Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bagels

Throughout history, the questin has been posed: Is (wo)man fundamentally good? Fundamentally evil? Or just neutral, a blank slate? To date, a clear, concise concensus has never been reached. Yet, today, we might just find the answer... in bagels.

Take Paul Feldman, former government employee-turned-bagel salesman. He sells 8,400 bagels a week to 140 companies, and he is quite content with his job, thank you very much. One little thing, though: Instead of overseeing every transaction, he uses an honor system under which he leaves a bunch 'o bagels and a wooden money box along with a sign that suggests that customers pay $1. It's practically begging them to commit a crime: A bunch of hot, steamy, delicious, Jewish bagels, and no one to call you out if you just happen to snag one.

Here's the thing: Mr. Feldman's data indicates that roughly 89% of his customers pay for their bagels. In other words: Even though they are not required to pay, only 1 in 10 people steal a bagel. Not the best evidence for innate corruption.

Personally, I feel like it's a bit of stretch to relate bagel sales to the fundamental human nature. Still though, it almost seems to shoot down a lot of negative arguments. Yes, people do crazy bad things. But, well, maybe they weren't just "bad" people right off the bat. It's not that simple. And it seems pretty hard to say that people are, well, bad.

This came from the book Freakonomics. Great book. Go read it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barack Out

Hehe, just starting to watch Barack Obama's candidacy acceptancy speech at the DNC. Unfortuantely, it seems that the crowd cheering for him and chanting "USA!" will simply be the context of his speech. They've been going for like five minutes and all he's said is "thank you". Hehe.

Oh, by the way: No I haven't chosen a candidate to support. But dude, everyone's watching this thing. Including the 80-friggin'-thousand people watching him in that giant stadium. He's like a black Ronald Reagan. Except a Democrat. Hehe.

Anyways, I'm leaving for Massachusetts tomorrow, and I won't be back 'til late Sunday. I'll be doing my first college tour at Williams College. Exciting. So, might not be in touch quite as much.

Keep on rockin'.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Zimbabwe: Crash and Burn

If you know anything about Zimbabwe, you probably already know that it's not a nice place to live. Crazy dicatator named Robert Mugabe, political oppression, mass AIDS/starvation, etc. Bad stuff. But their problems are just getting silly now.

Zimbabwe's current inflation rate, according to the BBC, is 11,250,000%. In other words, prices are doubling every 22 days. And, man, is it ridiculous. Z$100bn is worth approximately one British pound, less than $2 American. To give you an idea: it cost a BBC reporter Z$600bn to buy two dozen eggs. The day before, it was Z$375bn.

The bank just announced it was cutting 10 zeroes off of its currency. So, the old Z$10bn is now Z$1. So what do you do with all of the old banknotes? God knows.

Don't go to Zimbabwe. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Arm Yourselves With Knowledge

Before checking any link, go to the Rickroll Database.

It might save your life. You can thank me later.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Buh?

Oh, where has the summer gone... it seems like it was only half way over a week ago... and now I start school in a week. Fantastic. Of course, this means that I have quite a bit to take care of, before that. Back to school shopping, haircut, and a trip to Massachusetts that will certianly include college visits.

Oh, and for essays for AP Microeconomics. Which I should get started on right after lunch.

*Sniffle*

At least I have The Flaming Lips to keep me company.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Home

Back home from the beach. Got in really late last night. Still really tired for some reason, plus the unexplained GI discomfort doesn't help. Curse you, stomach pain! Either I'm going to wash this out with a 20-minute shower, or I won't be quite as productive as I thought today.

Meh, I'll find a way to finish my summer math HW, anyway. Although doing it makes me depressed as to the fact that I have only slightly more than a week left in my summer.

Also, I'm spending the next week iPod-less. SADNESS!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cordless Charger / Death Ray

Apparently, Intel has their fingers in a bit more than computer processors. It's got its fingers in all sorts of shady projects of potentially unimaginable power. Prime example: The recently revealed "wireless power broadcasting system."

Here's the scoop: Intel has been testing a system that can proadcast up to 60 watts of power as much as 3 feet, with only 25% energy loss. In theory, this could spell the end of wire spaghetti, and a bright future for glowing, radioactive charger tables.

