Archive for December, 2007

Never Mind The Buzzcocks Series Finale On Veoh

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

For the Never Mind The Buzzcocks fans out there that aren’t in the U.K., the latest episode is on Veoh here.

I told myself I’d never use Budaeli as a linking blog so I could create original content, but I can’t pass this up for those out there who share the same excitement as me…so don’t expect much more in the way of link posts.

Voting Has Too High Of A Marginal Cost For My Taste

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

As the presidential election process is beginning its change from ignorable insanity to mindblowing lunacy (I just saw an article where Mitt Romney condemned Time’s choice of Putin as their Person of the Year – never mind that the choice is based on who is the most newsworthy…Hitler was person of the year in ’38), I have sided with the economists and decided not to bother voting.

The viewpoint boils down to this: a single vote means very little in an election, the larger the vote the less it’s worth. And the effort most people must make to go out of their way to vote is disproportionate to the value of the vote itself. The only instance where a single vote may be worth casting is in local elections.

Call it disillusionment after being on the losing side of the last two presidential elections, but I agree. Appearantly economists feel ashamed when they vote! Of course if one gets a sense of purpose out of voting or politics is their subculture, then it’s worth the effort. But when someone like me sees little difference between politicians and parties – hell, even thinks the party system is a terrible way to run a democratic republic, there’s better things to do with one’s time. Like read Perez Hilton.

One last thing: if you do decide to vote, please research the candidates. It is very annoying when people vote for the one candidate that will, say, actually make them lose money or rights.

This post was inspired by the discussions on voting at the Freakonomics blog – which, along with the book of the same name, helped me get back into economics. Quick side story: I had one of the highest scores in economics in the years I participated in Academic Decathlon in high school (I was tricked into joining)…and yet I couldn’t be bothered to do the work to get a passing grade in any econ class, except for the college classes I took.

Imagining Infinity

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Here’s a quick thought exercise: try to conceptualize infinity.

How do you see it? Our minds are not built to deal with the number infinity, primarily because we live in a finite world where there is a limit to everything*.

So how does a god feel? What’s it like to be able to know and understand not just the extraordinary vastness of our universe, but everything beyond it**?

This is a concept I like to toy with from time to time. I try to visualize infinity (or at least something so massively large it has the appearance of infinity) by creating a mental picture of space and to points as many points in the image in my head as possible. For example, to try to keep track of every star and galaxy in the image…and then move through it.

After about five minutes of this I usually start mumbling incoherently and then black out, so it’s not something I do regularly (but it’s safer than taking hallucinogenic drugs…I think).

*Except the stunning variety of stupidity in humans.

**Of course there’s things beyond our universe. Where else do you think the idea for furry fanfic came from?

The Eee PC Is Friggin HOT

Monday, December 17th, 2007

About three weeks ago I got one of those Eee PC. You know, the tiny, linux running laptop that was designed to be the OLPC for adults. It’s cheap, easy to use, based almost entirely on open source software…and is absofuckinglutly awesome. Seriously, it’s the few non-Apple gadget in years that was thoughtfully designed and planned out.

Oh, and it’s cheap. $399 cheap. Compare that the OQO or the Flipstart!

I’ve got a black model with the 4gb flash drive, 512mb RAM, and the webcam. It has Firefox, OpenOffice.Org, some games, and that’s about it. And that’s all it needs. Really, how much power do you need on a secondary laptop? That’s about all this can be, unless your computing demands are very light (mine aren’t).

After using this for several weeks it’s become clear that this is about as small as a laptop can go – the keyboard is just big enough to kinda-sorta touch type and the screen is just big enough to do browsing and document creation (I giggled when I put the Eee’s 800×480 next to my iMac’s 24″ 1900×1280 screen). But the portability is very useful for me. I can take it anywhere to get some work done or do some writing or just surf. I can’t wait to test it out on a trip when I go home to visit the family in a week.

As for the software, I think using open-source software for everything is a giant leap towards commoditizing the most common software. It also means that if I were so inclined, the Eee is deliciously hackable. Hell, even the open source games are fun!

