Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A good idea (lit with fluorescent light!)

The effects of global warming have been this year more notorious than ever. They have been so notorious, that in California (apart from enjoying nice spring days and winter nights) some people are right now seriously thinking of what to do to reduce these effects.
It's good to know that one of those concerned individuals works as a lawmaker in the California State Assembly, and as such, he might have more influence to promote regulations that really help to better cope with this phenomenon than some civilians that aren't able to do much more than street rallies, albeit they are really willing to promote a change.
His name is Lloyd Levine, the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce. His idea? To promote a law that considers illegal to operate incandescent lightbulbs by 2012, all of which must be replaced by then by energy-saving fluorescent lightbulbs.
Levine argues (very accurately, I think) that "Incandescent lightbulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications". The result of this lack of evolution is the consumption of much more energy to produce domestic light. Moreover, the energy-saving lightbulbs, as their name indicates, are designed to produce the same amount of light than conventional bulbs while utilizing less electricity, and also, to last for longer than incandescent ones.
To switch to this type of bulbs would not only allow to consume less energy, but also to reduce the operation rates of "dirty" energy plants that produce greenhouse gases, which are mostly responsible of global warming.
This is an excellent idea, considering that the investment required to carry it on is minimum (the only requirement is to buy a bunch of such bulbs for each household) and the impact may be very positive to the environment.
I welcome this proposal (although I don't live in the jurisdiction of California) and I'd like to hear (and see applied) more ideas like this one all around the world, just to avoid living in a permanent summer in future years. It'd be good to see this proposal enacted soon.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hérouxville, a nest of open intolerance?

Sounds odd, but it's true. The Municipality of Hérouxville, a small town located 100 miles northeast of Montréal, Canada, issued a series of rules that should be observed by the local population, especially newly-arrived immigrants who bring to Canada some habits that allow discrimination and roughness against women and children.
However, not all of the rules issued are as open minded as you'd think. Actually I find some of them pretty frustrating and somewhat offensive towards social minorities and religion diversity. But for you to have a better evaluation of them, here's a summary of the rules that are to take effect immediately (my comments are inserted in blue):
  • Women: They're allowed to drive cars, own belongings, vote, etc. Killing women in public beatings or burning them alive is illegal (that's news! Still, I find this rule valuable, just in case that some people who immigrate don't know the Federal legislation in Canada).
  • Children: Violence against children is not accepted.
  • Festivities: Christmas is part of the local 'national heritage', not necessarily a religious holiday (really...? Oh, I think that I've been fooled for many years then, thinking that it does have to do with Christian and Catholic religions). Thus, Christmas celebrations are authorized in public, and decorations related to it (e. g. Christmas trees, lights) are allowed. (Yeah, Christmas lights provide a nice look to the cities. National heritage? Perhaps, but... why shouldn't Hannukah lights, for example, be allowed as well then?)
  • Health Care: Both men and women can be treated by either male or female doctors and / or nurses. By the way, in case of an emergency, they don't have to request permission to perform blood transfussions in case of need (tough luck for Jehovah's Witnesses). Of course, men can be present to assist the birth of a baby (That's correct, but why not respect other people's habits and beliefs as well? Is it so bad if they request specifically a woman to assist the birth, if their religion says so?).
  • Education: Both men and women can teach lessons at schools as long as they're properly accredited to do so. Children can't carry any weapons (including ceremonial Sikh daggers, which even the Supreme Court of Canada ruled as a right for boys who follow the Sikh faith), and they are allowed to get together with other children. Although the education is non religious and all kind of religious links (like, for example, prayer rooms) have been banned in schools, Christmas trees and Christmas decorations are allowed in schools on December. Children can sing Christmas Carols as well if they want to (as this, probably, is also part of the 'national heritage'. For people who don't follow a Catholic or Christian faith, please don't encourage your kid to sing songs related to your own religion's holidays, that's not part of the 'national heritage' and as such it's not allowed).
  • Sports: Men and women can use simultaneously facilities such as swimming pools, ice rinks and skiing runs. (Nothing wrong with that. It's a free country).
  • Security: Male and female police guards may fine both men and women. Your driving license must include your photo as a result of democracy (so they say in the official document. I'm still not very sure on what's the link between a driver's license and democracy). People can't hide their face in the streets to allow an easy public identification; however, this previous regulation can be disregarded during Halloween (thus if you celebrate another sort of holiday that requires wearing costumes, like Purim for the Jewish population, forget it! You're not allowed to wear masks that day, even if your religion tells you to do so).
  • Work: Bosses don't have the obligation of providing praying spaces. Women and men usually share the same workspaces, too. (That's fair. I find this one adequate. However, everybody should be able to pray if they wish to, as long as such prayer doesn't interfere the performance of the job).
  • Family: Both parents have the same authority over the children. If a boy or a girl wants to get married, they can... parental authority can't do anything about it (I'm sorry for those who regard the marriage arrangements as a tradition. Time to change that, it's obsolete in Hérouxville). Also, children may eat whatever they want, all types of meat and vegetables that they wish, and so on (worried about respecting Kosher or Halal food rules? In Hérouxville you won't have to worry about it, as religious practices are not allowed. You can't enforce such kind of rules to your children too).
  • Miscellaneous: Crosses might be seen in the streets. They remind people's past (whose past? It depends on who are you asking to). They're part of the patrimony.

