Friday, November 20, 2009

The Monastic Squad of Mp3 Awesomeness!!!

file:///F:/06-Sha%20La%20La.MP3 (right click to listen the rad awesomeness)

The Monastic Squad of MP3 Awesomeness!!!

I find it intriguing how funny random things appear in life. The stories of these disturbing pictures began with an e-bay transaction gone wrong. Not so long ago, I decided to look on e-bay for a small mouse for my new laptop. Something cheap but useful. I found one from a buyer from China at almost $3.00. These are the kind of things you buy on e-bay, things that don't concern so much the quality of the product but the almost immediate satisfaction of a vane need. Whatever works when you are not concerned with the brand tag but more with the price tag. The mouse arrived two weeks later, and it works wonderfully. And so I decided to buy another for someone else. After all, it's just $3.00 right?

What I wasn't expecting is this : Sunglasses MP3 Player!!! Apparently, whoever sold the mouse to me, got himself or herself so utterly confused that they sent me an mp3 player instead of a mouse. When I first received this rad and cool-wannabe glasses, with its ridiculously cheap-looking plastic, but best of all, with awesome "flip up lens" and "Extended Binaural earphones with stereo sound"(not kidding) I thought: WTH? Why in the world would I want this? I thought it was some sort of practical joke from my parents, since I asked them for an ipod nano for Christmas. Yeah they probably are having a good laugh about it, and saying"oh, so you wanna be cool and hip with an iPod?, why don't you try this rad awesomeness instead?". But the box came from China, and maybe my e-bay seller ran out of mouses and thought the sunglasses would be a pretty cool replacement. As part of the product features it says: "This product employs imported lenses, with trendy shields UV, glare and diffused light, allowing you to enjoy music in the sun without disturbance". Yes, if by trying to look trendy but failing miserably into dorkyness does not disturb you, then the claim is perfectly logical. And so I brought the glasses to the Augustinian community where I live, and we had a good laugh about it. My vocational director told me something like "those look like someone trying to be cool but failing". My pre-novitiate brother, who we will call "Joe"(pictured in the second disturbing picture), tried them. The vocational director then said "Yes, you look dorky" Indeed. I wouldn't be caught dead wearing this, and just entertaining the thought of wearing it to school robs me of every possible self-dignity. And since we were playing poker while we tried them on (and oddly enough, danced with them on) we entertained the idea that the loser would have to lose his self-dignity by wearing it one day to school, but the prospects of losing being so great, we abandoned the idea completely.

Worse of all, it came pre-loaded with songs. 3 actually. Two pop songs in Chinese, and the best, a song called "Sha La la" that is just laughable with its synthesized audio vomit. "Sha-la la la la, Sha la la la in the morning, sha la la la la, sha la la la in the sunrise" (I uploaded the song as a file, right click to listen, preferably while you read this). The song is now stuck to my head. And unfortunately I'm now stuck with this product, as the possibilities of me returning it seems unlikely, for whatever reasons.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ugliest College around: City College of San Francisco.

By the end of my Critical Thinking class, our teacher was making comments on the ugliness of the buildings at CCSF. Everyone in unison agreed as he mentioned each building. First he mentioned the Architect who designed these buildings, oddly enough a famous and good one (I can't remember the name). He then mentioned the Science Hall, which was the most acceptably designed building. It has some interesting designs, but overall is very uninteresting and dull. The mosaics on the walls are beautiful, but they are idiotically blocked with some huge pillars in front of them. Here is a link to the photo of the building at flicker:

Then comes the worst architectural nightmare at CCSF, the Cloud building. A bended rectangular block covered with some depressing windows. The design screams of the 60s or 70s, and when I pass by it, it looks like some abandoned hospital in some forgotten and cold part of Eastern Europe. When the teacher mentioned this building, all of the student expressed their disgust with a simple and weirdly passionate "ugh!", coming out in a rush as if it was a restrained passion, just waiting for the right opportunity to make its expression. Here is the link to the photo:

The other abomination comes in the form of a "cracker box" as my teacher said. The horribly dull Batmale Hall. Truckloads of cement diarrhea dumped in a blocky mold, to later stick on windows that tried to mirror balconies but end up being fake ones, probably for the sake of teasing. This building is so horrible that photographs of it are scarce, probably because everyone tries to avoid the hellish images it conjures up:

There are many other abominations, like the horrible bungalows that tries to mirror the worst classrooms of third world countries to a point that it insults them, to the Spanish-ish designs of the building next to the Health Center, that looks like modern architectural yellowish vomit that was slightly molded to a design. But there is one building under construction. Perhaps a promising one! And it doesn't look that bad. But it is dull, modern, and simply bizarre. The good thing is that is being built as very green and efficient building. But there is worse, the color is Orange. Yes Orange! A good color could have saved this building and give it an acceptable design. But no, that would be too good for CCSF. The link:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Psystar fails at getting a bite out of the Apple.

