Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Movie Nights

The Holiday season is usually a good opportunity to check out the new releases. Besides seeing the the "squeakquel" of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" with the kids, Avatar was something that I wanted to experience, especially after all the commercials and noise about a cinematic revolution. So, here it is: nice movie, a mixture of a sci-fi, action with a love story lining. Reminded me of Apocalypto and the Last of the Mohicans (although not as bloody) with a Sci-Fi coating. Even though it wasn't really a revolution (except maybe the exquisite quality of the visual effects), it is a nice epic story (about 2 and a half hours) with all the drama and a (very necessary) happy ending.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

A penny for your vote

Since now I am in Boston, it is a lot easier to exercise my right and duty to vote in the Romanian Presidential elections 2009. And more over this year things seem to be pretty tight. Although most Romanians do not believe in either of the two candidates left (Basescu and Geoana), still vote in the spirit of choosing the lesser of the two evils. I subscribe to this view; however, I am not even sure why evil is greater, since most of alliances in Romanian politics are purely driven by immediate interests, so something like a "right"-"left" coalition against the "center" shouldn't surprise anyone. At least, very close results (such as 50.33 and 49.66) makes you feel like it was all worthwhile. Hopefully, in a couple of hours they will also have the final results, including the Diaspora votes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Revisiting Romania

The Fall/Winter season is obviously not the best one to visit Romania. Cold weather and muddy roads contribute tremendously towards a grim & gray vision of it. This time I only got as far as the capital city (Bucharest) and the trip was mainly dictated by a dental emergency, and I barely got to see some family in these short 5 days spent there.

Still, anything is better than nothing. When I think of all the people unable to travel and see their families, 9 hours seem like a little price to pay. Moreover, I am grateful for all these chances and you tend to appreciate them even more. It is always nice to get back to your roots, spend some time with your loved ones and set everything aside at least for a while. Plus, it is a good moment to pause and reflect on where you are now and where you want to get next.

However, not everything went so smoothly: when I left, I wanted to be brave and decided to take the public transport to the airport (Otopeni- OTP) and it was still a hasty decision despite the fact that I left home really early. I ended up getting into a microbus for commuters that left me close to the airport at the main road. Funny enough, that morning one could enjoy the biggest and densest fog that I have seen. Basically, you could not see beyond 2 meters. So after walking for about 10 minutes I still haven' reached anything and I started to panic. However, when I heard the announcements, I realized that I am at 5m from the door of the terminal. Amazing. It was just like in a movie sauna (cause in reality is not that steamy) but the visibility was awful.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Head of The Charles River Regatta

Unfortunately, I forgot all about it. Remembered only today around 3 PM and that only because I saw that this is going to be the last sunny day for a while. So I should get outdoors asap, especially when considering what tough times lie ahead in terms of personal workload. Got to the Charles river pretty late coming from Cambridgeport, which probably wasn't the best itinerary anyways. I managed to take several shots despite the cold, windy weather and the (already) poor light. No more clam chowder for the latecomers; apparently people came as early as noon. Tents were coming down, people was leaving in waves towards Harvard Sq. So, I followed.

The first flakes of Winter

No matter how much (most of us) want to hold on to summer, and this year, even fall would be good for mid-October, winter seems to be closer than ever this year. After the sudden disappearance of summer in mid-August, also fall seems to fall short this year. Today, I notice the first snow flakes making a first appearance within the light drops of rain. Woow, I should get my boots and cap.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Budget Truck - Awfull experience

Well, there are a lot of things to learn every day. And one of them today was to NEVER use Budget Truck again. I would personally advise staying away from them since my experience was truly despicable. Besides the fact that they probably always charge you more than what your reservation shows, they also gave me a bigger truck (at no additional cost:)) just the extra $20-$25 bucks for the gas, this 16 foot big baby was eating the gallon at 10 miles!!).Then, when to return the truck, the guy noticed some scratches on the top right corner of the truck and he pinned that on us. Back in Troy we did not get any inspection, nothing to sign off saying that the truck is in a good shape. Now, since nothing was recorded, everything else (scratches, marks etc.) can be put on us. Fortunately (a) I have a witness (my friend Carlos who drove me to Boston) and (2) pictures that I took on the highway just after entering MA state, showing that the truck was already scratched when we got it in Troy, NY. Those would be two things that I suggest everyone should do before renting from these low-lifes, to make sure they don't pin anything on you as well. Or better yet, just check the other's rates (UHaul, Penske, etc.) since they will guarantee the truck, not like Budget Truck.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scouting for accommodation in Boston