Some of those regulations are a complete insult towards certain religious and social groups. Fortunately, these rules are only to be applied in Hérouxville and not in the whole Québec province. So, if you belong to a minority and you were thinking to move to Hérouxville, I'd suggest you to think again, unless you're really wishing to give up part of your cultural background if any of those rules affect your way of living.

Fortunately, the rest of Canada is much more open minded and respectful towards minorities. Thus, long life to Canada.

For more information about Hérouxville and its social rules, visit the Municipality's homepage at

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Customs efficiency

This comes from a note that I found in the Victoria News Daily, which, even if it's not the latest news, it's still funny and worth to read.
It happens that a couple of weeks ago, in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, some Customs officers at the local airport found 28 kg of marijuana, which were hidden in 215 pairs of high heels shoes.
That sounds like if the Customs authorities acted very diligently, isn't it? But the funny part of this story comes when you know that the marijuana shipment arrived from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia... on August 6, 2006!!! As the contents of the packages were never declared, the Customs officers kept the material. And they didn't bother to inspect the contents until only two weeks ago. The drugs were hidden beneath the shoes' soles.
Bizarre, huh? Not much to comment about this incident... I'd consider hiring new officers though.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Warm winter days... not as great as it seems

When I felt the weather yesterday, I couldn't believe what I was witnessing: A sunny, warm winter day. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, and there were people who weren't even wearing jackets. Who'd need jackets when the outside temperature is 9°C?
To be honest, I saw more than a dozen individuals who were really cheering the phenomenon. 'This is great', they said. 'This is winter in Victoria. It's way better than any other place in Canada'.
Still, something was really strange there. How come a day in January, typically the coldest month of the year, was so sunny and pleasant, just like a day in spring?
My astonishment was even greater when I saw the forecast for the next few days on the newspaper: Victoria, High 9°C - Low 1°C. Sunny.
It took me a while to discover what's really going on while reading a local newspaper: Global warming. My very first personal contact with it.
What I initially thought that was a phenomenon that affected only the poles, is actually a very serious global concern that is showing its effects everywhere in the world, from Canada to Siberia, from Pole to Pole.
This oncoming week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be meeting in (an unusually warm as well) Paris to present their report "Climate Change 2007". This report is intended to give an assessment on the current status of knowledge and research about the climate change on Earth; more than 2500 scientist from over 130 countries take part of this project.
But no report is really relevant if no solutions are taken for this issue. The situation is more than just strange, I'd rather describe it as alarming. It has been reported, for example, that in the neighbouring State of Washington, in the U.S., took place a very early cherry blossoming. And it's no secret that the ice cap in the North Pole has been seriously harmed in the last years, leading to even more warming due to the ineffectiveness of the Pole to reflect solar radiation towards the space. The polar bears are seriously threatened. Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, gives a very apocalyptic (but realistic) approach to this issue.
We all know that greenhouse gases are mainly responsible of these consequences. And greenhouse emissions are created only by humans, mostly in highly industrialized regions of the world. So how willing are people to change their way of life, just to reduce the effects of global warming?
The Globe and Mail, a very influential Canadian newspaper, boasts about the results obtained in a poll published lately: 'More than nine out of every 10 people say they're willing to make sacrifices, with 55 per cent saying they'd accept major ones and 38 per cent minor ones in the fight against global warming. Only 5 per cent say they won't do anything. Clear majorities also say they would be willing to pay more for fuel-efficient cars, reduce the amount they fly, cut the amount they drive in half, and have the economy grow at “a significantly slower rate” to help clean up the environment'. (Click here to read the entire note).
