Category Archives: mood

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.

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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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Soft power

During the past twelve months, I become enamored with Middle-Eastern music who now wears many clothes, from electro to Queen-esque Arabic music.
Since it’s Thanksgiving, here are some offerings!

It seems that the best way to fight against the rampant islamophobia is to emphasize the beauty of the culture, and blend it with modern tunes. Youth will follow, and eventually replace the old patriarchy that has plagues so many Muslim countries.

Never underestimate the healing power of music
– Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon

Acid Arab is a French DJ band who mixes Arab tunes with electronic music. Their mix at the Sonar 2016 is an absolute masterpiece, blending fantastic rythms with melodies rarely heard in electronic music.

Mash’rou Leila is a Lebanese band, extremely popular in the Middle-East. It is very varied, and the singer Hamed Sinno has a Freddie Mercury-like persona, and brings lot of poetry. Shim El Yasmine is a song that talks about the odor of the jasmine of his partner at the time, who went on leave him to marry a woman, because society wouldn’t understand that love is love…

A week before I went to see them live at Slim’s in San Francisco, the band had been banned from el-Sisi’s Egypt, where people in the audience raised rainbow flags… Continue reading

Irma

My family, living in Saint Martin (French West Indies) was hit by the Hurricane Irma on September 5th, 2017.

Today, after ten days without communications (but news here and there), I was finally able to talk with them, and it’s quite a relief to learn that they are safe now.

Sunset over Saint Martin after the storm (unknow credit)

Sunset over Saint Martin after the storm (unknow credit)

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Energy Dominance

To say the least, the mood is not at its peak at the lab…

We have a new Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry (R), former governor of Texas –  who doesn’t seem to care much about science (e.g. he believe it’s fine to question climate change; at least there’s someone to tell him no, it’s not) and who is now on a crusade to ensure #energydominance, a concept that I try to comprehend, but really can’t.

Now see his incredible op-ed in Washington Times (the black mirror of the New York Post, I guess:), Paving the path to U.S. energy dominance:

Mr. Trump wants America to utilize our abundant domestic energy resources and technological innovations for good, both at home and abroad. […] An energy-dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and influence. Becoming energy dominant means that we are getting government out of the way so that we can share our energy wealth with developing nations. For years, Washington stood in the way of our energy dominance. That changes now.

Holy cow! That is a genius strategy!
Oh wait… what strategy? Selling coal and gas that will be worthless in three years?

Here’s what previous Secretary Moniz has to say:

Moniz: […] With some colleagues, we’re starting up a small non-profit in the energy space and this was also a question that we intended to look at.

However, a review of this type also needs to look at the emerging technologies. For example, the utility in Tucson recently announced a long-term, a 20-year purchase-power agreement for solar energy plus storage at a pretty attractive—stunning, actually in my view—price. They quoted less than 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, including the storage.

Madrigal: Wow. [In Arizona, the average cost of electricity in March 2017 was 9.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Electricity prices vary around the nation, but the U.S. average was 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in March 2017.]

Meanwhile, the office of science at the White House is now empty. zero. nicht. kaput.

It is quite incredible to hear that, while a mere six most ago it was populated by the finest people I know, like my (extended) friend Maya Shankar

imfine

Oh boy, the second half of the year starts even better than the first half.

Millenial problems – take 2

Oh silly millenial, root of all problems, look at how your parents raised you!
Well, I’m on the later end of what is called millenial (I was underage by year 2000), and all I see around me is extremely educated, extremely smart people, making giant salaries, working for the most touted companies around, and… they can barely make it. Seriously.
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