Auteur: nicgrabowski

Ed van der Elsken, straatfotograaf

Ik heb de overzichtstentoonstelling van Ed van der Elsken in Stedelijk Museum bekeken.
Van der Elsken is chaotisch en uitgesproken extravert. Een expressionist.
Zijn films rommelig en experimenteel.
De tentoonstelling is indrukwekkend, maar vooral: veel.
Ik kwam met een vol hoofd de trap af.ed_publicatie
Het boek De Verliefde Camera is de catalogus bij deze overzichtstentoonstelling.
In het intro van de catalogus noemt Hripsimé Visser, de samensteller van de catalogus, het werk levendig en dynamisch genoemd. Dat lijkt me toch een understatement.
Het boek geeft een overzicht van het werk van Van der Elsken in chronologische stappen.
Parijs.
Straatfoto’s.
Dan een serie die zich een liefdesgeschiedenis noemt te vormen: Love on the Left Bank. De foto’s in deze serie: grote vlakken zwart, weinig licht, grimmig. Meer lust dan liefde.
Dan Afrika.
Opnieuw nogal donkere foto’s. Waar het verhaal antropologisch is, was naar mijn idee Van der Elsken veel meer geinteresseerd in de esthetiek van de zwarte mens.
Close-ups van negers en negerinnen. Foto’s die niet over het leven in Afrika als onderwerp hebben, maar veel meer de anatomie van de Afrikaanse mens.
Sweet Life.
Van der Elsken op zijn best: straatfoto’s van alles wat hem voor de camera komt en hij interessant vindt. hier meet Van der Elsken zich met William Klein en Robert Frank.
Amsterdam.
Straatfoto’s maar ook reportage-achtig en portretten. De individuele foto’s zijn het sterkst, opnieuw. De straatfoto’s van alledaagse zaken.
Eye Love You.
Voor het eerst kleur.
Alledaagse scenes.
Topper: een foto van oudere dames met zonnebrillen en in keurige jurken die twee negerkindertjes fotograferen alsof ze in de dierentuin zijn. Het plaatsvervangend schaamrood komt je op de kaken.
Japan.
Opnieuw de straatfoto’s van iemand die onbelemmerd foto’s van alledaagse onderwerpen maakt.
Uiteindelijk was Ed van der Elsken vooral een hele goede straatfotograaf die rond probeerde te komen van zijn fotografie.
Zijn straatfoto’s zijn wereldklasse.

Kurzweil doing music composition and statistical analysis on the heavily criticized IBM 1620

Addendum to the post I wrote earlier on Kurzweil and Dijkstra, see Singularity Is Near, so could humour be (Kurzweil meets Dijkstra), and the review from Dijkstra of the IBM 1620.

I hit this passage in Singularity Is Near where Ray Kurzweil tells about his history with computing. He used the 1620 for his experiments, the 1620 that Dijkstra so heavily criticised.

During the 1960s, I was as absorbed in the contemporary musical, cultural, and political movements as my peers, but I became equally engaged in a much more obscure trend: namely, the remarkable sequence of machines that IBM proffered during that decade, from their big “7000” series (7070, 7074, 7090, 7094) to their small 1620, effectively the first “minicomputer.” The machines were introduced at yearly intervals, and each one was less expensive and more powerful than the last, a phenomenon familiar today. I got access to an IBM 1620 and began to write programs for statistical analysis and subsequently for music composition.

Apparently Kurzweil did find some useful application for it, and he managed to avoid the flaws in the 1620’s design.

Nice circle.

Vagabonding – een klassiek reisboek maar niet in het Nederlands?

Verrassend…
Ik “las” Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding51fbt5jcs3l-_sy344_bo1204203200_ een tijdje geleden in de audio versie. Dat was naar aanleiding van een opmerking in een Tim Ferriss’ podcast (weet niet meer welke).
Vagabondig gaat net zoveel over rezien als over filosofie, lifestyle, waarden in het leven, ethiek. Het is een wonderbaarlijk boek.
Ik begijp niet waarom er geen Nederlandse vertaling is.
Het book is volgepekt met interessante ideeen, gedachten, practische advieen en levenswijsheden, zonder te prediken of schoolmeesterachtig te worden.

Luister ook de Tim Ferriss met Potts kan ik aanraden. A blast, zoals Ferriss zelf zou zeggen.