Yes, sounds like relieving. At least on the Canadian side. But what about people in other countries? Would they also be willing to accept these radical changes? I would like to think that they would, but sadly my perception is that in some regions they wouldn't make a great effort to change. Not for the global warming, not for the preservation of species, and not for anyone. Who cares if the Baiji is functionally extinct? Who needs to ratify the Kyoto Protocol? To the eyes of many, sustainability and business are two topics that have nothing to do between them. But I'm sure that we'll come to a day sometime when governments will finally be conscious about the tragic environmental situation in our planet and they'll issue regulations that force industries to be greener.
In the meanwhile, you can start spreading the word about this concern. We all have to be conscious about this, and why not starting today?. Using less your car, using public transport if possible, and walking for short distances are good ways to begin a new mentality, which will allow us as a civilization to have a 'cooler' way of life in the upcoming years.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The most beautiful woman in the world... do you agree?

It's not me who says that... it's the Bollywood world who gave her such title.
She's Aishwarya Rai, an Indian national and one of the most highly regarded actresses in Bollywood. Miss World in 1994, Rai was named the "most beautiful Miss World of all time" in the year 2000.

Is this an accurate perception, or it's just a very well marketed idea? You're the best judge. See some pictures of her and decide!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hands up! Or I shoot my slingshot

I just can't get enough of this. This is the world of the most unimaginable things. And regarding police corporations, I thought that the most amazing thing on Earth were those gardaí in Ireland, who aren't allowed to carry any weapons by law and defend themselves with nightsticks.
However, I discovered that there are always extravagant things that shade what you thought was impossible to shade. It happens that in the Mexican city of Tijuana (one with the highest crime rates in the country), the police corporation suspects that several members are in drug trafficking and mob activities. As a result of this, the high commanders in the corporation decided to take some 2000 members' weapons to analyze them, which will help them to know if they have been involved in illegal activities.
But of course, nobody wants to have 2000 unarmed policemen guarding the streets. That's why the city decided to give them powerful slingshots (just like the ones in the picture above) to chase dangerous criminals and to protect themselves against possible attacks!
I think that it would have been less humiliating to let them defend themselves with their own fists. Strange stories in a strange world, indeed.
Photo by EFE

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Novelty contact lenses are not fun!

Contact lenses are a great invention. They allow people to improve their sight without the need of having a pair of conventional glasses that can be easily damaged. That's their original purpose.
But there are some novelty contact lenses out there that are pretty weird. They can make someone's eyes to look pretty awkward. But it's important to know that wearing contact lenses carries some inherent risks when the person is not appropriately informed about how they work.
This is a case that will probably make you think twice next time you plan to wear contact lenses without the appropriate cautions, and just for fun and fashion, like if they were toys: A 24 year-old guy (whose name was not published) who didn't previously wear any contact lenses in Auckland, New Zealand, got a couple of novelty contact lenses that he wore for three consecutive days. By the third day, he was at the hospital receiving a corneal transplant surgery. He now has a destroyed cornea eaten by bacteria, which left him blind of one eye.
Why? As the person didn't have the necessary information regarding the risks and cautions to consider when wearing contact lenses (not even the risk of contracting conjunctivitis or hepatitis), he thought of them as toys.
But not all was his fault. It seems that the applicable regulations in New Zealand do not specify a disclosure of cautions and risks to be included in the package of novelty contact lenses. Will they do something about it now?
The only thing I know, is that such lenses are not toys, and hence, they're not fun!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Phishing alert for Chase Bank customers: Don't get scammed!