This is a great computer for very portable computing. I use it to take my work anywhere, like on the couch in the living room. And while there are some rough edges, it’s the sum of all of the parts that makes this computer great.And I can use it to justify to my friends that I like good design, not just Apple products.

This does mean that I now have three computers – the iMac, the Eee PC, and the iPhone. That’s right – my phone is a computer. Think about it – I can use it for web browsing, checking my email, playing music, watching video on YouTube. That’s like 90% of what constitutes my everyday computer use. But sometimes I need something a little bigger. With a keyboard. And a bigger screen. And Crack Attack.

***Oh, and a word for those of you who decide to get one: be very careful when you take this out in public. It’s like the iPod when it first came out or a PowerBook when no one owned one. People will bug you incessantly if you’re not careful. I really want to take this down to the neighborhood Starbucks but I was mobbed the last time.

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Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Simon Amstell, And The Art Of Pretending To Know What The Brits Are On About

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

This weekend was supposed to be chockablock of random little projects getting wrapped up because of the shitty weather – from getting a big chunk of the Great Music Tag Project (getting anal about having the correct metadata on my music files is a pet peeve of mine), finishing something that is supposed to be what I started this blog for (no clues here, you’ll just have to wait!), and other things I’ve already forgotten.

Naturally, that didn’t happen…but not because of anything I had any control of…or that I’m willing to admit.

After successfully breaking the habit of checking my newsfeeds every five minutes every day, I caught up with several days worth on Saturday morning. By the evening I had gone through the interesting links and had just the videos left. One of them was a clip from some British show that had Patrick Wolf as a guest. I believe his tour is over now but I saw him two months ago when he was in Boston – and his show is so fantastic, I imagine it’s what a David Bowie concert from his classic period would be like if Bowie could play tons of instruments including children’s instruments. Seriously, if he has a show in your area, check it out – is music is great (The Magic Position, his most recent, is all excellent dense but beautiful songs).

ANYWAY so I watch the show and even manage to get the whole show on YouTube. Patrick Wolf wasn’t that great on the show but the host, the regulars, and the other guests were throat-hurting hilarious. Picture the show – called Never Mind The Buzzcocks*- like The Match Game, only its all about British pop music and culture and the guests are hopefully invited knowing full well that they will be made fun of, insulted, and ridiculed…all in good cheer. It’s a fake game show (i.e. the points really aren’t the point) where contestants are tested on their knowledge of pop star gossip, and pop star and music recognition.

Admittedly I only get about half of the references on the show – and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable of current British pop culture and especially well-versed in British music for an American. But that’s OK. The main draw of the show are the jokes, jabs, and insults at the expense of the guests. The host, Simon Amstell, is by far my favorite of the regular players. He can dress down any celebrity like nobody’s business. In fact, the most authentic people on the show are the ones who roll with the punches, and laugh at themselves. Insulting the regulars is next to impossible.

It helps that all three regulars – Amstell, Phill Jupitus, and Bill Bailey are all comedians. I do wonder how much of the stuff is scripted – some of it is obvious, but the others sometimes make me wonder.

I started with the Patrick Wolf episode, which turned out to be the most recent; and by the time I was finally tired of watching it was 2am. And yet…today I was still watching the show – even watching shows I had just seen! – stopping only to watch Help! with my roommate (it was a Hanukkah gift from me to her…the DVD, not the chance to watch it with me). A lot of the episodes are up on YouTube. The pre-Amstell shows are a little harder to find, but then again all of the ones I’ve seen were pretty bad.

My suggestion is if you can understand what those brits are saying, get some of their jokes, have at least a passing knowledge of British pop culture, and can read at a high school level (yeah, right!), then absolutely watch this show. Never Mind The Buzzcocks is fookin’ hilarious.

*Isn’t the title of this show just horrendous? I mean, I get it – they replaced Bollocks with a better-known band in the title of the Sex Pistol’s debut album…but WHY??? It’s like they forgot to replace the working title and ten years later are stuck with it. In my mind, the shittiest title of any TV show I’ve seen.

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Fermi’s Paradox

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

This has been bugging me for a long time: Fermi’s Paradox sums up like this: The universe is so big that the chance there are other technologically advanced civilizations is huge. So then why haven’t we seen any evidence?

