Archive for February, 2008

Legal rock music for your downloading pleasure

Some good indie rock music, all legal downloads:
– Fingertips’ current top 10
– Noise Pop 2008 sampler
– ICON Music Group sampler (VERY good album)
Shots by Ladyhawk

A solution to the Macedonia-Greece problem

For 50 years, but most importantly, for the last 15 years, the Republic of Macedonia and Greece are having some problems. Greece maintains that the “ancient Macedonia” is part of Greece and that this newly created country should not be using this name. The Republic of Macedonia on the other hand, maintains that they are descendants of the ancient Macedonians and that they should be using that name.

The problem is not really in the actual name. The problem is that Greece is afraid that after 25 or 50 years from now, Macedonia would start a war to “free” the Greek part of Macedonia and make it its own (a part which btw, is populated by 90% ethnic Greeks who even if they might be descendants of the same ethnic group, they now feel Greek more than anything else). Ancient history is very important to Greeks, and they won’t tolerate anyone telling them otherwise.

Macedonia today is nothing different than Greece was circa 1740. If you were asking a Greek person back then what his ethnic background was, he would tell you that he’s “a descendant of the Roman empire”. Only after the west powers decided to “enlighten” the Greek population (for their own purposes, of course), the Greeks became the fanatical chauvinistic Greeks we all have come to love today. Same with Macedonia, they were for too long under a regime that did not let them find a identity. When they gained their freedom, they HAD to find an identity. It’s something that’s essential to any group or country. And Macedonia, well, decided to be identified with ancient Macedonians. I can’t really blame them for doing so, even if not the whole of their country ever was part of the ancient Macedonia. All I am saying is that their claims are only humanly natural.

These days, Greece has vetoed the inclusion of Macedonia to NATO and EU if they don’t change their naming wishes. Currently, the UN is trying to help both countries to find a solution. They will debate for years to come. I have a different solution, a solution that should have been done 2,500 years ago.

The solution is to make both countries, a single country. Call it “Macedonia and Greece”, or call it “Macedreece” or call it “Greedonia”, I don’t really care. The point is, these two cultures have MORE in common than they think they do. Ancient Macedonians were very similar in their culture and religion with the rest of Greece. It takes guts to merge two countries, but it has been done in the past, and it can be done again, peacefully. Sure, that didn’t stop Athenians and Spartans from being into war every 5 years or so. And by the time Rome became strong and attacked, Greeks were so have killed each other, that it was too late to fight together against them. But they did think of themselves as ethnically similar.

My final argument is this: both cultures adore Great Alexander, and each one wants the hero to be their exclusive hero. And yet, all Great Alexander wanted for both, was a united Macedonia-Greece. By not having the wisdom to merge after 2,500 years, neither of you deserve him as its hero.

If your reply is: “yes, but modern Greeks and Macedonians are not as similar as ancient Greeks and ancient Macedonians were”, then my answer is simple: if that’s the case, then NONE of the countries should be using the words “Greece”, or “Macedonia” in any of their territories. But I doubt they would accept that. It might even be more politically acceptable to merge rather than see their peoples lose their identity. Because when losing your identity and ethnicism, politicians lose their grip to that country, and politicians are not ready to let this go. It’s all a game of power you see.

Oh, well, you may just as well watch it

I know I said last night that if you haven’t watch “Lost” before to not watch this amazing episode. But I think you will enjoy it anyway (and it doesn’t spoil way too much), so if you are in the US, go to ABC’s web site and click “Lost season 4”, install their Flash player addon, and watch “The Constant” episode in HD. Viewers outside of US will have to use a US proxy server to get access to the ABC show viewing site.

Creeks and Robots

And a nice one from Karen! HD version here.

Best. Episode. [Possibly.] Ever.

My husband is not big on TV shows. And yet, tonight he told me: “When ‘Lost’ is all done, it could only be called a masterpiece“.

No, no, no, no, no. I am not going to rant about “Lost”‘s latest episode, “The Constant”. I will let others do, from DarkUFO’s comment section (check the amazing poll result on that page too, never a Lost episode had such a high rank before):

“I don’t even know what to say.. by far the best episode this season, maybe ever. I must have said “F..K YOU!!!” to the TV like ten times. My mind is blown. Oh man…”

“I probably haven’t cried in 10 years. That ending opened up the floodgates. A perfect mixture of emotion, science, wonder, easter eggs, and all that LOST usually delivers each week, only this time, on HGH. Incredible episode. Probably the best 1 hour of TV I’ve ever witnessed.”

“Undoubtedly the best episode of LOST ever. The writing that went into this episode was phenomenal. Absolutely amazing.”

“Freaking awesome episode! An instant classic. It’s like Back to the Future Part 2 on crack!”

“Best episode of LOST i have seen in forever… seriously! so incredible.. im speechless…”

“I can’t believe that such subject matter as we saw tonight ever made it to prime time network TV! That’s seriously like Discovery Channel stuff right there. I agree, one of the best episodes ever.”

“I agree that we need a new category to fit tonight’s episode. One that says ‘it blew my head apart’, or something like that.”

“One word..WOW!!!!”

“That was maybe the best episode they have done yet, right up there with ‘Flashes Before Your Eyes’ from last season. Desmond has surpassed Locke as my favorite character. Ever since they pulled Locke’s dad out of the magic box last year, Lost has gone from a wonderful show to maybe the best show ever on television.”

“How did that episode get on primetime network television? WOW!”

“Wow! Wow! Wow! Its unanimous!!! The best episode of Lost ever, with the exception of the pilot. To the writers: We’re not worthy!! This episode has officially given Lost the Emmy for best drama this year. Awesome. Freakin awesome!!!”

“It was the polar opposite of a flashback. It was a Flashforward from the past.”

