Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Hardware in my backyard

I finally got the computing power I need. A Dell Optiplex GX 620 does this job pretty well with its P4 HT 3.2 Ghz processor, 2 Gigs of RAM and a 150 SATA HDD along a nice enough ATI videocard broadcasting on a 19 inch Dell flat-panel. As a matter of fact I am having trouble now re-adjusting back to bigger screens after I totally got used to my 1400X1050 13" monitor on my antique IBM T22 laptop, with its tiny icons and un-readable text {for most others than me,:)}. A minus for the system: had serious trouble when I wanted to install Ubuntu on this some critical errors and finally I had to give up.
However, it will be my new base machine especially for statistical computing and imaging processing, the latter totally under-represented right now but hopefully better in the near future.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nu Jazz: When Jazz goes Clubbing

Lately in my ever ongoing musical evolution, lately I came across of a lot of downtempo and nu jazz music, closely related and combined in different inventive ways and means of expression. Today I'll talk about the latter.
Bugge Wesseltoft,Norwegian by nationality, international by nature is a jazz musician, pianist and composer (plus a producer - own label Jazzland Records). His main projects were the New Conception of Jazz and Ragatronics, plus his solo act. I had the opportunity to listen just the first one (New Conception of Jazz 1997) but it really got under my skin. I am curious to see what else is out there..and most of all of his solo project which should be at least as revolutionary as the rest of his stuff.

Another One Bites the Dust

The Chinese River Dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) WAS a freshwater dolphin found only in the Yangtze River in China. Other names include Baiji, Yangtze River Dolphin, Beiji, Pai-chi, Whitefin Dolphin and Yangtze Dolphin.

Although the dolphin was nicknamed "Goddess of the Yangtze" in China and efforts were made (but only to "some" extent?) to conserve the species, the population declined drastically in recent decades. It was declared "functionally extinct" after an expedition in late 2006 failed to find any in the river.
Time Evolution: (wikipedia)
* circa 3rd century BC: population estimated at 5,000 animals
* 1950s: population was estimated at 6,000 animals
* 1958-1962: The Great Leap Forward
* 1979: The People's Republic of China declares the Chinese River Dolphin endangered
* 1983: National law declares hunting the Chinese River Dolphin illegal
* 1984: The plight of the baiji draws headlines in China[5]
* 1986: Population estimated to be 300
* 1989: Gezhouba Dam complete
* 1990: Population estimated to be 200
* 1994: Construction of the Three Gorges Dam begins
* 1996: IUCN lists the species as critically endangered
* 1997: Population estimated to be less than 50 (23 found in survey)
* 1998: 7 found in survey
* 2003: Three Gorges Dam begins filling reservoir
* 2004: Last known sighting, a stranded dead dolphin
* 2006: None found in survey, declared "with all probability extinct"

My question would be is if Chinese people actually have fished out this species or the whole conjecture was more decisive in establishing this result. After all, who would eat dolphins?? They are quite scarce everywhere except aquariums, they are the second smartest creatures after (sometimes even above some of) us, friendly and playful, without any flaws that could justify such barbaric acts that led to their extinction.

But here it is people. Just sad.:-(

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Battlestar Galactica

This week I started to watch Battle star Galactica, the SF series from Sci-FI channel and I got hooked up on it. After about 5 DVDs I successfully completed the pilot plus the first season. The truth is that it's quite different from the usual happy-ending futurist stories praised in Star Trek series; the human race (based on planet Caprica) has almost been wiped out by their own creations (cylons, which basically from a basic AI jumped to complex imitators and surpassors of the humans). In an epic quest towards Earth (here the lost and distant planet of the last colonists mentioned only in legends) the episodes show more drama than the usual science fiction puzzles and gizmos. They can still "jump" in hyperspace though...regardless of experiencing other basic problems with food or water. Intriguing to say the least and beautifully crafted. Makes me wonder why I never watched on cable before.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Meet Skalpel

(WHO) Skalpel: top noch Polish stuff, branded Ninja Tune.
(HOW) Style: blend of hip hop beats, laced with samples lifted from the rich seam of Polish jazz records of the 1960s and 1970s.
(WHAT) Albums: Konfusion (2005) and Skalpel (2004); both exquisite.:) try them!
(LIKE) Similar to: The Cinematic Orchestra

Skalpel are Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo DJs/producers from Wroclaw, Poland. Being new recruits of Ninja Foreign Legion, they are rather hesitant to speak about their past.Sufficient to say, they are talented DJs, whose 4 mixes were aired on Solid Steel in the past, two of which were released as "Virtual Cuts" - namely the best mixtape released in the history of electronic music in Poland. The year 2000 was a landmark for them, as they traveled the country with DJ Vadim and his Russian Percussion, presenting an amazing 4-deck show. Later that year they released demo CD-R titled "Polish Jazz", which not only received a lot of critical acclaim, but also led Skalpel to signing a contract with Ninja Tune.For the last two years they've been digging in the crates, trying to build the most exciting collection of samples from Polish Jazz records. Now they are slowly unleashing the music created from these sounds. They ressurected dusty & smokey spirit of polish jazz of 60s and 70s, and re-imagined it for 21st century audiophiles. (Ninja Tune)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mozart@the Opera

The last concert of questa stagione for the Albany Symphony Orchestra and its vivid conductor. Despite the cold that's biting more and more into the Capital region these days, there was a sea of people attending this performance. Naturally, most of them, old and very old but that's beside the point:).

Still celebrating the "Mozart year" undergoing in 2006, the performance included selections from his most famous operas namely The marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte and the Magic Flute, but the cherry on the top (you can call it the "underground" kick if you'd like) and incidentally the part that I enjoyed the most was the final piece of Idomeneo, not an aria but a symphonic ending of a serious opera aimed for ballet. Idomeneo, the king of Crete is a not-so-famous (commercial?) Mozart opera, actually his first mature opera, quite experimental and long, I guess. But this last piece, I think is very good and an inspired choice to include it in the program. Overall, very good and interesting at the same time.