Whether you have an account with Chase Bank or not, this information will be valuable for you.
Just today, I received an email that contained the following:

From: Chase Online
Date: Jan 21, 2007 7:56 PM
Subject: Five Questions Survey From Chase *

You have been chosen by Chase Bank to take part in our quick and easy 5 question online survey. In return we will credit $50 to your ATM/Debit card account - Just for your time!
Helping us better understand how our customers feel benefits everyone. With the information collected we can decide to direct a number of changes to improve and expand our online service.
The information you provide us is all non-sensitive and anonymous - No part of it is handed down to any third party groups.
It will be stored in our secure database for maximum of 3 days while we process the results of this survey
We kindly ask you to spare two minutes of your time in taking part with this unique offer !!!
To take the survey click on :

Many thanks - Chase Bank Customer Department.

Obviously, Chase Bank is a serious institution that wouldn't ever send to any customer this kind of mail. If you analyze it thoroughly, you'll see that this message has all the features that you could expect from a fraudulent email:
  • It was sent to a person who's not even a customer of such bank.
  • The email address from which it was sent does not correspond to a domain.
  • They offer to reward you with "easy money", just by answering a questionnaire.
  • The promise of keeping your information "anonymous" and "confidential"
  • No name of any Chase executive or representative, nor a digital signature.
  • A link to be redirected to a page outside the domain.
Now, if you clicked the link that they disclosed in the mail to answer the survey, you'd see a professionally designed page like the following (click to enlarge):
It does contain Chase's original logo and the color mix is similar to the one that Chase uses for its documents. However, you can note that the web address above hasn't anything to do with a domain whatsoever. Also, the survey is named Cash Online SM $50 Reward Survey. Do you know what does SM stand for? If you don't, me neither. It's gotta be something like Srade Mark, probably...
Scrolling down the page, you'd find nothing but a group of nonsense questions supposedly aimed to improve Chase's customer service. This is what you find at the bottom part of the fraudulent page (click to enlarge):

Although in the email they made a promise of keeping your information anonymous, the last part of the email is where you're supposed to enter all your personal information - including your debit and credit cards number, name as it appears on both cards, expiry dates, security code, and even your mother's maiden name (in countries like US and Canada, such datum is normally used as a hint to retrieve personal bank information through a phone number).
This is a typical 'phishing' case, in which one or many impostors, acting supposedly on behalf of a serious institution like Chase, try to obtain personal information on a selected victim. If the scam is successful to them, a person will type in all the required fields with private information such as credit card numbers and PINs. Such data will be used to withdraw money from the victim's account, to clone cards, or to perform purchases.
A serious bank will never request personal information (such as PINs or passwords) from its customers.
To obtain more information about Chase's advisory on fraudulent emails, please click here, visit Chase's website at, or contact your bank.
Good day!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mona Lisa, the enigma that the Da Vinci code didn't reveal to you!