What’s been bugging me is why haven’t we found anything? Is there something we’re missing? Are advanced civilizations deliberately blocking contact with us for some reason?

While it would be immensely beneficial for us humans to discover life other than earth, especially intelligent life, we should plan as if we are a beautiful, fragile, fluke in the universe. That the life on earth is rare and should be preserved at all costs. The only problem is that we, as the dominant species on the planet, are doing a terrible job with that.

Preservation of life and the natural processes on earth is a given, sure. We don’t necessarily need to protect the environment, we just need to live with it (my guess is that if we do trigger a calamitous climate change, we’re going to die off and life will keep going…it’s done it before and chances are it’ll do it again) .

However the ease in which all life can be wiped clean from our planet due to catastrophes beyond our control – cosmic radiation from a nearby supernova, giant asteroid attack, things we don’t even know about – means we should be working very hard to spread life elsewhere. Fuck the preservation of the composition of existing planetary bodies. There should be concerted attempts to get life growing on mars, massive artificial satellites with gardens teeming with life, even primitive life put in probes and shot out into space in all directions.

That is to say, I am wholeheartedly for biological imperialism, if only because we haven’t found life anywhere else. We’re probably not doing it because we have enough problems living on our own planet, and dealing with our own species. But I think there’s another reason.

People don’t care about space exploration anymore because of video games.

It’s so easy to fire up a game where you simulate owning your own space ship, taking it out to mine ore, and trade with other gamers in a virtual galaxy – all without having to deal with the always present threat of death when in space, not to mention waiting patiently for the technology to catch up with our dreams (I’m talking about EVE Online, which is a great MMO regardless of my opinion). Who wants to work hard to try to live in space when you can pretend you’re doing it right now with pretty graphics and a killer soundtrack?

Previous generations had only science fiction novels, movies, and TV shows to pretend with, and I think those passive expressions motivated people to work hard enough to get a tin can on the moon*. Then came Asteroid, then Space Quest, and before long nobody cared anymore. We became too busy with our own entertainment to launch the Jupiter 2.

There appears to be enough advanced technology just lying around to get the ball rolling – just the gadgets I’ve acquired on my measly pay are pretty much what existed in old sci-fi stories – a communication device that fits in my pocket that has video and access to the largest library the world has ever known – and still lets me communicate with anyone I want no matter where I am on earth, an audio and video player that can hold more music all the LPs most people have space to store in their homes, and a computer that looks like a console on a slick spaceship…that can simulate one too! No flying car though…damn.

The point of all this rambling is that we shouldn’t try to solve Fermi’s paradox, but rather do our damnedest to ensure the longevity of the life that currently exists on our planet. Why keep such a great secret to ourselves? Let’s spread it around!

*The computer used in the Lunar Module was as powerful as the Apple //e…with 32k of RAM…compare that to the computer you’re using now, and despair at how much processor power you’re wasting!

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Apple Inc. Is My Sports Team

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Sport talk has always bored me. Between the excessive stats of baseball, the bizarre rules of football, and the mythical stature of soccer/football stars – it just didn’t excite me like it does for many people. An unintended side effect is my hampered ability at small talk due to the fact that I know embarrassingly little of team standings, history, or how well anyone is doing for the current season – not to mention I still don’t quite get the rules of football. And probably never will.

That said, I am beginning to see how people can get very involved in the myths of their favorite team. Why?

Because Apple is my sports team.

I root for them every chance that I get. The sport is hard to follow because there is lots of speculation on what plays Apple will make, and the equivalent to actual games are the Macworld Expo, the WWDC, and the occasional official announcement events scattered throughout the year. The team has a very restrictive block-out period for games, so us fans have to rely on text-based announcers physically at the event. But boy is it exciting! Who knows what moves Apple’s star quarterback, Steve Jobs, will make!

