Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Voices in Romanian Music

I was challenged today at work to name some new Romanian singers or bands that make good music and here is what I came with:
Note that I don't actively follow what's new on the music scene, this is just what I picked up by listening to the radio now and then. Radio Guerrilla used to promote new Romanian bands, but since they closed there was a gap in my knowledge on this topic. Luckily the team from that station regrouped in two other radios, some of them at Gold FM and others at Tananana Radio. I recently started listening to these new stations, so I might pick up new bands. Until then let's listen to the song dedicated by Toulouse Lautrec to Radio Guerrilla, "Nu se termina asa" ("It Doesn't End Like This"):


Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Origins of Music Videos

I saw recently on Facebook a post about what is called the first Romanian music video. This was done for the famous song "Andrii Popa" by Phoenix, see below:



 By music video I mean a video telling a story together with the song, not just a recoding of the singer or band performing the song. I was curious to see how this special form of art appeared and I found some interesting facts. For example, Beatles were overwhelmed by requests to perform in TV shows, so they started recording performances for TV, which they sent to many stations. They got the idea to make them more fun by adding other types of videos apart from them just playing the song. An example is this video clip for their song "Help!":



On the other side of the world, in Australia, there were no that many bands willing to travel there in the seventies, so they made TV shows where they started doing collages to show while playing new songs on TV. They also starting producing video clips for local bands, like AC/DC, like this one for "Jailbreak":



The guy doing this work realized the potential of this new form of art and quit his job to become a director of video clips. Then MTV appeared and this business exploded, the rest is history :)
I found some of the information from this Wikipedia article on Music video, you can find more interesting details there.


Monday, May 04, 2015

Save Our Songbirds

Ciocarlia is a songbird found in many places in Romania. Here is a short video capturing its beautiful song.



It is also a famous Romanian song which was played by artists like George Enescu on the violin or Gheorghe Zamfir on the pan flute.





If you liked what you saw so far, here comes the bad news: too many (hundreds of thousands) of these songbirds are hunted every year and a new law was passed that will make even easier to hunt these birds (check some more details here). Some people started a campaign to stop this law. They made a powerful spot and initiated a petition that can be signed here.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Smart Phone Is Taking Over

When smart phones appeared first on the market I was not impressed. Ok, I saw you can use them as a mini-computer to browse on the net, read your emails or chat on the go, but apart from this I didn't see any killer app that would make my life easier. I'm not into gaming, I'm not into photography, so having two cameras or a processor that can run whatever game was not touching me at all. The first application that convinced me to buy such a phone was Google Maps (or any other maps) combined with GPS capability. I didn't have a GPS at that time, but I was considering buying one, so when I found that I can do the same thing with a phone I just bought the phone. The smart phone just killed an entire market of GPS devices, their only niche at this moment are the car companies where they can get deals to pre-instal their devices.
Now and then I find an application that can really help me with some task. If you go to a baby expo you will see countless of systems to track your baby if she sleeps in another room for example. Not needed anymore, there are application for your phone like Baby Monitor which can do the same thing and call another phone if your child starts crying in the middle of the night. Two days ago I was in line at the pharmacy and as usually I didn't have the fidelity card which gives you some discount with me. The man behind me at the queue told me that there is an application (VirtualCards which is tailored for the Romanian market, but there are others too) where you can store all your cards. It generates the same bar code as the one on the card and you can scan your phone instead of the actual card. Bang, you don't have to carry all those cards with you, the phone will suffice.
So if you know other cool applications for the phone let me know, I'm interested in simplifying my daily routine :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cheryl's Birthday

People are talking on the internet about a problem given at a math contest in Singapore, the problem even has a name now, "Cheryl's Birthday". Some were shocked that such a problem was given to 11 years old students (in fact it was given to 15 years old children), but actually there is nothing that would prevent a 4th or 5th grade student to solve it. You need to know only basic logic operations, nothing more, so it is reasonable for an 11 years old child who is good at math to solve such a problem. |Actually when I was in 4th grade I started attending a math circle at  my school and we were doing exactly this kind of problems. I remember even today how happy I was when I solved one of the first of those logic problems and of course I remember that problem too: There was a kingdom having capital punishment. Before execution each convicted person was allowed to appear in front of the king and say a statement. If the statement was false he would be beheaded and if the statement was true he would be hanged. How can a man escape execution in these circumstances?

Many years after I was attending a job interview in Bucharest. It was in those years when people found out that Google and Microsoft gave logic problems at interviews and the fashion spread to other companies. They gave me one problem which I solved and then they gave me a second one which I knew from the math circle. They asked me where do I know it and when I told them that I know it from the 4th grade and I used to solve this kind of problems every week they decided to skip that part of the interview :)

Now don't imagine that I attended some privileged private school. I was raised in Mangalia, a small town in communist Romania, and I went to the nearest school from my house which was still half an hour walk. It was the dedication of some passionate math teachers (Mr. Dinu, Craciunescu and Henny) who were willing to spend their week-ends teaching some extra hours of math for free to some little kids like me and many others. You know, I have to thank them once again here for their effort.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Libiamo!

