Category Archives: mood

Ojai Music Festival

Every year, early June in Ojai, CA, a quiet town half an hour away from Santa Barbara, the Ojai Music Festival takes place.

The festival has a glorious history of convening the cream of the crop of new classical music (Stravinski, Messiaan, Boulez and Copland are among the artistic directors who brought their vision to the festival), and is a wonderful crucible for geniuses in music.

I went there for the first time in 2016, and I was struck by the brilliance of the pieces I saw – a delightful blend of music from all around the world, mixing ICE and the Indian vocalist Aruna Sairam, under the tutelage of Peter Sellars. I remember being particularly impressed by Leila Adu‘s performance (wonder what she’s up to nowadays…)

In the years since, I could just go to Berkeley’s CalPerformances to see the show (Ojai in Berkeley),  held a week after the main festival. I fondly recall Vijay Iyer’s take on the Rite of Spring with Radhe Radhe: Rite of Holi, and some standout performances by Tyshawn Sorey, a regular of the festival who never stops to amaze, though I’m more impressed by him in live settings than by the recordings I’ve heard since.

Sadly, this year the Berkeley program no longer exists, since since CalPerf’s director Matías Tarnopolski left for Philadelphia. Therefore, I had to drive down the California 1 to see what was happening there.

And boy I wasn’t disappointed! This year’s artistic director Barbara Hannigan prepared wonderful program, going from Stravinski (again!) Berg to Steve Reich. Some of the concerts that really struck a chord were Patoulidou performance on Vivier’s Lonely Child, Barbara Hannigan rendition of John Zorn’s Jumalattaret, and Steve Schick leading Terry Riley’s in C (the latter can be on a viewed video of the festival here, at 1h48.)

Ojai Music Festival 2019

Not only the artistic content was great, but there is also a sense of passing along the baton (in a way beautifully narrated in Maria Stodtmeijer‘s Taking Risk) to younger artists such as Aphrodite Patoulidou and Yanis Francois.

Sure, I’m painting a fawning picture of the festival here, but I’m so drained of creativity that I will leave it to better voices than mine:
Outsiders (2015 edition)
The Sonic Fury of the Ojai Music Festival (2018 edition)

Autopilot

Lead by lidar

At the moment (April 2019), the economy is in a weird quantum superposition of doom (yield curve inversion) and exaltation, with Lyft recently joining the public markets (always loved the irony of the term…)

I’ve been talking to a few people involved in driverless cars and AI lately, asking them…. when? They usually tell me soon, the problem they have is that the main drawback with learned neural networks is that they are almost impossible to debug. You can try to get insight on how they work (see the fascinating Activation Atlas), but it’s really difficult to rewire them.

And it’s actually pretty easy to hack them — you can easily do some random addition to find noise that will activates the whole network. In the real world, you can put stickers at just the right location and… make every other car crash. Pretty scary…

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The wonders of West Berkeley

I do love Berkeley, with its wonderful atmosphere and its people, daring to live on a different beat!

The spring and the fall are the most notably beautiful, and walking in the street is always an amazement.

Berkeley in the spring

In the winter, you get the magnolia; in the spring come the fragrant wisteria and the gentle jasmine; the summer has the river flowing to the sea, and the fall, oh the fall with the ginkgo glowing gold on Russell street!

Berkeley in the fall

I’ve seen a few friends moving nearby, and they seem to enjoy every bit of it.

Here’s a few places to check out:

  • Skates to get a drink right at sunset
  • Casa Latina for the best tacos of the East Bay
  • Berkeley Bowl West is such a paradise for the grocery shopper
  • Cal Sailing Club lets you sail and windsurf for less than a dollar a day
  • Bette’s Diner has some amazing brunch
  • Market Hall Foods on 4th street has the best cheese selection I know, plus a hundred of other delicacies
  • Albatross is the oldest pub of Berkeley, with a great selection of beer, darts and pool
  • Ashkenaz has a great music programming; don’t miss Stu Allen’s Grateful Dead!
  • Sola Lucy is the only place to go for thrift shop

For the news, check out Berkeleyside.com and the East Bay Express (free, out every Wednesday.) There’s also a lot of other places closer to downtown which are unique: the Back Room, the Pacific Film Archive, Yoga to the people, Half Price Book, Café Panisse, the Strawberry canyon pool, the Skyline boulevard, the Butcher’s son restaurant, the Melo Melo kava bar, and so many other things!

