Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Revisiting Washington DC

It is always nice to visit the capital. All the museums and institutions around, the peaceful streets in the day time (crime is an issue once the night sets in) and all other opportunities that DC has to offer are giving it a special appeal. This time around we visited the U.S. Capitol Building and it was a nice adventure. Following it, we strolled a bit the streets, passing the White House, where preparations for the NY eve (or the Obama inauguration were taken place) and giving up on the Smithsonian Natural History Museum to give it a try at the adjacent ice skating ring, which unfortunately was also packed at that hour. Overall, a very nice way to spend a freezing but sunny December day.

Olympus E510 - the 2 lens kit

Finally, I got myself a new digital camera and this time I took the (not so big) step and move into the DSLR category. Indeed with a rather user friendly camera, but in the end they all are. You just need to master the half and fully manual modes and then you’re truly set. After long debates, I opted for the Olympus E-510. Why: 1. Price and lens kit: body + two lens kit (14-50mm and 40-150mm) at $535 is truly a bargain. 2. It has built-in stabilization (great feature! In low light or other difficult conditions); 3. LiveView (a bit strange but still useful coming from the point-and-shoot area). 4. Lots of preset modes; 5. Four thirds system which allows mounting even regular/film camera lens.
What can one use for perks: 1. Got myself a remote control from Ebay ($ 3.50 including shipping) from China; works great as a point and shoot. 2) camera bag: again I opted for Samsonite; although I saw some pretty nice bags for 30-50 bucks and the Samsonite on is a bit bulky and better suited for a camcorder, still is pretty good at 13$ from TJ Maxx; 3) the 4GB CF card from a yahoo store with 9 bucks; and you got yourself a nice camera set for under $600; 4) I also got the DVD on Olympus E510 Made it Easy of the web, but so far (disc 1) is mostly introductive and with little camera tips& tricks. Still, great for those who want to learn digital photography in 2-3 hrs. plus, after peaking at the second DVD, it looks like it is getting more interesting!:)
The E-520 was also released in 2008 but despite minor issues, from what I’ve read, it is very similar to the E-510 and since the price difference (and lens kit availability) is significant, I am pleased with my selection.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Japan's solar City

Well, Japan is ahead of many (again!) with this solar city. Although the story is inspiring, one dismal economist cannot wonder how much did they spend (out of tax money) to support this and how many years it will take for this complex to operate on the positive side (e.g. repay the government its subventions). Still, an issue to be explored and copied perhaps in sunny places like California, Italy or Spain.

The side effects of a recession on our energy revolution

While most of you (I am still a pedestrian by choice!) are enjoying historical prices at the pump, the damage of a recession to the energy improvements is as real as possible. Naturally, the first reaction is one of joy & relief after the barrel of crude oil reached $100 this year to see it these days below $50. Moreover, the analysts are expecting a further decrease towards the $30/barrel until the supply cuts will kick in for a rebound in the price. However, this cheap energy hurts the efforts of getting into the renewables and alternative fuels. With these prices, nobody will really look into such issues anymore. Despite what all environmentalists will say or do, NOBODY can beat the powerful effect of INCENTIVES. and PRICES are the most powerful one. and i really love this fact because it stems from pure neoclassical economics showing that, although each one of us is unique, we tend to respond pretty uniformly to incentives. Hence by this rationale, without higher prices for energy we will not move forward on changing our consumption and reducing our oil dependency. Two contingent issues: 1. the bail-out of the auto-makers -> tough issue from a social point of view (jobs will be lost; people will suffer; CEOs will prosper regardless--> no incentives!!) but really easy issue from an economic point of view (NO BAIL-OUT: inefficiencies; low competitiveness; all the wrong incentives & paths are there!); 2. the strategic long term perspective. The Obama administration will hopefully see the long term path to follow and adopt all the right measures to ensure that America would be able to sustain high oil prices (well above $100) and environmental constraints (carbon caps) that are very likely to come back in the news over the next few years. We have to remember that this is just a small break from reality. And that is saying sooner-than-latter we'll reach this threshold.