La Gioconda is perhaps the most admired painting in the world. Painted in the 16th century (allegedly in 1506) by Leonardo Da Vinci, this enigmatic portrait has been a gateway of many speculations and myths, but maybe the biggest mystery behind the Mona Lisa has always been the woman herself. Who is she?
Many hypotheses have been formulated to solve this question: Giorgio Vasari, who published Da Vinci's biography in 1550 (31 years after Leonardo's death), states there that the woman who served as model for this artwork was Lisa Gherardini (hence the name Mona Lisa - coming from Italian Monna Lisa, Madam Lisa). She was married to a rich merchant in that epoch named Francesco del Giocondo, a close partner of a well known local tycoon, Lorenzo de Medici.
The lack of further information and evidence of the actual existence of Lisa Gherardini, drove people to think that she was actually fiction and perhaps the model was someone different. For example, as according to some persons the woman resembles Da Vinci's face, one of the most common ideas is that the model used to paint the Mona Lisa was Leonardo Da Vinci, this means, it is a self portrait of Da Vinci, but for some reason appearing as a woman. Another suggestion is that the woman is Da Vinci's mother, Caterina (which would also explain the similarity between La Gioconda's face and Da Vinci's as well).
Other theories explain that the woman portrayed is Isabella of Aragon, Duchess of Milan. Leonardo Da Vinci worked for the duke of Milan for several years, and according to this suggestion, this would be the earliest portrait of the then-newly appointed Duchess of Milan.
Perhaps the idea originally stated by Giorgio Vasari was true after all. Today, a team of Italian experts lead by Giuseppe Pallanti, confirmed that they discovered some evidence of the existence of Lisa Gherardini: their research drove them to find a document in a record of deaths of the Santa Orsola convent, in Florence. According to such document, Lisa Gherardini was born on June 15, 1479 and died on July 15, 1542, at age 63.
Some other information revealed by this discovery is that Gherardini lived in the same street that Leonardo Da Vinci in Florence (Via Ghibellina). Gherardini passed her last years in Santa Orsola convent, where her daughter served as a nun. She was buried there.
Will this discovery dissipate all the doubts about the Mona Lisa, which weren't dissipated by the Da Vinci code? Who'll know?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Big Racist ™

Some years ago, when I first watched Big Brother, the first thought that came to my mind was: 'How would anybody find this interesting?'. What I watched there was nothing more than a bunch of individuals wasting time in some house and saying an exaggerated amount of bad words. Of course, I never watched that show again, albeit the project had a good acceptance in several countries of our beloved American continent. But the enthusiasm showed by TV watchers decreased year by year, until it was definitely suspended (phew!!).
It was really awkward to me to know that in some countries of Europe, Big Brother is still running (how come??). Particularly in England, it looks like the show is still a relative success... and the most recent edition has looked as a perfect springboard for open discrimination.
From the information I gathered through my research on the topic (please correct me if any information disclosed is wrong), I found that for the newest Big Brother in England, an Indian actress (very popular in the Bollywood spectrum) named Shilpa Shetty was chosen to participate in the house, along with many other English personalities.
The pathetic side of the story is that Shilpa has been bullied by the rest of the individuals participating in the show. She has been criticized for keeping some Indian habits, such as eating with the hands rather than with cutlery. Also, she has been object of annoying jokes because of her foreign accent, and she has even been insulted by other members of the show because of her Indian origin.
Obviously, these kind gestures towards the Bollywood actress have caused the outrage of people in and outside England, especially India. It is reported that Ofcom, company that controls the channel that broadcasts Big Brother, has received more than 37,000 complaints because of the situation. Moreover, the problem has gone as far as the British Parliament, where some members have expressed their concern and disapproval of racist behaviours shown there.
I also disapprove all kinds of racism. In my point of view, racism is only a result of ignorance about other people's culture, traditions and ways of living. If those individuals appearing in Big Brother were a little more intelligent, they would take advantage of sharing a house with a person belonging to a different culture than theirs to enrich their own knowledge about other countries and ways of living, and why not? Also to show the pride of English traditions to people who are not so familiar with them.
But if you ask me, I'd say that Big Brother is nothing but a boring and dumb project, that not only won't throw out anything valuable for mankind, but is a platform to see the most shaming and degrading state that humans can reach only for money.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Naked Opera

Nakedness is always a polemic issue, especially when it's performed in 'unusual' and reserved circumstances, such as an opera.
According to a newspaper, the opera Salome, composed by the Austrian musician Richard Strauss, was selected by the opera company in Rome to begin its season. The particularity of this performance was not only that it was entirely sang in German, or even that at times the soprano's voice (Francesca Patanè) was louder than the whole orchestra's sound. No, the particularity was that, during a certain part of the performance (that lasted about 10 minutes), Patanè appeared completely naked.
But this wasn't the only occasion that a similar thing happened throughout the opera. Another actress, Maruska Albertazzi, also performed totally naked at the beginning of the spectacle.
When I first read this information, I thought "Well, yes, it's normal that people don't accept so easily a nude performance in an opera". But my biggest surprise was to find out that the attendants actually were very pleased with Patanè's performance. What they didn't like was the orchestra's music, and some specific movements performed by Patanè which appeared to be 'vulgar' to the eyes of many.
It looks that moral values are changing, and opera too.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Words of wisdom