Boston seems a lot nicer once you get to Cambridge. On my last visit, I had an interview at Harvard and I was in and out real quick. Red line, silver line, Logan, Albany, not much to see and touch. This time I actually got to experience Boston. From the daily commute (I was staying in Natick with a friend, 45 min to South Station) to the peripheral neighborhoods (Quincy, Medford etc.) I tried everything. Back Bay is really nice with its fancy old boulevards and close to most things. The MIT/Kendall area suffers tremendously in terms of image since (I assume) it was (and still is, to some extent) a crowded former industrial area of Cambridge. Still, you read in the local papers how much is coming up these days. So no surprise, here I found some really bad and pricey prices (amazingly contradictory!). Getting the weekly Charlie pass helps so much to move around Boston. Just tap or slide and your problems are over. Worthwhile even for my three and a half days in Boston. Speaking of transport, this time, Megabus was a trully inspired choice. That even after they’ve change the schedule on me (on the same day I got an email that my bus is going to leave earlier from NYC); I was already on my way to NYC, so there was nothing to do but to wait for the next one. Being among the first on the ten people line in the middle of the week has its perks, beside the awesome price ($5 one way)…talking about the table with 4 chairs facing each other that helps with your overheating lap from the laptop usage. Obviously, free wireless and plugs get their fair share of appreciation. My adventure in searching for a place was indeed as the MIT housing website and person responsible coined it: “you will see everything from the bad, ugly and even weird”. And I did. Started with some mixed apartments in the Watertown; I really liked the area, also quick access to Harvard Sq. via fast buses (73 and 71 lines). Remained an option until the last day. Then scouted a bit of the Cambridge/Kendall area, Central Square and Lechmere. Not good. Overprices. Shady. Didn’t enjoy but still part of the overall experience. Finally, made my way to the popular (among students) Somerville: Davis Square was really nice, and I saw great places close to Teele Square. Hope started to emerge and once you have a back-up, I started brainstorming about a decision, although on the third day I managed to see some more places in Somerville, Cambridge and even Quincy area, after a long T ride and walk in the neighborhood. Some practical advices: 1. Get there on weekdays (people are at home and you can maximize better the search days if you include weekends). 2 Do zones (e.g. Somerville in one day; Cambridge the other, etc); 3. Go beyond the common newbie naivity (I want a place near Harvard or MIT): the red T line works flawlessly (especially off peak hours; otherwise, it’s not that peachy); Cambridge has bike lanes which is great; plus, MTBA trains are working great either from the South Station or the Back Bay one; finally, having your personal car gets you even further (suburbs, etc) although the costs might be pretty high in the Boston area…so leave it outside. 4. Check out the sites of universities for adds (I did Berklee and MIT, ask for help from friends etc) besides the main source (craigslist, for me). Many times I felt that the landlords were interviewing me before showing me the house. Obviously coming to MIT gets many eyes rolling (for appreciation, I hope) so flash your credentials to them, make them work. Finally, act relaxed but interested, even if you’re not. Being polite brings a lot. Your purpose is to find a place but nasty-ness you will not bring you closer to your final goal. Just be patient, persistent and SMART. You will get there.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Magical 09/09/09

Yes, it is magical. and yes, it is today. Article on Yahoo:Modern numerologists - who operate outside the realm of real science - believe that mystical significance or vibrations can be assigned to each numeral one through nine, and different combinations of the digits produce tangible results in life depending on their application. As the final numeral, the number nine holds special rank. It is associated with forgiveness, compassion and success on the positive side as well as arrogance and self-righteousness on the negative, according to numerologists. Though usually discredited as bogus, numerologists do have a famous predecessor to look to. Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician and father of the famous theorem, is also credited with popularizing numerology in ancient times. "Pythagoras most of all seems to have honored and advanced the study concerned with numbers, having taken it away from the use of merchants and likening all things to numbers," wrote Aristoxenus, an ancient Greek historian, in the 4th century B.C. As part of his obsession with numbers both mathematically and divine, and like many mathematicians before and since, Pythagoras noted that nine in particular had many unique properties. Any grade-schooler could tell you, for example, that the sum of the two-digits resulting from nine multiplied by any other single-digit number will equal nine. So 9x3=27, and 2+7=9. Multiply nine by any two, three or four-digit number and the sums of those will also break down to nine. For example: 9x62 = 558; 5+5+8=18; 1+8=9. Sept. 9 also happens to be the 252nd day of the year (2 + 5 +2)...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Tarahumara - Born to Run

The Tarahumara are an indigenous people of northern Mexico and are renowned for their long-distance running ability. Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, the Tarahumara retreated to the Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental on the arrival of Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. The area of the Sierra Madre Occidental which they now inhabit is often called the Sierra Tarahumara because of their presence.
Current estimates put the population of the Tarahumara in 2006 at between 50,000 and 70,000 people. Most still practice a traditional lifestyle, inhabiting natural shelters such as caves or cliff overhangs, as well as small cabins of wood or stone. Staple crops are corn and beans; however, many of the Tarahumara still practice transhumance, raising cattle, sheep, and goats. Almost all Tarahumara migrate in some form or another in the course of the year. The Tarahumara language belongs to the Uto-Aztecan family. Although it is in decline under pressure from Spanish, it is still widely spoken.(Source: Wikipedia)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting hooked on "Dexter"

Clever. Subtle. Dark. Divided. I got to watch the first episode of "Dexter" at a late hour in the night, back home in Romania, when I needed something to put me to sleep. Usually, TV does pretty well in this respect. However, with Dexter it was different, despite the fact that I was watching an episode from the 3rd season. Now, I got into it and started to watch Season 1 & 2. The story of a righteous serial killer that eliminates only criminals develops in an intricate adventure in which he slowly unveils hist past and discovers himself in a different light. Great actors and script: overall an excellent combo.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Colored Musical Beads

Flying Lotus - Los Angeles (2008)Flying Lotus, (born Steven Ellison) is an experimental multi-genre music producer, disc jockey, and laptop musician from Winnetka, California. His debut album, 1983, was released on Plug Research Records in 2006.[1] He is most famous (yet also uncredited) for the music in many of the segues of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim,[2] and he has also contributed remixes to fellow Plug Research artists, including Mia Doi Todd.(wiki). LA (2008) is his latest release at WARP Records, and it has been sitting on my collection for a while now, till today when I had the chance to listen it. A great mix of beats and electronic music that reminds me a bit also of Prefuse 73. In the end, I put the album back and re-listen it, which i seldom do. Still good.

Moby - Wait for Me (2009)I am not sure if this was or not an anticipated release but anything coming from Moby should be something decently good (at least). So, on June 30th Wait for Me hit the market. Moby tried to do (again) something artistic and special, as he was saying in an interview back in 2008 ("I want to make a really emotional, beautiful record. I don't know if I will succeed, but my goal is to make something very personal, very melodic, very beautiful") and to some extent he managed to achieve this. However, despite the fact that this album has several great tracks, overall the impression is rather mixed. It is indeed a great album, but somehow it seems too slow and sad throughout. I guess it also needs a lot of "digestion" for which there is plenty of time ahead.

