Theory on One Night Stands

Theory on One Night Stands
Science Now Abstract reports on research by a Scotsman on why girls tend to marry boys who look like their fathers and boys, girls who look like their mothers.
The observation is quite interesting but I had an issue with the general conclusion. Despite the author's statement that this study was 'good science'; given the limited data set of college students (which were most probably self-selected) the results cannot be extrapolated to the general population. Also, it is highly improbable that people even subconciously would make such big decisions based on one parameter - the face! Also the cultural bias is inherent in this study. Such a parameter would not make sense say - in an Indian context. This ain't right!
Despite these flaws this study makes a great after-dinner anecdote for idle speculation.

Science or/and Faith

Science XOR Faith

"While most Americans may say they believe in creationism rather than evolution, on issues that directly affect their own lives, like health and protection of the quality of life, science wins."
- From International Herald Tribune

As the debate rages in Florida courts and homes around the country - I wonder in which direction are we moving? While Science seems to be relentlessly moving in one direction in the search for bigger, better and faster; Religion on the other hand is providing a pull in the other direction. It is questioning the very basis of progress and the assumption that 'all scientific progress is forward progress'. Religion rests on centuries-old articles of faith laid down by 'self-realised' souls while science relies on a self-correcting mechanism. Will Science converge onto what Religion already knew (with more data of course!) or it will always be an 'XOR- exclusive OR' condition?

It is quite amazing that human mind can hold the most contradictory beliefs and still function quite normally. The human being is the biggest counterexample to any singular theory of EITHER-OR. It might give Ayn Rand a roll in the grave but we are not very logical animals anyway. It is one of the reasons why we have made so much progress and 'In Duality We Exist'!

On Jargon

Gee Whiz!
There are some students who love to: throw terms that they heard of about only a few days ago; or use some buzzword that they picked up at some seminar. Only when they use jargon or highly complicated terms do they feel that they are really 'graduate' students. When they really get started it's hard to shut them up; they don't make sense to me and also, I suspect, to themselves.
Another variety is the one that has to use the most complicated and sophisticated method to analyze data. Rather than working with the simple, tried and tested tools he will pick up the latest and greatest method and then fumble over the implementation. If he does succeed he will come up with a conclusion that was painfully obvious anyway. Sigh!

In Tales of Horror from Ivory Towers, Karni and Shapiro wrote this satirical piece -
"[The investigation of the Commitee on the Mistreatment of Raw Data - COMRAD ] unmasked such nefarious schemes as employment of third-degree autoregression processes and, in what may be the report's most revolting disclosure, the brutal imposition of third-degree polynomial structures. Maximalist methods also include the use of first and even second differencing, which according to eye witnesses, often reduced the data to a totally unrecognizable state."
Some grad students do need something like a COMRAD. Poor William of Occam.

On polls

Will the real Poll please stand up?

On every website there is some poll or the other. People just seem to love polls, but it takes a lot to frame the correct questions, gather the data correctly, and then correctly interpret the results. The most ubiquitous kind of poll - the 'Opinion Poll' is perhaps the most suspect and it should not be taken seriously at all.
It commits the most basic error in sampling - Convenience Sampling. Which is taking the most convenient sample of the population that comes along.
For example:
On The Times of India website they have a poll on the Kaniskha Bomb Verdict. There is a bias that people who vote on it are self-selected and motivated to vote which violates the principle of Simple Random Sampling. Needless to say that very few polls even mention the error margins or the confidence intervals.

"It looks like a poll, sounds like a poll, feels like a poll, but isn't a poll."

Pi Day

3.14 Day
Today is Pi Day, to be celebrated at 1:59 pm and 26 seconds, Value of Pi

(Note:the Pi approximation day was celebrated on July 22nd)

Oslo Philharmonic

Oslo Philharmonic

Students from the music school often wear a T-shirt that reads on the front:“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”
On the back is the answer:“Practice, practice, practice…”

I would give my right hand to be allowed to play publicly anywhere, let alone to a paying audience. If I stand at one end of the spectrum and the students in the middle then, Andre Previn stands tall at the other end of it. I had the opportunity to listen to Previn conduct the Oslo Philharmonic with a special performance by Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Debussy - Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun (1892-94)

This is a great piece, rather ‘tone-poem’ based on Stephane Mallarme’s poem - l’après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun). The faun is a mythological creature who is half man and half goat; he is daydreaming about nymphs who may be real or mere figments of his imagination. He recalls past dreams, which emerge from the shadows only to recede into the darkness again. In the music the orchestral flute is given a solo part throughout and the melody can be instantly recognized if not clearly remembered. Like some impressionist paintings this impressionist piece of music is hazy and soft like a cloud.

Previn - Violin Concerto (2001-02)

This concerto also called ‘Anne-Sophie’ was written by Previn for the Boston Symphony Orchestra especially for Anne-Sophie Mutter, his muse and now his wife, to show her virtuosity on the instrument. It is also a story of his life –
“ …(and) harks back to early childhood memories, while speaking also of long-standing associations, both personal and professional, with friends and colleagues he holds dear – in short, a testament to relationships past, present, and future.”
(from the Program notes)

It was not as abstruse or modern (read: inaccessible) as I thought it would be. Thanks to Schoenberg and acolytes modern music (like modern art) sounds more noise than music and is incredibly hard to follow. Whatever the intrinsic merits of the piece, Ms. Mutter was ethereal and I, sitting in the cheap seats in the balcony can be believed, since up there you can’t be dazzled by her outfit, only her playing. (Many veterans agree that you hear better in the balcony thanks to resonance.) Her control is amazing and it was fascinating to hear the tremolos and her lovely feel for the instrument. A more traditional piece could have been more enjoyable but less likely to show her off.