Ah! It's indeed difficult to write things when inspiration doesn't favor you, but you feel the need of writing something (and I mean something intelligent and useful, of course).
Under these circumstances, to express own philosophies is always interesting. Sometimes, reading things arisen from other people's experiences is useful. Thus today's post will be dedicated to my personal "words of wisdom", which I normally call the Random Thoughts. I'll share with you some of them, hoping you find them both deep and useful:
Thought 1: "Achieving your current goals is only a first step to conquer future ones". That's something that I've learned from my experience. Achieving your goals is an event that you have to perform constantly; to reach a single goal is not enough if you don't have another goal to pursue after such achievement. So each goal is a step to reach more goals; the sum of all of them will lead to the biggest achievement. Which is it? That depends on you.

Thought 2: "When you think you've seen the worst of it all, you're only preparing yourself for what it's still to come". How many times have you thought 'Oh, this person couldn't reach lower than this' or 'this can't get any worse'?. My experience has taught me that there's always some way through which things can worsen, even if you think they can't. But this is not necessarily a negative or pessimistic though, it may be useful to think this way in order to avoid things of getting worse unexpectedly.

Thought 3: "A cue should be coded for the recipient to understand, and not in the way the sender would like to receive it". Human communication is complex. It is so complex, that sometimes humans don't need any words to express whatever they want; some gestures, behaviours and ways of acting are sometimes enough to communicate things to others. They are especially useful when a message can't be explicitly said, but it must be sent some other way. In this cases, it is necessary to know that not everybody interprets tacit communication evenly. If you want to send the correct cues, you have to understand the recipient's way of thinking first.

Shall these thoughts be useful to you!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

iPhone... Astonished about it?

As many (including myself) predicted some months ago, the iPhone was presented by Apple. It looks that, with this step, the "iSheep-i-zation" of the communications market will begin soon. How exciting is the launch of the iPhone to you? For Apple-worshipers, it is the beginning of a new era in mobile communications. But many people, including myself, have a different point of view about it.
As I wrote back in November, the announcement of this new product leaves me more questions than answers (click here to read the post).
For instance, if you're wishing to own one of these gadgets by June (when the iPhone will be available in stores) just to show your friends that you use the latest technology, you'll have to switch your actual cell phone provider to Cingular, which is the largest carrier in the US but, as far as I know, not the best one. But how painful can that be? You'll only have a two-year contract with them.
Let's analyze some other features. It is equipped with a "Multi Touch" screen that has been announced as one of the great revolutionary inventions for this device. I would have to use one of those to see what exactly is different from a conventional touch screen, but however, I'm sure that the same principle of using your fingers to touch the screen and operate the device cannot be very different from what we know. Besides, you can expect to find yourself in the need of cleaning very frequently your "Multi Touch" screen, unless you operate it with a velvet glove!
Next, the amazing iPod functions: 8 GB of space to store exactly the same things that you already do in your iPod! That's very revolutionary. If you don't have an iPod yet, then you'll find some appeal in this feature. Otherwise, why would anybody want to throw their relatively new (and also very functional) iPod to a dusty drawer, just to own a device that includes its functions but with (probably) less memory? You'd better not like to store video clips there!
Another important thing to consider is that the iPhone is internet accessible. You'll use a Safari web browser to navigate the world wide web, and Yahoo will offer a free push email to the iSheep customers. That's magnificent, that way nobody will feel the tiredness of entering Yahoo Mail's homepage address. You'll also have access to other services such as Google Earth, which is valuable if you are really interested in geographic issues. Just for fun, of course. For serious navigation, it's better to use a GPS device.
Obviously, as any other cell phone, this one is equipped with a camera to shoot videos and pictures. But this one has a higher resolution, 2 megapixels! How cool and useful for a phone.
Most interesting of all, the gadget doesn't have a keyboard! That's right, you'll never have to feel the discomfort of placing your fingers on a telephone keyboard. It's a great benefit offered by the iPhone, especially for people who control their phones without actually seeing them (hm... I wonder if this thingy is equipped with some kind of aid to visually impaired persons). This is also very useful to send SMS messages. You'll have a virtual keyboard that, according to Apple, is able to 'prevent' and correct mistakes. I wonder if the amount of characters per message is increased as well. I doubt it.
And now, last but not least: the phone functions! Yes! Believe it or not, the iPhone is also designed to work as a cell phone! Don't deal with messy contact lists anymore; Apple promises to 'revolutionize' it: Now, you can only place your fingertip over the name of the contact you wish to call, and voilà! You're calling them. Want to add more people to the conversation? There's a feature that allows to have conferences as well.
But can anybody tell me, what's the estimated life of the battery? How good is the reception? It's pathetic to see how some manufacturers sell their products only promoting the additional features on it, but always forgetting what are they originally created for.
What's the definitive name for this thing? iPhone? Time will say... it looks that Cisco Systems thought of that brand first, and they're gonna defend it fiercely. And don't lose sight of Nokia and Motorola, players that won't give up as easily as many are expecting.
Not so wonderful to my eyes, after all.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dolce & Gabbana, its marketing age of grotesque?