Matisyahu - Light (2009)
Light is the third album by reggae singer Matisyahu, which was released on August 25, 2009. The artist had been working on his third album for nearly two years, making it the longest time he has ever spent making a record. The follow-up to Youth had been delayed several times before its release.Light is a good album with a lot of catchy tunes in his original style that mixes successfully reggae, hip-hop, and rock into something substantial, and with occasional references to the Judaic culture. Matisyahu maintains as much simplicity as possible to stay lean and focused, a result from his optimism: "Being an artist is about being sensitive to how the world resonates inside you and then being able to express it."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Harddisk recovery solution

After all the OS problems I had, it came to partition issues as well. Somehow, my external drive, formatted as two 500 GB NTFS drives, got into trouble. Originally, the drive was formatted using the disk utility in MacOSX as FAT32 and then to NTFS in Win XP. Then I couldn't mount it in Leopard, so I decided to fix NTFS under Win; that didn't help at all in terms of Mac OS mounting but the drive worked like a charm in XP. However, when I decided to reinstall everything I saved all my files on this drive, and after I got back my OS (both Mac and Win) the problems got worse: now I couldn't read the files I saved; the previous data on the drive was fine. Strange. So I had to search and try a lot of the :recovery software: out there. Hands down, GetData Back was the best of the crop: easy to use, fast to read my 500 GB partition and fast to extract the files. Now, of course, my files were in great shape, and the HDD problem was minor, so I cannot advise on how good this program performs when dealing with severe data loss, but according to some online reviews, it still prevails from the myriad of recovery solutions.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A great day for Romanian soccer

Well, today was definitely a good day for Romanian soccer. All Romanian teams, except FC Vaslui, entered the groups of Europa League (the new competition that replaces the former UEFA cup). CFR Cluj dominated the Bosnians from Sarajevo 2-1 and qualified without problems; Steaua won also on Irish turf against St. Patrick Saints (2-1) after a categorical win in Bucharest, while Dinamo pulled down the miracle this round, wining 3-0 in Liberec, against the Czech from Slovan, after they've lost with the same score in the first round, due to the fact that their fans entered the field in the 88th minute of the game, protesting against their weak performance.In the end, they managed to win (9-8) on penalty kicks after a dramatic series of shots. FC Vaslui did well against a great European team (AEK Atena) 2-1 in the first round, but lost 0-3 in Greece. Finally, the Romanian champions (Unirea Urziceni, very small team from a 15,000 inhabitants city) got a good draw in the groups of UEFA Champions League with Glasgow Rangers, VfB Stuttgart and FC Sevilla, avoiding some "big names" from Primera Division, Serie A or Premier League. So far, CL has been too big of a hat for almost any Romanian team (CFR Cluj did well last year); hopefully, that will change. All and all, a very good day, indeed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Starting to hate Macs

Today I finally decided to get rid of my old XP installation under bootcamp and replace it with a fresh, this time NTFS installation. So, I booted in Mac OSx and I used Bootcamp assistant to delete the bootcamp partition, but when I booted back ...surprise-surprise the whole disk was unmountable...and worse of all...un-fixable with the limited disk-utility from the MacOSX DVD.
So..right now I am pretty pissed off about all this; either I don't get something, or Mac kinda suxx. I am tired of reinstalling everything, although in MAcOSX it doesn't take long, it is just annoying not to be able to do much to fix a problem that appeared out of nowhere. And now, I also have to reinstall everything under Windows, which will take, for sure, a lot of time.

Posted of my 10 year old friend, a pimped up IBM T22..still kickin':))

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Best Mac OS X applications

After all the trouble and frustration that I had this summer with my MacBook (namely Mac OSX 10.5) I was terribly good to see it back again, up and running at its fullest, after reinstalling it. Moreover, today I spent the afternoon putting the rest of the pieces together: the necessary applications.

This post is meant to show some of these best (that I know of) programs which really bring the Mac closer to greatness:

Mozilla Firefox
The premier free, open-source browser, considered by many to be the world's best. What sets it apart from Apple's own Safari is the huge universe of plugins and extensions that give greatness to an application.

Is a well known, full-featured, office suite compatible with Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel that is 100% free and open source. Moreover, graduate students might find this especially appealing since allegedly makes an easy and flawless translation into native LaTeX, which usually is required for a thesis. So..get on board.


Why install three separate instant messengers when you can connect to AIM, MSN, Yahoo and GoogleTalk in a single, beautiful app? Plus it's 100% free and open source.

Is a great alternative for Photoshop, absolutely fabulous in terms of Mac integration. It mimicks iMovie’s look with its black translucid theme — like Quicklook in fact — and it’s always cool to see the global design of an application was taken care of. Not only does Pixelmator looks like Mac, but it also tastes like Mac. Integration is brilliant : the photo browser palette offers quick access to iPhoto’s content, iSight is supported, Quick Look plug-in lets you view any of the 100 file formats supported by Pixelmator and you can even edit your images in full screen. That is definitely the way to do Mac Software.(review by Jay Pan) The only drawback is that is not free.

Disk Order 3.0
If you loved Total Commander, as I did, under Windows, you will love this translation of it to Mac OS X. All its great features (copy, new dir, delete, etc, FTP) are presents, and make the transition easy for stubborn fans like myself:)

Q Emulator
Not as polished as Parallels, but at least 100% free and open source. Lets you run Windows on G4 and G5 Macs too (very slow). Personally I don't really like any WM, and I haven't tried the QE, but so far, if I were to choose Vmware would be on top. Obviously, money is always and issue, so try QE and see if it works for you.

Burn Mac
Burns everything you like to DVD, VCD, and SVCD. Take your downloaded videos and burn them to disks you can watch on regular DVD players. Free and open source!

Great little DVD ripper with MPEG-4/H.264 encoding. The simplest way to save DVDs on your computer. Gratis.

"Photoshop" your photos without buying Photoshop. 100% free and open source, based on the open source image editor "Gimp". I haven't tried it yet, but soon enough..


Get music off of your iPod onto any computer.

Write Room
Write without distraction with Writeroom, a word processor that presents you with your screen, your text and nothing else. The idea here is to eliminate computer-based distractions like e-mail, IM and the web, leaving your brain free to focus on writing. Not free.

PC Tools iAntiVirus
This free application provides real-time protection and comprehensive system scanning to ensure your Mac remains safe and virus free.