R. Strauss - Ein Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

I absolutely loved this and since it was sort of program music i.e. music that has a theme that is written down it had a structure that all can follow (hence:appreciate). In this case, it was a ‘night – sunrise – ascent – descent – sunset – night piece’:

“…(in which) the score gives explicit indications of forests, meadows, glaciers, mountain peaks, and so on – but if we take everything only at face value and forget about the symbolic significance of these natural sights, we are likely to miss the whole point of the piece.”

Strauss used the instruments, the volume and their combination very beautifully - the harp announcing the waterfall, the use of the cowbell and triangle at the pastoral piece, and the rumble of the timpani for the thunder. There was a peculiar device that was used to make the whipping sound of the wind. Simply fantastic! Highly recommended listening.

For the first time I saw a performance without an encore: guess the grand old man was not up to it. The audience clapped and clapped, more appearances and more bows, but no music. Sad!

2nd Blog Birthday Post

2nd Blog Birthday Post
cake picture
It has been two years and two hundred or so posts since that snowed-out Friday evening in 2003. Two years of self-indulgent (according to my brother) posts and it has done me a world of good. That I might want to blog about an experience makes me more aware of what I am doing. I find myself reading up on the background, checking the facts, assessing other opinions, observing and analysing myself more - resulting in a richer experience. Never mind that most posts dissolve and disappear and only a few make it to the final furious flurry of keystrokes.
Sometimes, I find myself staring at a sentence for an hour, not because it sounds funny but because somewhere in my head there is a lack of clarity, some half-baked concept begging to be resolved. Blogging is a way to get rid of the cobwebs in my head.

This past year, I saw an explosion of new bloggers. I met many new and interesting people and saw a further decrease in the degrees of separation. Blogging ended the tyranny of 'mainstream news', it connected people all over the world with similar interests and created a new hobby. The tribe of bloggers ever increases. Unfortunately, we have certain characters who use the anonymity and distance to be rude and offensive in the comments. If you feel strongly about something fine, but why the cowardice?
The personal blog has always been about me, myself and I. We tend to be egotistical, want to self-aggrandize and want to project a particular image. Maybe, that's one of reasons why blogging is so addictive. Therefore, it is right and required that someone, somewhere along the line, decides to set the record straight. Some bloggers don't take too well to criticism or rather don't like to have their 'cover blown'. They prefer to spend another 1000 words on self-justification than simply admitting another point of view. From a shouting match, it soon turns into an ugly free-for-all wrestling match. Whatever happened to accepting human fallibility or agreeing to disagree? (Gentle reader, if I have been guilty of it please pardon and read on.)

Despite all that, I am glad that I have this space to write about everything and nothing and have YOU to read it. Thanks!

Blast from the Past - Still an interesting link from Blog#2
The Ho(a)rse Chorus

Rock-scar Awards

The rOck-SCAR Awards

The Ceremony
It did not rock at all. Not because, Martin Scorsese lost (he is way beyond the Oscars), but because it was not memorable in any sort of way. Do people really care who finally won the Oscar? Katherine Hepburn was dead right in saying that, there should be no competition among actors. I watch the Oscars simple for the ceremony. Usually, it is a fantastic show and some of the performances are awesome. Besides, the host is usually great. You watch for: the fantastic dresses, the expressions on winning or losing, and the goofy speeches people come up with. This time there was none of that. Despite Yo-Yo Ma, Lloyd Webber and Santana there was nothing remarkable about the performances. What a sheer waste of talent. And why was Beyonce singing all the songs? (to the others: get her agent)

Oprah Winfrey plugged Chris Rock endlessly and he, Chris Rock got a standing ovation when he came on stage. It seemed full of promise after his first line:

'Welcome to the 77th and last Oscars..',

that, would be his first and best joke of the evening. It was all downhill from then on. He did say what he wanted, but this year the MC's role seemed rather minor (for obvious reasons?). He poked fun at the Butt-of-All-Jokes: Mr. Bush, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. He mentioned the taboo movies of the year Fahrenheit 9/11 and the Passion of the Christ and pointed out the quick way the Oscars were being dished out this year. But Rock was not funny. He was the PC choice, but Chris Rock is no Billy Crystal.

There were no surprises during the speeches. No Brody-Berry kiss or Michael Moore style plug. Sidney Lumet provided the the most 'illuminating' speech (Marty: take note).

Sad to see that the technical and minor film awards given off-stage to save time. Now we know that you put these guys in the cheaper balcony seats. Shame! Liked the guy(?) who mentioned that the technical awards are not 'technical' but rather for 'artistic' choices.

The Awards
Can't end without saying something about the award, can I? I have not seen the Aviator, the Million Dollar Baby and Finding Neverland, so I can't pit them against each other yet. Humbly, I must tell you that I guessed all the winners except the Best Director correctly. From the short clip Cate Blanchett, looked and sounded like Hepburn and was a sure-fire winner - no doubts about that. Jamie Foxx was head and shoulders above the rest. Leonardo - first grow up! Annette Bening came really close to winning this time. Now 2/2, Hilary Swank's own story might be stuff of legend in the decades to come but for now she rules the roost. I loved her backless dress. Wow!

Sideways is a great movie and a sensible guy-flick in a long time. Alexander Payne is the new Robert Altman in the making. A Very Long Engagement is another great movie which lost out on nominations but is very, very good.