Why did I buy a TomTom?

March 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Technology 

With PNDs (aka GPS) being launched all over we all want to have one, and I was no exception.  My wife and I were planning a trip to Alaska where we will be driving a lot. After weeks of comparative shopping, a couple of trials we ended up buying the TomTom Go-920.  TomTom, Garmin, Magellan, Sony, Nokia, and others have systems on the market.  Even some new cellphones have GPS functionality.
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Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony

March 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arts 

 

johannesbrahms-231x300Johannes Brahms (May 7, 1833 – April 3, 1897) , composer and pianist, was typically regarded as one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. He is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs.  Moreover he is considered the successor of the latter.  In fact some have insulted him by calling his Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op. 68, as “Beethoven’s 10th.”  Of course if someone suggested Beethoven’s First as Mozart’s 42nd he will find himself tied at a stake of fresh pine with a little bonfire starting underneath.

It is undeniable that Brahms was influenced by Beethoven.  But who has not been influenced by predecessors especially when they are successful?  But considering his First as mere follow up work is not only insulting but insane.  Brahms  produced what this humble listener considers the best piece of music ever written.  We had to wait for the next generation of composers and the next century from what was then the Russian Empire or the abandonment of tonality to produce something worth keeping in the same play list with it.   But so far nothing in this genre has been produced to follow the fourth movement.

Lets first deal with the concept of romanticism.  From perspective of the period when he lived  in, of course Brahms was the ultimate romantic.  This movement is typically considered between 1815 and 1910, very different from the other art forms romantic periods.  Our friend, Johannes worked smack in the middle of that period. In music, romanticism does not refer to the common definition that some truth can be obtain by emotions, not only from axioms. Romantic music referred more to its ability to infuse passion throughout the composition by not preparing the listener to what comes next, but rather explode in a combination of themes.  The innovation was in the use of range, maybe even the abuse of certain instruments, and transitions within themes and movements while maintaining a unity in the composition.   Music became narrative as opposed to chromatic, like in the classic period. Tonality and harmony became its preferred language.

When you listen to the First you get it much more than with any other piece.  How the first movement builds the theme,  introduces the characters, and sets the stage for the main plot.  The second movements presents the conflict.  Some characters are not seen anymore and the mood goes on.  The third keeps building suspense and goes quickly maintaining its link to the other two.brahms_karajan  And then comes the magnificent fourth.  The violins break the monotony and make you jump to the edge of the seat. The suspense grows, and grows.  The characters from the first movement come back and kill the ones from the second and third.  But nothing can prepare you for the finale, besides I don’t want to spoil it.

Columbia University has a fantastic free recording available here right, listed right after Beethoven’s Seventh for nothing else than alphabetical reasons.  My personal favorite is Karajan’s interpretation with the Berlin PO as part of the 4 Symphony collection (ASN: B000007ODY).

I like to think of Beethoven’s Ninth as Brahms’ Zeroth, but then again why will that be any more flattering to either one of them.

Enjoy.

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The Gala Party

March 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arts 

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“Life is too short to remain unnoticed.”

Real walls dressed in real blue, black, or white

set the surreal background.

Words hang all over them,

words of a mastermind bordering on insanity,

a madman that is not mad.

Words speaking of temptation,

art, beauty, power, erotic pleasures, knowledge, life, greed, and desire;

everything and nothing at all.

Words fill the shallow space with Catalan, Spanish, and French

merging the absurd with the brilliance.

“Beauty is nothing but the sum of our perversions.”

Faint lights escort the uninvited guests

that toddle in sneakers, backpacks, and jeans.

Their eyes and minds in awe and disbelief

don’t know where to stare or where to start.

Picasso, humbly relegated to the cellar

pays his respects for this gift to imagination

that came out of single illusory brain.

Impressionist irreverence of the surreal makes

the clocks of butter under the sun

toll the dreamlike metal.

“Everything alters me but nothing changes me.”

The bronze-attired lady, like a goddess without believers

discovers her missing entrails

by opening her drawer breasts.

Right behind her, hollow Isaac Newton appears with no smile

as his character has been replaced by his accomplishments.

An egg headed turtle with a Spanish bean on her back,

wearing a soft and bent armor

crawls through a darkling piece of marble sea.

Horse shaped Napoleon surrounded by bronze ants

is lead by Gargantua and Pantagruel

wearing their technicolor Gala suits.

Elephants that look like ballerinas.

Ballerinas that look like fish

Fish that don’t look like fish.

They all dance inside the frames.

The whittled double tip cane of life,

the foundation of air, wine, and Camembert

keeps the concave building from folding onto itself.

At the end, a medley of guns, pesetas, and vaginas

welcomes the last of the dodos

in a passage from the Bible.

Everything lost its ordinary function

and took on an amusing, fantasy-like quality

removed from all rationality.

“When I was five I wanted to be a cook,

at fifteen, a firefighter,

but then, my ambition grew even more than me,

I wanted to be Salvador Dalí.”

And he succeeded even beyond his being.

Enjoy.

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Diversified or Balanced Index.

March 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Finances 

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If you are invested in a fund that follows the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) the chart on the left shows the percentage allocation you had on February 23, 2009 by index component.  You may think you are diversified, which is true, but you are by no means balanced.  10% of your investment is in IBM shares and less than 1% is in GM.  Although you may be thankful for the latter it makes the point that you are not balanced at all.  This has to do with the way the DJIA is calculated.  Diversification is all you hear from Cramer to Orman to your local financial adviser. The indexes, major indicators, or SMIS (Security Market Indicator Series) like the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) or S&P500 are a sure way to diversify since buying into them means buying 30 or 500 companies from technology to financials to automotive (good luck with the last two).  That is fundamentally correct. However, the way the index is calculated is the trick, especially in times of turmoil like the present.
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Entrepreneurship from within

March 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business 

Economic crises have game-changing effects in all walks of life but mostly on businesses. At the risk of sounding cliché, some businesses go into a downward spiral and never recover while others transform themselves, forced by the humbling macro-economic effects, to emerge stronger. Few remain unchanged to continue success until the next turn around. Management is at the center of the change (or lack thereof). Most international finance is going through a radical change as well as most governments. Businesses of all sizes must be looking deeply and planning for the change way beyond leaner budgets and job cuts. So how do we pamper our high-performance employees?
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