Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Flying back to Britain tomorrow

Today is my last full day in Mexico, and tomorrow I am flying on the new year back to Britain, and when there I will finally be able to organize my pictures and start posting about the places I visited in Mexico. I would have done that before, but thanks to the big crap that photo library programs are in the Mac, I still have not turned around to doing this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

United Airlines and Chicago

Yesterday I started my journey to Mexico with United Airlines, but to my dismay, after some bad weather conditions in Chicago in the first leg of my journey, all my flights were disrupted. And to add injury to insult, the people from united just told me to sod off, since "it was not their fault" that the weather was shit in Chicago. Lucky me? Not only that, but when I got to Dallas, where I'm writing these lines after more than a day without sleep, I did not manage to find a hotel to spend the night, so I ended up sleeping rough in Fort Worth airport.


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Friday, November 21, 2008

Mac Software

As part of my ongoing migration process to the Mac, I need to find software to replace the stuff I normally used in Windows, so I thought it would be interesting to log most of the software that I can remember I downloaded over the past week to give it a try.

Pictures - Aperture seems more than nice program for pictures. I am test driving it for a month to decide if its huge cost is worth of my uses for the program. It seems no more worth the cost than Adobe's Lightroom, though. I only wish I could keep on using Picasa in the Mac (Google do something!). Aperture has a plug-in to work with Picasa, but it is a paid piece of software, which is definitely not worth the 25 bucks they charge for it. If all else fails, I will be forced to use iPhoto, which is not even close to Picasa, or try to emulate it with Darwine, that is, if it works.

Video - You need loads of codecs, and I found that most of the stuff that I needed can be had in one package called Perian. Still, I am deeply disappointed with iTunes, since for all the boasts of Mac fanatics that a Mac just works I was sad to see that iTunes does not even support OGG audio files, not to mention Windows Media Audio and other Microsoft standards. My point here is not to make a judgment of value on their formats, they might as well be crap, but it turns out that I have media in that format, and I want to use it not only in the Mac, but in my iPod. Another sad point is that I found nothing like LameDrop (at least for free) for the Mac. Finally, if you can put up with using multiple programs for multiple codecs, there is always VLC media player, or worst of all Windows Media Player for the Mac.

Communication - Two programs are fundamental, Skype for VoIP, and Adium for instant messaging. I was pleased to see that Adium is the Mac equivalent of Pidgin, which I absolutely loved in Windows. I was not so pleased to see that Skype gives so little attention to its Mac user base, since the Mac version is still 2.7, whereas in Windows they are already beta testing Skype 4. Also on the subject of communication, there is CoRD, a remote Desktop Client for Windows that works pretty well, with occasional crashes when you have a shitty connection, like me with Virgin ADSL.

LaTeX - I was really really disappointed in finding out that Mac OS X has no native installation of LaTeX, so I went with the first one that Google told me about, MacTeX. On this front, I will have to confess that the Mac is all disappointment, and the Windows versions of this package is way superior. I am talking, of course of MikTex, which is vastly superior than the TeX distributions I saw for the Mac. The first thing you notice is that you have to download the entire thing in the Mac, one Gigabyte of packages that you might not necessarily (and probably do not) need, whereas MikTeX lets you download packages on demand, as you include them in your document. MacTeX has no update mechanism whatsoever, so if you want to update your TeX distribution, you better stick to the annual updates for the TeX live distribution. As far as IDEs go, it is also a disappointment, as there is nothing close to WinEdt by a long shot, and while MacTeX kindly guides you towards TeXShop, this program is nowhere near WinEdt, so I ended up using Parallels Desktop, which is a necessity if you, like me, find that there is some Windows software without equivalent in the Mac, and besides, since I paid for WinEdt, I want to use it. Finally, to manage BibTeX references, I can always rely on the faithful and Java-based JabRef, for which I have only praise.

Productivity - One software that I am still getting to grips with is Quicksilver, which essentially lets you work with the keyboard most of the time to do all sorts of commands over files and programs. My friend tells me this is the eighth wonder of the world, but I am still using it in a similar fashion as Spotlight.

Compression - Another front in which the Mac is a bit lacking is in decent interfaces for compressors and decompressors. Most compressed files will be invariably extracted to your hard drive if you double click them, which I personally find annoying, since I may not want to extract everything and their dog out of large compressed files. I have always been an avid RAR user, and have bought a license to WinRAR, but unfortunately, they only provide you the command line client for the Mac. So this license fee is gone for me, and now I am using SimplyRAR, which seems an outdated tool, but looks enough like WinRAR for me to get used to in the short term.

