Archive for May, 2009

Greek lawmakers need a clue

First, it was the computer games (they briefly made them illegal because they couldn’t distinguish them from gambling). Then, they invalidated perfectly good passports (while *no other* country in the EU did so when they also moved to biometric passports). This cost me $3000 back then (I had bought plane tickets), because the local Greek Consulate who had issued my previous passport didn’t even fucking sent me a letter to let me know!!! ANY OTHER country would have sent letters to people who live abroad (my address at the time was registered with the Consulate here).

Now, they want to invalidate 13.5 million SIM GSM cards that exist in the various Greek cellphone networks because they are “anonymous”. This just sucks. I do NOT object to offering your name to get a connection, but I do object in yet another massive invalidation, AND to the fact that in order to get a new pay-as-you-go SIM card from now on you HAVE TO ALSO BUY A CELLPHONE WITH IT. At least, this is what the article says.

This is fucking retarded. These people have no clue what they are doing. They always take the most extreme routes to battle a problem.

Digest: Week 1 on Twitter

Here’s a selection of the kind of things I talked about on my Twitter page this week. Not sure if I will continue with these digests on my blog, probably not.

1. Just finished going through ~400 songs (free mp3 downloads) at Spinner.com. Only about 30 were “good”, and only 3 of them were “very good”. 2 of them I had already bought on iTunes.

5. My mom is lonely and unhappy atm. I wish I was in Greece to comfort her. My brother’s family doesn’t seem to understand her.

6. A nice, and free, legal #mp3 of the day, by the ‘Free Energy’: http://bit.ly/drrwf

7. I can’t play my beloved LTris anymore on Ubuntu. The game doesn’t clean up itself while exiting at the new Jaunty 9.04 Ubuntu version.

8. TETRO is Francis Ford Coppola’s new movie. It has almost no shallow DoF: http://apple.com/trailers/independent/tetro

9. Check out this very nice punk-rock band, named Daddysmilk. They have 8 mp3s for free download here: http://is.gd/Cd9t

11. I loved Steve Martin’s bluegrass song “Pretty Flowers” last night on American Idol, so this morning I bought the song on iTunes

13. My father’s name day was recently. He killed, skinned & roasted a goat for him & his friends to celebrate. I miss my family in Greece. AARRG

15. The Nokia E75 just arrived in da house. Pretty good business phone!

16. @wiretreetheband Great free song to download, thanks! I’ve been waiting for your new stuff!

18. The Canon HV20 was used as a secondary/test camera for Blitzen Trapper’s new music video. You can catch glimpses of it at http://is.gd/C7yT

19. A very interesting interview about where the music industry was, is, going to be and what that means for rock bands: http://is.gd/C7b4

20. Period pain… actually hurts. You heard it first here. Argh…

24. Some say that Arkansas pulled 38m out of the ~90m votes on American Idol, even if it only has 3 million inhabitants. Hence Kris’ unfair win.

26. During AmericanIdol, a long Transformers trailer was shown. It featured the best color grading I ever saw on a movie. Looked super in HD.

28. Adam Lambert should have won, end of story. Either Americans are idiots, or the show rigged the results. Either is disheartening.

30. My birthday is growing closer. I want a sushi lunch, a sushi dinner, and the Star Trek movie in between. But JBQ objects to too much sushi.

32. Reviews to write for this coming week: A Sandisk mp3 player (my blog), the Nokia E75 smartphone (OSNews), and Vegas Professional 9 (OSNews).

33. Legal settlements are about money. Not when the FSF is involved. With the FSF, it’s all about power clinging! God save us! http://is.gd/BM16

34. ‘Eleventh Hour’, a TV show with GOOD ratings, canceled. Why? Because most of its viewership were old people, so the ads were not paying out.

35. Why a [futuristic] society where institutions raise all people’s children won’t be possible: http://is.gd/BLjI

36. Woohoo! It’s LunDuke vs LinuxHater! Battle it out to the death! Read at http://lunduke.com and http://linuxhaters.blogspot.com

38. I am currently listening Josiah Leming’s beautiful songs: http://is.gd/BI1a Why is his full album not out yet? I’ve been waiting months now!

42. Good, free, legal music by Miike Snow. Get: Animal, It Don’t Move Me, Burial (DJ Mehdi Remix) at http://bit.ly/12ZdSH

46. Prepared a smoothie with strawberries, blackberries, orange juice & kiwis. The kiwis were not done, so I added honey. It came out terrible.

48. A “LOST” dispute on IM earlier: He called me “crazy Greek”, opinionated. I called him an idiot. Now I remember why we split up 12 years ago.

51. Just upgraded my Windows Live Mail version. The installer failed the first time! Way to continue the legacy of bugs with Live Mail.

