Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When I met you, Cristina

Cover power is show on VH1 that plays the original version of a song and then a cover of it. Sometimes a cover is decent, sometimes is lame and rarely is very good. But what I discovered a few days ago starting from a song I heard on the radio is totally unexpected: two different covers of a song from a different league. Here it is the original style (I couldn't find the actual original which I understand is from Azur band, more than 20 years old):

and two covers:

So what do you think, which of the above do you like best?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Domino... just a thought

Ok, I know that physics, computer science, economics are hard to digest even in blog posts, so I will postpone the post I planned to write today about mathematics in the economics science. I will also skip the analysis of the depressing theater play Who's afraid of Virginia Wolf? that I saw recently (it's a nice performance the one at Comedy Theater though, don't miss it if you are in Bucharest) and I'll go back to music for an easy week-end brunch. My main source of music is the radio, but there were some mutations in the waves recently. One morning I turned on the City FM frequency and I was in shock of the music I heard. It wasn't my sleepiness, there was another radio on this frequency, Click FM. I changed the frequency immediately, so I cannot tell you if they have a girl at five minutes past the hour like in the corresponding tabloid, but the result is that my selection of radio stations is reduced now to two (since the crisis is alive and well): Radio Guerrilla and Rock FM. And since some lame jokes in a morning on Guerrilla, I listened in the last couple of weeks only Rock FM. And that is just fine, but the downside is that they play mostly classic rock, so I don't get to know of any new music. But this morning I switched back to Guerrilla and in only a couple of minutes I heard two nice new songs which happen also to be from Romanian bands. Here they are Toulouse Lautrec with Domino:

and Luna Amara with Doar Gandul (there are some problems with the voice in this recording, but the I think the sound of this song is nice):


Friday, October 21, 2011

Back to school

For the fall semester I enrolled in an online class of artificial intelligence taught in parallel with the live class offered at Stanford University. I have about 170.000 classmates and some 46.000 of them are even doing homework and taking exams. So far it's fine, as they don't just put online video recordings of the live class, but prepare special videos and quizzes in an effort to make it interactive and have you thinking into the subject even at late night hours. I'm doing all this effort mainly for my laptop, I expect that by the end of the class the machine will become much smarter and it will be able to answer the quizzes by itself :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another type of marketing

In my opinion, consumerism is one of the main factors which took us in the double crisis where we stand today: economical and environmental. Did you ever hear about a company which told you that you should buy their stuff only if you really need it?! And that takes a pledge to design and manufacture their products so that they last for a long time (as opposed to those who design products so that in 2-3 years they feel out of fashion)? That encourages you so sell or donate their used products on eBay if you no longer need them (thus cannibalizing some of their sales)? That, although not forced by some law, takes back their products that cannot be used anymore for recycling? That donate 1% of their sales to environmental projects? How is that for a business plan? Do you think is doable? Well, here, at Common Threads Initiative (I wonder if they got the idea from the "thread pool" concept of efficiently utilizing system threads for computing :) ) they think they can. Let's wish them good luck!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Zero impartit la trei

Mi-a povestit ieri un coleg ca a auzit urmatorul concurs la Radio Zu.
Cat fac zero impartit la trei?
Primul ascultator: zero
B&M: gresit
Al doilea ascultator: zero
B&M: gresit
Al treilea ascultator: aceasta operatie e imposibil de facut!
B&M: corect, ai castigat!

Intr-adevar, zero nu se poate imparti la trei... prosti :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Un alt fel de cover: asa e in tenis

Ca tot am vorbit in postarea anterioare de publicitate si cover-uri, iata un altfel de cover pe care l-am vazut recent la turneul de tenis Bucuresti Open:

Macar asta e ceva mai distractiv fata de "maximienii" cu care ne toaca Vodafone de luni si luni de zile. Aveti aici si originalul pentru comparatie si aducere aminte:

Nu ca m-am intersectat eu prea mult cu maestrul Toma (pot sa spun ca am fost contemporani doar pentru vreo doua luni...), dar am crescut cu o caseta cu scheciurile sale pe care le stiam pe de rost: Fabula, Mefisto, Un telefon discret, Petrecerea continua.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Another type of advertising