Savant

In other news I was recently promoted to a staff position at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab!

It’s still tenure track (hopefully the position will be fully secured in two years from now) , but I’m getting closer to my childhood dream: to become a savant.

I am extremely lucky to be there, working on a major US scientific infrastructure project (ALS-U), in a fantastic lab with my window literally overlooking the Silicon Valley.

The golden gate

Right now, I’m mostly doing beamline design and simulation, with some wavefront sensing and adaptive optics. Lots of very challenging topics (we have to deal with a laser-like beam hundred times smaller than a hair blasting kilowatts of light), and I’m learning a lot along the way. Amazing times!

An efficient bureaucracy

What if… the world goes round thanks to an inefficient bureaucracy?

The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty.
– Eugene McCarthy

Think about it… the nazis were able to corrupt all of Germany thanks to the legendary rigor of its population – a case famously documented by Hannah Arendt in her series Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. (I, II, III, IV, V)

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Nine months

In the past twelve months, I’ve seen 15 of my close friends living in the Bay Area having kids. That’s a lot, with more than one new cute little name to learn (Felix, Moritz, Ilya, Oliver, Hendrix…)

Since most of my friends are about my age or older — 35 on average — and often in a stable relationship for many years, I am left wondering why the sudden spike.

I came up with two reasonable explanations and a ton of thoughts!

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Addictions

Around me, all I see is the blue glow of phones illuminating the faces of people.

These days, we get so many things to discover, information to watch, and we’re getting addicted.

What I fault newspapers for is that day after day they draw our attention to insignificant things whereas only three or four times in our lives do we read a book in which there is something really essential. – Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

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Self-reference

Self-reference is cornerstone in Hofstadter’s Godel-Escher-Bach, a must read book for anyone interested in logic (and we shall rely logic in these days to stay sane.)

Here’s a bunch of examples of self-reference that I found interesting, curated just for you!

Barber’s paradox:

The barber is the “one who shaves all those, and those only, who do not shave themselves.” The question is, does the barber shave himself?

Self-referential figure (via xkcd):

Tupper’s formula that prints itself on a screen (via Brett Richardson) Continue reading

Quick’n’dirty

Over the years I’ve collected quotes from people who are.

I always like quotes, because they are atoms of knowledge, quick and dirty ways to understand the world we only have one life to explore. To some extent, they axioms of life in that they are true and never require an explanation (otherwise they wouldn’t be quotations.)

Here’s a bunch of quotes that I found particularly interesting, starting with my absolute favorite quote comes from the great Paul Valery:

The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us. – Paul Valery

On research — trial and error

Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and, where it lands, painting a target.
-Homer Burton Adkins

A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions–as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.
– Friedrich Nietzsche
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Books I loved

With every year comes the occasion to read new books!

I’ve assembled a small collection of books that I love, so that you can discover them and share the love around! Since there are twelve months in a year, you’ll find twelve books. They are presented in no particular order, so that you can enjoy them at random, sitting in a couch sipping some wine.

martin-franck-cartier-bresson

Martine’s legs – Henri Cartier-Bresson (1967)

Ringolevio (Emmett Grogan)

Ringolevio is a sort of autobiography by Emmett Grogan, a leader of the Diggers in San Francisco just about when it was becoming cool (early 60s). It is a great book in that it is written with a punch, and has a deep sense of social awareness. It is quite fun to read Timothy Leary and other fake-prophets of the revolution getting thrashed.

Emmett wondered whether anything viable was going to come out of it: whether the powerless might for once obtain enough power to make some sort of relevant change in the society. He immediately dismissed as ridiculous the notion that everything would be all right when everyone turned on acid. It was noted that LSD was used during World War Two to solve naval tactical maneuvers, and they concluded that although the drug might facilitate understanding or the process of doing something, it offered no moral direction or imperatives.

There is no road (Antonio Machado)

This is my absolute favorite poem books. It is very short, and has the deepest thoughts ever assembled in a book. This book is a treasure, and I have offered it to people I care about. This book is often out of print, but don’t settle for a different collection, this one is really unique if you can find it, and by far the best translations I’ve found.

Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess what it is
– Antonio Machado

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