Yearly Blog Stats

Overall it has been, again, a good year. The clustermaps statistics depicts 2,275 visits from 19 Nov 2007 to 18 Oct 2008 (11 months), a serious upward bump from last year's figures: 1,342 between Nov. 2006 and Nov.2007. Moreover, the geographic spread has increased beyond North American soil including some interesting big red dots from Latin America (Brazil and Montevideo/Buenos Aires, Northern Europe and the UK, as well as Middle East, Indonesia/Philippines, Japan and Australia. Although Africa is also represented it seems natural& logic that only the extreme North & South + Madagascar would have a chance to appear here. And they do. It would have also been interesting to see what are the most searched articles (since it seems that search engines are the main paths for visitors). However, I didn't do it. Google Analytics gives you a monthly picture of all this and from the comments i would say that the Stata10 article/issue got most of the attention, a lot of people being confronted with it. Other than that, it is always fun to skip from politics to soccer, from music to economics and then end up with a movie review:). Here, here for 2009!!

Troy Victorian Stroll and First Snow

Today we got the first "serious" snow in Troy, NY. Not very serious but still enough to whiten the picture, if you get my drift. Incidentally, today is also the day of the Victorian Stroll a Sunday when stores and open in the historic downtown and people get dressed Victorian style and stroll. However, today the streets were rather empty, compared with the previous years. I guess the weather (awful freezing winds) took its toll, and once my camera ran out of battery I also went straight home. The peak of the day: seeing & listening to explanations about the Tiffany windows in the Episcopal Church in downtown Troy. Amazing and extremely delightful pieces of work!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tech Up

This weekend I was a bit reckless in my spending. Although I did not take advantage of the Black Friday sales (which I still think that don't exist, unless you sleep outside the store and muscle your way in at 5 a.m.) I still purchased a lot of things. While most of them are still not to be disclosured (Christmass gifts) I also took care of my tech needs and bought some replacements for my current gadgets. First, my back-up HDD (a 160GB SATA Western Digital, amazing drive, impecable so far) is demanding an upgrade and I took the big step and bought a 1 TB (Terra-byte sounds sooo goood!) Western Digital Caviar (still SATA) for 99$ (Newegg still rules in all these deals, although one can barely find any "Free shipping" deals).

Next, mostly out of curiosity and desire to offer the very best conditions to my new SATA backup, I decided to buy an external enclosure with a big fan. Although, WD are pretty cool and I NEVER had any heat issues with it, I want to be safe. Hence, I got this Rosewill enclosure with a 8cm fan that should more than suffice for the job. At 25 bucks is quite a good deal. Hope it will last (reviews were quite OK, but not perfect). And if you wonder, yes, in the end I payed up shipping (EggSaver was somehow not available, but only in the last step of the transaction and I didn't want to back down then).However, for the first time the enclosure arrived DOA so I was a bit disappointed. Still, I managed to tweak the fan into working and I was very pleased that I didn’t had to waste more time and money to get a replacement. Now the enclosure works fine and the HDD is always cool. The only problems I had were to use Mac Partitions of 500GB under Windows using a recognition program. That resulted in some failures to w/r after prolonged usage time. However, I switched to NTFS and so far, so good. Just that MacOSX cannot write these. On the other hand, I think FAT32 would be disastrous for such a huge HDD.

Finally, just to put the cherry on the cake I also purchased a mp3 player, in this case a Sandisk Sansa Fuze: 8GB, 2.5 color screen, thumb-wheel, FM radio and recorder. Cool features: you can record music off your favorite station, and play all sorts of videos, although the screen is quite small. I also got a 2GB micro SD card with the SD and miniSD adaptors for 5$ and a travel kit (complimentary!) from that contains plug charger, car charges, some great noise isolating earphones, extension cable etc. That makes the whole package a 10GB MP3 player with a lot of accessories for 75$...way better than an Ipod mini, which is the main competitor. The sound is great, the battery unbelievable (around 24hrs.) and the earphones from the travel kit have a great bass. Excellent value!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Look for Gmail

Gmail came up with a hip new face that includes many customizable themes, fonts and other stuff one might use to enhance his or her web-mail.