File Juicer
Doesn't care what type file you drop onto it; it searches the entire file byte by byte. If it finds a JPEG, JP2, PNG, GIF, PDF, BMP, WMF, EMF, PICT, TIFF, Flash, Zip, HTML, WAV, MP3, AVI, MOV, MPG, WMV, MP4, AU, AIFF or text file inside, it can save it to your desktop or to another folder you choose.

Edit PDFs easily with PDFpen! Add text, images and signatures. Make corrections. Fill out PDF forms. Merge, delete and reorder pages.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reinstalling Mac OSX with Bootcamp

To install a fresh copy of Mac OSX isn't at all complicated. Although in my case, having Kernel issues resulted in actually wiping my old system, still, the process is easy and straightforward. And more than that...quite fast. After checking the installation DVD for consistency (which you may skip) for aout 10-15minutes, it takes about 30 more minutes to have the system up (then, it depends how many applications you want to install to top the system,; i have quite a lot). Obviously I have stripped my installation of somehow dubious Chinese, Hindu and other languages, for which I have no use and huge printer drivers ranging from 10 MB to 1.5GB (???) for Cannon or HP. I figured that if it will not work I might as well both/ print in Windows (at least I know the exact deal there). In terms of Bootcamp, no problems. The WIN partition remains intact and Bootcamp sees it right away. I might have to scrap that also, since last year I followed Apple's advice and formatted it to FAT, which is a bad idea for countless reasons. I plan soon to correct this and make it NTFS.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Riding the Amtrak from mid-West to upstate NY

Since I was so late in booking my Chicago trip, the round-trip flight to Albany would have been around $500, way to much for my carved-up ex-graduate student budget in between..everything. Thus, the natural way, in this economy, and in any other one for me at least, was to cut down costs. and I did it by booking a nice couch seat with our friends from Amtrak. Friends indeed. For $80, an Chicago-Albany, NY trip seems like a good deal. Obviously, it takes 16 hours and 40 minutes, but hey, at least you get plenty of money for coffee and snacks, and a power plug for your laptop. Personally, I ended up working for several hours on my stuff in LaTeX and watching two movies. The biggest draw back proved to be obviously the crowd (full car all the way almost) and cold (the thermostat must have been set up on 55 because everybody was shivering underneath blankets and sweatshirts). I had to move a lot cause I didn't bring any winter apparel with me. All in all, I even managed to sleep another 2 hours (5-7 am) which I desperately needed and woke up refreshed and ready to be teleported to Albany. Amazingly enough, there were about 6-7 people in my car that were actually going all the way to Boston (some extra 6 and 1/2 hours from Albany).

Chicago in One Day and a Half

Chicago is a great city! I have to say this from the start, since it really got under my skin. Forget NYC, forget Boston, all these stuffy over-crowded East Coast cities. There is no way to compare the El-train and its "tour de force" around the Downtown loop, where you can almost touch the people working in those offices and almost get the feeling of being on some sort of urban roller-coaster. Secondly, where can you jump from your formal office dress and walk to the beach in 10 minutes? Not that many cities that I know of. Plus, the lively downtown is amazing. The Millenium Park has some interesting features and would make a great location for a picnic, besides the endless summer concerts still happening this month. Architecture: plenty and interesting one. "Chicago school" has certainly given a lot in terms of early and modern skyscraper know-how. The Hancock observatory is extremely nice...just get to the 95th floor and have lunch there...amazing views...and terrible decent prices for such a location and town. A nice surprise indeed. I didn't get the chance to also climb the highest building in North America (Sears Tower). I have heard that although it's overpriced (like all other tall structures around the world) its skydeck is something unique. Worthwhile seeing next time I am there.:)..Other than that? A lot...culture (visited the Chicago public library, it seems the largest in the US, and the U Chicago library and campus), science..many good universities, great food (all types...italian, mexican, etc.--the real stuff is there--) and many night attractions.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Attending the AoM meeting in Chicago 2009

Another big conference that I had the chance to attend: Academy of Management meeting. Despite the last minute decision which yielded significant logistic complication, and even a bit of desperation in terms of finding some decent accommodation in Chicago in less than a week, again, I am perfectly at peace with my decision. Going on your own buck is always tough, and usually these expenses add up close to $ 1,000, but everybody makes the rational choice of attending, hoping that one of the interviews you got there will eventually become a good job that will be amortized in the years to come. For me was more a choice of the present, since I don't usually like much discounting. However, having 10 interviews took care of the incentive part, so the rest was just struggle to catch-up with the other participants that have probably reserved their hotel spots this Spring or earlier. Needless to say, Chicago is not the cheapest city that I have been in.:) However, I managed to find decent accommodation at the International House adjacent to the campus of U Chicago, and while this obviously was better than an hostel (there aren't that many anyways in Chicago) had two major disadvantages: a rather lengthy commute (40-45 minutes) to downtown (Wacker St.) and secondly, dormitory style accommodation (no air-conditioning, noisy, etc.). Both of these significantly contributed to my 3-4 hrs sleep per night during my stay. However, I was very surprised to see how well adrenaline kicked in, and basically saved my morning interviews. Then coffee took over the hostilities and, before you know it, another day passed by.
Don't get me wrong: 90 percent of the interview went really well, the interviewers very great and we had some nice chats both in terms of my research and my teaching capabilities. The atmosphere is also a bit intimidating in the beginning: rather small interview rooms with 15-20 tables crammed in there, usually 2+ interviewers and the candidates, all making a terrible uproar. But once you get in there, everything blurs, it's just you and your audience, and you just go on, confident, charming and in charge.
Great stuff & a nice feeling after all the troubles to get here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Google Joins the OS War with its Chrome

It seems that Google plans to release its brand new OS late 2010. With Windows 7 and the next Mac OSx on the market it's going to be interesting, to say the least. And of course, Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, getting more and more user friendly and capable of handling various hardware, the circle will be complete. I, for one, will enjoy it: more competition, more power (to the consumer). Cheers!
For a nice review of Chrome OS:

