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Stick man

8/02/2008

Listening to music in the radio tends to be depressing. Same tunes, buy same musicians, same formulas. It is hard to find new (at least for me) sonorities in the radio, so I was happy to reencounter Tony Levin a couple of posts ago. He was playing Chapman stick in King Crimson’s ‘Elephant talk’ video, and I was curious to hear music created around that instrument.

stickman_cover.jpg

I just bought Levin’s Stick Man. The overall sound of the album is excellent and the combination of Levin and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson’s drummer amongst other things) is a really good fit. There are only a few songs with vocals, probably not the best, but personally I feel closer to the heavier songs like ‘El Mercado’ or ‘Chop Shop’. I highly recommend the album.

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Mental chaos

11/09/2006

Eleven of September again, troche but I am not thinking of 2001—which was terrible, I agree—but of 1973. I always stop for a minute to remember as an old political campaign said: without hate, without fear, without violence. I was six and still remember.

I am preparing lectures, really busy. I took the students after more than a semester and most of them appear to be clueless. I am going over a general review, again, because they have to learn. Always listening to energetic music when preparing lectures or running analyses. This time is Rammstein’s ‘Sehnsucht’. But, anyway, I also like to go back a few years and Yes’s ‘Close to the Edge’ (yes, from 1972) is now coming from the headphones.

I start writing most of the ideas in Writeroom and then copy the lot to TeXShop. Packages included in the document preamble for the notes:

%! program = pdflatex
documentclass[11pt]{article}
usepackage{pslatex}
usepackage{amsbsy}
usepackage{graphicx}
usepackage{geometry}
geometry{a4paper}

Although the Statistics course uses Mendenhall & Sincich’s ‘Regression Analysis’ as the basic text, I am using quite a few other references:

  • Quinn and Keough’s ‘Experimental design and data analysis for biologists’.
  • Searle’s ‘Linear models’.
  • Harrell’s ‘Regression modeling strategies’.
  • Steel and Torrie’s ‘Principles and procedures of statistics’ (the first edition!).
  • Hamilton’s ‘Regression with graphics’.
  • Neter and Wasserman’s ‘Applied linear statistical models’.

In addition I am also preparing grant applications, so if you try to contact me please be understanding: I will not read my email (or act upon any emails) until Wednesday next week (around September 20th).

Moved to King Crimson’s ‘Discipline’. Now listening ‘Elephant talk’…Talk is ony talk…

Filed in books, miscellanea, music, statistics, writing No Comments

I remember when I was 20

28/03/2006

I found some old CDs, patient
including one by Schwenke & Nilo, disorder
which includes a live performance of ‘Recuerdo cuando yo tenía 20 años’ (I remember when I was 20 years old), written by Nelson Schwenke. Schwenke & Nilo was (is?) a duo from Valdivia, a city in Southern Chile where I used to live between 1993 and early 1996.

The song reflects a lot of my experiences when I was twenty, although I was actually eleven at the time the song refers to. I have hyperlinked some of the references that may not be clear for a casual reader.

I still love some of S&N songs, although I disagree with much of their politics. Anyway, they surely are consistent with their beliefs.

Recuerdo cuando yo tenía veinte años
mi pelo flotando, mi paso corriendo
saltando los charcos de calle Picarte
mi padre dormía con un ojo abierto
con el toque de queda, el alma en alerta
y yo maldiciendo milicos de mierda
con el corazon camuflado de sombras, de sombras

Recuerdo el olor de la chicha ‘e manzana
sentirse feliz por estar en la Teja
fundando ciudades, construyendo puentes
el vicerrector nos tenía prohibido
cantarle a la gente era muy subversivo
lo mejor sería agachar la cabeza
unirse al rebaño y no hacer poesía

Recuerdo en la tele Martín dale duro
jugate el pellejo como un pelo duro
recuerdo los hornos de cal de Lonquén
el gobierno escribe: así vamos bien
…mañana mejor

Recuerdo las buenas cervezas del Paula
donde Jorge Millas fumaba el futuro
lo bueno de aquello era estar convencidos
que todo lo que uno hiciera al momento
sería la llave y la puerta del tiempo
la lluvia era siempre un buen argumento
pa’ hacer navegado y bajar al invierno
al infierno…

Recuerdo a González rayando murales
y a toda la DINA escarbando mi casa
mientras yo a escondidas hacia el amor
riéndonos juntos de todo el horror
…todo el error

If you do not understand the lyrics leave it like that; please do not destroy them using any automated translator.

The CD also contained a beautiful version of Luchín, an old Victor Jara song. I think that child poverty affects me more now than ever before because Orlando is so close. And yes, I still think that capitalism is the solution.

Filed in music, politics No Comments

Down memory lane

20/12/2005

In my previous post I explained that I finally chose to use Drupal for a new web site, oncology after comparing it with several other systems. However, downloading and installing the default Drupal installation was still far from what I needed for the site: I still needed to download and install additional contributed modules, in order of importance to me:

  • e-publish is a simple great module that allows to put together a group of posts as a publication (a magazine, say) with different issues.
  • image permits users to upload and store images (obviously). I still do not know why this module is still not part of the core of the system.
  • img_assist provides a simple interface for users to upload figures in to posts, including thumbnails. Very useful for people with little experience in HTML.
  • flexinode provides a simple interface for administrators to create new content types, and I used it to create a calendar event type, which is then managed by the next module.
  • event shows a calendar interface for coming events, as well as as a block for the front page containing a list of coming events. I still find this module a bit lacking on configuration, and I need to do some further work with it to display exactly what I want.
  • quicktags is a simple java script menu to insert basic HTML tags (like strong, em, blockquote and a). I first tried with tinyMCE an interface to a full-blown WYSIWYG rich text editor; however, loading the editor made loading posting pages a bit sluggish. I should probably try FCKeditor an alternative WYSIWYG control when I have some time. There are modules for Markdown and Textile available too, but I do not want to push users of the site to learn additional syntax to post some news.