52. I updated my PF24 pulldown-removal tutorials with a new, smaller, and easier method. AVCHD: http://is.gd/B6J1 – HDV: http://is.gd/B6IW

53. Spent $80 on iTunes yesterday: Disturbed, Rise Ag., Keane, AFI, Atreyu, Avenged S., Breaking Ben., Cage the El., Framing Han.,Jimmy EW, etc.

54. The ‘Sarah Connor’s Chronicles’ show got canceled. Good riddance. It wasn’t a great show. Dollhouse sucks as much btw.

58. I don’t really get Twitter, I am old school. But my hubby registered, so I had to, too. Hopefully I’ll get it soon. Have faith in me.

The new sci-fi shows of the 2009-2010 TV season

Flash Forward (ABC)
The whole population of the planet blacks out for 2′:17″.

V (ABC)
A re-imagining of the 1980’s miniseries about the world’s first encounter with an alien race.

Day One (NBC)
It’s the story of life on earth following a global catastrophe that has devastated the world’s infrastructures.

Past Life (FOX)
A psychologist and a former NYPD detective who have to unravel mysteries in the present and the past.

Human Target (FOX)
The new series is more of an action thriller with a few brushes of sci-fi.

Eastwick (ABC)
The series is based on the popular movie “The Witches of Eastwick”. Fantasy.

Vampire Diaries (CW)
A young woman is torn between two vampires — one good, one evil. Fantasy.

The ethics of an alien invasion

My daily brain thought stream can usually be divided into three categories: music, video, and… exo-politics. I am afraid there’s no space left for good taste in fashion.

I am not a [firm] believer of UFOs or alien abductions, but I surely try to keep an open mind about it all. So, let’s assume that the alien abductions are true, and that — according to Temple University professor David Jacobs, Ph.D — the aliens’ sinister plot is to replace the human race with new Grey-human hybrid beings (so they can survive in this planet, while otherwise being Grey). To continue reading this blog post, please read the link above. Now, how is all that “alarming” and “unethical”?

Sure it’s alarming for our race, and our history, and our culture, but is something like annihilation of a species unheard of? Humans have been killing other humans to take over their land, they have killed off whole species numerous times for no good reason, and as very correctly my husband pointed out the other day: “how’s our genetically modified soy, or corn, different than this alien-human hybrid?” The same ethical rules apply (saying that sentient beings have priority over other lifeforms is sorely misguided). That didn’t stop humans from devouring this planet, and changing it and its species fundamentally. It’s one thing to hunt for food, and another to act like you own the whole star constellation.

So why are all these UFO web sites, and forums, and alleged abductees are crying foul? Why do they think that humans can do all these things to others but no one else can do this to them? Oh, of course, the various abductees will reply to my argument with a “but I personally never did any of these things”, but we all know that they didn’t do anything to stop it either. When was the last time you wrote to your Congressman, or camped outside the White House to protest a bad environmental law? Or even stopped buying corn or soy products? Fuck, you can’t even stop buying RIAA music (I know I can’t), no matter how much you disagree with their tactics. We are ALL responsible for what we collectively do, so shut the fuck up and enjoy your alien anal probe.

And who is to say that “evolution” is only a natural process, and not also an artificial one? So if our next step as a species is to be part alien, and adhere to new philosophies or beliefs, why is this exactly bad? I am pretty sure when most of you who have read of the Neanderthal species and how it eclipsed to make space for Homo Sapiens, you applaud it (even subconsciously). Well, what if this is something like this? Why stop progress? Who is to say that we are better than this hybrid species and we deserve to continue be who we are? And who says that if we weren’t the ones with the superior technology we wouldn’t do the exact same thing to other alien species? I bet you $100 that’s what we would do!

Maybe at the very end it is all about the law of the jungle, but on a galactic terrain. Don’t get me wrong. In the event of an alien invasion, I will be in the front line, fighting for my, personal right(?) to live. I fantasize of punching Greys in the face. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t “understand” where these beings are coming from, and why they do the things they do. It’s just that when I read comments online from alleged abductees saying that “the Greys are not ethical beings”, it first makes me chuckle, and then it makes me angry. Are we all so blind, hypocritical, and arrogant anymore?

Ok, back to real world now. Felt good in the la-la land.

Basic video editing with FFmpeg on Linux

Here’s a small guide editing your DV/HDV clips with ffmpeg under Ubuntu Linux. All cutting, processing, and exporting is done via the command line (oh, the joy!). Sure, this method doesn’t have niceties like fades, titles, effects etc, but it works for basic editing. Please note that not all AVCHD formats from all such cameras are supported.

First, you need to install the right version of FFmpeg, that supports all codecs (the default Ubuntu version doesn’t, for legal reasons). Follow the “B” solution from this tutorial to install the full version of ffmpeg on the latest versions of Ubuntu.