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday in the Catskills

What is better than a hike in the beautiful neighboring Catskills? Well..not many things. Having said that, obviously I couldn't pass that easily such an opportunity when my friend Carlos invited me to come along a group of friends and other RPI students. It was a bit wreckless (I mean the forecast was 80% chances of rain throughout the day) but it proved to be better than expected. Despite our initial target (Slide Mountain) I insisted on seeing first the Kaaterskill Falls, the highest one in NY State (yes, apparently even higher than the famous Niagara Falls).It is a two-drop waterfall located near in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York, on the north side of Kaaterskill Clove, between the hamlets of Haines Falls and Palenville in Greene County's Town of Hunter. The dual cascades have total 260 feet (79 m) in height. Throughout the hike, was raining like crazy, and I got soaked despite my rainwear and my efforts. However, at that point I was mostly worried about my camera that took a lot of water on the way. Then, after a nice late lunch in a local pizzeria, people quickly shifted from a hike to visiting some local lakes, which proved to be very inspired as well. The North-South Lake is an 1,100-acre (4.4 km²) state campground in the Catskill Forest Preserve near Palenville, New York operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A lot of campers and tourists around the lake. We took a tour and a lot of photos until dawn, then headed home to Troy. Great stuff that I miss doing. And uff...summer is almost gone. I should hurry..

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Revisiting Barcelona

I always loved Barcelona. Such a vivid city, rich culture and historical heritage in a perfect blend with a modern society and an exquisite night life. Love the palm trees and the Mediteraneean buildings. The Gothic remains my favorite part of the city and I just love walking there, even during night time, and getting lost in the myriad of small streets and corridors. The port is another thing that I've enjoyed;also, when one cannot take the heat of the city Barcelonetta is also a great option. All the works of Gaudi starting with the amazing Sagrada Familia and ending with Parc Guell are always up for revisiting; actually I revisited a lot of sites, just to get a taste of the recent past (2006) when I was here. And, surprisingly, they remained pretty much unchanged, parks, restaurants and sites. Still beautiful, still exciting.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Best Prepaid Options in the US

Initially I was thinking to give an extensive review of the options that I have tried and came across; but now, due to the lack of time, I will just get to the point. Out of all that I have searched for, and believe me I did a lot of it, you couldn't beat NET 10 ( 10 cents a minute and 5 on the SMS. Recharging cards with 200,300 and more minutes but better than anything, just buy a new package and that gets you in with 600 minutes on two cards and 4 months or total airtime. Cheap and nice. Give it a shot.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Malbec 2006

It was time to try another Argentinian wine after my previous great experience (with a Malbec, again). Gouguenheim has a dark red color, and a rich and strong taste. Aromas include scents of plums, black cherry, black currants, chocolates and violets. Round and supple with a long finish, just how I like it. Overall, a good wine for $ 12. Would buy again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A day at King's Dominion (VA)

The very next day I arrived back in the US, we headed south towards Virginia to enjoy a day at Kings Dominion, close to Richmond, VA. This amusement park was the closest option available to Southern Maryland, about two and a half hours drive. Right from the bat, I must mention that this was my first time in such a big park and also the first roller-coaster ride I even had. Thus, at least you can understand my obvious anxiety. The park is huge and has a lot to offer: We started with a big one (Volcano, The Blast Coaster) that basically shoots you inside and around a volcano-shaped mountain.With over 2,700 feet of track, it is also Kings Dominion’s longest coaster, and for many thrill-seekers, its most exciting, with three zero-gravity, heart-pounding, barrel-roll inversions. My main issue while on it was to catch and keep my sunglasses on my nose since all the spinning and upside down spirals almost made me loose them on the ride. All shaken up from this, I went to the next one (Flight of Fear) and inside roller coaster gives you even more palpitations. They say that is 2 and a half minutes of sheer, pulse-pounding fear but it felt like 30-40 seconds to me. But those were really intense and many left the train shaken up or still screaming. The initial acceleration (from 0 to 60 miles an hour is a couple of seconds) is really impressive, while the labyrinth of terrifying twist and turns in semi-darkness makes your senses wonder where are you going exactly in (still) a relatively small hanger. Then, we moved to have lunch and try some of the water attractions, which were very nice as well.
The problem was always the same: the ride was about 1-2 minutes while the line was 45+ min. We ended the day with a ride on the Anaconda an outside roller coaster with a nice 150 foot drop under water (it seems) and then a lot of serpent like loops. Then, around 8-9 PM we decided to make some photos with some of the attractions. All and all, an exhausting day, pigmented with exquisite thrills that leaves you smiling but numb.:)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dealing with Mac OS X Kernel Failures

√ Mac OSX Leopard quit booting on me unexpectedly and it was really bad. The only thing I got from it was a cold screen asking me to reboot. No safe mode, no single user, nothing worked and I had no options beside the Mac DVDs, which obviously I do not carry around for a two week trip to Europe. Moreover, apple resellers are scarce in Romania. I was lucky enough to get to one in Cluj Napoca and to convince them at least to borrow me a DVD to repair my system. But after a couple of hours, the diskutility did not find anything wrong with my drive. Still couldn’t boot ( a message to reboot over and over again). I had bootcamp and WinXP which worked well throughout. however, the macdrive 7 (program under Win) couldn't see the Mac partition as well. after about 5-6 verifications or the drive (all passed with flying colors), suddenly macdrive saw my OSx partition and files..and now even MacOSx booted successfully. Nothing really makes much sense (why the failure? come it recovers once every dozens of boot sequences?) just glad and hopeful that it will work from now on. I bought this macbook in september and I never had any issues or blue screens neither in MacOSx or WinXP. Untill now..