When I first heard of the case of Psystar vs. Apple, I had mixed feelings about the matter. Psystar, funded by brothers Robert and Rudy Pedraza in South Florida, hacked the OSX operating system and proceeded to sell clone-pc pre-installed with Apple's OS, at half the price of a comparable Macintosh. They paid Apple for every copy of OSX sold. Of course, Apple was not about to sit back and enjoy the show, and counter-attacked with a 35-page lawsuit. And, unfortunately (or fortunately?) Apple won.

The brothers claimed that Apple was creating a monopoly, that they could not tell us how to use a software we bought. That once we buy a product we use it as it pleases us. If we buy a book, for example, we have the freedom to write notes, highlight passages, or even erase whole paragraphs if we liked to, and we could always have the freedom of selling the modified book. Apple claimed that when one "buys" their software one does not own it, but one is given a license, and doing what the brothers did violates such agreement. Of course, this is an oversimplification of the debate, but it is not my purpose, this time, to indulge in the details.

What I'd like to indulge in is in the "what if?" . What if Psystar had won the lawsuit? Let's review the positive of having numerous "hackintoshs". Maybe one of the reasons why Apple has a small market share compared to Microsoft is because they have very expensive hardware. Not all of us geeks (indeed, not myself) can delight in the luxury of overspending in a beautifully designed shell. In the end, what matters is the inside of the hardware, specially the Operating System. Granted, Apple has one of the most (if not the most) user-friendly OS out there. Its almost ("almost" a key word here) invulnerability against viruses is certainly a huge plus, and it even makes sense from a economical point of view to invest in a Mac since you wouldn't have to pay for an Anti-virus. On the other hand, Windows is getting more secure, and there are many free Anti-viruses (including Microsoft's own Security Essential) that can protect your computer without the added cost. So what are you paying when you buy the $1,000 plus price of a Mac? A status? A beautiful design? A membership to the hip and modern club of technology users? While certainly some buyers with enough money can spend their money for such vane reasons, many do so because of its OS. The rest of us without enough cash to join the party are left with only the desire, mildly brewed by the uncertain thought that "someday I'll save enough to buy one". And so, Apple is forced to a niche market. If they allowed themselves to open up, and let third parties companies to provide hardware, maybe they could potentially expand their market and be a more serious and threatening competitor to Microsoft. They could still produce their over-priced and over-prided circuitry beauty that could satisfy their niche market, while letting third parties make the mass-appealed hardware that we can all afford.

On the other hand, it can be argued that the niche market is Apple's market. If Apple let Psystar get away with their revelry, an almost certain flood will overcome the market with different kinds of "hackintoshs", and thus threatening the only market they have. And Apple is doing incredibly well with this market, so why try to fix what is not broken? Yes, the prospect of expanding its market is a tempting one, but not to the extend of harming the only one they have. They should hold to what they have, and continue to do the current profitable bussines instead of venturing out to uncertain territories. Besides it goes against Apple's philosophy of innovation, which is not only present in their software but in their hardware. They had become the leaders in these innovations, and the market seems to follow a trend invented first by Apple. If they let third-parties to produce hardware for their OS, the control they currently have on the innovation of both hardware and software can be damaged, and Apple may not be willing to take the risk. Of course, one can offer counter-arguments to these reasons, but I'll stop for now, and give the chance to the reader to express their opinion on the matter.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Music I've been Listening Lately- Relient K, Hawk Nelson, The White Stripes, U2

I probably love music a little too much. It can be disconcerting to admit that I feel anxious if my mp3 player is not with me. My favorite genre is rock, preferably Christian Rock. And this is what I have been listening lately:

Relient K, Forget and Not Slow Down: Years ago, I heard of Relient K and the mostly excellent reviews the band was getting and I bought their album "MMHMM". Somehow it didn't click for me. I could tell that it was quality music, perhaps too good for me to appreciate at the moment, as it wasn't as conventional as I foolishly liked it to be. Looking back, as my vision in music has wildly matured (at least I like to think that it has) I could see what a fool I was! I absolutely love their new album " Forget and Not Slow Down". I find it hard to express their style, but it feels like the style of rock you'd listen in the 90s'. Very laid back and with a sunny ambiance filling their melodies, all topped with Mathew Thiessen's Piano following and guiding the guitars. Simply beautiful. And it gets better with their thoughtful lyrics.
My favorites:
Forget and Not Slow Down.
I Don't Need a Soul.

Hawk Nelson Live Life Loud: For some reason, liking Hawk Nelson and enjoying their music can be a little embarrassing. Don't get me wrong, the guys are great musician. But I felt their music is directed towards younger audience. It is pop-rock, nothing more and nothing else. But their music was fun, and I enjoyed it. I feel that with this album however, Hawk Nelson has greatly matured. While no one would call the lyrics masterful poetry, it is evolving towards more mature and thoughtful in nature. It can start a little cheesy, with the opening track featuring cheerleaders screaming "Someone throw your hands up, If you wanna take a chance then ya gotta sing a little louder, let's wake this crowd up". Fun, but surely not a track you want to hear when your adult friends are around. My favorite (and I absolutely love this song) is "Meaning in Life". Pop-rock at its best. The simple lyrics are sung with a honesty rarely found in pop music, giving it a extra depth of emotion, all beautifully topped with string arrangements while the final chorus hits in: " hey yeah, gonna find a new beginning, lately I'm tired of the life I'm living, Find a way to make a change in the lives of all of us who need to find meaning of life". For all of us who have been in the same situation, it is easy to relate. This track is quickly followed by "Alive" an up-tempo celebration of salvation.
Never Enough.
Meaning of Life.