Unshakeable – food for the mind, the wallet and the millions

He did it again.
I do not think there is much in this book that he had not discussed (extensively) in Money Master the Game.

But, as opposed to Money, this book is more concise (which is not much of an achievement; I wrote about this earlier here; Unshakeable is a revelation of briefness compared to Money).

The books is very clear on where not to lose money: taxes, fund fees, services that add no value.
It is also very clear on where to invest in: diversified portfolio of low cost index trackers, bonds, real estate.
Do not invest in gold or so.

And a very important learning: stay calm. Stock markets dive every so many years. When this happens, stay in your seat and do not move. Because as often as they fall they rise again.
Losses are made by people that get nervous.
These are the opportunities for the calm.

If there is one conclusion from this book in one sentence: get conscious about your investments, otherwise the financial institutions will get away with your savings.
That’s the conclusion, so if you want to read more, go ahead. The proceeds of the book go to the noble cause of feeding the world (Tony feeds millions/billions,when not on the phone with presidents and multibillionaires all the time), so if not good for your wallet, the investment in this is good for your mental well-being.
But expect lots of words for not so many ideas. Good ideas, but conciseness and humility are not Tony’s forte.

The roots of modern computing explained in EWD51 – Multiprogramming and the X8

Dijkstra’s EWD 51 is a structured educational coverage of the workings of semaphores in communicating processes and with IO devices. It is the first part in a series of three articles called MULTIPROGAMMERING EN DE X8″ (Multiprogramming and the X8), EWD54 and 57 describe part 2 and 3.

The X8 is the Dutch research computer for which Dijkstra and hos team developed the operating system, and he was able to test his now famous concepts for multiprogramming. 
In a way it is the formal part of the talk that Dijkstra held and was transcribed in EWD 35.

EWD 51 extensively discusses the mechanisms of semaphores, the conditions, and (hardware) implications. That is the summary. To give more would be pointless, and you’d rather read the entire article. (The article is in Dutch – I could provide a quick translation if you are interested. Please let me know through a comment on this post, or send me an email)

The Dutch language used in this article is highly interesting. Dijkstra invents concepts for which no words existed before (seinpaal/semaphore as computing concept to start with) the abbreviations P (prolaag/pass – probeer te verlagen) and V (verhoog/increase), critieke secties / critical sections, ingreep-flip-flop / interrupt-flip-flops, luisterbit / listener bit, doof-horend bit.

The article could still  function as a modern introduction into the topic and still be applicable to today’s computers.

So far ahead, so clear, so up to date still.

Why Coupland reminded me of Booch reading the rollercoaster novel All Families Are Psychotics

All Families Are Psychotic is a journey through the chaotic events of a family get together.

I love these books from Douglas Coupland where the story brings you semi-random from one idiotic hilarious episode into the other. Btw why does Douglas Coupland remind me of Grady

Booch
Booch

Booch? Both seem a bit scruffy outliers in their worlds – is how I would describe it in an instant answer without much further thought. It the same thing that attracts me in Haruki Murakami’s novels – the semi randomness of the events that lead the protagonists(s) through the story. The story is the way.

I believe my family is psychotic, but this Drummond family excels at it. What starts off as a family event around daughter Sarah’s jump into space – she’s an astronaut, develops into a wild road movie, with

Coupland
Coupland

lots of collateral damage.
So take Coupland’s title with a touch of salt, but it’s a great rollercoaster read.

While you are at it also read Coupland’s Player One which has a similar cadence.

I your more have time to shred also read Murakami trilogy 1q84.

Singularity Is Near, so could humour be (Kurzweil meets Dijkstra)

I was reading Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity Is Near and couldn’t keep wondering what was missing. Then I hit this passage where Kurzweil quotes Edger W. Dijkstra.

“Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”

Why this quote, in this context?

And Dijkstra’s statement: when and where did he say this?

So I did a bit of research on the internet, especially in the Dijkstra archive. I could not find the source of this phrase.
Other places on the internet https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edsger_W._Dijkstra find the attribution disputed (and yes you can easily dispute this and other internet sources).

By the way Dijkstra could very well have said it. Even though he was a world famous computer scientist, he seems to only have owned a computer himself to read email and surf the web. So at least for him, this statement holds true.