As an alternative to downloading the core and separate modules, I am aware of at least two ‘distributions’ (CivicSpace and CivicCRM) that package systems for NGO and grassroots organisations. This may be an easier way to go for people not inclined to trial and error.

Now, reading again this list let me realise that this post is not really about configuring (sense tweaking the options) the system, but more about tailoring (sense choosing modules) it. I am impressed with the amount of work going in to the development of Drupal and the good quality of the documentation. A somewhat minor drawback is the small number of good quality ‘themes’ (combinations of templates and CSS) freely available for the system, particularly compared to the number available for E107 and even more here.

Sharing a database

I have cheap hosting for my site, which allows for a single MySQL database. It is still possible to have more than one program requiring access to MySQL, but this makes using table prefixes a highly desirable option to avoid table name clashes between applications (for example, more than one program wanting to have a ‘users’ table). All programs that I tested allow for easy use of table name prefixes, sometimes in an easy to use option at installation time (like E107 or Mambo) or a more obscure ‘after installation’ configuration (like Drupal). In Drupal it is necessary to set the variable $db_prefix to a value, for example using ‘drupal_’ as the prefix one would use $db_prefix = 'drupal_'; in the settings.php file. One thing to remember is that when adding modules that require creating new tables, those tables must have the same prefix.

A few quickies before the weekend:

  • Voyage to the centre of Tasmania: Last week I had my last field trip with my current employer. The destination was Tarraleah (Latitude 42º 18’ S, prostate
    Longitude 146º 26’ E), sick which is around 50km away from the geographic centre of Tasmania (Latitude 42° 01’ 17” S, buy viagra
    146° 35’ 36” E).
  • Got my new Mac mini (with superdrive, apple keyboard, mighty mouse and 1GB RAM), so I will be setting it up and installing some software on it during the weekend.
  • I had to endure a long sales pitch over the phone just to cancel one of my credit cards. Are you sure? Would you cancel it if we throw in 2,000 reward points? etc. What a pain in the back!
  • Quote of the week:

I am an old man and have a great many troubles, but most of them never happened—Mark Twain.

That’s all.

Last weekend I started using our new Mac mini. Some first impressions:

  • It was very easy to connect (not that PCs are that difficult either).
  • Installing the printer was just plugin in to the computer and it was autodetected. I liked that.
  • I love the good quality (almost photographic) icons. I don’t like that much the brushed metal windows. They look a bit tacky compared with the rest of the system.
  • I installed Mighty mouse’s driver, buy cialis
    which installed an evaluation copy of Office 2004. Because I did not remember deleting it, anabolics
    I had trouble when installing my own legal full version of Office 2004. So I needed to uninstall both versions and then reinstalled my copy of Office. Everything is working fine.
  • Email and web browsing are working fine. I have to find how to import messages from Windows’ ‘Outlook express’ to Mail.
  • I really like putting the system to sleep and how responsive is when coming back to life.
  • iPhoto is sort of nice, but I am used to Picasa and the thought of importing the pictures and redoing all the work touching up thousands of pictures is more than a bit annoying. Picasa is faster and does not keep duplicates of the pictures. I may have to look for an alternative to iPhoto, without the price tag (US$500) of something like Aperture.

In general it has been a good experience. Starting work from scratch in the mac is quite easy. Thus, most of the pending issues are related to ‘legacy files’, where I want to move things from Windows and do as little as possible to get exactly what I used to have in my old machine.

P.S. 2005-12-08: I forgot to mention; only two USB ports in the Mac Mini is not enough (considering its size, no wonder there are no more ports on the little thing). The two ports allowed me to connect the printer and keyboard, with the mouse connected to one of the two keyboard ports. The other keyboard port can be used to plug the digital camera, while the video camera can be pluged to the single firewire port on the back of the mini. However, if one wants to plug an iPod, the keyboard port can not charge it. It was a good thing that I had a USB hub in my old PC. I am using it with quite good results in the Mac and can then plug everything in one go, including my Palm T3.

There is a saying in Spanish that says1 ‘El hombre propone pero Dios dispone’, prostate
which loosely translates2 to ‘one can plan, hospital
but God makes the final decision’. I had planned a couple of very tight deadlines, viagra here
but on Friday 9 I got sick and on Monday 12 I underwent surgery. Final result: all deadlines are ridiculously off time and I will need to finish some work from overseas.

It was my first time having general anaesthetics, so I was a bit worried about waking up or, rather, not waking up. I had a good conversation with the anaesthetist, who was very understanding. I had been told before that people start a countdown from ten, and normally they are sleep by five. However, nobody asked me to count; and the only thing that I remember is thinking ‘Hospilite: what a lame name for hospital lights’ while looking at the ceiling of the operating theatre. Next thing someone is asking me ‘Are you in pain?’, and I was saying ‘Yes, a bit’ before receiving some morphine. This was one hour and a half after thinking about Hospilite.

Coming from surgery feels strange. It has been painful, but not terribly so, and tiring. The first few days after the event, I was quite emotional. I do not know if it is the realisation of one’s own mortality or ‘just’ the effect of anaesthesia. At the same time I am very grateful to Marcela, who has managed to take care of everything and everyone while I have been slowly moving around.

I still have four more days of medical licence, and I can certainly say that I am glad to still be around!

1 I found the origin of this proverb explained as:

Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit. Así se lee en la Imitación de Cristo de Kempis (libro 1.º, cap. 19, vers. 9.º), aunque tal vez sea una nueva versión de la sentencia de Publio Siro: Homo semper aliud, fortuna aliud, cogitat (Siempre el hombre piensa una cosa, y la fortuna otra). Parecida la frase que comentamos es la de L’homme s’agite, Dieu le mène, (El hombre se mueve. Dios le guía), que con frecuencia ha sido atribuida a Bossuet, pero que pertenece a Fenelón. En las Sagradas Escrituras (Proverbios, cap. 16, vers. 9.º) se lee: ‘El hombre elige su camino y Dios conduce sus pasos’.