The Crumbling Markets

Today, the big issue is whether to bail out or not some big shots in the US industry, tomorrow it will be whether to bail out or not the US economy. While nobody's denying that the US is (still) the most important component of the world's economic system (the Chinese dragon could sketch a grimace right about now) the problem remains on what kind of signals are we sending and what type of future should we aim for. And bailing out the "Big Three" American auto producers, despite repaying political support and re-distributing funds from one taxpayer to another, doesn't do much else.
If only we could only separate somehow Economics from Politics..Moreover, the Fed cannot keep slashing interest rates crossing their fingers that things will pick up from now on. Nor does any stimulus package/money injection/etc. Today the biggest skill a Central Bank requires is be able to create confidence, because that's the only thing that keeps things going. And again, this has more to do with Magic rather than hardcore Macroeconomics. Once this wonderful feeling gone, it becomes harder and harder to keep the system stable and running. Besides, last time I checked, the economy should be rooted in some sort of palpable reality. All this money creation value enhancing out of thin air, excessive credit expansion and imaginary growth on paper, is in the end bounded by the real economic facts. While creating fancy named investment instruments and flipping them around the globe to get virtual value added works fine for a while, it will always end up in a ball of dust. There is a pressing and legitimate issue: to limit the damage. And it is a fairly good selling point for any politician, whether it will or not fail miserably in practice. However, for an economist is much more than that. Is about understanding, emulating and "optimizing" the world. And that's why right now economists are clueless and divided. We just don't know. Nobody really does. and these are just the treatments for the effects, not for the causes..which again is a bit of witchcraft Decreases of oil prices, consumer spending and confidence do point out towards deflation. Despite the whipping effect of this word associated with the Great Depression, there are serious concerns as to where and how far it may persist. However, shaping the future, making sure that things will get better from now on, is equally important.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hot, Flat and Crowded

Thomas Friedman is coming back with (the-not-so-new) idea of a green revolution in which the US can lead the world in developing solutions for the energetic and environmental crisis that awaits us. I haven't read it, obviously, but I look forward to. Just saw the commercial intro on The Daily Show and that's about it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Get Your MacBook Sleeves

Today I started to look for a nice sleeve for my MacBook. Although, the damage has been basically done throughout my trips this Fall, when I didn't have time to purchase a sleeve, so I relied exclusively on the one provided by my backpack's interior. However, now I was thinking to get back on the issue, so I started to browse a bit the web. Obviously, the prices are quite indecent from 50$ to 20$, taxing basically your (ex-) posh-ness (now, Macs are quite popular and I bet in 2-3 years will probably become considerably larger). I even saw one guy who got so pissed off that he did it himself: So that what funny. But getting to the point of this blog, if you really want something aristocratic check out these manilla-vinyl-airmail-imitating-sleeve: Looks great if you ask me. The only problem is that fits only Macbook Airs!:)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Presidents Can Jump

CNN got an exclusive insight scoop at Barack Obama's game of basketball just before the election. When was the last time US had a leader with so much flair and athleticism? Hopefully, Mens sana in corpore sano, I look forward to seeing his decisions in the Oval Office.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Circuit City Files for Bankrupcy

The heads keep rollin' as a result of the crisis...Circuit City, a giant in the retail business, seeks Chapt. 11 protection amid pressure from vendors ahead of the holidays.

The company's biggest creditors are its vendors: Hewlett-Packard has a $118.8 million claim followed by Samsung ($115.9 million), Sony ($60 million), Zenith ($41.2 million), Toshiba ($17.9 million) and others. Smaller creditors include GPS navigation system maker Garmin, Nikon, Lenovo, Eastman Kodak and Mitsubishi.
Source: Associated Pres

Friday, November 07, 2008

Spurious Movie Reviews

After a long dry period, I started to watch movies again. Too much work and too little time for entertainment..hence a motion picture does the trick just fine. Although the first movie I have seen two or three weeks ago, the rest are quite fresh (from this week).