Back to Singularity. I find the choice and place of this quote an example of the shortcomings of this book: the mixing of scientific facts with with personal and vaguely backed predictions. Some predictions are no more than Kurzweil’s personal believes. Also the context in which this quote is placed is odd: Kurzweil in this chapter talks about exponential growth, about Moore’s Law, curve of a paradigm and take over of new paradigm. It is unclear where this Dijkstra quote fits in this story.

This made me think about the differences between Dijkstra and Kurzweil. Dijkstra: unconventional theoretical scientist. Kurzweil: unconventional futuristic engineer. You would expect Dijkstra to be a dry personality and Kurzweil more flamboyant. But surprisingly the big difference and the major shortcoming in Kurzweil’s work is this one thing that Dijkstra sprinkles through all of his work: humour.

EDW 37 – a review of the new IBM 1620

In EWD 37 Dijkstra records a product review of the the new IBM 1620 computer, which came to the market in 1959.
As often, the article starts with a wonderful Dijkstra-esk introduction.

It is a good custom that scientific articles are reviewed and that no publisher ever thinks about starting a lawsuit or any other measures of vengeance against the author of a very unfavourable review of one of his publications.
I am not sure if it is the first review of a new computer ever, but it is an interesting one, and it goes quite deep into the technical aspects.
But not before making a justification for doing the review in general.
“It is a good custom that scientific articles are reviewed and that no publisher ever thinks about starting a lawsuit or any other measures of vengeance against the author of a very unfavourable review of one of his publications.

(BTW for the historians amongst us, the 1620 was considered the first “mini-computer”.)

With this in mind it is somewhat curious that it is not customary to review digital computers. Reviews of these scientific instruments are in some respects much more important: it is a pity if you have bought the wrong book, but it is much, much worse if you have bought the wrong computer.

eabcce7f-6977-4915-a117-14ede64e48f5

Foto from http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/mainframe/mainframe_PP1620.html

It is my considered opinion, however, that this machine embodies some very fundamental mistakes and certainly after the publication of the two letters mentioned above I regard it as my duty not to remain silent any longer. Manufacturers should be warned for these mistakes in order not to be tempted to incorporate them in their future designs, also machine users should be warned for these mistakes in order to help them in not chosing the wrong machine and in order to create a climate where machines will be judged more by their fundamental properties.

Dijkstra surfaces two major flaws in the design of this computer.
An instruction for constructing subroutines (Branch And Transmit) that is basically unusable because it is impossible to use in nested subroutines.

Another problem Dijkstra identifies is with the design of the paper tape processing. And it wouldn’t be Dijkstra if he would not illustrate this shortcoming with a great metaphor.

But now a curious problem arises: the terminal Record XXX Mark which has been stored is indistinguishable from previous Record Marks which might have been read from the tape, and therefore the machine is faced with a problem that shows a striking resemblance to the prototype of an improper algorithm: a man asking the way and getting the answer “You go straight on and turn to the right just before the last steel bridge.”

Dijkstra goes on to criticise the implementation of the variable field addressing method. He proves the implementation in not only very uneconomic (wasting memory – “cores”), but also severely limiting memory management. So severe that he questions the intelligence of the designers of the computer.

I always wonder whether the designers of such machines have been aware of the restrictive consequences of the technique in question; if so, it is hard to respect their conscious decision to stick to it, if not, are they the people that should have been designing machines? I always wonder……

Looking at these shortcomings they seem quite hilarious, but these were the early days of computing.

Dijkstra concludes his review with a final scathing verdict. Not only the buyers must have been totally ignorant to have bought such a machine, also the manufacturer is to blame.

As the reader will understand, my recent study of the IBM 1620 has been a shocking experience: I knew that it was a rather small machine but I had never suspected that it would embody so many basic blunders. Personally, I cannot undergo such an experience without asking myself what its morals are.
One of the facts we have to face is that this machine, despite of its poor qualities, has been bought or rented. Either the customer is incompetent to judge what he is buying, or the contracts are signed by the wrong persons; in both cases the conclusion is that the fact, that other people have chosen a particular machine, is no guarantee whatsoever as far as its quality is concerned.

The next fact that we have to face is that this machine, despite of its poor qualities, has been produced, in this case even by a big firm with a long and considerable experience. The straightforward conclusion is, that nor the size nor the experience is a guarantee as far as the quality of the product is concerned. Well, we can think of various explanations for this apparent inconsistency, but the most obvious explanation predicts still more blunders in the more ambitious and more complicated products of the manufacturer in question.

Thank you very much. There you go, IBM.