Internet - Safari is not bad, but I have been using Firefox since it was first release, I remain loyal to it, especially its customizations and its bookmarks synchronizer, which I have come to rely on. Besides that, to help manage downloads from your SSH connections, I highly recommend Filezilla, instead of having to rely on the command line, which is a pain in the ass.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I am an Apple convert

 

As of today, it is official, I am a convert to the religion started by the deuce-ace of the Steves, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. It should be some journey now for me to find all the programs that I need to do the same stuff I did under the company of the antichrist (this is, of course, a joke) with Windows. Luckily, for games, I can still use bootcamp with my old copy of XP and carry on. We shall see where my expensive adventure into the unknown will take me with this new computer.
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Visit Pussy, France


This post might be a little late in relation to the trip in which I discovered the place, but what the hell, only now the crystallized in head, or better still coagulated from a puddle of liquid diarrhea. But anyway, I am talking about a village in the Annecy area called Pussy (emphasis on the last syllable). This is a tiny village is located near Mont Bellachat, which for those who understand some French slang more than complements the name of the city. Tiny Pussy
is located
near the French alps, and seems to be a rural village, so naturally, one will find many Hoes around town. Then again, if one is aware of Portuguese and its slang, one will notice that near Pussy we gave Necuday, so if you miss your target and do not hit pussy, Necuday is the result.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Vasa

Today's post, after a month hiatus is part anecdote, part Software Engineering advice, since I imagine a good part of my readership (if it indeed exists) must contain Computer Science people. The story is about a Swedish ship called Vasa, which sank 330 years ago. The story goes that during the ships construction, with the design already made, and most of the hull already laid down, king Gustavus Adolphus decided that just one gun deck was not enough, so he demanded two. At the time, Sweden was not yet renowned as the land of sexual liberation and safe cars, and since nobody had the guts to tell the king he was a dimwit regarding shipbuilding, his modifications were made. The result, the maiden voyage lasted about 20 minutes, and with first strong wind capsized the ship, resulting in it making water immediately and sinking within 7 minutes. At least, thanks to the bay of Stockholm, the ship has been preserved almost intact, including parts of the ship sails to this day.

From Stockholm

Friday, September 26, 2008

Smut is in the eye of the beholder

I do not give a flying fuck to Diesel or its party, but the advertising company that created this video definitely deserves praise for making a hilarious video. It consists of footage from old porn flicks, but with key parts of the scene overlaid with crayon like images suggesting something completely different than the original film. Like, for example replacing the lower part of a woman receiving cunnilingus with an image of a harmonica. It just cracks me up every time!


Diesel SFW XXX - Watch more free videos

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Welcome to Nollywood

I have recently watched an interview with Fernando Meirelles, of The Constant Gardener fame, in which he mentioned that Nigeria has a film industry comparable, if not more prolific than, India. Even I, that pride myself in knowing many bits of random knowledge, was impressed by discovering this. It is pretty impressive especially because, if wikipedia is to be believed, they are making money making small budget films. This shows that there is a business model very different from Hollywood that can work, and generate affordable movies for the masses.



From the IMDB profile of Nigerian films, we can clearly see how prolific they are and the turnaround time for films are pretty quick, since there are movies which their part two are released the same year as the original, like 100% Husband one and two in 2005.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quinoa dish

 


As I was reading a science magazine one particular article caught my atention regarding this Andean grain called Quinoa, which is, apparently, a very healthy source of proteins. In order to make it more palatable to westerners, every single site I have seen says that quinoa is like rice, which is understandable, although it looks nothing like it. So, since I am now into healthy eating and shit, I decided to give it a try, and I ended up cooking Quinoa like rice and using it to complement my Shrimp Aglio e Olio, the results of which are shown in the picture above. I do not exactly understand the "nutty" flavor term they use to describe how quinoa tastes, but I understand it has slightly more taste than plain rice. My veredict is that it tastes a bit stronger than rice, and it is slightly trickier to cook because the grains are smaller, and you end up losing many of them in the process of rinsing and cooking quinoa, but the results are not bad.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fucking Bus 176


On a random London rant (it even rhymes almost Cockney way), I am getting increasingly irritated by the buses on route 176 from my home into work. My problem is that every single morning at rush hour around 8:30 in the morning, these buses decide to stop and wait for 5 to 10 minutes at Camberwell Green, and then again to change drivers a stop afterwards, wasting an additional 5 minutes. I am sensitive to the needs of bus drivers, since they are not machines and must rest, but come on, the rush hour is definitely not the right time to do rest stops, they could certainly do this rest say at 7, and then work till 9 just so that people who are in a hurry to get to work can actually take the bus without worrying.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Way too funny

Probably the funniest video I watched for months, showing a TV interviewer getting completely fucked up laughing at the interviewee because of his voice. Even if you are compelled to be politically correct, it is impossible not to laugh (just try).



