Archive for May, 2006

Where my church is

As you already know, I am an agnostic. But having been raised in Greece — a frantically-fanatically Christian nation — I have inherited some affection towards Christianity. But I make no mistake in my quest to satisfy the part of my DNA that seeks God: I don’t follow the churches and their dogmatic establishments. I try to find “God” in Christ’s teachings and not in the skies. Christ fundamentally taught two things: Love and Forgiveness. Anything else is blah-blah and made-up crap by people who grabbed the opportunity to create a new slave order that lasted almost 2,000 years.

Exactly because I practice Christianity in its core as taught by Christ, I can visit mass on any Christian Church (if I feel like it to). When I was in UK there were no Orthodox Churches near me, so when I had the need to go to a church, I was simply picking one between Agglican, Catholic or Protestant churches. Any would do. And any did do.

You see, when I go to a mass (very rarely), I don’t go to pray or praise that supreme being called God. I go so I can love and be loved. When people are part of a church that they deeply believe in, they tend to shine goodness. They all have a smile, they all feel part of a righteous community and are as helpful as they can to each other. People show their Good Self. Maybe because of fear of God in His House, maybe because that’s how they feel at the time, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that when you want to feel loved, you can, in ANY kind of Christian Church. Christians should not let stupid technicalities be in their way to practice the core: love (e.g. is Virgin Mary a near-Goddess? Is God-Son-Spirit one and three at the same time?).

I feel the same about Jews, Muslims or Budhists. I would be thrilled to enter their temples and feel the believers’ Good Selves too. The fact that these are different religions altogether does not make me deviate on my quest for love. Love is love, and if it comes by singing a Christian song or by reading the Coran, it ain’t matter as long as it’s pure.

Dimoulogy: I could not have said it any better

Today I celebrate my birthday: I am 33 years old. I made myself one of the nicest birthday presents I could ever have: I spent 5+ hours reading the whole blog of the Greek writer/poet/journalist/photographer/etc Nikos Dimou.

With Mr Dimou I had quickly corresponded in 1999 via email when he used to have a column at the “RAM” computer magazine. I argued against something he had written about the BeOS and Mr Dimou was very kind to actually print my reply on the next “RAM” issue. But I think that our arguments stop just right there.

Reading his blog gave me such hope. There are Greeks who are open minded, what a relief for me who can’t stand the ethnicism of Neo-Greece (or any country’s for that matter). He is such a wealth of information and logical thinking: Orthodoxy, chauvinism & nationalism, Christ, racism, Greek history, anti-americanism, globalization, education, are all issues scrutinized by him. He is a man without predefined borders, he is a free spirit, he sees the big picture by taking a big bold step back. When I was reading his opinion pieces it was like I was reading about my own opinions — but his are so much better phrased and organized. Also like him, in the past I was deemed “anti-Greek” by my readers, which is so far of the truth. Mr Dimou wrote an editorial that also represents me and explains why I say the things I say about Greece and Greeks.

With great sadness I read that he won’t update anymore this thought provoking blog, but instead has moved to another, one that will only serve as a personal journal. It seems that just as the Linux and Apple fanatical stupidity drove me out of, many old-fashioned Greek people who have replied on his original blog have left him a scar too and eventually drove him out of his critical blog. It’s sad, but I guess, when you are going against the mainstream, you are bound to get hurt. Nevertheless, his blog will hopefully remain there for every Greek to read and re-read. Even if these opinions will make some of the readers angry for having the rug pulled below their feet (”what do you mean that nothing happened on the 25th of March 1821?”).

Greek priest gives us sex advise

From a Greek newspaper: “The wife does not have the right to say ‘no’ to sex if her husband is asking for it — except if she has… fever.” Hahaha… Good one.

Good Looks and String Theory

What a good looking guy. I saw him on Science Channel last night on a documentary about Einstein. When I first saw him on TV I thought: “what the hell, do they put teenagers now talking about Quantum Mechanics?”. A quick search on him online though revealed that Dr Brian Cox is a physicist at the University of Manchester and he is working at CERN currently, at the ATLAS project which tries –among other things– to prove the String Theory. However, he did look to me no much older than mid-twenties or so. So, I decided to email him and… ask for his age (and I provided mine too, just so I am a bit more fair in my abrupt request).