“This episode was amazing. It blew my mind. This is why LOST is truly the best show on tv.”

“Finally, Lost has recognized the fact that its primary audience is VERY INTELLIGENT people. […] This is the most intelligent show in the history of television, written by some of the most intelligent writers in the history of television.”

“Effffff-reakin’ awesome! Holy crap, my mind is still reeling!”

“Usually I rank episodes out of 10 and so this episode is an 11! Brilliant writing from Damon and Carlton.”

Warning: Don’t watch this episode stand-alone if you have never watched “Lost” before. “Lost” is so serialized that what makes this episode amazing is not just the actual direction/writing of the episode itself, but how it makes you feel after having watched all the previous episodes.

Undocumented APIs

Oh, shut up. Slashdot posted this story about Apple being “evil” because they use undocumented APIs on Safari. That’s not evil, that’s NORMAL. In the Agile software development this is important, otherwise you will be having a past generation code for your browser to ship with your next generation OS.

Be, Inc. was doing that all the time too. Many parts of the OS were built using undocumented APIs that were not too stable to become public at the time, or that were simply too low level. The Be scrollbar and the Be Terminal were such examples.

I am sure MS does the same on Windows.

1 percent of U.S. adults behind bars

For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report.

How the hell is this possible? I lived in Greek towns for over 20 years (where everyone knew everyone else), and I’ve met or knew from afar about 6,000 people overall. From all these people, I only heard of THREE people getting time in prison. One guy in the ’70s (drugs), one guy in the ’80s (the dumbass killed someone), and a guy in the ’90s (drugs). I mean, this new report shows that 1% of the Americans were in prison in the first month of 2008! I know only of 3 Greek folks from my town who went to prison spanning 3 decades!

I can only say that now that I live in USA, I am glad that I live in the the Silicon Valley area. Truth is, the west bay has very low criminality, as most people here are engineers with good salaries, people who don’t need to go steal or get violent. Elsewhere in the US though, things are not so rosy, indeed. I don’t think I could handle living in NY or LA, to be honest.

No wonder cop shows are so popular in this country. People need to feel some virtual re-assurance that the system works.

The emotional state of things

I have a past that should have been kinder to me. A past that I can’t get over with.

I realized something about my husband though. He has no past that makes him sad and depressed when he remembers it. Well, you could argue that he never opened up to me to tell me about it, but I don’t think that’s it. I think that he has lived an early life where he had balance and understanding at all times — unlike mine. JBQ is joyful, happy, healthy and if there’s only one thing he would like to do more is to visit more places. That pretty much describes his psyche.

I, on the other hand, I am depressed most of the time, angry about my past, angry about my present where I am sick most of the time and I can’t join my husband to visit more places, or work, or have a child. Everything seems negative to me, until proven positive.

You could say that I am dragging him down. Or, you could say that he brings me more balance (and he has). But what do I give back to him besides love? He claims that this is all he wants from me, but is it really enough? I do hope it is, because if it isn’t, I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel for me. I would end my life if I lose him. He is my link to this world. My everything.

How to end piracy

We rarely buy video games anymore (we already bought well over 250 games for PSOne/PS2/PS3/PSP/GameCube/Wii/GameboyAdvance). These days we are using Gamefly to rent games. We are very happy with their service so far.

Netflix works incredibly well for us as well. Two physical discs are shipped each time, at an unlimited rate, and we pay just $10 per month! This usually means a maximum of 20 movies per month, although we usually don’t do more than 5-7. When using their online viewer, it’s unlimited viewing — as many movies as your bandwidth allowance from your ISP allows. I finished watching “Earth 2” this way, by watching it online. Worked really well. Like with the games, it has also stopped us from buying DVDs.

The interesting thing with Netflix is that because it’s so easy getting access to a movie or a show, that you don’t think of ripping the DVD and keeping it locally. It just doesn’t cross your mind anymore, the service is that transparent. So if Netflix and Gamefly work so well, save money, get us what we want, and it takes away any conscious need for piracy, why not do the same for music?

A flat rate of $5 per month (let’s face it, creating music is cheaper than creating a movie or even a good video game). A world-wide RIAA-endorsed online service (it would be best if iTunes itself changes to become it) that allows you to download unlimited 192kbps MP3/WMA/AAC/OGG non-DRM music. P2P among members is now legal (in fact, it’s endorsed, as it would save bandwidth to RIAA/iTunes). Pay an additional flat fee of $20 per year and you get the ability to be sent physical CDs (when requested) that you can then rip yourself in FLAC or other lossless codec if you want — or pay $2 and keep the CD you were sent. Eventually, physical media will disappear anyway. A fine idea is also “bulk licensing” for education institutes, no more school penalizing.

Sure, this might mean less money for the RIAA wolves, and artists will have to tour more to make more money and the most successful ones would negotiate better cuts from RIAA, but you know, times are changing and if they are to keep any potential customers, they have to come up with a model that saves time and money for the consumers. And honestly, seeing how well Netflix and Gamefly works, the model would do good for music too. I don’t believe that profit will be marginalized that much, because given the fact that most people don’t buy more than 4-5 CDs per year, that’s already the price you pay for the subscription model, so it all evens out.

Entertainment corporations keep hanging in the old ways of doing business. A model that just doesn’t work anymore. Music can still sell, but it has to become easier to get in bulk so it gives the feeling to the consumer that it’s free and unlimited.

Pan’s Labyrinth

I have trouble watching non-English speaking movies. I can barely stand Greek in movies (even when I used to live in Greece). And yet, “Pan’s Labyrinth“, entirely in Spanish, came out so natural for me. The movie was so captivating that even if it was shot in Klingonese it would be enjoyable. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. A fairy tale definitely NOT for kids. Watched it last night via Netflix’s online player.