As a side remark, the comments in the video make it clear that this video is a fake program as part of another comedy sketch, so do not take it too seriously. In any case, a cheap and good laugh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sherlock Holmes and South London

I have recently read a couple of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and was thrilled to know that some of them, at least all of the ones I read take place in south London, mere blocks away from where I live. For example, in A Study in Scarlet, a murder takes place in Brixton Road, with mentions of Camberwell (home of the Camberwell Carrot) and other locations, while in The Sign of Four also happens in a broadly similar location in south London.

This can be mainly attributed to Doyle's living in Norwood, which is further south in London. Now the ironic part is that these parts of London remain a bit lawless, and Brixton and Camberwell are definitely no strangers to murder and knife crime nowadays.


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Sunday, August 17, 2008

English Language

This morning I was assailed by a deep linguistic question: is there any Daughter of a Bitch? Thinking closely on the matter, it seems odd that one can use the offensive term Son of a Bitch, SOB and whatnot, but it seems English-speaking women are impervious to this offensive term. Can a woman be a son of a bitch? I mean, it would be linguistically wrong, as this noun should agree with the gender of the target, is it not?

The story behind today's epiphany is more or less the following. As I came back from the supermarket this morning, I was confronted with a local English girl, not one of the types who speak the Queen's English, mind you, but rather the one that would be called a Chav around these parts. This girl was rather unpleasant, and sported a T-Shirt with the message "If you think I'm a bitch, you should meet my mother". The shirt immediately made me think, is she a bitch, or a ... a ... a what?

Now, to further this discussion, I urge any reader to provide some insight to me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

NASA


In these anti-American times, one American institution stands out almost untarnished by the reputation of other, less moral, north-American organizations. I must confess that, like many other people in the old continent, I am not a big fan of the United States of America, maybe because as a youngster, I believed all their bull about freedom and their definition of capitalism. But one of the things that certainly led me to perfect my English speaking skills was my admiration for the technological breakthroughs made by the Americans. At that time, Americans were big nerds, and some of the best engineers in the world were Americans, a legacy of their Apollo program. And NASA definitely represents some of the finest things America can do if it stop thinking about its interests overseas.

Unfortunately, like all great empires, for America is an empire in denial, it has gotten to the point where it wants to enjoy the fruits of its might. And this means that less and less Americans really want to go through the efforts that their 20th century generation went through to make sure they are at the forefront of technology and civilization. With this in mind, the taste of 50 year anniversary of NASA is bittersweet as less effort and money is being injected into this institution, so as fund doomed efforts to consolidate the empire.

Nevertheless, cheers for NASA. Let us all hope that more people share its old values.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Go

It is now official, I started playing the ancient game of Go, though I got off to a rather slow start. My first 10 games were a fiasco, so if I take the Go proverb that says "Lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible", then I am doing pretty well. One puzzling thing in my start is that my friend Paulo, who introduced me to the game, sort of changed the proverb to lose your 100 games, which sort of indicates how much I suck at the game.



Nevertheless, it seems like a fun game to play (regardless of my losing streak), and I will try to convince myself to read strategy books on Go. The game is beautifully simple in terms of rules, but the tactical and strategic complexity from these simple rules is amazing. This complexity is such, that despite the existence of plenty of extremely good chess playing programs, very few good Go playing programs exist for any but the smallest board sizes.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chaser's War on Everything

After recently mulling over a job in Australia (which I am afraid I did not get), I checked out one of their comedy shows, and I have to say that the Australians really know how to make funny television. In particular, I loved this program called The Chaser's War on Everything. Their most widely known stunt was driving a motorcade right in front of the hotel where George W. Bush was with a guy dressed as Osama bin Laden, I shit you not, you can try to find this in YouTube, before they take it down, of course.