Now, find the DV/HDV or AVCHD video files you want to trim, or slice & cut. Watch a video file on a video player (e.g. VLC or Totem), and on a text editor (e.g. gEdit) type the minutes/seconds you want to cut. For example, you can type:
video1.m2t
– section 1: keep from 00:00:01 to 00:00:15
– section 2: keep from 00:02:37 to 00:03:54
video2.m2t
– blah-blah…
– blah-blah…

Then, load your glorious terminal, navigate to your videos’ folder, and type:
ffmpeg -ss 00:00:01 -t 00:00:15 -i "video1.m2t" -acodec copy -vcodec copy "edited-video1.m2t"
This means that ffmpeg will only save to a new file the video from the first second up to the 15th second. Adjust the numbers according to your needs. The transcoding will be completely lossless and done in mere seconds. Do the same for all your other sections/files. The original files won’t be destroyed btw, so you can re-cut them if needed.

After you have done this for all your files, you can put together the various edited files in a single file!
cat edited-video1.m2t edited-video2.m2t edited-video3.m2t > chapter1.m2t
Warning: The files must be of the exact same type! You can’t mix and mash different formats!

Now, you might want to burn a DVD! Here’s how to create a widescreen PAL DVD:
ffmpeg -i "chapter1.m2t" -aspect 16:9 -target pal-dvd "chapter1.mpg"
Use “ntsc-dvd” for NTSC videos instead of “pal-dvd” above. Also, you can have many different “chapter” files, that can act as different chapters to your DVD. You can use an app like DeVeDe to put together the various edited chapters/videos, and burn your DVD.

And here’s how to export for YouTube/Vimeo/PS3/XBoX360 in 720p HD h.264/AAC .MP4. First, let’s put all the chapters in a single video (if you have gone that chapters route):
cat chapter1.m2t chapter2.m2t chapter3.m2t > myvideo.m2t
And then, do the final export:
ffmpeg -deinterlace -i "myvideo.m2t" -threads 2 -f mp4 -vcodec libx264 -level 41 -refs 2 -loop 1 -deblockalpha 0 -deblockbeta 0 -parti4x4 1 -partp8x8 1 -partb8x8 1 -coder 1 -subq 6 -brdo 1 -me_range 21 -s 1280x720 -r 30000/1001 -b 5120k -bt 8192k -bufsize 15000k -maxrate 16000k -g 300 -acodec libfaac -ac 2 -ab 128k "myvideo.mp4"
Use “-r 25” instead of “-r 30000/1001” if you are on a PAL instead of an NTSC region.

And one last tip, for those who want the ultra-widescreen cinematic look. Add the code below to your (final) exporting code of ffmpeg, and adjust the numbers accordingly to your taste and create horizontal letterboxing:
-padtop 44 -padbottom 44 -padcolor 000000

Then, sit back, and enjoy the video on your TV. Oh, did I mention before that my TV runs on Linux?

Indie Rock vs Alternative Rock

I have spent enough hours in the past few days to find more free, legal music downloads, in order to comprise an ultimate top-100 of such music. Having listened to hundreds (thousands?) of available songs from many labels and band sites, I’ve come to realize that most of the music out there is actually indie rock (as in the genre, with the U.S. meaning), rather than alternative rock.

For example, there are way more copycats of Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, or Arcade Fire, than there are of AFI, The Strokes, The Offspring, or Green Day. Thing is, both myself and JBQ are more at the alternative hard/rock side of things than the folk-inspired indie rock that the independent scene is filled up with. There are really not many unsigned bands out there that sound like the kind of music we listen to San Francisco’s alternative FM station “Live 105.3“. The few bands that seem to be able to write such music are snatched immediately by the big-4 majors.

Two things are happening here:
1. The musicians that are able to write the kind of music we want to listen to so we can bang our heads and still keep the melody in-tact, are very few.
2. The world is moving towards a different style of music, and the indie scene is the one that’s driving it. In that case, JBQ and I are just old, and we don’t get it anymore.

There are of course unsigned bands that style-wise are in the middle of these two kinds of music, e.g. Ag Silver, The A-Sides, Capital Lights, The Crash Moderns, Death In The Park, Drist, Longwave, Magnolia Sons, The New Frontiers, Seabird, TV/TV, We Shot The Moon, Wiretree etc, but these good ones are also few. Funnily, these guys aren’t as easily snatched by the majors, and yet their music is — to me — much more accessible than the folk-style indie rock that the internet is filled with.

Finally, there is something very interesting I noticed about me these past few days while digging for good music. The kind of “alternative indie rock” Northern Europeans create is much more pleasant to my ears than the one American musicians do. For example, The Raveonettes, The Caesars, The Sounds, Lykke Li, sound to me much more pleasant than Flight of The Conchords, or The Decemberists do. Maybe there is something to be said about the music influences someone is growing up with, and maybe that’s the reason we don’t like the US-style of folk-sounding indie rock.