I just saw the new posters launched by the clothing firm Dolce & Gabanna, the ones that are supposed to make people feel the desire of buying more of the products they sell. They're supposedly inspired in the Napoleonic era, which is not a bad idea. However, I think that the result was catastrophic. Here is one of the posters released:
How do you like it? Do you feel like buying Dolce & Gabbana's products after seeing the poster? Personally, I don't. I just can't understand what was the marketing team thinking of when they approved this type of posters, that clearly cheer violence. That is pretty notorious if you notice the corpse with a bullet in the head at the bottom of the image (which you can click to enlarge). You can realize that he was shot by the guy hugging the naked girl, who is also holding a gun in his hand. And what does the other fellow with a knife in his hand, clearly about to stab the individual sitting at the right side, have to do in the scene? A little extra cheering for violence, of course.
In fact, I'd say overall that the combination of colors is pretty dark, not even inviting to see the ad, and even less to buy clothes. I think that what they tried to achieve is some sort of "shock marketing", but with an awful approach.
Here is another image worth to see:

Let's analyze this one: For instance, what we have here is a scene where apparently the woman lying on the naked guy's lap is dead or something. At the very left side, a youngster reading some document (a will, maybe?), while a lady standing at the center listens to the reading. The girl standing behind the naked guy sees the corpse, while the sitting female and the guy standing at the far right side of the image have nothing to do with the supposed context.
Now, that's creative and appealing. First of all, we have the violence thing back, showing the corpse as the main character. The naked guy has totally nothing to do with the Napoleonic eras; if you see carefully, you'll notice that he's wearing a crown made of golden olive leafs around his head, pretty typical of the Roman era (and why the hell is he naked? There's no point on having a naked individual on this one!). Again, the color mix is terrible, very dark, not appealing at all.
A final sample of the campaign:
There's no need to have a specific analysis of what's depicted there: dead people (apparently three), and some other individuals standing like if they weren't aware of the situation.
From what I see in these images, I can tell that I don't feel like buying Dolce & Gabbana clothing soon. This is probably the sickest, creepiest, most poorly thought and depicted advertisement campaign that I've ever seen for a clothing company. Not even American Apparel's posters, which normally contain some questionable exhibitions, reach this level of grotesque.
I'm not the only one complaining about it, it seems that in England the posters weren't cheered by the consumers as well. The Advertising Standards Authority will probably rule at some point that the content of the images is not appropriate. What a waste of money by Dolce & Gabbana, if I were them, I would really reconsider to have the actual personnel at the marketing department!
What are your feelings after seeing this campaign? Do you feel appealed to buy Dolce & Gabbana's products?