Update: actually it stopped booting right away. The funny thing is that DiskUtility did not find any permissions to repair or something wrong with the drive. It is just unmountable according to the Mac OSX recovery disk. Then, played around with Linux commands (fsck, disk repair stuff etc.). Nothing. There aren’t any other options from the Mac DVD…ridiculous. And I couldn’t do anything with the MBR (did not find anything on that on the web). Then I tried installing a partition manager supposedly a good one (Paragon) to attempt to revive the HSF+ one, but things got worse: now my Bootcamp-ed Win XP is also not booting. I guess they didn’t get along cause afterwards the MacOSx recovery disk didn’t see the Win partition as mountable anymore. And, just I tried before with the Mac HDD, you cannot mount anything, even after you check all the drives for permissions and errors. Which makes me wonder why the hell they even have such stupid utilities.
Desperation: Tried every single recovery software on the web (not that many anyways). I would recommend Hiren Boot CD. It has a mini XP on it which at least allows you to read the FAT (courtesy of a stupid Bootcamp rule) partition of Win. At this point the plan was to extract all the info from the Win disk and if it comes to the worst, just wipe it and install a clean Win. Then with MacDrive and/or a HFS+ reader I could have reached my (bulk) data on the Mac drive. But still, I wasn’t ready to give in.
However, despite the hours put in, I didn’t find anything that was able to fix even the boot for Win. Tried the installation cd with the recovery console, also other recovery packs/cds. None did the job for me.
Finally, and this is where it might get interesting for the reader, I came across a nice, small, elegant freeware that worked like a charm for Win. Its name is rEFIt and it is a boot menu and maintenance toolkit for EFI-based machines like the Intel Macs. You can use it to boot multiple operating systems easily, including triple-boot setups with Boot Camp according to their advertising. It also provides an easy way to enter and explore the EFI pre-boot environment. MacOSX also booted nicely afterwards, but also crashed. Perhaps the stupid 200 MB updates for the system, Quicktime and Iphotos or whatever applications did that but again, what is one suppose to do? First time after rEFIt, it worked fine so I thought let’s install also the mac updates that I’ve been postponing for a while now. Then, it crashed again.
Now, I am OK with the Win boot. Ran the diskutilities again and it found some messed-up permissions on the Macdrive…after the system updates (QuickTime and Iphoto) but still access to its using MacDrive7 is not consistent. But if you just need to read the partition HFSExplorer is perfect.
I will probably survive in this way until I get back to US and ghost my mac harddrive or backup everything in some other manner and then reinstall a fresh copy of Leopard.
A crazy week sacrificed solely on dealing with Mac crashes. Still, I have no clue as for what caused the initial crash, especially since I haven’t updated anything lately or played with the Bootcamp settings.

Fri Jun 26 07:16:05 2009
panic(cpu 0 caller 0x002D9B96): "nfs_boot_init failed with 6\n"@/SourceCache/xnu/xnu-1228.9.59/bsd/nfs/nfs_vfsops.c:851
Backtrace (CPU 0), Frame : Return Address (4 potential args on stack)
0x4eedb8c8 : 0x12b4f3 (0x45b13c 0x4eedb8fc 0x1335e4 0x0)
0x4eedb918 : 0x2d9b96 (0x4850a8 0x6 0x6a372dc 0x0)
0x4eedbd68 : 0x1ddae8 (0x690fb84 0x6a43f40 0x5266cc 0x1)
0x4eedbea8 : 0x4d5d44 (0x5557f0 0x10 0x5557e8 0x4eedbf8c)
0x4eedbfa8 : 0x13815c (0x0 0xf4ab401f 0x1380de 0xd2ad007f)
0x4eedbfc8 : 0x1a017c (0x0 0xffffffff 0x1a302a 0x0)
Backtrace terminated-invalid frame pointer 0

BSD process name corresponding to current thread: kernel_task

Mac OS version:
Not yet set

Kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 9.6.0: Mon Nov 24 17:37:00 PST 2008; root:xnu-1228.9.59~1/RELEASE_I386
System model name: MacBook4,1 (Mac-F22788A

Thursday, July 02, 2009

One Cool Website

Nice break from the usual web-surfing day: HERE

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Home: A Film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

A new spectacular environmental film that benefits from some great aerial images of Mr. Arthus-Bertrand co-produced by EuropaCorp and Elzévir Films with the final goal of raising awareness of the impact of global warming and human activities on our planet.Better yet, the movie is FREE on youtube to watch: here.

I will come back with a review after I see it.

Finally, saw it. Great landscapes and awesome story; however the message I got from it is really sad: we're beyond the tipping point and not even trying to fix what we have done. So many issues so many problems, but the answers and actions seem to elude us over and over again. My opinion.

The Missing Link

Finally, the "Alien" did it. Although older, and obviously showing much more emotion than in its early days, Roger Federer pulled out its easiest victory in the 2009 Rolland Garros tournament, against Robin Soderling (no.23), the man who made him a favor by eliminating his nemesis, Rafael Nadal. Rafa gave him rough beatings in three previous finals here in the French Open, and his invincibility was just recently broken by Federer in a Spanish tournament this year. With this performance, Roger ties Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam titles in the history of tennis, but would he be able to surpass him as well? I am still a big fan of his racket, although it got softer over the years, and especially after failing continuously against Nadal, but the man still has it. With a bit of luck and perseverance, I think he'll have no problem in getting a couple more under his belt.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ball Don't Lie (in Any Sport)

This week provided a perfect medley of showdowns in several sports/countries. It all started this Wednesday with the Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United. The multi-mediatized battle between the two superstars (Messi and Ronaldo) was way below the expectations, while the game itself was pretty good. In the end, Barca got the win, but mostly because Man U was unable to react after receiving the first goal. Then came the NBA Western conference finals, where the Lakers got a grip on the Nuggets in game 6 and made their second consecutive appearance in the Finals in the last two years. Although I like the fight that Denver put, that was pretty sweet and probably Kobe will break the Shaq curse this year. If not, I am not sure he ever will. Then, the cherry on the top: Eastern conference finals where the underdogs prevailed (Orlando sent the Cavaliers and LeBron James fishing the rest of the summer). Here it wasn't without emotions: the Magic seem like a fragile team that could blow out that 3-1 they had in the series. However, they came through and Stern's dream of a final Kobe-LeBron is now shattered.
Last but now least, today's day match decided the Romanian champions, Unirea Urziceni, a team from a "city" of 16,000 people, mocked by everyone in this championship. They have become champions with one day match before the end of the season and will go directly in the groups of Champions League. Life is trully funny when it acts like this!:)
:) In the end it is all good: In all these cases, the team that put the best effort won. No BS and no interference. That's how I like my sports!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stormy Saturday in Albany