I became involved with the team late in its history – they were making a strong comeback and kicking serious ass. But despite all the hype that Apple gets in the press, the company is less like the Yankees and more like the Red Sox – they had a long, embarrassing losing streak, but have come back and whipping everyone’s ass*. To extend the analogy, Microsoft more like the Yankees – they were killing everyone for a while but now can’t get their act together, while still being the biggest money-making club (it’s not a perfect analogy, of course – a technology company can’t win an equivalent to a World Series, they can just get lots of users, and the fan base for Apple outweighs the fan base for Microsoft so much it’s absurd – OK, well I wouldn’t call that last link absurd but you get the idea :) ).

The sports analogy is getting carried away, so I’ll wrap this up. While I don’t decorate my bedroom with Apple-branded stuff, the majority of my electronics are made by them (iMac, iPod, iPhone, AppleTV, and if everything works out a Mac as my work machine) and I have more of those logo stickers than I can possibly use. And my talking about what the company is up to with my friends borders on annoyance.

So maybe I can relate.

*I should point out that it’s impossible to live in Boston and not adore the Red Sox, even if just a little.

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John Lennon Oct. 9th 1940 – Dec. 8th 1980

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Today marks the 27th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. May he rest in peace.

If you don’t know much about John Lennon, go here, then here, then here, then buy these (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14), and this, and this, and this.  That’s only a start but you should get the picture if you’ve digested all of those.

Why remember his death? Well we are all defined by the culture we were first exposed to, and music forms an integral part of that, and our identity as humans. And if you grew up in the western civilization – particularly in an english-speaking country, almost every aspect of both popular music and derivatives of rock was either invented or popularized by the Beatles. It’s in our cultural makeup.

I also hope it will inspire an artist in the future to create great music.

The Blurring Of Reality

Friday, December 7th, 2007

The other day I was talking with a coworker about his observation that all the people with weird deformities are popping up in China – the woman with the backward feet, the guy with green sweat, the unicorn people. I responded by saying it was probably a combination of China’s massive population and really bad pollution. Think about it: one out of every five humans is Chinese, and one out of every five humans is Indian!

The conversation died, until a few minutes later I became very worried: what if the first mutant superheroes appear in China rather than in the US? That would totally tip the scale of who is the most powerful world superpower, right?

It soon occurred to me that I was worrying about something that only appears in comic books, expensive action movies, and low-budget children’s cartoons. I’m having trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality. It’s like how people are big into pirates, ninjas, and zombies – like they really exist*. Or the dude who wanted his senior picture in his school’s yearbook be of him in his chain mail armor and with a broadsword.I’m just saying…this is the inspiration for some very good stories.

*Pirates do exist. They just don’t normally have one leg and a funny accent anymore…well, unless you consider a filipino accent funny.

Liam Lynch Plug

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Liam Lynch’s most recent album, How To Be A Satellite is a great little album that I fear is not getting the exposure it deserves. All anyone seems to know about him is he did that really short song a few years back…whatever. I had forgotten about him – his only major-label album, Fake Songs, wasn’t all that great – the songs weren’t that interesting, the singing was flat, and the music felt like he knew all the theory and where to put breaks and hooks – they sounded like he wrote them for a class on pop music instead of being the real deal.

Not so with this album.

While the songs don’t have a cohesive lyrical or musical theme, most of them stand up well on ther own. Lynch has a clear appreciation for melody and a catchy hook – and for someone like me who rates a certain English band above everyone else, I’m immediately attracted to his music. And the three best tracks – “Crow,” “On Waves Low And High” and the title track – are slow pieces that have the most polish and emotional impact. They’re also the three songs that I heard on his podcast, Lynchland, that made me want to buy the album.

It would have been nice if the album had any flow between the tracks, but I’m guessing he wasn’t trying to do that. Lynch seems to me the ideal 21st-century artist – independent, song-based rather than album-based, and less a musician and more a hyperactive artist with the skill and interest to be active in multiple disciplines. Music is just his home base, where he started, and where he’ll revolve around.

Similar artists: The Beatles (duh), Bob Dylan (duh), Paul McCartney, The Zombies, Frank Zappa, Eagles of Death Metal, Todd Rundgren, Beck, Violent Femmes, Wire…sorry, these are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head, but they’re all good starting points (and the may say more about my musical interests than music similar to Liam Lynch).