Monday, September 27, 2010

Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

In a break from my recent intense work schedule I managed to visit the Renaissance Festival that has been organized in the Pittsburgh area. Organizing this outing was a gauntlet in itself, since it seems everybody wanted to go but nobody could agree on a date. In the end, only two people besides me and Ana ended up going (from a crowd of more than 10). In any event, I thought it would be interesting to see how an american version of this kind of event would look like, since I have attended a pretty elaborate one in my last days back in England.

From Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

My feeling was that the american version was interesting and fun, but the feeling of artificiality was very hard to miss. Although some of the events in the Pittsburgh renaissance festival were genuinely fun like the fire eater (video below), and the wenches were really hilarious (image above), the actual renaissance/medieval activity was quite obviously staged. That was in stark contrast to the Joust I saw in London last year. For starters we had Fabio as the "King's Champion", followed by people jumping out of horses when struck by a lance that did not even splinter.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

London, London

From Back to London

After more than a year away, London has called me back. In fact, what called me to London was a conference, which I was more than glad to attend given how much I miss the greatest city in the world. I have missed not only the people and the sights of London, but also the smaller things, like my favourite shops and supermarkets, good tea and my beloved museums.
How sad is it that I now watch from Waterloo Bridge, with foreboding longing to be back to this city, the gleaming statue atop St Pauls, the dull colours of the British Parliament and its clock tower. Today is a perfect day to look at the sights provided by this bridge, as the often elusive sun shines on the water of the Thames and I watch and follow the bustle of people walking down Waterloo bridge.

From Back to London

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Best Shill Review for a Book Ever

While reading a book review that turned out to be total astroturfing I quickly followed other reviews of this book and found this masterpiece of irony:

Super Principia Mathematica was better than my wedding, better than watching my first son born, better than the time I had sexual intercourse with an entire college cheerleading squad while high on peyote.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Three Dee Wee

With the relatively recent invasion of 3D video, gimmicky additions to silly videos have abounded. Even Youtube seems to have surrendered to it, giving one all sorts of options as to how you can watch a 3D video. And so I have tried, since I have recently got a pair of those glasses for free after visiting the Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta. As an aside about that museum, what a lame sample of Brazilian soft drinks in their museum. I mean, Iced Tea?! That is most definitely not the most Brazilian of drinks. GuaranĂ¡ would have been a lot more Brazilian, but they chose to put is as a Paraguayan soft drink (which tastes exactly like the differently-named Coca-Cola branded guaranĂ¡ they sell in Brazil, i.e. like crap).

From Atlanta

Of course, anything that is given for free must have some kind of limitation. And it turns out that the glasses they give at the Coke museum are of the cinema type, fancy, yet useless to watch the 3D from Youtube. And watching David Mitchell's podcast (or Youtube video) required me to have the less fancy ones. I might have to make my own glasses, crappy as they may turn out to be.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

ACM Membership prices

The time has approached for me to renew my ACM Membership, and you can imagine my surprise to see my fees double from one year to the next. So I decided to send them an email to let them know of my discontent
Dear Sir/Madam,

       I was checking out the amount due to be paid for the renewal of my ACM membership and could not fail to notice that the price has *doubled* from what I paid last year. Although I do not question the value of an ACM membership, I think that ACM needs to provide some honest explanation as to why this extreme price hike, as I seriously doubt that ACM operational costs have doubled. Ever since I joined ACM for the first time 8 years ago I never considered not renewing my membership but I am now sadly inclined not to renew my membership. I understand that the final cost of my membership last year might have been slightly reduced due to my time as a member, but this discount (and absence thereof) is no justification for the prices applied this year, moreover if you have applied discount to old members, then you have created this expectation for me and I would like this to continue.
       The issue of cost is now more relevant than ever, with universities cutting budgets, salaries and funding, and top conferences charging ever more exorbitant registration prices (and ACM membership no longer providing discounts to registration as it did when I joined in 2003). In particular, I find it outrageous that the online library is an optional item that costs the same as membership itself when this is one of the main reasons I am a member of the ACM, while the print version of CACM is obligatory (I would like to have the option of not having printed versions of the magazine for a discount).
       I'm not sure what this pricing strategy intends to accomplish, but by doubling your prices ACM might get half the membership renewals and break even.


Felipe Meneguzzi
Now, I did not expect a useful reply (they probably do not give a damn about their members with these prices). However what I got defies belief, the ACM person rudely sent me my previous invoices and said I was getting discounts for living in a developing country (apparently they consider Britain that?) with a big implied "screw you". She also politely offered me not to send the Communications of the ACM printed magazine, but without affecting price. Now I have always doubted ACM's true utility, since I pay for it and get nothing in return (it is primarily an American lobby group, I'm told), this just confirms my feeling.