening in his life. As the story evolves, he abandons simplicity and shallow commonness and his life gets a meaning – he does things that truly make difference.

This is a book about love, hate, solitude and friendship and about difficult family relations, about the hardship of life in today's poor suburbs of contemporary cities, and finally - about the hope to get rid of the “epidemy of ordinariness” and vanity of our daily life.

And it is told without any bombastic preaching of “greatness”...

“Maybe everyone can, maybe everyone can live beyond what they are capable of”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Messanger - another great opus of a genius....

After "The Book Thief" I started to listen to "I Am The Messanger"....

Another amazing piece of novel. Another poetry, this time Australian-English language
that happened to speak to me very well...

I'm still in the mid of the book - but I can tell you - READ IT !!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mahler's no programme pure music - 7th Symphony

Mahler's 7th was the first ever symphony I was happy to experience and it was live...

Today I listened to Bernstein's incredible interpretation of this unusual symphony.
What makes it so unusual then? First, that it has no "programme" characteristic to other symphonies. Mahler vigorously opposed to label it as "Lied der Nacht" (The Song of the Night).
There are no singers, no choir. Pure musical experience. How powerful, though !

There are many beautiful reviews about it, so instead of another lengthy post, I rather humbly refer you to one of them - by Henry-Louis de La Grange.

My own amazement comes from several reasons: the music is clearly "out-of-its-time". I had impressions similar to that I have when listen to Britten or even Penderecki, though the musical language is quite different. Then, the instrumentation is surprising, and gives surprising sound: cow-bells, tubular bells, guitar (!!!), mandolin (!!!) and all sound really non-trivial.

Mahler uses a lot of citations - a waltz, a serenade, a march like rhythm ....

No programme - sheer beauty - however - we could read something between the notes: the great stress and tension of the author - confirmed by what we know of his life between 1904 and 1908...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book Thief - aftermath of the second reading ....

It really happened for the first time in my life. With so many books read, listen to, fascinated by, enchanted with - it did happened for the first time: I read the same book twice from cover to cover in row without stop, without anything read - or even listened to - between.

And the second reading was even better than the first. Try it - Zusak's "Book Thief" is something you will not regret to spend time on.

Now... See few strophes:

"She could feel his breathing and his shoulder moving up and down ever so slightly. For a while, she watched him. Then she sat and leaned back. Sleepy air seemed to have followed her. The scrawled words of practice stood magnificently on the wall by the stairs, jagged and childlike and sweet. They looked on as both the hidden Jew and the girl slept, hand to shoulder. They breathed. German and Jewish lungs. Next to the wall, The Standover Man sat, numb and gratified, like a beautiful itch at Liesel Meminger's feet."

"Liesel stopped breathing. She was suddenly aware of how empty her feet felt inside her shoes. Something ridiculed her throat. She trembled. When finally she reached out and took possession of the letter, she noticed the sound of the clock in the library. Grimly, she realized that clocks don't make a sound that even remotely resembles ticking, tocking. It was more the sound of a hammer, upside down, hacking methodically at the earth. It was the sound of a grave. If only mine was ready now, she thought-because Liesel Meminger, at that moment, wanted to die."

"His armpits were soggy and the words fell like injuries from his mouth."

"It was neither warm nor cool and the town was clear and still. Molching was in a jar. She opened the letter. (...) She was afraid to turn around because she knew that when she did, the glass casing of Molching had now been shattered, and she'd be glad of it."

"A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR: I am haunted by humans."



There is a movie comming in about a year. If I see it right, it features great actor, Adrien Brody ... Here is the trailer:


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Book Thief - second helping

As I wrote before, as soon as I finished the book, I started to read it again from the very beginning...
Like Liesel (the main character), who read some of her books several times, I started The Book again and it is even more powerful experience...

See:

"For now, Rudy and Liesel made their way onto Himmel Street in the rain. He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain. "

or:

"Despite the forced labor of breath, she fed the words through the gap in the doorway--between the mayor and the frame - to the woman. Such was her effort to breathe that the words escaped only a few at a time. "

and so on ...

Who is that Zusak ? Shakespeare of prose ?
Maybe.....

We will see in his second book I just start: "I Am The Messenger"....

Friday, March 06, 2009

"There were wooden teardrops and an oaky smile"

Without an exageration I can say that it was one of the best books I ever read...

I finished the reading (i.e. listening) in cold Paris, March 2009 walking on the dark streets of this city. And the first thing I did after I finished was to go back to the beginning and to start it again....

"First the colors. Then the humans" - this is how it starts, the story told from the perspective of ... death personified. The narration brings some far but strong recollections of that used by Norman Mailer in his "The Castle in the Forest", but don't take it as criticism - in fact it is a praise....

What makes Zusak's book such increadible experience? First and foremost - his vacabulary, his parlance, his prose poetry. Bacause of these, you loose the sense of reading the novel, and you feel like you are reading the poetry...

"I can promise you that the world is a factory. The sun stirs it, the humans rule it. And I remain. I carry them away. "

"The girl loved that-- the shivering snow"

One of my friends told me, when recommended the book couple of weeks ago: "I did not know how one could live through the words as it is in the book" ...

But there is also something else. The book has deep meaning and strong message. It is about the most dark period of human history - Nazi Germany. It's about Jewish persecution and Holocaust. But it is also about forgivness, about love, about the simple fact that not all Germans were Nazi and not all Nazis were killers. It's about life in hard times, and about difficult greatness.