The White Stripes, Elephant: I have heard many good things about the White Stripes, specially Jack White as one of the best guitarist around, which is good to see a extremely good guitarist in this era of modern rock. The White Stripes are an influential part of the garage rock revival, which can sound unconventional to some. The Album was recorded using antiquated recording gears. This is very interesting music, and while it can be an acquired taste, I really like it. White's guitar can be very rough, using lots of distortion. As the Rolling Stones said, "Don't pay attention to the notes; White is not a clean soloist. He's a blowtorch". He is also obsessed with Blues, which is very apparent in this Album.
Black Math.
I Just Don't Know What to do with Myself.
I Want to be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart.
You've Got Her in Your Pocket.
The Hardest Button to Button.
Little Acorns.
The Air Near My Fingers.

U2, The Best of 1980-1990: U2 has become one of my favorite bands. "No Line on the Horizon" is probably my favorite album of 2009, so I decided to check their earlier stuff. Not disappointed. I really like their ambient and atmospheric sounds of their 80s offerings, specially songs that originally appeared on "The Unforgettable Fire". I absolutely love Edge's churning and scratching guitar. He is a great guitarist and I think he is under appreciated at times. And Bono's voice is one of the most gifted you'll find in rock music.
Pride (In the Name of Love).
New Year's Day.
Sunday Bloody Sunday.
The Unforgettable Fire.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New changes, Homesick, and God as my motivation.

Back in July, I was excited of how my life was turning out to be. Something was close on the horizon, something that could change my life. I always liked big changes. My adventurous soul was made to explore and experience. The "how it would feel like" or the "this would be a great story to tell when I get older" seemed to push me at times to take big steps, sometimes foolishly and without much thinking. My life on the East Bay was simply lovely. I love the East Bay, specially Contra Costa County. Back in July I was preparing myself to the next big step: moving to the Augustinian Community in San Francisco. I gave the notice months in advance at my job, and my last day of work (marking the new beginning) was looming closer. Looking back now, it is easy to see how foolishly you want these new steps to happen, anticipating anxiously as the foot of destiny decides to take it.

Let it be known, I am happy with my decision. I still want to be a priest and my wishes to be one hasn't diminished, but probably even increased. But I thought the move will be easier for me, at least emotionally. It hasn't. I was even worried about my Dad, who seemed to take my move not easily, as his eyes grew sadder as the date was around the corner. My past experiences told me that I would accommodate to the situation easily, just as I had done in the past, when the big changes made a visit to my home. But then I moved. Yes, I was excited, but my excitement was sweetly calmed by the luring melody of melancholy; its song filling the gray air with haunting silent cries. My soul sighed the heavy air as I gave my father a hug, saying goodbye as he ventured to his way back home, his old home made new by my absence.

I would enjoy the visits, as I do, and every chance I have I visit both of my parents, who conveniently live close to one another. But with the joy of a new visit comes its old friend, melancholy, the sweet and sour melancholy, making me company as I wait the train back home to San Francisco. I miss them and they miss me. Every wait for my train back to San Francisco is nostalgically endured. Night and Melancholy are best taken together, as the new morning always seem to drive melancholy away. And so, my melancholy seems to last as long as the night does, and it diminishes with the new morning that declares to the air "business as usual" and I put my backpack on to study, this time not for me, but for God and His people. Nobody said this would be easy. After the short-lived excitement (aren't they always fleeting?) dries up the new water of hope and perseverance fill my soul. After the many goodbyes these precious waters given by my Lord are my only medicine. Study to God and His people. It is funny how, when I studied for myself, I got not so great grades. I was happy with a B, not disappointed with a C, and absurdly glad with a D. But now things have changed. I don't pay for my own study, the community does. I feel a commitment to them and most importantly, to God. I'm not happy with a B and I fight for the A. The semester is not done but I have good grades, and for that I can only thank my good God. So when people say "do it for yourself" it doesn't hold the value as it once did. I reply, "yes for myself, but most importantly for God, because for Him, only our best efforts". And my hope is that all of us believers (including myself) will live by this simple thought "for Him only our best effort". We would probably fail most of the time to give our best effort, but when we do we find Him not mad and ready to strike at our feebleness, but ready to pick us up with a smile, encouraging to give our best, and best of all, giving the strength to do so. We, ourselves, cannot be the only end to our motives. This is the case for me, when I studied for myself. But when our motivation is God, the desire for the best comes naturally. And I end with St. Augustine: " Almighty God, you have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you". Amen.