Bye bye Adlershof…

February 26th, 2009

Sunset in Adlershof

2003-2008. Five years studies of mathematics in Berlin, Adlershof. Near the end of the city. A great part of my life.

Photo: Sunset seen from Rudower Chaussee 25, Haus 3, 3. OG, Working Group “Algorithms and Complexity”, Institut für Informatik, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin where I worked from 5/2007 until 7/2008. The photo must have been taken in the semester break 2-4/2008.

My best holidays

August 27th, 2008

When thinking at the holidays I have experienced, I conclude that the ones I enjoyed at most were during a summer with my grandmother in the small village Dafnoudi (Δαφνούδι) as I was a small child, some time before visiting the school for the first time.

The village is located in the Serres prefecture of West Macedonia (Greece); it is built in the foot of mountains that limit the plain of Serres from the East side. My grandmother, who was a midwife, was working there at the late 70s, if I remember well.

It was a summer of freedom and discovery. I easily made some friends with whom I played every day. One of my friends was the son of our landlady, a very capable young man, whom I admired. Although we had a great age difference —at that time he was a teenager— we were friends and he introduced me to several exciting things. One day he had shown to me a huge storage space that they had; I remember lots of rusted old equipment, among them a huge magnet that once was a part of a big loudspeaker. I could not believe that so great magnets existed!… On an other day I saw his room in which he was trying to build a small radio station. He had taught me how to play chess and I remember that one evening, after loosing the game by him, I wondered if we could go on playing without the king and he did me the favour! It was a summer of freedom and kindness!

It is strange what a child remarks! I remember that when looking at our flat from outside, I could make out the border of a door on a plain wall (at the height of the 1st floor), that was filled out with bricks in the past. “Once there was a door up there”, I was thinking, “but how could it be reached, from outside?” or “where did it lead to, from inside?”

My grandmother never displeased me. We were visiting the small beautiful tavern of the village, she was giving me simple but exciting presents that stimulated my imagination (for example, two key chains whose fobs were miniatures of lamps), she helped me learn the times table with an amazing plastic board of combinations, she was measuring my hight at the door frame —and thus making me feel proud every week.

I liked very much the fact that the water was looking almost white because of the thousands tiny air bubbles in it and that we had a tiny kitchen integrated in the room where the beds were. The accessibility of every facility in the small flat created a universe, that was adapted to my small dimensions and thus, combined with the sensitivity and care of my grandmother, gave me a sweet safety feeling.

Grown up persons have not lost the need to get happy with simple things. They have just forgotten it, because they have learned to smooth their new experiences by measuring them according to their past ones. As children have no past experiences, it is their privilege to be able to live great pleasures triggered by simple events. How can we do this again while retaining all our memories?

At the Flea Market

July 20th, 2008

Father at the flea market

True bargainers deal behind the bench.

[My father, interested in an old weighing scale, Berlin, June 2008]


July 15th, 2008

As I was ordering my books today I saw a book that makes me smile and feel a great regret every time I look at it. We usually regret things that we did and hurt someone, or things that we did not do and could give pleasure to someone, but this strange story does not belong to these two categories.

Christmas 1999 was approaching and I wanted to buy a present for my girlfriend that was living at that time in an other city. Some months before, a fellow student had shown to me a nice book that had fascinated him; it was Minotaurus by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. He was very impressed by it and his description attracted my interest. As my girlfriend was a person with nice taste in literature, I thought of buying this book for her (although I had not read it, but I liked every play by Dürrenmatt that I had seen).

But time limitations —or rather idleness— pushed me to forget totally this idea and prepare a self made present.

The day came and I visited her. I gave my present to her and she gave me hers. I opened it and you can imagine my surprise discovering that her present was Minotaurus by Friedrich Dürrenmatt…

We had never mentioned that book before. Making the same present would have been one of those extremely rare coincidences that make life seem magic. This perfection had been spoiled by an unjustified inactivity and this is what I regret. It is a strange sort of regretting, because I smile every time I think of it. If the event of the double present had been realised, then the feeling would have been symmetric; both would have been astonished. Now it was only on one side.

That’s how it is with experiencing a non provable rare event. The feelings that is causes cannot be shared, in contrast to joy or sorrow. Either it is a common experience and therefore magic or it remains strictly personal.

At home

April 21st, 2008

Being at home is a feeling that is deterministic defined for persons who live all their life in a unique place: in that place they feel at home and not elsewhere. This is the place where they work, the one that they know best; it receives also a higher significance if they do not plan to leave it in the near future. This feeling is much more complicated for persons that have lived for a long time in different places. Its differentiation is finer and its perspectives are multiple. In this text I will try to expose a few thoughts about these fluctuations and perspectives.

I would distinguish between two types of the “being at home” feeling. The one is experienced at home, and I will call it affirmative. The other type is the displaced “at home” feeling: it appears in means of an illusion at that place, where the current residence of the subject is being found.