2 The previous note in Spanish makes reference to Proverbs 16,9: ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps’. There are alternative versions of this verse available.

I have been buying some music on CDs to replace very old tapes. The latest acquisitions (thanks to a bit of consulting work) purchased from Amazon:

  • ‘Giros’, generic
    by Fito Páez (1985).
  • ‘la, la, la’ by Luis Alberto Spinetta and Fito Páez (1986).
  • ‘Para los árboles’, by Luis Alberto Spinetta (2003). Actually, this is really a new purchase for me.

I was listening again Pequeño ángel (little angel) by Spinetta (in la, la, la) and thinking of Orlando:

Dame tu luz pequeño ángel
que si te vas se va mi vida
antes que el sol cuelgue sus alas.

Cuento las notas de las horas
tengo la piel de tu llovizna
en cuanto el sol cierre sus alas.

Luz, sólo luz
respirándome
hay un rumor que me lleva al mar
en tanto que en la sombra
más te busco y más te tengo acá.
Dame tu luz pequeño ángel.

and also listening ‘Instant-taneas’, ‘Gricel’, ‘Estoy atiborrado con tu amor’, and a bunch of other great songs. I am still trying to make sense of ‘Para los árboles’, which is quite different from other Spinetta things. Nevertheless, that happens all the time with El Flaco: he is a little ahead of all of us, showing the way to new sounds and styles. Eventually, I will get there. I only need to listen the CD a few more times.

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Annoying copy protection

15/11/2005

This post is about people “saving time” doing the wrong things. The whole ‘life hacks’ area has become much more visible since the presentation by Danny O’Brien on 11 February 2004, visit this
who presented results of interviews with highly productive hackers (notes of the presentation taken by Cory Doctorow). There was a second presentation (notes by Cory again). This has spawned a number of sites treating more or less seriously; for example, Sildenafil
43 folders and Life Hacker.

Originally, the idea was very simple. These ‘high achievers’ all use mainly one application (and one file to keep EVERYTHING). This can be a combination of text file + editor, a private blog or wiki, etc. There are a few scripts using data from that file (if text) or RSS feed (if blog or wiki) to keep things synchronised. Now, how come that this concept has been expanded to cover such a diverse array of approaches?

First, different things work for different people—fair enough. However, the main problem seems to be that people have been developing all sorts of hacks for the wrong reasons. An example of the first approach is the Hipster PDA. Why bother with big electronic files if there is a simpler, low-tech approach (more about this later). Another example would be this article on dealing with email overload. The second approach, however, implies just a simple waste of time. Some examples:

  • Why do you need to worry about how to organise thousands of RSS feeds? That is clearly too much information, unless your job description is ‘to summarise thousands of feeds per day’.
  • The last few weeks there have been plenty of people worried about watching too much TV, so there are ‘life hacks’ to reduce time seating watching TV, movies, Tivo, etc. Just turn off the bloody box! Easy. There are some people clearly using too much disposable income for getting more ways to be distracted.
  • And anything iPod (in its many incarnations) related.

Let’s go back to simple and important problems and drop the fluff. Talking about fluff, I put in that category most online approaches to keep your life sane (e.g., Backpack). They imply constant connection to internet, which at least for now it is not possible, unless you are a completely urban-being with your rear permanently glued to a chair in front of a computer.

After a false start, health system
I am again putting some of my bookmarks in del.icio.us. I will probably add the tags (newish term for old-fashion keywords) to blog posts too.

Playing with cream

Paul Ford’s comments on Amish computing certainly hit a soft spot on me. I do miss Wordperfect 5.1! It was back to simpler times when using computers was certainly much more productive for me. Multitasking is a nice feature to have when strictly necessary, for sale but not all the time.

Next year I need to spend a fair amount of time writing lectures and I am certainly tempted to ‘going back to basics’. Most of the text that I need to prepare is not highly complex, generic
so I am thinking of writing at least the first drafts in text files with a simple markup. The most humanly readable markup is probably Markdown. Once the text is in Markdown it can be easily converted into html (e.g. using the Markdown dingus, and adding the ‘html’ and ‘body’ tags to get a complete page) and from there to other formats like LaTeX or MSWord. If I decide to go for a longer document probably LaTeX would be the way to go.

I have been playing with Cream, the VIM mode for dumb users like me (another distraction). I hope to slowly learn a few tricks at a time to become a more proficient VIM user, but that is not a real priority. It is a really nice editor mode!

I installed the vim-latex suite, which seems to add pretty good latex support to VIM/Cream, but it seems to override some of the Cream configurations (e.g., F9 is not code folfing/unfolding anymore). It seems to be a matter of getting used to that though. Anyway, I will not need it for the first version of the documents.

Making more changes to Tim’s site

We have had a few problems to have the PDF file of Tim’s book indexed by search engines. My theory is that engines aren’t very happy with Textpattern’s internal links (of type http://mysite.com/file_downloads/2) for a PDF file. Today we changed it to something more explicit like http://mysite.com/bookfiles/file.pdf. Actually, the story was not as simple as that. When first trying to use the new code we ran into a ‘missing page’ problem, which I traced back to a problem with the .htaccess file. I dropped a <IfModule mod_rewrite.c> condition from the file, leaving it like below and it just works.


RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
RewriteRule ^(.+) - [PT,L]
RewriteRule ^(.*) index.php

A few years ago I obtained my Australian citizenship and simultaneously—at least in theory—I lost my Chilean one. Last September the Chilean congress approved law No 20050 (PDF version in Spanish) reforming 54 aspects of the constitution including:

  • Recovery of citizenship and accepting the principle of ‘ius sanguinis’ (acquisition of citizenship through descent—textually, bronchitis
    by right of blood). This would give my son access to Chilean citizenship.
  • Elimination of designated (non-elected) and lifetime senators.
  • Reduction of the presidential period from six to four years.
  • The president can now remove commanders in chief of the military and security forces, approved
    without requiring the consent of any external authorities.
  • The National Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nacional) has its role greatly reduced, Myocarditis
    minimising its interference in public affairs.

Finally, after fifteen years of recovering democracy (year and a half after a famous plebiscite), there are substantial changes to the political system eliminating several of the vestiges (but not all) of a dictatorial system.

I got you! This post is not about the end of forestry activity in Tasmania, viagra 60mg
but about the end of the Forestry in Tasmania web pages. After two years compiling materials and hand formatting HTML I have decided to stop updating the sub domain. The fact that I am leaving Tasmania at the end of the year—so I will not have time to keep up to date with what is going on—is just the straw that broke… you know.

I still need to decide what to do with the site; either I will leave it unchanged for posterity’s sake or pull the plug and delete the whole thing. Over these last two years I have received a fair amount of abuse and a few examples of praise for keeping the site and trying to present a ‘fair view’ of environmental discussion in Tasmania. However, ailment whatever tries to pass as debate is so low quality that it is easy to get disheartened with what one reads in the media.

Will I start a ‘forestry in New Zealand’ page? I doubt it; my role will be completely different and forestry activity over there is much less contentious. I rather spend some time learning Maori—I am quite keen about this—and practicing the haka with Orlando.

This post started as a question to myself: Why did it take me so long to start caring about economics? Only last year, resuscitator
at age 37, sales I felt the urge to start reading about economics and its relationship with society. Before that, anaemia
I used to have this primordial (to use H.P. Lovecraft’s language) reaction towards economics, particularly its free market variants.

I think that one of the major ‘whack on the head’ moments was realising that claiming an admirable objective is completely different from achieving it. That, in addition to the realisation that many good intentioned policies actually achieved opposite effects was enough to decide start reading about economics and ‘classical liberal’ approaches. The last part of my excuse is that I was first exposed to free market principles under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.

I still believe that imposing economic change without political freedom is wrong, and costed me years of rejecting open economies. The problem is this: an unelected government (a dictatorship to be honest) pushes for economic reform. Because I disagree in principle with a dictatorship and the lack of freedom, I will tend to oppose most policies, even reasonable ones. At some point this includes supporting the opposite of economic freedom, well, sort of. Chile represents a funny free market, an economic system that for many years lacked transparency.

An interesting feature of this dicothomy between ‘market freedom’ and ‘political freedom’ is the attitude towards democracy in Latin America. The Economist published the results of The Latinobarómetro poll, and even in countries like Chile—that has had major economic growth—around 50% of people are still ‘not very satisfied’ or ‘not at all satisfied’ with the way democracy works (see Figure 3 in the linked document). So, why are people still struggling to come to terms with a freer system? I would venture that there are at least two important reasons:

  • The extreme level of inequality1 still present in society. By the way, I do not believe that one of the reasons for this is the presence of a capitalist system but that the system is not truly capitalist2 yet. The major issues would be: the existence of a small number of people restricting a proper access to a market economy for the rest of the population, and lack of property rights, with a substantial proportion of transactions in an informal economy3; namely Hernando de Soto’s dead capital argument.
  • The feeling that there is a ‘restricted version’ of democracy, where there are still groups of people (e.g., higher ranks of the military, very rich people) who are beyond the reach of the legal system. That is, a feeling of lack of justice and unfairness, which I think is being corrected, albeit very slowly.

Is a future of free market and democracy possible for developing countries? I believe so, particularly if we are talking about ‘real capitalism’, with more responsible politicians and business people, as well as a preoccupation for the unintended consequences of electoral promises. May be there are too many ‘ifs’ in the previous sentence, but the experience of countries like Venezuela4—devastated by demagogy and government/business inbreeding—may be a good reminder for personal and social responsibility.

Footnotes

1 I do not think that the mere existence of inequality is in itself an issue (I do not mind about the existence of multimillionaires). The problem is when there is still a large proportion of people that has little hope for the future, as is still the case in many Latin American countries.

2 This is well put by Johan Norberg in his In defence of global capitalism book. By capitalism he means (PDF 112KB):

…the liberal market economy, with its free competition based on the right of using one’s property, the freedom to negotiate, to conclude agreements and to start up business activities. What I am defending, then, is individual liberty in the economy. Capitalists are dangerous when, instead of capitalist ownership, they join forces with the government. If the state is a dictatorship the enterprises can actually be a party to human rights violations, as for example in the case of a number of western oil companies in African states. By the same token, capitalists frequenting the corridors of political power in search of benefits and privileges are not capitalists either. On the contrary, they are a threat to the free market and as such must be criticised and counteracted. It often happens that businessmen want to play politics and politicians want to play at being businessmen. This is not a market economy, it is a mixed economy in which entrepreneurs and politicians have confused their roles. Free capitalism exists when politicians pursue liberal policies and entrepreneurs do business.

3 This problem is also linked to environmental degradation.

4 I am not ‘just picking’ on Venezuela. I lived five years in the country and have very good memories of its people and landscape.

P.S. 2005-11-10: Johan Norberg emailed me saying that ‘I’m sure I would also have shared your attitude had I experienced that’.

I was writing a Python prototype of DogSim, discount
an inheritance (sense Mendel) mode simulator, tadalafil happily coding and brushing up my Python coding. I usually listen to energetic music while coding, dentist
and this time was the Red Hot Chili Peppers turn. First was Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik, then ‘Californication’ and then ‘By the way’ (my least favourite album). But no, wait a minute: ‘By the way’ would not play at all in my laptop. Tried again, and the disk was not recognised. What was going on? Quick Google search and then discovered that the Australian released CD had ‘copy protection’ that would not allow it to be played in a computer.