This video, which I doubt will be taken down, is of Osama thanking them for giving him a spot in the Australian ABC. I mean, this is real journalism, give everyone a fair chance of responding. The last YouTube copy and paste service I put in this post is one of their other hilarious pranks, which involves getting a guy with stockings in his head trying to buy stuff like a regular customer, I almost pissed myself watching this.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Documentaries of Nightmares and Self

Over the last weeks I have been watching two series of documentaries created by a British filmmaker called Adam Curtis that are extremely good. So good, in fact, that I believe any person wanting to understand current western thought should be required to watch.

The first series of documentaries, is called The Century of Self, and talks about how the ideas of Freud, and of people in his family that followed him, have shaped the way in which western companies and politicians control the masses by appealing to our selfish irrational motivations.



The second series, called The Power of Nightmares, follows the parallel paths of American neo-conservatism and of radical Islam culminating with the politics of fear. It shows how these two groups of radicals have, at their core, very similar ideals, and how their actions have resulted, almost unintentionally, in the current situation regarding the war on terror.



These two are a must-see, and proves to me how Adam Curtis is an awesome filmmaker, especially through his usage of stock footage and music in a clever but not flashy or patronizing way.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kazakh Vodka

 

My flatmate has given me this vodka some time ago, but only now did I take the time to photograph to show to some friends. So now here it is, authentic Kazakh vodka, and the bottle is hands down one of the nicest bottles I have ever seen.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Browser


This week I did my part and participated in the Firefox download day, contributing to the statistics of over 300 thousand downloads in the UK alone. I would suggest the reader to download Firefox too, it is an awesome browser, and it looks slicker than the previous version, the download is a pitiful 7 Megabytes and it is spanking free!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

London Naked Bike Ride



This Saturday I spent the afternoon in Hyde Park to finally witness an event I wanted to see ever since I came to London, the Naked Bike Ride! As you can probably infer from the name, and deduce from the pictures I took, it is a bicycle ride, whose riders are stark naked, but unfortunately not all of them. The point of this ride is, of course, to stimulate people to curb car culture and remind us that if we do not stop using fossil fuels in favor of more green energy sources, global warming will make sure we all need to go around naked to stand the weather (this last point I made up, but it does make sense to me).



As you can see from my diverging attire, the temperature was not exactly ideal for a tropical guy like me to go around naked, so most of the people participating consisted of northern Europeans, or those who had come to be acclimatized in England. Some people might have been drawn to this event to see naked women, but I am sorry to inform that most people around this event were males, and the few women that came were either not completely naked or should not go around naked (yeah, I am not trying to be politically correct here). So the main point stands, it was more of a colorful protest than a show of fit physique.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Magic Day

For many reasons, in particular because of a certain day in a certain Austrian castle.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Interesting music


My girlfriend has recently recommended me to listen to this duo of Ireland-based Mexicans called Rodrigo y Grabiela. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, as I never imagined that two people with acoustic guitars could create such a rich sound. Their music, according to Last.FM, is hard to define, and I would agree, since they went into the old world bent on playing metal, but ended up using traditional Hispanic music tradition to create something which is very hard to pin down to any of the two categories. I definitely recommend for people who want to try something different and entirely original.

Friday, June 06, 2008

When your bank steals from you

This week I have been unpleasantly surprised by a letter from the bank I have been using in Britain, HSBC, which indicated that I would be charged 25 quid for going overdraft about 25 pounds for 30 hours, because I forgot to transfer some money from my savings account to my current account during the weekend. Of course, I did not do this only this time, I have done about the same last February, which characterizes, according to the HSBC support person, being frequently overdraft. Strangely enough, I never had a definite definition for frequently, but the HSBC helper girl gladly informed me that twice in six months constitutes frequently.

Well, I actually do agree that some penalties are in order when someone goes overdraft, but clearly, a flat 25 pound fee is beyond any reasonable standards, since for the amount of money I have gone overdraft for, the penalty is much more than a loan shark would charge me for a 24 hour period.

Apparently, I am not the only disgruntled customer of the British banking system, as other people are bringing a test case against this type of theft, and the banks have lost in the first instance. Of course, the banks are appealing against this, but I am hopeful that this absurd charges will be outlawed.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cien años de soledad


I am proud to announce that I have finished reading my first full book in Spanish, and amazingly enough, I have started high, with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 years of solitude. It took me roughly a week to finish the book, and my verdict is that the book is good, but not as good as many people make it out to be. One may argue that my less than perfect knowledge of Spanish made me miss the poetic elements in it, but in all honesty, this is bullcrap. The story is interesting enough to keep me gripped, and the analogies with Latin American aesthetic and events is interesting, but it is not, as one person suggested, a book that should be compulsory reading for all humanity.