It is very interesting that the latter comes totally spontaneously, triggered by trivial causes whereas the former is always expected. It happened to me while being in Berlin, to think for a moment that I saw mountains in the horizon (they were mere clouds) and for a second I felt at home. Or once I heard a guest from Greece speaking in a way that I only heard in Thessaloniki (Greece) during my first study years; this forgotten element made me feel that I was there, back.

Small trivial factors that were never noticed when someone was living in a specific place, gain an unconscious reference function when they disappear and suddenly appear for a moment. But the most interesting event is this special feeling which they awake: it is a displaced feeling of being at home, that can only be experienced when the person lives elsewhere for many years. It is a mix of familiarity and belongingness, that has been never activated before. The first time it appears is also of great importance, because it makes one realize the covered time distance.

The affirmative form takes place during a temporary return, especially if this is in the form of vacations. Revisiting the place of a previous residence while being in a vacation mood, a contrast is caused: the places where one now stands as a relaxed observer are exactly the places where the same person was once in a hurry, was working, feeling happiness, sadness, was in one word “active”. This contrast in time between activity and inactivity combined with the identicalness of the place is the gate to several important and trivial recollections. Only then one can understand, why a certain place is felt as home.

For wandering persons, every place they lived, where they experienced many and important parts of their lives, is a sort of home, each one in its own manner. This is not only dependent of the past, i.e. of the memories related to that place, but of the present as well. This is constituted by the relatives and friends that live there. It is the most important part of the home reference. A place could have almost no meaning, if the living part that is linked to the subject were not there. Sometimes, especially with regard to friends, more than presence is needed; if the respective life tracks of the persons acquire great distance between them, then no common references to the past can save the contact and the subsequent home-feeling.

As you have maybe already noticed, home is associated in my examples with a left home. For wandering persons, home is always left. The current home will gain its symbols after being left as well; then the projections of the experiences that took place there will be filtered through its currently unimportant localities.

About Charm

April 14th, 2008

I am lucky to be acquainted with some charming people (few but many enough). I don’t mean simply attractive. Attractiveness is something like gravitation: it is not selective. Charm is much more complicated and I will explain here what I actually mean.

Concerning charm itself, I would classify it in direct and transitional.

Direct charm is exercised by the object itself. A person, a musical work, a mathematical theory or any idea can enchant someone. In this case, the subject is very much responsible; namely the ability of discovering and perceiving special properties creates those fertile conditions for the charm.

The second kind of charm (the transitional) needs a mediating person that is already enchanted. This person does not try to persuade us about the excellence of the object that enchanted it; it simply lives it (or better, “for it” and “from it”). This duality is exactly that, which functions charming for an other person.

The mediating person, the medium in other words, functions in this case like a representation of the object that enchanted it. It operates like a soundboard that amplifies the initial vibration. It is a demonstration of the real value of the enchanting object. Because of this, the transitional charm is much more stronger than the direct one.

Watching such people speaking or acting in general is always exciting. Their enchantment (not themselves) invites us to watch the wonders of their world. It is a true inspiration, because it supplies the spirit that makes one feel alive.

This triangle of terms (the object, the medium and the newcomer) is a form of initiation. The object is something that exists but is not initially perceived, either because the attention is drawn to other objects or because higher capabilities and knowledge are demanded. The crossing to this perception is activated by the medium person, that is already there.

As I indicated above, the charm cannot be exercised in conditions of persuading. It requires the freedom of selection (axiom of choice! ;) ) It requires the sensibility of the observer as well. The finer the glance, the higher the probability of being charmed (or repulsed).

Also the factor “time” is here of great importance. Characterizing someone or something as “charming” cannot be done from the first moment of contact. Properties like this need the participation of the mind, till the critical mass of data has been processed.

And what about the persons who live their charm and charm the others? Are they charming as well?

The answer is “yes”. I would dare to say “more charming than in the charm of the first order (the direct one)”. Their reference escapes from their personal boundaries, thus giving them a property that is independent of form and time.

Kot w Butach

April 7th, 2008

It meant a lot to him. It was not only the magnificent colours, the clever setting up of the figures, or the sweetness in the seriousness of the representation. It was a symbol for a whole era of naïvety and joy, which only the children can live. For the adults this era is considered as a lost paradise whose recovery is only possible when being in love.

It was there, to be seen every morning and every evening. It awakened tenderness and familiarity; no one could resist smiling, looking at it.

But on one day it was not there any more! Had it fallen off the wall? Had anyone removed it? Impossible to remember…

From that time on he took it with him to every flat he moved in. At the first time, he didn’t know that he was taking it; he had totally forgotten about it and if someone had pointed the transport out to him, he might have left it back, as he did not consider it to his own belongings. But in a way it had followed him by itself. At the time when he found out that it was there, he was glad, took a glance at it and then rolled it up and put it back in a safe place.