Still, I mean, look at that picture. Wireless power system!? More like super death ray prototype. Watch out for Intel, guys: In a year or two, these guys will have enough power to vaporize an entire laptop. Or city block. We'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oh Sweet Procrastination


I always thought that procrastination was simply a staple of the school year. I see now that it is not so - with a large calculus packet and three mini-essays to complete by September 2nd (actually, more like August 28th, due to a trip to Massachusetts, or however you spell it) I seem to be suffering from the most blissful of all ills at the moment.

I'll probably try to make a dent in the math packet tomorrow. The essays, I will probably leave to devote a day to in a week or something. Hopefully, it won't be that hard, hehe. GIANT PICTURE!

In the meantime, I'll keep listening to The Rhumb Line, by Ra Ra Riot. Go listen to it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Music Overlooooaaaadddd

My neverending thirst for new music seems to be driving me over the edge. I'm currently searching for new bands, and I'm downloading random things nearly indiscriminately, sometimes without even listening to a preview of a song first. So far, some of my recent pursuits have included...

Mono, Jon Hopkins, The Flaming Lips, Ra Ra Riot, Deerhunter, Monkey, Panda Bear, and probably a few others. On a tip, I'm also considering finding new albums by The Stills (Oceans Will Rise), and the Dandy Warhols, in addition to some funky Australian band called The Grates. No word yet as to whether I'll actually pursue.

Oh, and I haven't listened to any of this stuff except for Jon Hopkins, who is way cool.

Now when am I going to listen to all of this...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Composing is Hard

I clearly have creative inspirations above what I have the means to create. For the past week or so, I have been inspired with the idea of composing a song. About a week ago, I came up with a piano riff that I thought I could possibly run with. I have delusions of grandeur with this - two key changes, a string backing, and some inspiring lyrics.

Turns out it's not that easy. It's pretty hard to record a song, track by track, when you have no recording technology except a crappy laptop mic that does a pretty bad job at picking up spoken words. Recording a cello is out of the question.

Is it really worth it to spend a couple dozen dollars on something I'm not even close to needing? I think I have the potential to write at least one decent song, but does that really matter?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Volt

Some of you guys may have heard of the Chevy Volt, the first commercially available plug-in hybrid that will become available in the US in 2010. Translation: Electric car. Sort of like an American Prius, but backwards. (Instead of running primarily on gas and switching to electric, it's primarily electric and switches to gas if it needs to.)

That the major players of the automobile industry are heavily researching this, to me, is great. Plug-ins, at least in theory, get awfully good mileage, to the point where one might not even need gasoline at all, and are essentially zero-emissions unless they switch to gas. Since home electricity costs a fraction of what gasoline costs, it's a win-win for everyone. (Except for the oil industry. But seriously, who cares?)

Considering that, according to this graph on the Dept. of Energy website, the US uses 70% of its petroleum on the transportation industry (which in turn is 96% dominated by petroleum), this is a big step in the right direction. The US is the biggest consumer of petroleum in the world, thirstily drinking a hearty 20mil barrels per day. All day. Every day.

With gas prices skyrocketing as they have in recent years (we almost hit $150 a barrel last month. Oil didn't even hit
$40 a barrel until '04), the US's obvious addiction to foreign oil has become a problem. We import almost 70% of our crude oil from other countries, which puts us at the mercy of the market. As supply falls and global demand rises, prices are only going to get higher, and supply much more limited. And with over half of our imports coming from unstable OPEC nations, the issue is not only economic, but one of national security.

It's good to see things like this, though. Makes you think it might just be possible for us to get off of foreign oil dependency, eventually.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cellofourte

There are millions of musical artists out there, all with their own unique sound and twist on their own particular genre. However, one stands out to me as particularly unique and interesting, and that is the Pittsburgh quartet known as Cellofourte.

They pioneer a genre known as "cello rock", establishing their musical style by, as they put it, "boldly defying the boundaries of classical music and rock". Their music contains the subtle intricacies of classical music along with the catchiness, beat and groove of classic rock. It's lyricless, it's original, and it's like nothing you've ever heard before.

As a cellist, I am in love with their music. I highly suggest you take a look, if you're interested in hearing something a little bit out of the ordinary.

I offer two things - a
music video of their song Combustion, and a link to their website. You can find some cool stuff there. (You can also check them out on Myspace.)