What amazed me was the way in which relationships are formed throughout the book. My girlfriend tells me that Hispanic America is very conservative, but Marquez clearly begs to differ, because his characters are specialists on incest and inbreeding like the inhabitants of a backwards Louisiana Swamp, as can be seen by the family tree of the main characters' family which I gracefully stole from the wikipedia.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Berries



One way of thinking about spring is when certain flowers bloom, but that is generally more meaningful for people in the countryside. City people, like me, can only observe the seasonal appearance of certain local fruit, in the case of ye olde England, berries. The strawberries in the picture come from Hampshire, which reminded me of Southampton, my port of arrival in this land of Anglo-Saxon mystery, and gave me a sense of nostalgia. The blueberries, however, are Spanish, which makes my picture of English spring (above) somewhat farcical. But it is a pretty picture, is it not?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Computational Theology


This week has been spent mostly looking for prospective jobs for when I finish my PhD, and one thought crossed my mind, that of trying to apply for a postdoc in a university in the Vatican. There are a number of universities supported by the holy see, so I wondered if the catholic church would be preoccupied with the virtual world as well as the spiritual one. But sadly, it turns out that the only university in the Vatican itself has a rather narrow range of departments, consisting only of Philosophy, Theology, Canon Law (nothing to do with firearms, I'm afraid), and Missiology (whatever the fuck that is).

What a disappointment.

Portugal and AAMAS



I spent the whole of last week in Portugal, more precisely, in Estoril, where the 2008 edition of the conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi Agent Systems was held. A view from the conference hotel can be seen in the picture above, which instantly conveys the idea of what the place is, a beach resort. Unfortunately, despite weather forecasts to the contrary, I believe I managed to bring the notorious English weather with me, because it seemed to be rainy and overcast virtually every day (this picture was taken in one of the best days).
Tension was high for me, because not only did I have to give four talks about various papers on agents, one of my talks was essentially a summary of my thesis, the first presentation of it to an audience not consisting entirely of my supervisor. This time, the audience consisted of a designated mentor, and the chairs of the doctoral mentoring program. Luckily for me, my presentation was not a complete disaster, and although I might have said more than I should about some controversial topics, people generally felt my PhD was not a smoking pile of crap. Encouraged by that, I went on to present my other papers, but things of course never stay nice for long, and in one of them my laptop did not feel like working together with the projector which forced me to do half of the presentation without slides while trying to make an intelligible history out of the disordered thoughts I had at the time.
Now, going to the end of my thesis, I am looking at various possible positions, and who knows where I will end up.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Into the Real Wild and Lars

Although this week I have been busy with preparations for AAMAS 2008, in which I am expected to give four different talks, I managed to relax a bit by watching some movies I have been recommended, namely Into the wild and Lars and the real girl. These are two wildly different films.

Into the wild is a movie about a moron who thinks he is accomplishing something while he kills himself of starvation in an abandoned bus in Alaska. It may sound mean to call a dead man an idiot, but the fact that many Americans formed a sort of a cult around this example of idiocy deserves strong words.


Smile idiot, smile.



This guy Christopher McCandles, self-styled survivalist (and self-pictured above), after falling out with his family, decides to vanish and try his luck surviving as a bum around cities, which is essentially possible thanks to human charity, and wilderness, his main mistake. In his last attempt at surviving in the wild, he went beyond what his meager knowledge of survival could keep him and could not find his way out of a trail that was good enough to take a whole bus into a certain spot. A very good comment about that was made by a park ranger, essentially saying that if he had a map of the area he would need to walk two miles into safety.

The second movie is more lighthearted, and tells the story of a socially inept man who finds the solution to the social pressures to get a girlfriend in a love doll. Not a crappy love doll, mind you, but a Real Doll, pictured below.


Oh Roxanne.