Charlie Wilson's War is a mixture of black comedy and drama showing how instrumental this senator was in pumping money into Afganistan's weapons to fight off the Russian invaders. The fun part is to see how politics is carried out and the outcomes as a function of various parts involved in the process. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts have two great parts in which they show their best acting. (7 out of 10)

Shoot'em Up. I was expecting a Guy Ritchie gangsta type movie but instead I got some sort of cheesy half Tarantino shooting rampage. Didn't bother to time the actual time in the movie when gunshots are not present, but they main hero (Clive Owen) shoots his way out of everything (with and without broken fingers, etc) even from a hot scene with a gorgeous Monica Belucci. Which is not right at all.. (4 out of 10)

In Bruges. A slow paced but very sensitive movie about three serial killers than end up killing each other in a wonderful "almost fairy tale" city of Bruges. I got mesmerized by the beautiful sites which have stirred up my own memories about Belgium and Europe, in general. A must see & very artistic piece! (8.5 out of 10)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

No Sweat

A clear victory (338 - 155 votes at 12:00am on Wed)ended one of the best carried out campaigns in the history and gave Obama the chance to make history, as the first Afro-American president of the USA. The name of the game is << CHANGE >> and America proves why it can be again the great engine of revolution in the world.

Voting Frenzy

YES, after two years of campaigning, fighting and elbow maneuvering, it finally came down to the big, final vote. While nobody in his or her right mind could believe any scenario under which Obama would lose (it is pretty damn hard mathematically/statistically speaking) they are trying to preserve the "excitement" of the race. This remembers me of the presidential election we had in Romania in 1996 when CHANGE was the name of the game and after 6 years of brain-washing by the left wing (former communist) people, everybody got excited to have a right wing government. They ended up calling that the worse period ever, although I thought they have fought the good fight and made some tough choices. But that's besides the point..Back then there was this frenzy about getting there & vote, although again, it was quite obvious that the right wing guy couldn't lose. It's a mix of self-enforcing importance, believe in your duty and stand up for it, so probably one should do it. But again, who would see McCain win? I bet that nobody, not even him.. This race was over before it began; change is in the air and it is a binary choice (1 for Obama; 0 for McCain) no matter how much the latter would avoid any comparisons with the Bush administration; Up next: a recession and a war to deal with. And maybe Pallin for 2012:))))..

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trick or treat & Troy Night Out

Last Friday was (again) Troy night out, one of the few opportunities when you can enjoy the city for all that it can give in terms of culture, music and night life. I am not sure if it still done every last Friday of the month or not (since I was away so much lately) but it seems like a good wake up call for the city. Incidentally, Halloween was also celebrated so more reason to get out and experience. After strolling the streets and checking out some art exhibitions and some music, the day ended up with a small but nice party, close to RPI. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared at all for Halloween (no costume) so I felt a bit akward among all those pirates, unemployed, Fidel El Commandate, Winnie the Pooh people.

Intramural Soccer Champions 2008

Last Night on a freezing wonderful time for soccer, RPI Internationals did it again and managed to become Intramural Champions for C-League, here at RPI. And I was proud and happy to be a part of that. To double that joy, I even scored in the final, so everything went pretty smooth. The tough things was that we had two games scheduled on the same day, one at 6:00pm (semifinal) and the big final at 9:00pm, if we were to make it. The first game was good, we played better than the other team, we scored once but missed a lot of additional chances. However, in the end, the equalized with few minutes before the time. A bit disappointing and scary, especially since the extra time did not settle anything and we went to penalty shoot-outs. Fortunately, they've missed their last shot, so we were able to score and advance to the finals after a long and tiring game. At 9:30 when the game started it was really freezing, we had only 1 sub, and they were looking extremely good. They scored and ran a lot while we could not do much. After the break we changed the strategy and they got tired despite a nice bench. I scored the equalizer with a very nice shot, following after a couple of minutes by another goal which give us the edge we needed, and we never looked back afterward.
At the end, nothing was bothering us anymore (cold, muscle pain, etc). It was just great to wear the Champions' T-shirts, cheer and take pictures as a team. What a great feeling!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The latest Paris Hilton presidential spoof

It's the third and last spot "supporting" Paris for presidency.

First Snowflakes :-(

Today, I had the (?) experience to see actual snow flakes here in Troy. Somehow, I feel that is really TOO SOON for that, I need some more Autumn with warm days and cold nice, foliage and farmers' markets. Don't you?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Economists's clips

Krugman facing O'Reilly
Would be nice to see a rematch now that Krugman got the big prize and his predictions came true about the Bush policies.