Movie trailers are just another type of advertising. Here's a nice one that I saw today, with an incredible cover of Immigrant Song of Led Zeppelin. I thought first that this was a teaser for the next Bond, since Daniel Craig is starring, but in the end it's another movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo:

P.S. Even with a good advertising, I won't necessarily buy the product, let's see the IMDB ratings first :)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The beauty of computers

What can be beautiful in can of silicon and wires and which also usually contains lots of bugs? Knuth entitled his famous books "The Art of Computer Programming" because he considered that computer programming cannot be considered yet a science, but it's rather a craftsmanship. All software licensees have a part where it is stated that the particular software is not "fit for a particular purpose" (see for example Mozilla Public License, section 7 here). The best joke about software engineers is the one where all kind of engineers try to fix a car and the software guy proposes that all step out of the car, get back in and try to start it again. This is how much the programmers trust their work! So in this wonderful (i.e. full of unanswered questions) industry of computers there was a man who maybe thought: we may not be able to do it right, but at least let's make it beautiful. And he did it time and again: from the calligraphic fonts that he introduced on computers, the mouse and the careful researched user interfaces, to the overall design of all Apple products. Then Bill Gates copied some of his ideas and Google guys were probably inspired by him when they designed their user interface. If so many people still use these beasts called computers and don't totally hate us for it, it is in part due to the work of Steve Jobs, who for sure will be remembered for a long time.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Why I'm not a physicist but I still read physiscs books

Although I participated in physics contests in secondary school, I was not really into it until I started high-school where, at physics, Mr. Bararu was the best professor I ever had. He was funny, but also inspiring and his teaching methods (e.g. open books exams, grading by the Gaussian curve) were revolutionary at that time. He tried hard to lure us into physics, as there was already a mathematics gang in the class (as the contests in math start much earlier, in the fourth grade as opposed to those in physics which start in seventh grade) and on the other hand we were a computer science intensive class. I still remember his arguments that we study math in order to apply it in physics and that chemistry it's just about mixing stuff and checking its color and smell. All went very well until one day he tried to solve a problem in front of us and he just failed. He put all the forces in the described situation, did the computation, but the result was different than the one in the book. Then he tried some different settings of forces until he found one that matched the expected result. That was really odd for me, as I was used to the way of solving problems logically, starting from premises and applying different logical techniques to reach the conclusion. That annoyed me so much that I gradually started loosing interest and by the eleventh grade I didn't even go to physics contests anymore. I was back to mathematics just in time for the highly abstract algebra with groups, rings and corps which I liked most. Only much later on when I read the Objective Knowledge of Sir Karl Popper I fully realized how physics works, how we are constantly make educated guesses (i.e. theories) so that they fit our observations of the surroundings as much as possible. On the other hand, the reality around us is so complex to describe that one needs to use highly simplified models to ever compute something about it. So if mathematics is the poetry of science, the physicists are the story tellers that describe what happens around us. And these stories of big bang, black holes, curved space-time, vibrating strings and quanta are always fascinating me. So here I am again, this time with a book that tells the story of quantum mechanics theory, the building blocks which led to it and its huge impact on our civilization: In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality by John Gribbin. The story telling of this author is good, with the drama of various people involved and their struggle to get a grip on this weird phenomena they were unfolding. Quantum mechanics is still a mister as the given interpretations are far away from what we normally expect from the world to behave like, but that's all we have for now: a grand casino where at every point in space and time dice are rolled to determine the next step. You just have to play the game!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Computer science on paper

Blogger changed its interface and templates and when I tried to migrate I lost some of the settings I had on the old one, so I decided to use a new template. The new one it's a tribute to the good old days when we did computer science on paper. You just had to think carefully on the algorithm, write it down on paper, run it in your head again and then eventually get your turn to work on a computer to implement it (punch card or even keyboard version cause we were kind of short on computers). I think that being able to write down the algorithm and run through it really makes one understand it better, so actually in the year when I was a teaching assistant at University of Bucharest I asked many of my students to explain a few steps of their basic algorithms (back-tracking, divide et impera and the like) on paper in order to make sure they understood them and didn't just copy the project from a coleague. Some of them even liked it :)