I also highly recommend that you buy their new album Combustion,
which can be done here, for $10. Trust me, it's worth it.

The Vacation That Was, Part 3: Frieeennnddddssss

Sorry I haven't posted lately - it's been hard for me to log into my Blogger account for some reason. Stupid Google. Done with work, though, so I do now have some time on my hands, which is nice. Before school starts anyway.

Anyway, through the entire 10-day vacation, I did a lot of cool stuff. I saw bald eagles and seals, went kayaking in the glaciers, and just saw some overall amazing stuff. But the trip wouldn't have been half as amazing without the amazing people that I met there.

Y'see, there was sort of a "teen club" onboard the ship. Sounded a little cheesey, but I decided to give it a try. Very good decision. I made probably a dozen good friends on the ship, a few of which I think I'll stay in touch with for years to come.

It's hard to put into words, but I just met some overall awesome people. And throughout the ping pong tournaments scavenger hunts, wild dance parties, talent show, hot tubbing, and general coolness, we became better friends than you could ever expect from a weeklong cruise. I met people from all over the US, from California to Texas to Illinois. I also met a Briton, a Scot, an Aussie, and several Canadians. All were amazing. (Especially Joe, the Brit, and Hayden, the Aussie.)

So, this about concludes my vacation review. I hope you've almost sort of enjoyed. Now I can get back to my semi-regular blogging duties about things you might actually be interested.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Vacation That Was, Part 2: Cruisin' Through Alaska

Got a webcam today! Lots of interesting things to do with that, I think.

Anyway, today I continue my 3-part review of my vacation with the big part: The cruise on the Celebrity Mercury through Alaska. It'll be ultra-condensed, but still good.

Sunday we boarded the ship around midday. Let me tell you, the boat was huge... 14 floors of amazingness, complete with two-story restaurant, pool, game room, several nightclubs, bars, buffets, workout room, spa, basketball court... it goes on and on. Needless to say, it was somewhat overwhelming for the first couple of hours/days.

I'll use this post to talk about the places that I visited, however, so... Our first port of call was Ketchikan, Alaska. Lots of jewelry shops around, which tells you that the town was built off of the original gold rushes in the area. We decided to take a nature hike with the five hours that we had off the ship. We first visited a bald eagle reservation, which was amazing. Seeing bald eagles up close is pretty cool stuff, for an American, anyway. Still, we then took a nice hike on the Deer Mountain Trail. Uphill the whole way, but very scenic, at any rate. Overall, the town was nothing special, but it was just cool seeing Alaska in general.

The next day was the Hubbard Glacier. We didn't disembark for this one - instead, the ship got within half a mile of an enormous block of ice, really. It was freezing cold outside, but the views were spectacular. Seeing the glaciers up close was pretty humbling, really - witnessing a giant force of nature that carved the Earth into what it is today is pretty cool. There was also some calving going on, basically huge chunks of ice falling into the ocean. Good stuffs.
Next up was Juneau, and we spent our day doing one thing only - sea kayaking. Let me tell you, kayaking in crystal-clear water surrounded by mountains and glaciers is something that you should jump at the chance to do. I don't think I've ever tasted air that clean. Plus, we saw a ton of wild bald eagles just lounging around on sandbars. We got within like 10 feet of one before it spooked. Also, there were a bunch of seals that decided to chase us around. It was really fun watching the little guys pop up from the water and back down again. Great, great experience.


Our final port of call was Sitka. Warning: There is virtually nothing in Sitka but jewelry stores and totem poles. If those don't interest you, don't go. It was a pretty dreary day, too. Still, we made the best of it - we found this pretty cool aquarium that had some pretty exotic wildlife, and there was a quaint little nature walk that went for a mile or two. Not the most exciting day, but still worth getting off the boat, at any rate.

I'd rather not overload y'all with details, so my last post will be about the ship and the people I met. Until then, enjoy some of the pictures I've scattered throughout.

Pictures (top to bottom): The beautiful Celebrity Mercury, a bald eagle in Ketichikan, view from the middle of Deer Mountain, part of the Hubbard Glacier, some mountain in Juneau, some crazy sea star in Sitka, and kayaking in Juneau.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Beijing - 8.08.08

Sorry for the delays - work ahs been quite busy, and it looks like the rest of my vacation review will have to wait antoher couple of days. Still... currently watching the opening ceremonies. My TV provider seems to be unable to keep up with the demand of the olympics - the HD channel won't work, and the first hour that I recorded is unreachable.