Brian was very kind to reply to my email and tell me his real age (which I won’t reveal, as I didn’t get permission to do so). Well, after having his answer, I can only say the following, in my conspiracy theory mode: CERN has already found the Equation of Everything, they control space and time and that’s why Brian doesn’t have to look a day older than 25 or so. Either that, or all Brians are bound to look younger than they actually are, just like Bryan Singer does too. 😉

Madonna’s quote represents me

Madonna once said: “I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body!”. I personally feel that way too. I am a straight female but I act and think like a man.

Getting an RV

We went with JBQ yesterday at an RV show in Alameda County. We saw quite a few models, big and small, but we both agreed that the best value for the money, is the non-slider 24 footer Winnebago (interior pics, floorplan). It can sit/sleep 4 people and in theory it can transport 7. It has a full bathroom with a shower, two double beds, full kitchen functionality and can transport 160 litres or water. I loved it. It felt so romantic and cool.

Thing is though, it doesn’t make sense to get one. It costs over $60,000, it has high insurance ($200 a month), and each time you drive it, it consumes 3x the gas, plus you have to pay about $40 a night to the camping grounds. Overall, it is a very expensive luxury. Having the money to buy it is not enough to justify this thing.

Eurovision winner won fairly

So, some guys from Finland dressed like demons and playing hard rock won the Eurovision contest. Russians said that they should have been the winners. I personally disagree. The Finnish won fair and square. They had a better song and they pushed buttons with their appearance. Being eccentric sells and certainly voters were craving for that. Eurovision all these years resembled the boring lalala songs like the ones performed in American Idol. BORING. And Lordi changed that. Good for them!

However, my personal favorite song from the contest was the Romanian one. A very nice dance pop song, which was not only much better than the boy-band-boring Russian song, but also its singer could sing some very high notes. Update: I was right, even if I know very little about technicalities in music. Apparently, his bio on Eurovision explicity states that “Mihai Traistariu’s voice can reach five octaves and one third.” That’s more than what most tenors can do.

As for the Greek song, it was a so-so song, and it could have been in the top-5 instead of the No9 it finished, if Anna Vissi had a better english accent. For crying out loud Anna, if you want to sing in english, LEARN to not sound so horrible with this strong Greek/Cypriot accent of yours, where all the “R”s are so RRRRRrrrrr. Yuk!

Unbound freedom or community protection?

I was reading an interview of the 33-degree Freemason Akram Elias who was discussing the differences of seperation of Church & State in USA and Europe. From the article:

As we speak, in Europe, in European democracies, including France and Germany, discussions are ongoing regarding the Church of Scientology. Governments are discussing is this is a church is as legitimate religion or is it one of those cults or sects? The reason they are debating that in Europe, if they find that it’s a cult, then it will no longer be able to benefit from certain rights and privileges that a recognized church or religion would. In this country, we don’t have this.

This made me think: who’s doing the right thing? USA or Europeans? In my own country, Greece, Scientology has already being ruled as “immoral and a scam”, and I personally think that this was a fair judgement. But here’s the thing: does the government or the judges have the right to jump the gun and investigate new religions/sects and deem them “good or bad”, even if no one have complained about them yet? The way France goes about it is that they consider sects as scams and so they try to protect their citizens and community before things get escalated. USA on the other hand gives full freedom to the individuals to join anything they want and only start investigating or prosecuting these sect organizations IF an individual or more actually brings up a lawsuit or there is strong evidence of unlawful procedures going on in the sect. But when that happens it means that someone has already been hurt.

On one hand we have a government that is protective of its community and on the other hand we have a government who gives full freedom to everyone. Who’s right and who’s wrong here? From one side I like USA’s way of giving freedom to everyone, but on the other hand I keep thinking that France and Greece did the right thing about exposing obvious scams and have probably already saved lots of people by doing so. My JBQ says that it’s simply a difference in culture more than anything else. What do you think?

Invasion fans fight back

As I wrote the other day, Invasion got cancelled. But its fans now are fighting back and they have a petition online. I personally don’t believe in petitions. They just don’t work. The software industry has shown us that much. But I signed it anyway and even forwarded the URL to my ABC PR contact.

There are a lot of things discussed for Invasion’s future, but the only future will be its DVD Season-1 release and nothing else. The CW network found the series too expensive to run so they didn’t adopt it, while SciFi is even… poorer and can’t handle its over-$1 million per episode cost. Some suggested a SciFi mini-series tele-movie, like the ones SciFi prepares for each December. I don’t expect SciFi to do that though as they prefer original series. As for a VCR/DVD-only movie, that can be done with $3-5 millions, but I doubt Ficthner would agree to star in such a project. So, it’s the end in my opinion.