Of course, just buying such a doll would not suffice for a movie plot, and the movie is not about a man satisfying his masturbatory needs with an artificial person. Rather he pretends that the doll is an actual woman, bound to a wheelchair, which makes for very funny situations, as his entire town tries to play along because the main character is such a likable figure. This last movie is definitely recommended.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Of Munchkins and Blunders

With almost a week having been gone since my return from Spain, and having loads of stuff to finish before I travel to AAMAS, things are not looking very good to me. My thesis work has officially started, and this week not only did I have to finishing reviewing papers for a Brazilian conference, I tried to start writing the introduction to my thesis. On a side note, I have read what was probably the worst paper I have ever seen in the process of reviewing papers for SBIA (their website looks a bit lame), since this is my first reviewing assignment, I fear for the worst in the future. But back to the thesis, it is proving incredibly hard to write an introduction and not starting it with something that sounds like bullshit, given that the remainder of the thesis must be strictly scientific. I wish I had the writing skills of Alan Turing, which I had the audacity of quoting in my proto-introduction, and be able to make interesting analogies, but then again, scientific writing nowadays is a bit different from 60 years ago.



On top of my difficulties at work, my home is now semi-occupied by the entire family of my flatmate, which means home privacy is a thing of the past. Every day some new thing hits my nerves making me feel like I am in a Chevy Chase movie! Luckily, so far I am avoiding being entirely like Clark Griswold and making an ass of myself, but there is still one and a half week to go, and I may end up slipping. In order to cope with this problem at home, I am spending increasing amounts of time hanging out at my friend Paulo's place after work, trying to arrive as late as possible in my flat. At these times, I indulge myself in some games from which I have been long apart, and spent some money buying the Munchkin card game, in particular the Cthulhu version of it, as fueled by my recent reading of Lovecraft. I am also about to start learning Go so as to add another level of chic to my nocturnal play sessions. Let's just hope I manage to survive these coming weeks and maintain my sanity for the conference I am about to go immediately afterwards.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Police Squad!

Since my supervisor already caught me during my lunchtime entertainment moment, I feel more at ease in making comments about the crap I watch while I have lunch (just in case he pops by this blog). And this week, after returning from Barcelona, I re-discovered the series that led to the Naked Gun movies, namely, Police Squad!. The episodes of this series are actually perfect for my lunch break, since they are roughly 25 minutes in length, which does not allow time wasting after the food consumption part of the meal. One very funny part of these episodes is its introduction, usually with a celebrity guest that dies right at the end. Youtube, of course, has all episodes neatly divided into parts, which is quite handy, as you can check out below.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pimientos de Padron

 


Although I spent the past two weeks in Barcelona visiting my significant other, my work schedule was unchanged. So instead of enjoying the Mediterranean climate and dedicating myself to hedonism, I have spent most of my days trying to kick start the write up of my thesis. Moreover, I have spend half a week trying to come up with plans for further work on parts of my thesis, most of which will never be actually carried out. As you can imagine, this is very stimulating. Even if work is pressing, I needed to enjoy Barcelona, which is one of my favourite cities in Europe, so yesterday I went with Anita to the Mercat de la Boqueria The purpose was to get to know the place better, and although this market is significantly smaller the one in my hometown , it was really a feast for the senses. And I managed to get supplied with local delicacies. Among other things, I bought Pimientos del Padron, which were to be the entree for our lunch, since they are easily prepared, and eaten without the help of cutlery. If the local lore (and Wikipedia) is to be believed, about one in ten of those pimientos are supposed to be spicy, but I guess my luck defies this lore, you can call me lukcy if you are Mexican, or unlucky if you are Brazilian, because I managed to get almost all of them of the spicy kind. And by spicy I really mean it, since I felt the effects in my throat and stomach throughout the day, as well as today (on the way out).
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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Low Rider



To try and kick start my writing up yesterday, I obtained the soundtrack from GTA: San Adreas, which so far has been my favorite game on the series, as well as the last one I managed to play for a long period of time, before my obligations overrode my desire to play games. In any case, this game has one of the best soundtracks ever, just because it consists mostly of a collage of great songs from various genres (of course, as far as original soundtracks go, nothing beats Mechwarrior 3). Among the tracks included in the Master Sounds radio is Low Rider, which is a song I always assumed was played by some Latino band, which clearly is not the case, as attested by this video I found in You Tube. The music always evokes in me memories of the famous Cheech and Chong movie, Up in Smoke, which I always assumed were the authors of the song, given these comedians' musical pieces. Well, I stand corrected.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My new career



Now it's official, I have quit my position as PhD student to pursue my childhood dream of working in a rodeo. More specifically, I have decided to become a rodeo clown and got a position in a Texas rodeo, starting this summer. I understand the seriousness of my decision, but I figured I could not put this off for long in my life. To demonstrate how serious I am in my clown move, I have linked to this post a comic from the Perry Bible Fellowship, which is, by the way, on of the best webcomics I have ever seen on the internet, some of the strips are a bit cryptic, but the level of artistic finesse along with the witty humor make it for a great experience.