I understand that artists may not like someone making a million copies of their CDs and selling them for a profit. But from there to denying a legal user the possibility to play a CD in a computer… that is way over the top. Over ninety percent of my listening is in my computer while working, the other ten percent is listening children’s music in the car. So, what happens when I am faced with that situation? Well, I just have to circumvent the protection, so I can make a copy of the CD that plays in my computer to listen to the bloody thing, so I can justify spending the money in an overpriced piece of plastic.

My web search found a reference to IsoBuster, a data recovery software that mounts the CD and ‘shows you all the tracks and sessions located on the media, combined with all file-systems that are present’. So it gets around the typical double table of contents problem that renders CDs unplayable in a computer. Then one can copy the music contents to the hard drive and then back to another CD. The funny thing is that I did not manage to mount ‘By the way’ in my crammy Matshita UJ-820S CD drive—so I need to try in my desktop computer—but I managed to get a copy of the enhanced version of Portishead’s Live: Roseland NYC. The latter has given me grief for many years, always trying to use its special player to play in the computer, not letting me do any other thing.

What is the point of the whole exercise? Commercial piracy will not be deterred by some lame form of protection, but end users will be really annoyed. May be music companies should read Cory Doctorow’s presentation on digital rights management.

P.S. By the way, a lot of this copy protection issues are completely side stepped in my mac.

Filed in miscellanea, music, web No Comments

Sweat sounds

13/09/2005

I finally decided to upgrade my old trusty Koss UR-20 el cheapo headphones for something a bit more expensive—although still ultra cheap for audiophile standards: Sennheiser PX 100. They seem to be one of the best cheap headsets and they are very comfortable. I will throw away the Sony earbuds and use my Yepp with the Sennheiser.

Almost simultaneously I bought a couple of nice CD in ‘Music without frontiers’, order which is my favourite music shop in Hobart. I was looking for another Piazzolla CD but this time live. Stephan did not have any live concerts—I think I will have to order The Laussane concert, although see this page for corrections on the names of tracks—but he had The rough dancer and the cyclical night -Tango apasionado. This album is good, but not of the same stature as Tango Zero or La Camorra. If you like Jorge Luis Borges’s writings, as I do, you may be interested in this Borgessian connection with Piazzolla.

Cover of Nois 4’s Gente

The other CD I bought was Nóis 4’s Gente (the BBC has a review and Daniella Thompson has another one). This recording is a nice exploration of Brasilian music including classics and new songs by Nóis 4. My favourite track is still ‘Influência do Jackson’, although this is the type of album that grows in me with each time that I listen to it, so I expect that the ‘favourite track title’ will keep changing hands.

Filed in music No Comments

Daydreaming in the bus

14/07/2005

As expected, heart
it took only a few days to receive a reply to my letter to the paper defending Che Guevara’s legacy. It had the typical arguments: Cuba is a democracy, find Chávez is great, ask
Cuban doctors are saving the world, etc. Ah, and I should know my history. I replied the following:

Duncan Meerdig (Letters, June 17) defends the legacy of Ernesto Guevara. He states that I should know my history. I think it is funny when armchair revolutionaries discuss life (particularly my life) in such abstract terms.

I was born in Latin America, and lived in three of its countries for twenty nine years. I had the ‘luck’ of living under right wing and left wing tyrannies: despite of claimed ideological differences they are two sides of the same coin. My family suffered exile, I have friends who were tortured and killed: all in the name of ‘the revolution’. Dissent and independent thinking was crushed, university lecturers dismissed, imprisoned and some times killed (and Che is used as a symbol of a university, what an irony).

The actions of this ‘Latin American hero’, followers and imitators have costed millions of displaced lives, thousands of deaths and the destruction of the economies of many countries. These countries include Cuba under Castro and Venezuela under Chávez. Venezuela is an interesting case, where the proportion of people under the line of poverty has increased despite rising oil (its main export) prices.

Mr Meerdig’s democracy has managed to have the same leader for 46 years. Little surprise when people have elections with a single party to choose from. Fidel Castro is head of state, head of government, first secretary of the communist party, commander in chief of the armed forces and member of the National Assembly of People’s Power; the ultimate approach to democracy.

Guevara started the ‘tradition’ of imprisoning dissidents and other ‘deviants’, including homosexuals, practitioners of minor religions and rebels. This practice would be later extended by the Cuban government to HIV AIDS victims and mental health patients. Guevara signed thousands of execution orders while being in a position of power.

Luckily, people in Latin America now know better and in many countries we have a resurgence of democracy, despite of Che Guevara’s heroic influence.

I have been very quiet lately, cure
cialis mostly due to spending my web time updating some of the information contained in the wiki side of this site. In addition, last Saturday my laptop started playing tricks and by Monday I was greeted with the ominous signs of total hard drive failure. I mean missing os kernel, a grinding noise when trying to access the disk and total loss of the files.

The good thing is that a month ago I decided to spend AUD41 buying Handy Backup and I had daily backups of most of my things (excluding pictures and music, which are just too big) to the network. The good thing is that this software allows me to encrypt the backups so I can keep them in ‘public’ parts of the network without people having a look at my private documents.

At the end of the accident I only lost one day of changes to some documents and my web bookmarks (the latter hardly really valuable), but that was due to the network being down at the end of Friday. Unfortunately, we do not have whole machine images working, so I will need to wait until Thursday to get my laptop back and then probably spend a couple of days installing software, rather than restoring an image.

I will get back to writing here sooner than later.

I have written before about protectionism in Tasmania, cialis 40mg
but never at such a large scale. McDonalds had the chutzpa of choosing different sources of potatoes (New Zealand to be exact) and it is like they are a bunch of criminals.

