Category Archives: read

Complexity and Economics by NAF-Biz NY (Nov 16, 2017)

On November 16, prior to the 2017 Peter Stuyvesant Ball, the Netherland-America Foundation (NAF) organized this year a lecture about Complexity and Economics. The lecture, at Baker McKenzie in New York, was a high level overview of complexity principles for public policy by speakers Dr. Roland Kupers, among other associate fellow at the University of Oxford, and via a pre-recorded video by Prof. Lex Hoogduin.

On forehand, I was very excited to attend this talk as I deal with the topic more or less as a developer advocate for IBM either via the IBM Data Science Experience (DSX), Machine Learning and IBM Watson (cognitive computing, having some experience in R programming, data science, machine learning, calculus, and 20+ years of software engineering. The evening was certainly not un-interesting, but I was a little disappointed by the lack of depth of the presentations, and neither of the speakers touched on machine learning, statistics, or mathematics which have my immediate interest. But nevertheless, the two talks touched upon enough topics for further inquiry to make the evening inspiring.

Kupers’ talk relates to his publication entitled ‘Complexity and the art of public policy’ (2016) in collaboration with David Colander. Kupers is a physicist by training with experience in the field of fractals, then switched to economic policy early in his career, being a consultant now, who among other advised the NWO (Dutch organization for scientific research). Continue reading

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Salman Akhtar, Selma Kramer, The Seasons of Life (1997)

Salman Akhtar, Selma Kramer, The Seasons of Life (1997) 183p

Salman Akhtar (1946-) is a Indian-American psycho-analyst, born into a Muslim family in Khairabad (Uttar Pradesh, India), who was a former pupil of Margaret Mahler (1897-1985). I previously read ‘Immigration and Identity (1999)‘ by Akhtar. In academia, your success often depends greatly on the favor and serendipity of your professor. Akhtar’s chance was to work with world famous child psycho-analyst Margaret Mahler. Mahler is renowned for her pivotal role in the study of normal development of child psychology. Her famous work ‘The psychological birth of the human infant (1975)’ defined the process of separation-individuation in child psychology.

Akhtar’s ‘The Seasons of Life’ is essentially a literature study of articles and works by subsequent psychologists supporting the view that this separation-individuation continues throughout life.
Anni Bergman worked closely with Margaret Mahler and researched the individuation that continues after object constancy throughout life and how this development of the autonomous self impacts later phases of development and later life conflicts and crises.
Calvin Colarusso argues that the lifelong separation-individuation process comes with an inherent threat of object loss in every stage of growing independence, which can be translated into ongoing negotiation and control during the middle years.
Stanley Cath focuses more on the third phase in life, where older individuals balance between ongoing losses and the restitution in anchoraches that hold the self together. Colarusso uses the example of Mr. Holland’s Opus () to demonstrate the conflicts between family loyalties versus career aspirations or aspirations of the self.

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Nikolay Gogol, The Government Inspector (1863)

Nikolay Gogol, The Government Inspector (1863) p213-306

I am not a big fan of comedy, and certainly not of farce. Humor is too often no more than a coquette compulsion to please, it is by definition a social function, even if we might have evolved to laugh uncontrollably. Yet, watching the adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher, I found myself to laugh without self awareness. The book however, is especially clever in the first part, but toward the end it slowly evens out into a cleverly written play without depth or wit.

The Government Inspector
Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher
From The Government Inspector by Nikolay Gogol

The Duke Theater
a New 42nd Street project
229 West 42nd Street (between 7th & 8th)‚Äč

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Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City (2004)

Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City (2004) 390p.

I have read ‘The Devil in the White City’ as a trilogy, together with ‘Nature’s Metropolis‘ and ‘The Jungle’, and the overlap and synergies between the three works is so insightful to understand the roots of modern America, which sprouted in the Gilded Age of Chicago. Americans in general have perhaps a short memory and a shallow desire to understand their history or present, as they are so energetically working to build their future, but as they strive thus forward, they fail to see the straight trail they leave behind. The history of Chicago is interestingly also transcending the contemporary spleen of American culture. ‘Nature’s Metropolis’ more than any other work perhaps, gives a more comprehensive insight into the shared destiny of the northern East Coast and the Great West and South. The history of Chicago is the stitching between the common descent, by opening the gap between the White City and the Black City, between the amazing wonders and creative forces of the American Dream on one hand and the devastating destruction and humiliation of the American Psyche on the other, by describing a meticulous history of the ‘World’s Columbian Exposition‘ of 1893 and a portrait of America’s first serial killer H.H. Holmes.

Looking forward to the feature movie with Leonardo diCaprio by Martin Scorsese.

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Yu Hua, To Live (1993)

Yu Hua, To Live (1993), 250p.

Yu Hua “once heard an American folk song entitled ‘Old Black Joe,’ a song about an elderly black slave who experienced a life’s worth of hardships, including the passing of his entire family, yet he still looked upon the world with eyes of kindness, offering not the slightest complaint.” Hearing the folk song ‘Old Black Joe’ became the inspiration for ‘To Live’, in which an elderly Chinese man, Fugui, has passed a life of hardship including losing his entire family. Central to the story is also a wisdom by the grandfather of Fugui: the chicken becomes a goose, the goose becomes a lamb, the lamb grows up to become a sheep, the sheep becomes an ox. After the ox, there is communism.

It is really hard to read the book and determine if it is about the indestructible hope of man or if it is about the inevitable suffering of man. One certainty exists, life is beckoning death. “As the black night descended from the heavens, I knew that in the blink of an eye I would witness the death of the sunset. I saw the exposed and firm chest of the vast earth; its pose was one of calling, of beckoning. And just as a mother beckons her children, so the earth beckoned the coming of night.” One of the saddest books ever written, and yet anyone will find a moment of happiness. “In the end, it turned out all for the best.”

To Live (1994) by Zhang Yimou.

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William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis (1991)

William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis (1991), 385p.

Without a doubt, one of the best books you can read to understand America in general, and Chicago and the Great West specifically. For a little more comprehensive review see the post about ‘The Devil in the White City‘.

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Philip Roth, Indignation (2008)

philip_roth_indignation_2008Philip Roth, Indignation (2008), 231p

“of the terrible, the incomprehensible way one’s most banal, incidental, even comical choices achieve the most disproportionate result.”

Marcus Messner is the son of Jewish parents, a kosher butcher and his wife, in Newark, New Jersey. Messner is phonetically close to the German word for knife: ‘Messer’. The knife and cutting is a returning and central symbol in Indignation, Marcus dies by the bayonet, his father’s livelihood depends on his knife skills, Olivia Hutton has cut her wrist in an attempted suicide.

Another thread in the story is the indignation Marcus feels about having to attend mass 40 times as a requirement at Winesburg college. At Dean Caudwell’s office, he recites two full pages from Bertrand Russel’s “Why I am Not a Christian.” This theme is closed at the end of the book, with the White Panty Raid. The ‘Panty Raid‘ was a historic phenomenon that started in 1949 and lasted through the 1950s at American colleges. In 1971, a student uprising at Winesburg college resulted in the abolishment of the mass attendance requirement. Marcus Messner’s final doom is caused by this requirement and Ziegler’s proxying for him at the chapel.

‘Indignation’ is associated to ‘American Pastoral’ and ‘I married a Communist’ and has been called the ‘American Trilogy’ by Roth.

Indignation (2016)

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