Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day: Ingrid Daubechies

In honour of Ada Lovelace Day, I thought that I'd try to highlight a woman in science from my home country, The Netherlands. To be honest, I couldn't think of one, and also couldn't find a high profile one. This may very well be because I don't know enough, or because I didn't search enough, and do please feel free to correct me, as I sincerely would like to know.

So I moved my focus to our southern neighbours, and found a great example of a high profile female scientist: Ingrid Daubechies.

Her accomplishments are staggering: while she's mainly known in the field for her Daubechies wavelets and CDF wavelet (Cohen-Daubechies-Feauveau wavelets, of which one family is famously used in the JPEG 2000 compression), she has a Ph. D. in theoretical physics, was the first female full professor of Mathematics at Princeton -- where, I suppose, she still works today -- and has won a veritable slew of awards:

As wikipedia notes:

In 2000 Daubechies became the first woman to receive the National Academy of
Sciences (NAS) Award in Mathematics, presented every 4 years for excellence in
published mathematical research. The award honored her "for fundamental
discoveries on wavelets and wavelet expansions and for her role in making
wavelets methods a practical basic tool of applied mathematics."

I must apologise for not researching this further: typically, I made the pledge and on the day itself I find myself extremely busy. I may extend this post tomorrow.

UPDATE: there's a saying in Holland that goes: 'It's as if the Devil's playing with it'. Anyway, in a clash of synchronicity -- see me mentioning above that I couldn't come up with clear examples of Dutch women strong in science or technology -- Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant has an article about Suzan de Haan, who is the only female operations manager in charge of a drilling platform in the Dutch part of the North Sea offshore industry.

Article here (in Dutch). I'll translate some parts tomorrow as I'm running out of time today. But hey: I'm proud of Suzan de Haan, as this is a part of technology in which my day job is also closely related (we provide propulsion installations for such platforms), so I know how difficult her job is. Hat's off!

Carousel Gig in the Willem 2

Sunday March 15 the so-called Blisstrain tour had their final gig in de Willem 2 in Den Bosch.

Line up: The Antikaroshi, Ostinato, Bulbul, Beehover and We Insist!. The whole show consisted of the bands playing in a kind of 'carousel': one band would start to play, members of other bands would join in at some points, and near the end of their playing time members of the next band would join in until they took over, and the next band was on. And so on throughout the gig.

Thus, the band I was most interested in seeing -- The Antikaroshi -- started the 'Blisstrain'. Actually, the guitar player/singer of Beehover was joining in as an extra vocalist, sitting on his knees, shouting through a megaphone. May sound strange, but it worked.

After that first song, it was mostly 'pure' Antikaroshi (the violin player of Bulbul joined them during one song, and a guitar player from another band during another: I'm not sure which one): a very good band, and they played most of Crushed Neocons, with verve. Since I wasn't very familiar with them (I bought Crushed Neocons at the gig, and had only listened to some of their songs on their MySpace page), I had some cognitive dissonance. For example, at the gig I heared the one singe line of "Fes" as:

"There are so many drugs around. I need them bad, bad, bad."

While on closer listening at home it's obviously:

"There are so many dogs around. I hear them bark, bark, bark."

I leave further conclusions to the Freudians amongst you. When the drummer of two-piece band Beehover joined in, the end of the Antikaroshi's set was near. I really like them: Fugazi is an obvious influence, although for my money the Antikaroshi are more freestyle, while at the same time more tight. Great musicians.

Beehover was a nice surprise: they're a two piece (and read why on their biography) band, very tight and with a highly distinct sound. The guitar player -- as far as I could see -- uses a five string bass, of which he has stringed only the bottom four strings. The result is a sound that hangs somewhere between bass and guitar: sometimes you hear Lemmy, sometimes Kyuss, sometimes dirty rock'n'roll, sometimes stoner rock.

My friend Vincent and I loved them, and I bought their latest album Heavy Zoo after the gig. Then, instead of the next band, there was an unexpected break -- it must have been unexpected, because the DJ Bidi, who was talking backstage, had to run to get the music started.

Check out pictures of the show, made by the venue's volunteers, here.

After the break Bulbul and Ostinato played, but neither made much of an impression on me. This is mostly a matter of taste: both bands are fine, they're just not for me.

The evening ended with the highly alternative French rockers of We Insist! A weird band whose music was all over the place. The drummer looked like a cross between Phil Lynott and John Holmes, and especially his leopard skin shirt was beyond kitsch.

Maybe by that time I had too much, or my mood had shifted, but I found them a bit too freaky. YMMV, as always.

Apart from the usual merchandise (T-shirts, CDs, etc), Blisstrain provided a USB-stick with footage from the show, recorded that very day. I bought it, and love the idea!

This is the way small venues like Willem 2 and small labels like Exile on Mainstream Records make a difference: memory sticks with footage of the show you just visited, pictures both by volunteers and by visitors (if they supply them) of the same gig after that show: see above): a use of new media to good effect. Much fresher than the old go to the gig, no photos allowed and buy the overpriced merchandise tours of much bigger bands.

That Sunday I spent half the money (than I would have on a show of a 'bigger' band) and got more than twice the fun.