Vegetable growers in Australia are saying that is unAustralian to eat foreign grown vegetables. They do not seem to realise the consequences of following that logic. Agricultural products is one of the main exports of Australia, remedy so if other countries decide to ban foreign produce, malady what is going to be the market for Australian products?

Some potato growers want people to boycott McDonalds, which then would sell less french fries, requiring less potatoes, reducing even more the need for Tasmanian farmers. Brilliant!

In addition, what are the consequences of people choosing to buy local—and more expensive—products over imports? People spend more of their income in food, leaving less for other things and affecting other industries. A clear explanation can be found in these posts on protectionism and offshoring by the Angry Economist.

I also find this quote from Making Economic Sense by Murray Rothbard quite a good explanation:

Myth 10: Imports from countries where labor is cheap cause unemployment in the United States.

One of the many problems with this doctrine is that it ignores the question: why are wages low in a foreign country and high in the United States? It starts with these wage rates as ultimate givens, and doesn’t pursue the question why they are what they are. Basically, they are high in the United States because labor productivity is high—because workers here are aided by large amounts of technologically advanced capital equipment. Wage rates are low in many foreign countries because capital equipment is small and technologically primitive. Unaided by much capital, worker productivity is far lower than in the United States. Wage rates in every country are determined by the productivity of the workers in that country. Hence, high wages in the United States are not a standing threat to American prosperity; they are the result of that prosperity.

But what of certain industries in the U.S. that complain loudly and chronically about the “unfair” competition of products from low-wage countries? Here, we must realize that wages in each country are interconnected from one industry and occupation and region to another. All workers compete with each other, and if wages in industry A are far lower than in other industries, workers—spearheaded by young workers starting their careers—would leave or refuse to enter industry A and move to other firms or industries where the wage rate is higher. [p. 29]

Wages in the complaining industries, then, are high because they have been bid high by all industries in the United States. If the steel or textile industries in the United States find it difficult to compete with their counterparts abroad, it is not because foreign firms are paying low wages, but because other American industries have bid up American wage rates to such a high level that steel and textile cannot afford to pay. In short, what’s really happening is that steel, textile, and other such firms are using labor inefficiently as compared to other American industries. Tariffs or import quotas to keep inefficient firms or industries in operation hurt everyone, in every country, who is not in that industry. They injure all American consumers by keeping up prices, keeping down quality and competition, and distorting production. A tariff or an import quota is equivalent to chopping up a railroad or destroying an airline for its point is to make international transportation artificially expensive.

Tariffs and import quotas also injure other, efficient American industries by tying up resources that would otherwise move to more efficient uses. And, in the long run, the tariffs and quotas, like any sort of monopoly privilege conferred by government, are no bonanza even for the firms being protected and subsidized. For, as we have seen in the cases of railroads and airlines, industries enjoying government monopoly (whether through tariffs or regulation) eventually become so inefficient that they lose money anyway, and can only call for more and more bailouts, for a perpetual expanding privileged shelter from free competition.

After my latest hard drive crash I was facing an upgrade to my mp3 player software. I was tired of the peculiarities and sluggish interface of Musicmatch and went shopping around.

The obvious first stop was Winamp, buy information pills
which I first used around 1997. Unfortunately, allergy
Winamp could not make work the CDDB connection with Graceland, heart
an issue probably related with me being behind a corporate firewall. I was looking for something with a small footprint and I settled with Media Monkey and even decided to forkout the US$19.95 for the gold edition. Media Monkey relies on freedb to obtain the album information, which works perfectly fine from my computer, and it is a very responsive smallish (~4MB) program. Yes, there are smaller mp3 programs (like Cool Player, for example) but they do not have all the features I was looking for.

The same day I received a parcel from my parents, with a compilation of the first two albums by Electrodomésticos. With this CD I have completed the music I was looking for year and a half ago.

A colleague of mine, find who is having a baby pretty soon, site
was asking me about my experience with baby products during this last year or so.

Good products:

  • Nappies (diapers for the US visitors): Huggies (by Kimberley Clark). Yes, gynecologist
    disposables to keep what is left of my mental health. If you are into cotton nappies get a cleaning service. There is very little time available and I prefer sleeping over washing nappies.
  • Baby wipes: stick to huggies again. I prefer the unscented ones, but some days I wish for any perfume to overcome the smell.
  • Bottles: we tried three different brands: Pigeon, Pur, and Nuk. By far, the best ones were Pigeon with peristaltic nipple. Prefer wide neck over narrow neck, because they are easier to clean. Pur bottles (either normal or self-sterilising) tend to leak and nuk bottles have the weirdest looking teats of them all. When have you seen a real nipple like this?
  • QV bath oil: really good in the bath, no smell.
  • Infrared forehead thermometre: at first we tried one of those ear thermometres but they are hard to use with a baby moving.

Most useless things:

  • Bath thermometre: one does not need this piece of useless crap. Even worse, the maximum temperature allowed in the thermometre was still too cold bor a decent bath (probably a lame attempt at avoiding lawsuits).
  • The motion sensor that comes with the baby monitor. If used it will drive parents mad, because will go off at the most useless moments. In addition, it is not certified for monitoring babies susceptible to cot death. Just a gimmick for worried parents. Do yourself a favour and buy a simple monitor.
  • Sterilizer: if you live in a civilised part of the planet, hot soapy water will do the job and save you time; good thing that we did not buy one. Only used it while in hospital.
  • Baby packs: are used to carry clothing, bottles, nappies, etc. Packs designed for parents are often overpriced, low quality and not very functional. Buy a nice, properly designed backpack: it will save you money and you will get something useful. You will not have a Disney character printed on the pack, but baby will not care.

Worst products:

  • Nappies: Snugglers (odd, by Kimberley Clark too)

Ambiguous

  • Changing table: I rarely used it, prefering a bed with a cover for accidents, which happen!