Stiglitz and Colbert
A more friendly chat on the Colbert Report show.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Positive externalities from long (segmented) haul flights

When I was coming back from Europe I had to face a hard route for the sake of saving some valuable bucks: from Maastricht I took a bus to Aachen, then a train to Cologne/Bonn Airport and then three planes: 1. Cologne-London Heathrow; 2. London-Washington Dulles; 3. Washington - Albany, NY. I was supposed to arrive in Albany close to midnight after an overall 23 hours of travel. However, in London, where always (almost) "funny" things happen, they managed to put the luggage load somehow wrong and they had to re-position it (30-40 minutes) and then re-fuel (why? and why not at the same time?) (another 10-15 minutes). Well, overall we had about 1:30 hrs delay which we never recovered. In Washington, unlike my previous trip from Mexico, there were a lot more officers at the US entry and things moved relatively swiftly. However, by the time I got out it was already 10:00 pm. My Albany plane was probably closing the boarding gate. However, the UNITED guys were on top of things: a person was already expecting us there with new tickets for next morning and hotel, dinner vouchers. Which is very nice. I had to spend some extra half an hour negociating to exchange my 8:00 am ticket to a 12:00 pm one..but it was fine. The I head out to the Hilton in Dulles which was very nice and confortable way to get re-accostumed to the US.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Re-visiting Brussels

I always enjoyed Belgium and its funny open-minded people. Now, there was no exception. After a really long and sleepless flight from Washington to Brussels (I hated United for its 767 with row 4X where there were only 4 seats on the middle row compared to 5 in front -- nothing fitted right--tables/TV screens/legroom etc) I finally landed there around 7:30am. This gave me the opportunity to check out the airport (full of hippies sleeping around closed stores), grab a cup of Starbucks and unwillingly peak at the conversation between two Romanian chicks going somewhere warm. Around 8:40 I couldn't stand it anymore and went to the city by the fast train connecting Bruxelles National avec Le City. people speak Flemish mostly in BXL..although I am not so sure on that one. There were about 4C outside and I was freezing my ..ears off walking in the early morning in BXL. Fortunately, by 10 the sun was up and I was like happy like a see lion. Magnificent buildings, the pissing boy, old houses and churches, the chocolate museum, all those familiar things that I was happy to revisit made me forget about the cold and my summer jacket. Around 11:30 I gave my old friend and ASP fellow a ring and we were set up to meet in the train station. Then Freddy gave me the Royal Tour, explaining me things in a pure Belgian relaxed/half joking style...which was pretty cool.We tried a Greek gyros just to remember the good old German Donner from Kiel but it was far from it. Then we strolled the city until 5 in the afternoon, sightseeing and checking out the Royal Palace, nice parks and European Institutions (were possibly I would like to work when I grow up) when both of us were basically finished. His roommate was kind enough to provide me with accommodation and (unknowingly) I gave up the chance to experience Brussel's funny White Nights, when Museums, Bars, Streets, Everything is full of people. Tomorrow I'm heading for Maastricht.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mexico City - an exciting city

Well, at first I was a bit afraid. I mean 20 million people is almost the whole population of my home country Romania. And that is pretty high for just a city, no matter how spread it might be. But in the end, I didn't feel like Mexico City is too (or That) big. A second thing that I regret is that we got some real bad weather when i was there, so it was quite hard to walk and really enjoy the city. I had to buy an umbrella, because the rain kept pouring on for days. Moreover, I didn't bring warm and rain coats so it was quite unexpected to be colder than in upstate NY. But in the end, all was well and I managed to see and do a lot. The city is great with many things to offer from walking down Reforma Avenue (where my Fiesta Americana hotel was located) to Chapultepec park and Castle or towards the city Centre (Zocalo and all that). I even managed to walk the whole thing one afternoon and it did not take me more than 1 hr, maybe...which again, added to my belief that the city isn't that big (as it should be for 20 mil). The food is great although not as cheap as one might expect. Anyways, just go ahead and try as many things as possible. I do not like extreme spicing but I still enjoy a lot the Mexican food. So fresh and so nice. Also, once you are there, you must go and see the pyramids at Teotihuacan (great site, you feel like going back in time a thousand years), the National Anthropological Museum (the best there is, lots of exhibits from Mayas, Aztecs, Teotihuacan and other civilizations in North and Central America), the National Palace, The National Cathedral and so many more others. I am a bit disappointed that three extra days were not I still have things to see when I go back: Coyocan (I have stayed there in a hostel, but didn't see everything there is to see there) San Angelo (another beautiful neighborhood) the spherical pyramids (xx don't remember the name), Taxco (a small city 2hrs south, the capital of silver mining in the region) or what is left of the former canals (again, my memory is a bit blurry with regards to the name of this area). It is funny remember my trips with the metro (not so happy in the rush hours though) and studying peoples faces while picking up some of their words [I only understand Spanish by association via Italian:)]. Overall, very nice people, city and country. I really look forward to getting back in Mexico sometimes and explore more of this country.

