Posts Tagged music

Love in terms of music, actuarial science, finance and programming

Friends of mine recently got married. One of them has a background in actuarial science and computer science and the other has a masters degree in music. I thought it would be fun to write them a poem that needed both these backgrounds to appreciate fully, and thus I came up with the following:

Love is like a symphony, a Beethoven symphony
(no 7 of course)
its present value cannot be determined
(no hypothecation allowed )
it has more power than compound interest
able to decipher even the most inscrutable VB code
love can make life feel like a stroll 
through country gardens
but sometimes, one must face 
nights on a bare mountain or even
the isle of the dead
but love is a commitment
a contract writ before God
it is a long-term investment, that
rides out short-term fluctuations
(it beats any human benchmark)
with not even death as a decrement

Here are the specific references if you want to look them up. Actuarial science: hypothecation, decrement, contract.  Finance: compound interest, present value, long-term investment, short-term fluctuations. Programming: VB. Music: Beethoven symphony, country gardens, isle of the dead, night on the bare the mountain.

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My cocoon of sound

I work in an open plan office.  My boss sits just a few desks away in the same room. My coworkers are not particularly noisy and they’re certainly pleasant. But their very presence is a distraction.

I do not like silence. The office is silent in that there is no music, pleasant or otherwise. This already makes work less pleasant. But it is not really silent. Distracting sounds pervade the room. Innocuous banter between coworkers, discussions about work that has nothing to do with me, people walking, chairs creaking, papers rustling. Just the knowledge that when I look up, I will see seem other human being is distracting. It isn’t just that what people do that makes me less productive – it is just that they are there.

I keep feeling like, if I just go sit in my room, I’ll be able to solve whatever is puzzling me at that moment. But of course, I can’t. And my introvert batteries keep getting drained. I have found one thing that helps. Music, of course. I put on my headphones, play some classical music and it’s like a wall goes up between me and the rest of the room. I can actually focus. All those little annoying sounds fade into the background. Noisy discussions are rendered less distracting – sometimes I need to turn up the volume.

It’s like being in my own little cocoon of sound. I go home feeling less tired. If I could, I would forgo all interaction with my colleagues (except perhaps during lunch). I’d love to be somewhere on my own (preferably at home), doing everything I need to do via email, my speakers blasting Vaughn-Williams or the Star Wars OSTs.

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How to be a man

I was fortunate enough to see the documentary “Searching for sugar man” this weekend, a film which has the somewhat rare distinction of being both profoundly sad and uplifting at the same time. I want to mention one thing that struck me more than any other about this film. (There may be some spoilers below, though I shall attempt to limit them, so if you want to avoid those, go watch the documentary, then come back to this post.)

Rodriguez, a failed American singer from 70’s, became terribly popular in South Africa, but did not know about it. The documentary portrays him as a man who shrugged off the failure of his two albums with a stoicism that would impress the Greeks. He did manual labour to support his family – and apparently he took his job very seriously (even showed up in a suit). His spirit, his sense of duty, his commitment to life, were intact. And they remained intact when he many years later found out about his fame in a remote country. He was a man who did not measure his worth in terms of fame or fortune.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the portrayal. But I am inspired by it. I believe the men who truly give their lives to their families, men who accept the hardness of life because they live by ideals (faith, love, commitment) that transcend circumstances are worthy of the recognition they seldom get. No, these men are not martyrs – their lives are often unnoticed. It is a rare man who has his story told in a documentary. If Rodriguez had sold not a single record, he would have been the same man, without fame, forgotten by all but his family.

I know another such man personally, my own father. I am a fiercely ambitious man – but my father’s example has kept me grounded. When I die, if I have done nothing but succeed in being a man such as I have described, I would have done enough.

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