Last evening I took a bus home, viagra 100mg
while reading Reason & Imagination, by Rafe Champion. By the way, Rafe’s book is quite readable considering that is dealing with Popper and Bartley’s philosophy.

The bus was starting its trip when a bus inspector jumped into it, and started explaining aloud that he was going to ask for our tickets (looking for fare evaders, of course). I was transported back to travelling by bus in Chile during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

After the 1982 recession in Chile, there was an explosion of the number of people working in buses: selling small things (like ice cream, combs and keyrings), playing music (there was even a guy playing a full size harp!), doing theatre, puppet shows, etc. At some stage around 25% of the Chilean economy was informal. In 1987 Electrodomésticos released a song entitled Señores pasajeros (part of the album ‘Carreras de éxitos’). The language is trite and baroque: creating a collection of clichés.

Señoras y señores pasajeros
tengan todos ustedes muy buenas tardes
en primer lugar
deseo expresarles
que es totalmente ajjjeno a mi voluntad
el molestarles, el incomodarles
o el perturbarles en el transcurso de vuestro viaje.

Una vez preclaro lo anteriormente dicho por el suscrito
solicito
vuestra infinita caridad
el immenso cariño del pueblo chileno
hacia el necesitado.

Les deseo desde el fondo de lo mas profundo de mi corazzzón
a todos ustedes y los suyos
que el futuro les depare toda clase de felicidadesss
y caigan sobre ustedes
todas las bendiciones del creador
asimismo como también
para el respetable señor conductor
de esta máquina
que tambien cumple una tarea importante
en nuestra ciudad, ciudad, ciudad.

Ajjjeno (ajeno), corazzzón (corazón) and felicidadesss (felicidades) are not typos, but Cabezas is playing with the pronunciation of bus buskers and peddlers.

Filed in miscellanea, music No Comments

Electrodomésticos are back

7/07/2005

As expected, heart
it took only a few days to receive a reply to my letter to the paper defending Che Guevara’s legacy. It had the typical arguments: Cuba is a democracy, find Chávez is great, ask
Cuban doctors are saving the world, etc. Ah, and I should know my history. I replied the following:

Duncan Meerdig (Letters, June 17) defends the legacy of Ernesto Guevara. He states that I should know my history. I think it is funny when armchair revolutionaries discuss life (particularly my life) in such abstract terms.

I was born in Latin America, and lived in three of its countries for twenty nine years. I had the ‘luck’ of living under right wing and left wing tyrannies: despite of claimed ideological differences they are two sides of the same coin. My family suffered exile, I have friends who were tortured and killed: all in the name of ‘the revolution’. Dissent and independent thinking was crushed, university lecturers dismissed, imprisoned and some times killed (and Che is used as a symbol of a university, what an irony).

The actions of this ‘Latin American hero’, followers and imitators have costed millions of displaced lives, thousands of deaths and the destruction of the economies of many countries. These countries include Cuba under Castro and Venezuela under Chávez. Venezuela is an interesting case, where the proportion of people under the line of poverty has increased despite rising oil (its main export) prices.

Mr Meerdig’s democracy has managed to have the same leader for 46 years. Little surprise when people have elections with a single party to choose from. Fidel Castro is head of state, head of government, first secretary of the communist party, commander in chief of the armed forces and member of the National Assembly of People’s Power; the ultimate approach to democracy.

Guevara started the ‘tradition’ of imprisoning dissidents and other ‘deviants’, including homosexuals, practitioners of minor religions and rebels. This practice would be later extended by the Cuban government to HIV AIDS victims and mental health patients. Guevara signed thousands of execution orders while being in a position of power.

Luckily, people in Latin America now know better and in many countries we have a resurgence of democracy, despite of Che Guevara’s heroic influence.

I have been very quiet lately, cure
cialis mostly due to spending my web time updating some of the information contained in the wiki side of this site. In addition, last Saturday my laptop started playing tricks and by Monday I was greeted with the ominous signs of total hard drive failure. I mean missing os kernel, a grinding noise when trying to access the disk and total loss of the files.

The good thing is that a month ago I decided to spend AUD41 buying Handy Backup and I had daily backups of most of my things (excluding pictures and music, which are just too big) to the network. The good thing is that this software allows me to encrypt the backups so I can keep them in ‘public’ parts of the network without people having a look at my private documents.

At the end of the accident I only lost one day of changes to some documents and my web bookmarks (the latter hardly really valuable), but that was due to the network being down at the end of Friday. Unfortunately, we do not have whole machine images working, so I will need to wait until Thursday to get my laptop back and then probably spend a couple of days installing software, rather than restoring an image.

I will get back to writing here sooner than later.

I have written before about protectionism in Tasmania, cialis 40mg
but never at such a large scale. McDonalds had the chutzpa of choosing different sources of potatoes (New Zealand to be exact) and it is like they are a bunch of criminals.

Vegetable growers in Australia are saying that is unAustralian to eat foreign grown vegetables. They do not seem to realise the consequences of following that logic. Agricultural products is one of the main exports of Australia, remedy so if other countries decide to ban foreign produce, malady what is going to be the market for Australian products?

Some potato growers want people to boycott McDonalds, which then would sell less french fries, requiring less potatoes, reducing even more the need for Tasmanian farmers. Brilliant!

In addition, what are the consequences of people choosing to buy local—and more expensive—products over imports? People spend more of their income in food, leaving less for other things and affecting other industries. A clear explanation can be found in these posts on protectionism and offshoring by the Angry Economist.

I also find this quote from Making Economic Sense by Murray Rothbard quite a good explanation:

Myth 10: Imports from countries where labor is cheap cause unemployment in the United States.