De 15 ani de zile Mazare distruge Constanta, orasul in care am crescut: a retrocedat fraudulos o gramada de teren prin toate cotloanele din oras, apoi a dat cele mai aberante autorizatii de constructie. Blocuri noi inghesuite pe peticele de spatiu verde dintre blocurile existente, mall construit in singurul parc adevarat din oras (inca se mai vad cioturile copacilor taiati in parcarea acelui mall) si toate constructiile de pe zona verde dintre lac si sosea din Mamaia. Plus lasarea in ruina a monumentelor istorice din oras, Cazinoul fiind doar cel mai cunoscut dintre ele. Alte cladiri declarate monument au fost lasate pur si simplu sa se prabuseasca pentru ca nu avea dreptul legal sa le demoleze si sa construiasca altceva acolo. Iar mai nou a inceput sa distruga si plajele din oras cu a lui fantasmagorica sosea de coasta. Si in timpul asta omul a furat de a rupt, probabil sute de milioane de euro.

Asa ca dintre toti politicienii anchetati de DNA (are 3 dosare pana acum) el este cel pe care vreau cel mai mult sa il vad in puscarie. Cand a fost retinut acum cateva saptamani am baut un pahar de rom pentru asta si o sa beau inca unul astazi caci a primit mandat de arestare pentru 30 de zile (vezi aici stirea). Si o sa mai beau inca unul cand o sa fie condamnat in prima instanta si inca unul cand va fi condamnat definitiv si tot asa. Si nu beau orice pentru asta, ci un rom din cel mai fin, Takamaka Bay din Seychelles, pentru ca el nu o sa mai mearga prin Madagascar si Brazilia mult timp de acum incolo, iar eu o sa ma plimb pe unde vreau :)


Update: ca sa fie si cu cantec o sa pun si o interpretare a ariei Libiamo din opera Traviata care da titlul acestui post :)



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Despre religie, stiinta si scoala

S-a discutat mult in ultimele saptamani pe tema orelor de religie in scoli. Desi am ajuns tarziu la masa discutiilor, o sa abordez si eu aceasta problema, dar dintr-un unghi putin diferit. In contextul acestei discutii am aflat ca acum cativa ani Ministerul Educatiei a scos teoria evolutiei a lui Darwin din programa scolara la presiunile BOR. Ba mai mult, adeptii bisericii vorbesc de o teorie alternativa, creationismul, si spun ca eventual ar trebui studiate amandoua in paralel, sau lasa optiunea profesorului ce teorie sa prezinte la clasa. Dar nu toate teoriile sunt nascute egale si tocmai despre asta o sa vorbesc mai departe. Epistemologia esta ramura filosofiei care studiaza natura cunoasterii stiintifice, iar una din cele mai mari contributii pe aceasta tema este cartea Objective Knowledge a lui Karl Popper. Ca mai toate cartile de filosofie, e scrisa intr-un limbaj arid, dar ideile principale sunt pana la urma simple si de bun simt (imi amintesc ca discutam acum cativa ani cu cineva despre aceasta carte si am ajuns la concluzia ca ar trebui sa fie lectura obligatorie pentru oricine pretinde ca are de-a face cu stiinta).

Pe scurt Popper sustine urmatoarele:
- cunoasterea umana e formata exclusiv din teorii; de exemplu daca acum e noapte, faptul ca eu ma astept ca in cateva ore sa rasara soarele din nou e o teorie, s-ar putea sa se intample asa sau nu;
- nicio teorie despre lumea din jur nu poate fi demonstrata astfel incat sa fim siguri ca e adevarata. Practic nu putem fi siguri de nimic pe lumea asta, nici macar de moarte si taxe :) 
- o teorie poate fi insa infirmata prin observarea unor fapte care o contrazic; de exemplu, daca teoria mea e ca soarele rasare in fiecare zi la 6 si maine soarele rasare la 7 atunci teoria mea va fi infirmata;
- practic natura cunoasterii umane e negativa, nu pozitiva; fiecare din noi vine cu tot felul de teorii, iar multe dintre ele sunt aruncate la gunoi pe masura ce realitatea le contrazice; sau rafinate, cum este cazul cu teoria lui Einstein despre gravitatie care de fapt o imbunatateste pe cea a lui Newton pe aceeasi tema (care, de exemplu, prezicea gresit orbita planetei Mercur); cred ca chiar acest exemplu cu teoria gravitatiei a fost sursa de inspiratie pentru aceasta carte a lui Popper;
- o teorie stiintifica e o teorie pe baza careia putem face predictii pe care le putem verifica. Aici se despart apele de fapt intre stiinta si religie, magie, filosofie si orice altceva care emite pareri despre lumea asta. Ca sa nu ziceti ca am ceva cu religia, o dau un exemplu din filosofie. Exista un curent filosofic care sustine ca tot ce ni se intampla noua e de fapt un vis. Oamenii astia nu pot fi combatuti cu nimic, daca il ciupesti de mana si il doare el o sa spuna ca de fapt viseaza ca il doare si tot asa. Din moment ce teoria asta nu face nicio predictie care poate fi infirmata despre ce s-ar putea intampla maine ea nu poate fi combatuta.

Asta e de fapt marea problema cu ce se intampla in scoala romaneasca. Acum, fiecare e liber sa creada ce vrea si in ce vrea, dar atunci cand vorbim despre materiile care tin de stiinte e aberant sa punem pe picior de egalitate o teorie stiintifica, cum e cea a evolutiei, cu una pe care nu o putem combate in niciun fel, caci sustine ca orice s-ar intampla maine e vointa divinitatii.