Globelics conference 2008 Mexico City

After participating in the Globelics Academy 2008 in Tampere, I also got my paper accepted for an oral presentation in the "big" conference of Globelics, held this year in Mexico City. I really enjoyed being there and give this paper..after all, it gave me the much needed incentive to revise it this June and have it (almost) ready for resubmission at Research Policy. The only objection I had was the selection of topics and papers (which was a bit odd) and the draconian time constraints (15 minutes) which made it harder to present. But in the end, I managed to do it in 15 minutes and enjoyed every bit of it. Moreover, this was a big conference with some of the big names in Economics of Innovation field. Lundvall, Nelson, Soete, Malerba, Fageberg they were all there, plus a lot more "star scientists" that I might have omitted or not personally know. And there is such a great feeling and personal satisfaction to be able to talk to them, not only about your research, but more about life and other unrelated issues. There were also some PhD students, such as myself, presenting, but not that many. However, very nice people and I hope to stay in touch.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Amazing Champions League Win

Not many believed it is possible, but, CFR Cluj beat AS Roma in Italy 2-1. The small Romanian team has debuted in CL and although they are in a pretty bad shape right now (#7 in the Romanian league) pulled out a great game in Rome. Very dynamic, spectacular and overall, a deserved win. In a group with Chelsea and Bordeaux, that has spiced up things ever more. We'll see how things will enfold..

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Which Virtual Machine to Use for Win under Mac OS X

I have been testing VMware and Parallels and from my limited experience so far here are some tips: 1) use Bootcamp if possible and just boot in Windows; I rather use one or the other and so far I have been still (conservatively) using WIN but I am migrating slowly; Leopard is such a great OS!! 2) if #1 is not possible go for VMware; advantages: faster and more reliable; More updates...soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bootcamp-ing made easy

Well, for good or for bad Bootcamp is now integrated in the new OS X Leopard. I guess the good part is that now it would be more stable and faster than previous set-ups, although I have no ideas about those. The bad part is that for those without Leopard, I heard that Bootcamp is no longer available for free download, which hits them quite a bit. More nice things: the drivers for Windows work pretty well (only one exception: mine after I let it go into stand-by, the screen resolution becomes funny (unclear) and sometimes I even lose sound). Bad things: doesn't allow multiple partitions...just two: one Mac, one Windows; I have tried many things to overcome these issues but I wasn't successful and in the end I gave up, since it eats up too much of my time. There are some forum users though, who claim that they have the solution and they did manage to have a tri-boot sequence on a Mac. So, Google for them confidently if you really need them. I also start to get use with the Mac a major Win user is a bit tricky to learn the key shortcuts and all that, forget about the right click and use FN key for Windows Commander quick functions. But i have to admire the Leopard system overall, its ease to use and ergonomic fundamental nature. Just need to get used to it ..:)

A brand new (Apple) World

After a life on PC it is time to try also a MAC. I wanted to get one ever since they made the transition to Intel based processors that allow one to run Windows on them. Moreover, the benchmark test show that they even do it better than the native PCs. Which says something (very good) about their architecture/performance. That being said, I decided to try it myself. After all, they also became quite affordable now...and I have a feeling that the prices will go even lower over the next two years. To me, it looks like they are after the big Market for PC users so the combination lower price-Intel based Macs goes right at the heart of such a strategy. On top of that, the slick design, allegedly better performance and lower spyware/virus threats make the macs even more appealing. Back to the real world, I got the cheapest specification with a Macbok 2.1 Ghz and 1 Gb of RAM. For 80 bucks, provided a new 4Gb (dual) G-skill memory which fills now the slots of my new laptop.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Romanian soccer rollercoaster