This being the first of April, it should take me some time to relocate to Texas and start posting again my experiences as rodeo clown.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stories of the 1920s and 1930s

In the past three months I have been reading the best of pulp fiction from the 1920s and 1930s from two of the most acclaimed writes of the time Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft. The genres for which they became famous are remarkably different, with Lovecraft being hailed as the creator of modern horror and one of the precursors of science fiction, whereas Howard popularized fantasy fiction with his very own sword and sorcery type of story.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dungeons and Dragons


It has been a while since I last posted in this blog, which is probably due to my either not having enough PhD work to do, or too much to do that it is blocking my mind (that is for someone else to decide). Besides the PhD work and other existential decisions I need to decide in the next three months. Throughout these last weeks, however, I have been assailed with strange dreams where I find myself playing dungeons and dragons, with the dream usually ending with me trying to bluff the GM into letting me succeed a vital saving throw that I just failed. The interesting thing about the dreams is that I have not played DnD for almost ten years now, and not so coincidentally, Gary Gygax, the creator of this game has died quite recently. This seems to be the most plausible explanation for my dreams, unless some semi-psychic Internet dweller wants to offer me some more esoteric explanation. Or it could be that I am losing my mind as a result of my PhD work, in any case, this does not bode well for me (I guess).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Boobs in Dexter

I will renew my praise for Dexter after I started watching the second season, which added a lot of understanding to the inner daemons facing our anti-hero. So even though many people are rooting for him, he has become less strict with his killing, and may be falling in the pit of more traditional serial killers, if there is such thing as a traditional serial killer. But I digress, the title of the post says it all, and my comment goes to the breasts of the women in Dexter, or more precisely, their size. I do not mean this in a bad way, as the little I have read on the net about the subject criticize the women in the show for having small breasts.

On the contrary, I think that it is a very interesting thing to do in American television, to show sexy women without oversized breasts, clearly indicating breast implants, trying to impose a certain body type as the most desirable. Most women there do seem like natural and fit, but not surgically modified. So it seems that they are stimulating people to be fit (depicting plenty of exercise), but not unreal expectations. Good stuff. Body modification seem to have become the norm on other media. I have even read somewhere that many would-be actresses have chosen to put breast implants to improve their odds at landing a role in holywood, which is a bit sad. Of course there is an exception, the Brit girl who has a fling with the protagonist, though small-breasted looks a bit weird by having quite disproportionate lips. If I am wrong here, please correct me.

Big Brother Birthday

 

Today is my brother's birthday, which gives me an excuse to post links to the pictures of a recent road trip we made through Europe, starting in Paris, to Brussels, Waterloo, Köln, Berlin (Berlin nie wieder?) and back to Paris. Altough the rythm was frantic, it was an interesting experience and reminded me of my first road foray into south Germany, some years ago. The picture in this post is from when we got back from the continent and went to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford. Duxford is a hard place to reach when you have no automobile around here, so we had to rush through it, but still it yielded us some nice photographic material, and nice close looks into some pretty cool technology. Altough he did not want to stick around sunny England for this occasion (I can totally understand), it was nice to have him here for a while.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Back to the old world

I am back to ye sunny old England, and only now did I have the time to post something on this blog. Immediately after I got back from the Brazilian summer, my girlfriend met me in London, and after her, my brother decided to come visit. All nice and good, if not for the fact that a number of conference deadlines also tend to occur in the exact same period of the year. Conferences in the northern hemisphere, that is. It is an inconvenient but unavoidable problem, since the seasons, as you all know, are reversed between the north and the south. So while summer (and the summer break) goes on in Brazil, where my brother lives, winter, and deadlines for conferences expected to occur in the northern summer are ravaging my life.

On the bright side, this fast forward moment in my life usually means I have some (albeit stressed) fun in accompanying my brother in tourism here, while still accomplishing (double more stressful) work.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hidden messages in films

It is my last week in Brazil, and I have chosen to step down a bit my work to catch up some movies with a bunch of friends, as well as test driving the new home theater my brother has set up at home. Among the movies we watched were the two big heroic animations Beowulf and 300. After watching each of these movies, I realized that they both have ultimate messages that are hidden between the lines of the movies.