Sure enough, we can’t stand country music either. Ok, except the Blitzen Trapper, a band that defies categorization to this day.

On Twitter

I’ve been against Twitter since the beginning. I still don’t get it really. I find blogs and IMs a much better way to communicate. I think it’s a fashion that will just pass eventually, just like MySpace, or Orkut, or whatever. I’ve been vocal against it too. But Twitter found a loophole to draw me over.

jbqueru: Yeah, I’m crazy 🙂 http://twitter.com/jbqueru
Eugenia: why? 😮
Eugenia: I want a divorce
jbqueru: :*
***jbqueru tweets about that… or not 😀
Eugenia: now I HAVE to make an account to follow you, otherwise I won’t be seen as a supportive wife
jbqueru: You can just RSS me in your favorite reader
Eugenia: I don’t use RSS

So if you want to follow my shorter rants, follow me here: http://twitter.com/EugeniaLoli

Hollywood Undead

Behold, the new Linkin Park, the Hollywood Undead. Edgier, thornier than anyone else in the market right now. Just bought their album on iTunes, it rocks hard (more than it raps)!

Lost: the Incident

The last “Lost” episode of the season was last night, which I watched on my DVR this morning as I am still so jet-lagged since our return from Europe, that I didn’t have the strength to watch it live. The finale was good, but it wasn’t super. Nevertheless, it was definitely better than any other Lost episode this year, and better than any other show on TV in general. Spoilers following.

I think it’s clear right now that the Lost grand story is nothing but a “game” between two ancient, omnipotent but equally strong forces: a benevolent and an evil one. Possibly Osiris and Anubis, or Jacob and Esau, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that through the eons they attract certain people to the island to play their game. The humans are pawns. As Jacob said, there’s only one end to the game, but each time new blood arrives to the island, there’s progress.

Other things we learned: the uber-sexy Richard was made ageless by Jacob, after he arrived with the Black Rock slave ship (although we kind of knew that given the clothes he wore when he meets young Ben in season 3).

For me, the worst part of the finale was the Bernard/Rose scene, which felt like a throwback to all of us who have been asking where they went for the whole season. It was a cheesy scene, and a very unbelievable one too. Either the Dharma or the Hostiles would have found them in 3 years time in that easy to reach cabin. Totally an illogical scene. Bernard/Rose *and* a few more 815 survivors should have simply be part of the Hostiles by now, that would have been a much more natural happening. Either that, or they should have been hiding in the caves, definitely not in that cabin in plain sight.

One more unbelievable point is having the Dharma village built on top of a huge ancient Egyptian temple and never taking notice. That was some stupid writing.

As for what’s going to happen, I think that the “incident” happening will result in our heroes moving forward in time (the ones around the Swan station, so possibly it won’t happen for Rose/Bernard). The fade to white (instead of the usual black), it’s a hint of the heroes jumping back to their regular time. And the detonation of the bomb always happened, Jack didn’t change a thing (the closed captions on TV mentioned the explosion, for those who aren’t sure if it took place). They will end up in 2008 or something, at the same time as everyone else, to take part at the story’s last act. We have enough hints that the nuclear detonation always happened, because of the big cement wall in the Swan, the Hazmat suits, the radiation-affected pregnancies.

This all sounds good, but I feel that having the heroes spending a whole season in the Dharma time just to get back to present time didn’t serve the grand story of Lost. I mean, we just had some people going back to the ’70s, and then coming back. They didn’t change anything that didn’t already happen and we couldn’t have watched via flashbacks. Except some character evolution (namely Sawyer’s), the whole “travel back in time” served no purpose in the grand scheme of things. And I am pretty sure we will never learn why the island pulled Jack/Kate/Sayid/Hurley back in time either — other than just to be able to do some episodes for the sake of making some episodes. The overall mythology/timeline was not affected, so having watched season 5, I feel a bit cheated. Sure, it’s cool to see the Dharma world, but not at the expense of a storyline that doesn’t feel negated at the very end.

Having said all that, Lost remains the best of the best on TV right now. I was watching “24” on the DVR the other night, and was having iTunes loaded too checking out some songs. JBQ, who was sitting next to me, made the sarcastic remark “oh, I see you enjoy that show a lot, you can’t take your eyes away”.

caRIOcas

A new Brazilian series about homosexuality. Shot with an HV30 and a 35mm adapter. It’s so cool to see more serious works using a $500 camera. It’s a new age for video, and the HV series started it. Closed caption and better quality here.

On the subject of homosexuality, here’s another amazingly beautiful video from my online friend Matt.