From ups (almost top soccer) in the 1990s to valleys and deep saddle points today, Romanian soccer has still a lot to offer. And by that, I mean not just scandals, "charismatic" talkative club owners (e.g. Becali @ Steaua Bucharest) and wide-spread accusations of corruption. We can actually play soccer and a good one too. Although the memory of winning the Champions League in 1986 against Barcelona has well faded in the background, recent performances in UEFA cup (2005-2006) and two teams in Champions League's grups 2008-2009 are something to be proud of. But again, after some wimpy game in the EURO 2008 against France and a great miss to beat Italy (draw) we surrendered unconditionally against a Dutch team who did not want to win (0-2). Well, after all that, the time for REAL SHAME is here. It has been 3 years since we lost a game on home court but now we need to reset the clock. Lithuania, yep, that huge 3.5 million top soccer country administrated us a dry 0-3. Although I haven't seen the game it must have been quite pathetic. And I am glad I've missed it. The funny thing is that not even such a GREAT start in the qualifying campaign the coach who made a laughing stock out of us in the EURO 08 (Piturca) is not going to be dismissed. Amazing!! talking about that wonderful thing called corruption and all those heads in Romanian soccer that seem to be appointed for life...

My first baseball experience

Hilariously enough, today was my first true baseball experience. While so far I wasn't really interested in learning (all) the rules of this game, yesterday, after three years spend in the Yankees' land, I finally pulled it off. Thanks to my friend Mikko and his patience I enjoyed a full minor league game between the Tri-City ValleyCats from Troy and the Lowell Spinners. Which in the end proved to be one of their best (the home team had an embarrassing season). Beside the game, people come just to chat and hang out, which is a bit unusual. But hey, if you had to watch 3 hours or more in small 5 minute reprises, you'll do it too. Other than that beer, sweets, food and snack may turn the event around. not to mention all the promotional stuff thrown in the crowd and up for grabs.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The global path of an Ipod

By now, all of us are used to check out the back of a product and usually get a "Made in China" report on our curiosity. While in the 1980s that meant good quality/exquisite products, the 1990s and 2000s brought a flood of products all made in China. While people like me growing up in Eastern Europe have developed a small phobia of Chinese products during the 1990s(imitative, low quality stuff) that feeling is almost gone since virtually ALMOST EVERYTHING is MADE in CHINA. Quality has nothing to do with the issue anymore. Everybody is producing in China; the difference is WHO ships WHERE. While you can still find plenty of dubious Chinese products in the "1 Dollar" stores across America and in developing countries (I am curious about what you can find in Africa for example..), designer clothes, watches, electronics, etc are made right next door. A recent example that was quite funny involved tracking the FedEx package for an Ipod touch all the way from Kunshan, China via Shanghai, Ankorage (Alaska), Indianapolis an so on. Amazingly, it takes only 3-4 days to reach the Eastern coast of US! Just makes you wonder: what is next?

Which DSLR is good for me?

I have been struggling with this question for some time, trying to replace my former camera, a nice Panasonic Lumix FZ7 of which I was very pleased (overall). But now, since I am thinking to test the SLR world, again the mind of an economist comes into play trying to optimize everything, exploit informational assymmetries etc etc. To put it bluntly, looking for the best quality at the lowest price. So far I was impressed with the new SONY series (alfa 200 and 350) and especially Olympus E-520 (fully loaded with features like live view, stabilization system built-in, four third lens systems, and awesome prices for kits that include 40-150mm lens). But again, I might lean back and wait for the Black Friday news or Christmas gifts:)). In the meanwhile, my roomate was kind enough to provide me with his Canon Xti Rebel which I like more and more as time goes by.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A first in the Romanian soccer

Well, for the first time in history Romanian soccer fans have something to be excited about. Having two teams in the world's most important competition in football (the Champions League) doesn't come easy. Today, Steaua qualified in the group phase by beating Galatasaray Istambul at home 1-0 after drawing in Turkey (2-2). CFR Cluj the champion en-titre are automatically qualified and now both can hope for mercifull groups in the League. Why mercyfull? Well, CFR is in a bad shape now (10th place in the ROM league)while in general Romanian teams fail to actually "bite" the oponents, usually affraid by their fame. Hopefully, things will change to better.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Same ol' Troy