Still, the opening ceremony is like nothing I've ever seen. Amazingly beautiful, really. If you haven't seen it, I recommend you flip the channel.

In other news... less harmoniously so, Russia and Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state) are now at war. What a great way to start out the Olympics, a great time of world unity.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Vacation That Was, Part 1: Victoria!

Today, I give you the first of my two-part, overly summarized review of the vacation that was, for me. This installment details the first leg of the trip, to Victoria, British Columbia.

The trip started at 4am, getting up for a 7:30 flight out of Newark, NJ, which we almost missed. Six hours later, we were on Canadian soil, and a three hour bus/ferry combo brought us to the beautiful city of Victoria.

Victoria, you see, is a tourist town. That is, everything looks nice... but prices are also notoriously higher than you'll likely find at your local shops. Small wonder that we still managed to buy quite a lot of stuff, including a stylish T-shirt and fuzzy fleece for myself.

We stayed at the Fairmont Empress hotel, essentially the swankiest, most historic hotel in all of Victoria. This year marked its 100th year in business, and it had played host to many a celebrity over the years, including the Queen herself.

Highlights... The Royal Wax Museum (and praying with wax-Ghandi), downtown Victoria (very nice waterfront, and a lot of great stores), Oh Gelato! (a gelato place with 66 flavors. Blueberry cheesecake=Heaven), the Victoria Parliament Building, and buskers. There were many of these talented musicians lining the streets, ranging from Celtic violinists to acoustic duets to some crazy reggae band that used six marimbas. Wild stuff.

Pictures, from top to bottom... Victoria Waterfront, the Victoria Parliament building at night, me praying with Mahatma, the Fairmont Empress, and a mime. Next entry: The real highlight: Cruising through Alaska!

video

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Un-Dead

Hold on to your seats, six loyal readers. This could be a long one.

Anyways, as you might know, I recently returned from Canadalaska, exactly a week ago. You may have also noticed that I have, for the most part, neglected to update this blog since then. This is due to several reasons, among them... Jet lag, needed recovery time, dark moods due to missing friends and a relapsing medical condition (I hate my kidneys), busy-ness due to work, and a host of other things, laziness among them. I can say for sure that I will be updating more frequently now, although I really wouldn't count on daily updates. Bit of a stretch, that.

Anyway, a review of my trip is forthcoming - not today, though. Too long to fit into this already crowded post. So, instead, I think I'll treat you guys to a small mix of songs that I've recently discovered. Hope y'all enjoy. For you we have...

Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) by Arcade Fire
I have recently come to love Arcade Fire, a somewhat nontraditional rock band that incorporates some nice orchestral elements. This one has a beautiful, swirling atmosphere, and some nice lyrics as well.

Rebellion (Lies) by Arcade Fire
More Arcade Fire, from the same album (Funeral). This song is just really cool - great lyrics, catchy main riff, and just a great one throughout. Fun to sing along to, as well. (Note the children's chorus.)

Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and Other Games) by Of Montreal
This song is just freakishly catchy. Very upbeat, with a bouncing, bright bassline. Just an overall happy and fun song that I have recently become addicted to. Check out the music video on Youtube as well - very cool.

Marching Bands of Manhatten by Death Cab for Cutie
Opening track to the album Plans. Very good album, by the way. Still, great lyrics, and a gradually building song that eventually explodes into sound, and a witty ending, in musical terms.

Present of Future End by The Most Serene Republic
Musically, a feast for the ears. Very energetic, explosive, and utilizing a lot of band instruments, which is always good to hear. Lyrics are extremely bizarre, which makes it more intriguing. I am currently in love with this song for its fantastic sound. Hope you will too.

Inní mér syngur vitleysingur by Sigur Rós
Before you ask - no, it's not in English. It's by an Icelandic post-rock band called Sigur Rós, and no, it might not be for you. It's all in Icelandic, and roughly translates to "Within me a lunatic sings". It is an extremely catchy and uplifting piece, with an amazing, building riff near the end that explodes into sound. If you're willing to try something new, give it a listen. Trust me. It can't hurt. Seriously.

Hopefully, that's enough to fill the gap. Enjoy!