When I left my house this afternoon heading towards Albany the sun was shining, despite the rather strong winds outside. However, things got ugly when I got there and most of the people at the Tulip Festival were already bailing out. By the time I swam upstream the rivers of people heading for downtown, the first drops started already. In the next half an hour the skies were pouring and I started to question my plan. Found a tent for cover but the Police kicked everybody out so I migrated to another one. Thankfully, after only 15 minutes the rain almost stopped and I took my camera and started shooting some nice rain drops on the tulips. It was nice that the rain cleared the park of all the people and I could take some clear and nice shots. Moreover, after 15 more minutes the storm passed and the sun came back to life. The result: some wonderful shots of extravagant tulips.
Afterwards, I headed to the Palace Theatre where the Albany Symphony Orchestra was giving their final concert of the season. From the program: Daron Hagen’s Choral Symphony No. 4: River Music, an excellent piece that, as he putted it, could be easily imagined while taking the Amtrak from New York City to Albany. With an excellent performance of David Alan Miller the director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra complemented with the voices of Albany Pro Musica, I was really surprised by the melodicity of the three components of this concerto, as most of the audience. Very good! After an intermission spiced with wine, the second part flew by. Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 started langsam, schleppend and then became feierlich und gemessen so that the storming end left the audience again in a standing ovation. All in all, a very good performance and a concert that was way better than it looked on paper.

Friday, May 01, 2009

One to remember – Celtics vs. Bulls Game 6

Throughout this first round NBA playoff games, no other series was more exciting than the Bulls versus Celtics one. With things tied (3-3) after 6 games and 7 over time periods, flagrant faults, blooded towels and fierce battles underneath the rim, the Heroes (7th seeded Bulls) are keeping their hopes alive in, what will probably be, a spectacular game 7. Not to be mistaken, I didn’t like the flimsy way the Bulls have played throughout these series, settling for Gordon’s (mostly missed) last seconds outside shots. That was bad and allowed Celtics to grab at least one game (5) in this series. However, TNT likes drama more than I do.  what’s good for the people will have to suffice. I cheer for the young Bulls for two reasons: 1. they are the underdogs, which makes it exciting if they win; and 2. Boston has had quite a few dirty plays in which they reminded me of the Spurs and why I never liked them. So, whatever the final result will be (I am pessimistic regarding Chicago’s chances to pull it off considering their past “performances” unless Boston screws up big time) this series has definitely been entertaining. Bring it on, Superman!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Soccer Sunday (busted)

Again a weekend full of football-istic events. After watching most of a new becoming classic Romanian derby between Steaua Bucharest and CFR Cluj that ended in an unfortunate draw for both of them, Sunday was the day of the semis in the intramural soccer competition here at RPI. After wining the C league last season and clinching the first spot in the B league this year (undefeated), the expectations were naturally, pretty high. However, as an old Romanian saying preaches, "the plan at home usually differs from the one at the market" unfortunately we lost 3-0 to an inferior team that had 4 shots on goal and defended forcefully throughout the game. Uninspired in attacking the goal and unfortunate in defense, we let it slip away. Too bad.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Day of Summer

First day to enjoy wearing shorts outside. Actually at 86 F you have to. I took a long walk in the Prospect Park. Lots of people outside enjoying the weather, a cold brewsky and the occasional sports. Finally we can forget about the awful winter and grey skies. Summer is here to stay,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Amado Sur from Argentina

This is a rich Malbec wine boosted with small amount of Bonarda (10%) and Shiraz (15%). Very enjoyable aromas combining plums and berries with black pepper and anis. Worthwhile those $16.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A nice Sunday musical interlude - Burning River Brass

A very nice Sunday afternoon concert back at the Troy Savings Bank Hall featuring one of the best US brass ensembles, the Burning River Bass. A bunch of talented artists with an inspiring performance including pieces from Rachmaninoff (Vespers), Shostakovich (Concerto in A minor) and Prokofiev (Kije’s Wedding). A touch of classical brass music was given by the Suite for Brass by Bach, while the ending contained a delightful contemporary piece “A little Russian Circus” signed by Anthony Dilorenzo, a Massachusetts native. All in all, an excellent choice.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Guy Richie's RockNRolla

I have been quite a GR fan considering his earlier work (Snatch, Lock,stock..) but I never stop wondering if something ORIGINAL is going to emerge in one of his dark-humor-gangster movies. So far, nada. RockNRolla is just emulating his previous movies, just as Snatch did to some extent with Lock, stock.. However, it is fine; I mean it would have been surprising to see something different. I guess this is his personal recipe and why change something that is working. Just hearing about the new GR movie, drove me to wait and buy the DVD. The summary from IMDB "In London, a real-estate scam puts millions of pounds up for grabs, attracting some of the city's scrappiest tough guys and its more established underworld types, all of whom are looking to get rich quick. While the city's seasoned criminals vie for the cash, an unexpected player -- a drugged out rock 'n' roller presumed to be dead but very much alive -- has a multi-million dollar prize fall into his hands" and a great soundtrack (check it out!!) coined my decision. Unfortunately, I have been postponing to watch it for some months now (lack of time) until yesterday, when I finally managed to do so. It is an entertaining piece, typical GR shooting style, script & characters, with a lesser interesting action thread that his previous releases. Still, a well deserved 8 out of 10.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Saturday of Soccer

Yesterday was a full soccer day.The Romanian national team had a huge game (of surviving the qualifiers for the World Cup 2010) against Serbia at home, in Constanta. Unfortunately, we lost 2-3, partly due to some dubious refereeing and partly due to the inability of getting a good and motivated team on the field, which has been a long lasting problem of the current coach. Which should have been fired a long time ago since the team's choke against Netherlands in the Euro2008 tournament. But again, I just watched the first half, then give up, partly upset, partly since our soccer game was up at 4. This proved to be a far more rewarding experience; we won again quite easy (5-1) and I scored again with a nice outside shot, which is always nice, especially after playing defense throughout the game. Hopefully a new championship is near??