Getting back here is a bit tough after my extended European experience. No doubt, going to Ocean City first, has helped a lot. Now, slowly but surely, I am getting accquinted to everything.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My first Parasail experience

Quite nice but expensive as well, my first parasailing experience was quite short (aren't they all) of about 15 minutes of actual flight and a bit weird. The guys were also supposed to take our photos with a SLR camera and give us the film. Minor problem: they didn't have good batteries (that many pics they do) so the plan felt to pieces. The only proof I have are the few shots I took with a camera while floating above the Bay. Still..pretty cool and I definetely enjoyed a lot the view from above and the "floating in the wind" feeling

Sunday, August 10, 2008

08.08.08 - How lucky can you get at the Chinese Olympics?

Superstition is quite a deal in China. Thus, the programming of the opening ceremony for the OG in Beijing. 08/08/08 08:08 pm was no surprise for those familiar with the significance of number 8 in Chinese culture.

OC getaway

OC has always been fun. The beach, boardwalk and private pool are something that easily can get you hooked. But the most appealing thing is the relaxation, something that I always find it to be synonym with OC.

Northern Germany, again

After acquiting myself with Kiel, Hamburg, Lubeck and other northern German cities..I had the chance to go back and experience it again. This time was the beautiful city of Bremen. A rather small but enchanting place, with a rich history and friendly people. Not to mention the beer gardens and all that other stuff...It's going to be touch to re-adjust to USA.

Back in the US with some emotions

Partly my personal fault, partly thanks to the improper website of, that hasn't allowed me to select the month from the usual combo boxes, I ended up stranded in the Hamburg airport. Besides the monetary loss, which is quite significant, one loses a lot more. I was very disappointed and mad on how this could have happened to me. But I guess after all the travel I have been doing, at same point something bad will occur. So yes, it was back in Kiel, in March, around 1-2am when I purchased the ticket online. Being in EU and having to enter manually the date, I naturally typed 04/08/08. But little did I suspect that instead of August the 4th, I actually purchased a ticket for April. Until now...:( well, not much one can do in this situation. Thus, I just made the obvious choice of buying another ticket ($1300) instead of returning to RO. The British Airways flight was quite lousy, the seating one of the worse I had, a plenty of crying babies to go around. PLus, at landing I had the privilege to experience how a roller coaster feels like, as a bonus. AT least I flew directly to DC. Here some carriages pick you up from the plain and take you to the actual terminal and the lines to enter the USA. This time wasn't to bad either. 45 minutes later after grabbing my bags I was exiting Dulles to experience the wonderful 90F. Back again..

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Travel, fluddings & the global link

It seems like the weather is becoming more and more unstable each year. Still, not many think we should do something about it. Who, me..? Even if I want to, it wouldn't make a difference anyways.. that goes the usual saying. In the same week in which some French people experience for the first time a tornado, the north and north eastern part of Romania was confronted with massive rains and fluddings. I just left this region, thus, was able to escape most of it..but the question still remains: when it will all be sufficient to say "enough"? Just by looking at the gloomy Beijing Olympic skies one can definitely see there is something terribly wrong the way we threat the environment. Free riding is obviously not a good solution ..yet still, here we are.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Simian Mobile Disco - I believe

I wanted to have and post this video for a long time now. Both of which I've achieved right now. A great clip and song (too bad that the album doesn't live up to this standard), I believe gives (again, after Borat) the sour version of rural ROmania (close to Bucharest) where people drives Dacias with horses, do (some) agriculture and mainly survive from one day to the other. However, at the end of the day this is a better and more melodic version of the truth than the "manele"s present in their hit singles. the HI-Q version is worth the money.

Back home :(

A bit frustrating after reaching Bucharest, and so close to go to Greece but give up since it was too close to my planned hiking trip, which was canceled late and in a dissapointing manner only when I reached Cluj Napoca (no news on it until then). So, at the end of the day, I missed them all: Black Sea, mountains, Greece. I guess things aren't going always one wants, but this time they really did their best not to.:))... till next time...