When shagging the dragon, don't forget your rubber



Starting with Beowulf, a heavily adapted version of the old Anglo-Saxon poem by the same name, the movie describes how a great hero arrives at a Scandinavian village that is being attacked by a creature that is (unknown to the population) a bastard child between its king and a local dragon/demon. After slaying the poor creature, our hero then decides to shag said dragon while lusting for the king's wife. Needless to say, another bastard half-monster comes out of this escapade and later haunts the same village. If you have not caught the hidden meaning by now, I will tell you, the problem is the fucking promiscuity of some rulers, and their careless captain Kirk-style sexual appetite resulting in at best a venereal disease or at worst a burned down village.

Now regarding 300, I think it is needless to say what a load of elephant crap the whole movie is, and how the "documentaries" that accompany the blue-ray version of it only make it worse at trying to justify their adaptations for dramatic license (my ass, I tell you). But I will summarize the bull crap part: the movie essentially tries to transmute a culture of misogynistic pederast autocrats with less than a third of the population having voting rights into a tale of heroics, and I shit you not, freedom. They even get the classic "freedom is not free" shit that some Americans are repeating ad nauseam to justify their current policies. But digressions apart, the movie portraits what was probably one of the greatest empires of the time, known for its religious freedom and prohibition of slavery into a Lord of the Rings style evil horde. They also overlook the fact that that particular war was won by the military cunning of Athens rather than the Hooah-style mindless charge that is typical of some modern military units.


Little Quasimodo just wanted his chance



The movie seems to glorify their intolerance to any people that is not conforming with the standards of the tribe, so when our Quasimodo lookalike tries to help his own nation, he is bluntly dismissed as unfit, because he cannot raise his shield to a certain height, even considering that most of the formations portrayed in the movie have leaning men, and they do not last 10 seconds of movie together. And here comes our second hidden meaning, the Persians in this movie, despite attempts to turn them into monstrosities, clearly embrace diversity, and their army has people from all over the world. This empire accepts Ephialtes into their ranks, and that proves instrumental to their victory. So, moral of the story is, embrace diversity and win.

Coincidentally, both movies have been adapted from or by writers of comic books, so we might have a pattern here. In all honesty, Beowulf is a vastly superior movie, which is pretty compatible with Neil Gaiman's work, whereas Frank Miller's work is mostly a bloodbath, aiming to please your average frat boy demographics (though I like his Batman stories).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bum Wines

Puzzled by an expression I heard about a certain drink called Mad Dog 20/20, I discovered what the word hootch really means. And by that of course, I refer to bum wine. The technical term, if wikipedia is to be believed is low-end fortified wine, and wine here is probably a misnomer. From the sources I read on the net, these cheap chemical concoctions are made as a cheap product for the American homeless, which sure enough must be a very good business, getting better by the current administration. Some of these "wines" are even made by famous wineries, such as E and J Gallo, probably with the shittiest byproducts of their main wines, stuff that is not even suitable for making Grappa.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Not my cup of tea, but still cool

Although at this point in my life I am no fan of World of Warcraft, I have played it for some months in the past and attest to the addictiveness of this game. My opinion on MMORPG is nicely summarized by this video:



Now thanks to an email from a friend of mine and a comic strip I have found out about a product which I think is quite creative. And what is this thing, you may ask? Custom statues of World of Warcraft characters using Industrial Prototyping 3D printers. If their website is anything to be believed, there is a significant portion of artistry involved after the statue is printed, so this might justify the 115 dollars charged for each piece. Besides the price, you also have to participate on a sort of lottery to decide who gets to buy their products, which may mean that there is a lot of demand for it, or alternatively, that the company is trying to hype you into buying something that your friends might not be able to get.

The second, more funny, part of my post has to do with the comic strip (Penny Arcade), which shows the dangers of WoW addiction relating to this particular product.



and

Monday, January 07, 2008

Certainly not in England


Even after using this extension to Firefox for years, I do not recall having ever seen this icon of a melting thermometer to indicate temperature. Of course, this is not the temperature in England, especially at this time of the year, but rather in Southern Brazil, and if you have seen the previous posts, you can guess exactly where this place is. Luckily for me, universities tend have air conditioning systems, and that is exactly where I headed to today.