Anyways, the Series Finale last night was intriguing and well done (only some of the CGI were still under par). It left us with a major cliffhanger and some questions about the aliens(?) unanswered, but other parts of the story were given a conclusion, so I guess not all things are bad.

Invasion’s cancellation happened because of a couple of reasons:
– ABC didn’t promote it enough. When there would be 20 “Lost” commercials in a day, there would be 2 for Invasion.
– ABC ordered two hiatuses just when the story was getting interesting, losing lots of the viewership.
– The first 6-8 episodes were boring as hell and not much was happening. ABC asked Invasion’s writers to speed it up, and they did. But when Invasion became interesting, half of the initial viewership had already decided to not watch it again. And the few that came back to watch it again were very confused because Invasion has a pretty complex storyline and if you don’t watch all episodes, it becomes confusing.
– Invasion is a family drama with sci-fi underpinnings. Problem with this mixed genre is, people who only watch dramas find Invasion “weird”, and people who like sci-fi (like myself), were left with zero explanation about what these sea creatures were and where they came from. The show didn’t explain anything about them.

Nevertheless, Invasion averaged about 9.5 million viewers, which is a lot. But JBQ suggested that probably the cancellation happened not because of the number of viewers being low-ish but the fact that the series was not profitable. Warner Bros was maintaining an artificial lake at their studios just for shooting Invasion, for example.

And all this, while “Veronica Mars”, which doesn’t score more than 2 million viewers on average, got the props for a third season. “Lost” did too. And while “Lost” Season 1 was excellent (sure, much better than Invasion IMHO), Season 2 is sleepy as hell. Nothing happened in the last two episodes for example. Nothing. They might as well shows us the characters taking a piss too, as the show looks like it’s becoming real-time. And speaking about “Lost”, there is a lot of talk in Hollywood right now about J.J. Abrams becoming a virtual boss at ABC. The company is so desperate to not lose him that they resurrected “Alias” as a favor to him just so he can give a conclusion to the series, and they even added a new mystery series next year, also produced by Abrams.

Finally, because all three new sci-fi shows of the last season got cancelled (Invasion, Surface, Threshold), there are NO science-fiction TV shows currently on the main networks (neither they are any scheduled for next year). Some see this as the “death of the science fiction genre on networked/syndicated TV”. Which is sad, of course.

Modern VoIP WiFi phones are too expensive

And all this news today about VoIP WiFi phones made me think even more about how overpriced these Linksys phones really are. These phones have way less functionality/hardware than cellular phones and require less coding and testing. I mean, go compare the Motorola V360 which has a gazillion of features compared to these WiFi phones (compared to the Linksys phones it has GSM antennas, microSD slot, VGA camera, external color screen, Bluetooth, Java and other licensed software). And yet, the V360 sells for just $160 in the retail, when the Linksys ones sell between $220 and $360.

What if there was a company that would create VoIP WiFi Linux phones that were reasonably priced? I believe that it’s technically possible (including R&D, additional software development, testing and promotion) to sell the following basic VoIP phone for just $129:

16 MB ROM (~2 MB free for the user)
200 Mhz 32bit ARM
1.8″ 176×220 TFT
Wifi 802.11b
1100 mAh (this gives you ~3 hours talk time, ~50 hours standby)
usb mass storage, mini-usb charging
SIP v2, Skype and an RSS app on top of Qtopia Phone Edition 4.0 (no web browser)

The above suggested softphone has pretty much the same specs as the Palm Z22 (which sells for $99 in suggested retail and just $89 at some other places) plus the WiFi chipset (which in reality costs just $10 in the OEM market). Overall, there’s probably a $30 profit on each one of these things sold.

And here’s a higher-end VoIP phone with the following additional features, for $199 (with about $40 profit for each one sold):
Bluetooth v1.2
1250 mAh battery
microSD slot
1.3MP or VGA camera
QVGA 2.2″ screen
32 MB ROM (~10 MB free for the user)
Bluetooth support on top of Qtopia & a file manager that can handle it
A Java stack for games & Opera Mini as the default web browser

Now, you could ask “who’s gonna buy these”? Well, not most of you who read this blog, that’s for sure. But many companies that have an interest in VoIP will (and that’s a growing market), while if marketed correctly it can sell to teenagers/kids whose parents don’t want them to have real cellphones yet (think of it as how the walkie-talkies had a booming in the ’80s among youngsters). It’s a niche market, that’s true. But these prices are doable and even leave margin for profit, and I believe that such products can find a place next to real cellphones (until all real cellphones offer VoIP anyway, in a few years).