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour - Symbolic Dimming Worlwide

Lights are going out across the world this Saturday as millions of homes and businesses in major cities went dark for one hour in a symbolic gesture to highlight concerns over climate change.
In Australia, floodlights of the Sydney Opera House were extinguished as the city's iconic harbor kicked off events for Earth Hour, a day-long energy-saving marathon stretching through 88 countries and 24 time zones.
In China, illuminations at major buildings including the "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium and the Water Cube were extinguished as 20 cities joined in, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Other landmarks around the world expected to join the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored event were the Egyptian pyramids, Vatican, Niagara Falls, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Acropolis in Athens and the Las Vegas casino strip.
Photos: here

Battlestar Galactica Series Finale

Last Friday the series finale for Battlestar Galactica aired on Sci-Fi. After a week, I also caught up and watch it, finally. However, just like most viewers, my opinions are divided. While the whole plot was pointing towards some last stand hardcore battle between the volunteers from the Colonies (including the “good” cylons) and the “bad” cylons, things got surprisingly twisted several times, first by reaching a truce (Hera for resurrection secrets) which ended up in a bloody shoot-out, after The Chief goes on a rampage and kills one of the Final Five (Tory) as a payback for his wife’s death, hence failing to deliver the secret to the Cylons. However, after all this commotion and built-up of tension, things got really dull in the second half, with Galactica making the final jump close to Earth’s orbit. Yeap, again, Earth. This time OUR Earth; the last one that got wrecked by wars and humans, was not ours. (first, big disappointment). And then, basically, things become linear and the last half an hour is comprised of various characters saying their goodbyes. Obviously, the survivors of the fleet along with the friendly Cylons settle on Earth, spreading throughout the continents, the Centurians get their freedom and the Baseship and jump away happily ever after, while the colonists decide to renounce the technologies (second big patch-up) –so they send the fleet into the Sun- and just farm the Earth.
All and all, a mix of some brilliant closures for all the characters but also some big ugly patches that were obviously thrown there just because “we have to end these series”. And although, there were plenty of moments when I wish they’ve done that during the 3rd and 4th season (when the action was lingering so slowly and inconsistently) I was expecting something crisper and not-so-shallow at the end (reviving Earth, etc). Moreover, just to add generality the “This has happened before and it will happen again” theme, which Moore admits of “borrowing” from the Peter Pan movie, is crowned in the end, although both Six and Baltar hallucinations seem to agree on a better ending for the human race (this time) in an unnatural optimistic tone for a series that has been so dark and gloomy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nano Hypocrisy - a WWI Analysis

Advertised as the "People's Car," the Tata Nano launched this week in Mumbai amid controversy. Many have decried the arrival of the world's cheapest car as an "eco-disaster," citing the hundreds of millions of potential new drivers that Tata's affordable price tag will generate and the resulting increase in carbon emissions. Meanwhile, proponents argue that the Nano has the potential to replace many of the dangerous scooters that now dominate India's roadways, which also produce a large share of the nation's transportation emissions.

Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner believes that criticism of the Nano's accessibility is nothing short of hypocrisy. "Two-thirds of all passenger and commercial motor vehicles in the world belong to Western countries and Japan, which account for only 15 percent of the world's population. Rather than criticize Indian consumers for pursuing more secure modes of transportation, we should focus on developing public transportation systems that are safe, reliable, and sustainable in both industrial and developing countries alike."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Finally I seized the chance of watching this multi-acclaimed award winner film. I was looking forward to it even before the Oscars, as I've heard a lot of things about it and watched a couple of interviews with Patel on some late night shows (Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Daily Show).
The movie was everything that I hope for: a simple yet powerful story of a guy who makes it out of the slums of Bombay in a game of million rupees questions, using his life experience as source of answers on the show. The story moves slowly depicting his life and struggle towards the climax of finding and finally, reuniting with his true love. Although there was nothing really striking about the story or the characters, the colorful background and shocking truths existing in a third world part of the world keep you glued to the screen.

Jon Stewart destroys Jim Cramer

Jon Stewart throws some serious and deep punches at CNBC's (almost whining) Jim Cramer at his joke of a show "Mad Money". There are no excuses and ways to bounce the fault on what are some quite obvious (huge) mistakes this guy has done in the past.
The full episode is HERE.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Prodigy - Definitely Back in 2009

The Prodigy is back with a couple of new releases for the fans out here. I didn't know what to expect after their former releases which were controversial to say the least, even among Prodigy-fans.

With these two, I would claim that they are making a run for the past, going back to the sounds that have consecrated them, crazy beats and a mish-mash of styles (drum and bass, punk, old school rave).Included are collaborations with Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and James Rushent (Does It Offend You Yeah, a British electronic rock band). I have enjoyed the "Warrior's Dance" (especially catch the live version on YouTube) while "Thunder" or "Take me to the hospital" resemble the 1992 classic "Out of Space". Overall, an interesting mix of riff-raffs, hectic beats and keyboard strokes in the purest and most classical Prodigy style. Yet another generation to be hit by it while we are battered by the memories of early 1990s crazy raves. calls it "perhaps the most honest and strongest album since ‘Fat of the Land’. It is without a doubt one of the best dance album in about 15 years and hopefully will bring life back into the rave scene".


1. Invaders Must Die
2. Omen
3. Thunder
4. Colours
5. Take Me To The Hospital
6. Warrior’s Dance
7. Run With The Wolves
8. Omen Reprise
9. World’s On Fire
10. Piranha
11. Stand Up

Lost Beats ads up four more tracks to the Prodigy's 2009 release and some more of the Prodigy's sound. I found 2 and 4 to be quite good.

LOST BEATS EP- Track list:
1. The Big Gun Down
2. Black Smoke
3. Wild West
4. Fighter Beat