He was taking care of it. He was afraid that it could get scratched, cut or crumpled up. But he left it always in a place, thinking that one day he should treat it with all the deserved care and respect.

And the day came. He went in a shop and bought the largest holder that they had. He put it carefully in it and tried to fix it on a single nail. It was too heavy… He took then his PBH 2000 RE Bosch hammer with pneumatic mechanism and bored a hole for an 8mm wall plug. The screw could now bear the weight. It was protected by the glass and could be seen from almost every corner of the main room.

Now he had gained it… From the moment it was up there, the symbols of the past faded away. Because the presence of its colours, its figures, and its representation is so much alive. It is a source of endless pleasure. He lies in the bed gazing at the cat for hours. And the cat gazes back at him.

Passion in the market and job market

March 31st, 2008

The word ‘passion’ has become very popular in the temporary market and job market: a company tries to persuade us that it is not simply the best, but that it works on its commissions or products with passion; an employer expects that the working person does not do his job only because of the money, not because he likes it or is enthusiastic about it, but with passion, the highest motivation of all.

It is also broadly believed that somebody who has a passion, should work on it professionally, because this is meant to be the best condition for a job: you enjoy what you do and get the greatest financial profit out of it (here it is assumed that passionate working persons are good in their field as well).

Therefore the one that offers a position and the one who looks for it believe not only that the qualifications of the candidate should suit the offered job (and vice versa), but that the position and the qualifications are in accordance with the presumed passion of the applicant.

This fact is very misleading from both perspectives (employee/employer). A work position has two characteristics for the working person: at first, the freedom that it offers is always restricted and second, it does not exist for the pleasure of the working person. These two features are not compatible with any passion and the result is the partial or total restriction of it.

I will give here a typical example for this case. During my music studies I was acquainted with many musicians that studied an orchestra instrument. All of them decided to become musicians not because they wanted to make money, but because they had a passion for it. After their studies most of them found a job in an orchestra, after being selected among many others. There they had rather to obey conductors (who were sometimes worse musicians than them) than being creative, and to go through a tiring repetition of the repertory. If they could not find a second job of higher demands, most of them would prefer the artistic death in favour of the financial security; but this is exactly the opposite principle of their initial decision. A person with less or no passion would suit this job better.

Therefore a passionate person should either look for a job that offers great freedom, e.g. a high position, or work independently of employers. I think that the only exception here is the passion for money; this can work everywhere.

On the other hand, people that have passion for something, are not easily accepted by the others. They are so concentrated in their passion, that they neglect themselves, their other activities and the persons close to them. The passion functions as a drug, it gives them enormous pleasure (sometimes at high costs) and makes the rest of the world appearing boring to them.

So why is our market full of passion? I think that there are two reasons for it.

First, in conditions of a very competitive market besides qualification, and efficiency, the factor motivation has become very important. In terms of continuous inconstancy, high motivation keeps efficiency constant. The great competition leads to states of burn out situations of the working and to a great variety of the supply, so there is a demand for further motivation and attraction resources (“money is not enough when we make money and a product is something more than a product”). Passion here is demanded, as its motivation is independent of external factors. But efficiency presumes control, and controlled passion is not passion any more (maybe enthusiasm would suit here better), and on the other hand, passionate people are hard to control or to cooperate with.

Second, all people want to experience or to watch other people experience strong feelings, especially in times and places where they can live an ordinary life (without wars, deceases, poverty, etc, i.e. when they do not have serious problems). An ordinary life can be extremely boring, so passion is in high demand (as an illusion as well).

But passion cannot be hidden or ordered. It does not accept rules, for it is the rule itself. The excessive supply and demand of ‘passion’ leads to unreliability and final exclusion of it (as every excessive use).

First Post

March 26th, 2008

I wanted to do this for a long time. Not only a blog, but a whole site, where someone can read my texts or listen to my musical works. In the future I hope to publish here some math stuff too. The project is at the beginning, but there is still much existing material to be uploaded while new stuff is produced at the same time.

In this blog I am going to write about experiences, thoughts, and sometimes I will link them too ;) For this effort I’ll try to use experiences of other people as well (always anonymous), in order to expand the data that can be processed. My goal is a theory, the mathematics of life: its theorems, remarks, general and special cases, conclusions about its structures and processes. And above all, the axioms, the so called “Principles”. Sometimes defined by their usefulness, some other times by our intuitive correctness and in some very special cases, by beauty. This is maybe the most interesting case, because beauty cannot be defined generally, and because it is independent of usefulness and correctness. Here it is them, the axioms, that define us.

As in every theoretical or practical introduction I will start writing about trivial things. But as in any concept, I may deviate from my goals. To be honest: I’ll try to enjoy this blog, and hope that you will enjoy it too!