One of the many problems with this doctrine is that it ignores the question: why are wages low in a foreign country and high in the United States? It starts with these wage rates as ultimate givens, and doesn’t pursue the question why they are what they are. Basically, they are high in the United States because labor productivity is high—because workers here are aided by large amounts of technologically advanced capital equipment. Wage rates are low in many foreign countries because capital equipment is small and technologically primitive. Unaided by much capital, worker productivity is far lower than in the United States. Wage rates in every country are determined by the productivity of the workers in that country. Hence, high wages in the United States are not a standing threat to American prosperity; they are the result of that prosperity.

But what of certain industries in the U.S. that complain loudly and chronically about the “unfair” competition of products from low-wage countries? Here, we must realize that wages in each country are interconnected from one industry and occupation and region to another. All workers compete with each other, and if wages in industry A are far lower than in other industries, workers—spearheaded by young workers starting their careers—would leave or refuse to enter industry A and move to other firms or industries where the wage rate is higher. [p. 29]

Wages in the complaining industries, then, are high because they have been bid high by all industries in the United States. If the steel or textile industries in the United States find it difficult to compete with their counterparts abroad, it is not because foreign firms are paying low wages, but because other American industries have bid up American wage rates to such a high level that steel and textile cannot afford to pay. In short, what’s really happening is that steel, textile, and other such firms are using labor inefficiently as compared to other American industries. Tariffs or import quotas to keep inefficient firms or industries in operation hurt everyone, in every country, who is not in that industry. They injure all American consumers by keeping up prices, keeping down quality and competition, and distorting production. A tariff or an import quota is equivalent to chopping up a railroad or destroying an airline for its point is to make international transportation artificially expensive.

Tariffs and import quotas also injure other, efficient American industries by tying up resources that would otherwise move to more efficient uses. And, in the long run, the tariffs and quotas, like any sort of monopoly privilege conferred by government, are no bonanza even for the firms being protected and subsidized. For, as we have seen in the cases of railroads and airlines, industries enjoying government monopoly (whether through tariffs or regulation) eventually become so inefficient that they lose money anyway, and can only call for more and more bailouts, for a perpetual expanding privileged shelter from free competition.

After my latest hard drive crash I was facing an upgrade to my mp3 player software. I was tired of the peculiarities and sluggish interface of Musicmatch and went shopping around.

The obvious first stop was Winamp, buy information pills
which I first used around 1997. Unfortunately, allergy
Winamp could not make work the CDDB connection with Graceland, heart
an issue probably related with me being behind a corporate firewall. I was looking for something with a small footprint and I settled with Media Monkey and even decided to forkout the US$19.95 for the gold edition. Media Monkey relies on freedb to obtain the album information, which works perfectly fine from my computer, and it is a very responsive smallish (~4MB) program. Yes, there are smaller mp3 programs (like Cool Player, for example) but they do not have all the features I was looking for.

The same day I received a parcel from my parents, with a compilation of the first two albums by Electrodomésticos. With this CD I have completed the music I was looking for year and a half ago.

Filed in music, software No Comments

Astor Piazzolla

3/05/2005

Many years ago, malady when I was a child, I remember listening to some classic Astor Piazzolla pieces like ‘Adios Nonino’ and ‘Balada para un loco’. At the time I thought ‘it sounds OK’ but that was it. Four years ago, I ripped a CD—called The Soul of the Tango with an excellent recording by Yo Yo Ma—to mp3 files1. I listened to the songs over and over again, but I could not find any more Piazzolla music in Hobart.

Last week I found a couple of excellent studio albums with Piazzolla performing his works:

Astor Piazzolla, La Camorra

I have to acknowledge that I am currently obssessed with the sound of these two recordings. It is great to hear again so much passion in music. My favourite songs from these albums are: La Camorra II, Fugata and Sur: Regreso al amor (from La Camorra) and Milonga del Angel and Contrabajísimo (from Tango: Zero Hour).

There are many recordings with the work of Piazzolla, with highly variable quality. Thus, one needs to be careful when buying and this list seems to cover safe choices. As an example, I bought The Soul of Tango: Greatest Hits, which has a good selection of songs but abominable sound quality (Correction 2005-09-08: only some of the songs sound really bad, while for the others sound quality is OK). Do not confuse ‘The Soul of the Tango’ with ‘The Soul of Tango: Greatest Hits’!

If you are willing to try a combination of tango, classical music and some jazz, please give Piazzolla a chance.

PS 2005-09-13: I just bought another Piazzolla CD.

1 I later purchased the CD—it took me a while to find it in Hobart. This example shows that mp3 are not evil (as music companies complain) but that they provide ways of trying music that one would not buy otherwise.

2 Kilombo, usually spelled Quilombo is an Argentinism meaning a Whorehouse, and implying the supposedly chaotic nature of this type of enterprise.

Filed in music 1 Comment

Utterly miscellaneous

19/01/2005

This post is an utterly miscellaneous brain dump:

  • Last week I got pharyngitis and am still taking antibiotics, side effects situation that I really dislike.
  • Yes, geriatrician I am a doctor in the real sense of the word, despite what the physician that prescribed antibiotics thinks.
  • Last Saturday I got one of the worst haircuts ever—at least that I can remember—at Just Cuts. Yes, it is my fault for first choosing to go to a such dubious place: avoid it if you can. Nevertheless, every time I passed outside Paul’s barber shop he was busy. Today I went to his place with my tail between my legs and beg him to have it fixed. We had a laugh, had it fixed and he made me promise not to repeat my sin.
  • Cooked a beautiful marinated octopus pasta last night. Looking forward to eat the left overs at lunch time.
  • Last Christmas I got a few vouchers from ‘Music without Frontiers’, one of the few music stores in Hobart where one can find something outside the ‘top 20′. I went back to my old listening habits, and got:
  • Andrew told me that last Saturday was Captain Beefheart’s birthday. I did not know who CB was so I will have to borrow some of his art.

It is hard for me to get interested in current mainstream music: no challenges, one can guess what is coming so easily that tends to be a big yawn. That’s all folks.

Filed in miscellanea, music No Comments