Friday, January 12, 2007

The shortest freedom

Exactly one year ago, on January 12, 2006, Mehmet Ali Agca was released from prison under parole. The reason for which he spent the preceding 25 years in jail was a very memorable one: The attempt to kill Pope John Paul II in Rome.
His life before that episode was really a criminal one. He was trained by organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Syria; also, smuggling in the border between Turkey and Bulgaria was one of his main occupations.
Before trying to kill John Paul II, this individual was recruited on an organization called Bozkurtlar (Gray Wolves), which is an extreme-right group in Turkey that has as main ideology to unite all the Turkic nations (mostly located in Central Asia) as the "Great Turkish Empire". Not surprisingly, the founder of this movement, Alparslan Türkes, is known to be an admirer of Hitler and his ideologies (I wonder if he knows that the nazi regime didn't like Turkish people as well).
During his time with the Bozkurtlar in 1979, Agca assassinated an editor of a left wing newspaper. He got imprisonment for life, but escaped the jail and fled to Bulgaria and, after some time going from one place to another, he ended up in Rome to perform the assassination of the Pope.
The reasons that drove him to attempt to kill the Pope are still unclear (and will probably remain like that); some theories suggest that he was paid by Turkish mafiosos to do so. Other ideas have to do with a supposed relationship between Agca and the Russian KGB. However, he attempted the assassination on May 13, 1981, at St. Peter's Square. The result: the Pope was wounded with four bullets, and Agca arrested by the Italian police and sentenced to life imprisonment (for the second time).
During Agca's second life-imprisonment term, John Paul II, who survived the assassination attempt against him in 1981, forgave Agca and actually founded some type of 'friendship' with him and his family.
He was released from prison in 2006 after being pardoned by Italian authorities, action that the Turkish authorities didn't like. Eight days after that, on January 20, the Turkish justice determined that the time he spent in prison in Italy didn't substitute his term still pending in Turkey, so he was returned to jail.
Regardless of the fact that John Paul II forgave him, my opinion is that the Turkish authorities acted very quick and wisely to get him back to prison to pay for his previous crimes. I think that it's good to have individuals like Agca in jail; after all he has demonstrated through his life being a ruthless assassin, an individual who is not able to contribute anything positive to society. People like him tend to keep the same attitudes and as such they only represent a danger for decent societies, it's better to keep them safe on the dark.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty

When I first heard about the European Union, several years ago, the first idea that came to my mind was: "Oh my, these guys have to be completely insane to try to unite so many countries as a single one".
After a couple of expansions that such organization approved to incorporate members to more than double its original size, nothing really worrying happened to my eyes. Everything was working so sweetly, that at some point I thought that my first idea about the EU was exaggerate, and that such type of unity of several countries was possible. But my expectations went down again by the time when the rejection of the European Constitution happened in 2005.
And now, I see that the unity is gradually turning just into fiction. The entrance of Bulgaria and Romania supposed the inclusion into the European Parliament of several individuals that, mathematically and according to the EU statutes, will make possible one of the imminent nightmares that were to come to whip the bloc: The appearance of its first far-right, ultranationalist political group with active participation in the EU's political activity. A group known as Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty.
The official recognition of this group is expected to happen next January 15. What is very interesting is to meet some of the members that integrate the roster of this party:
  • Jean Marie Le Pen (France): The (fortunately) permanent loser of French Presidential elections, an individual who has spent most of his political career minimizing the importance of the holocaust against Jewish civilians during World War II, arguing that extermination camps and gas chambers were only 'a detail' of war. Not only he's an antisemite, but he has showed xenofobia against racial and religious minorities in France for many years.
  • Bruno Gollnisch (France): Le Pen's party fellow Gollnisch is expected to be the frontman of this political wing in the European Parliament. This individual is currently being tried for charges related to the denial of the holocaust during WWII.
  • Alessandra Mussolini (Italy): What can you expect from fascist leader Benito Mussolini's granddaughter? Her long antagonism with Gianfranco Fini was not only a result of a struggle for power at the Alleanza Nazionale party in Italy, but also because of Fini's apologies to the Jewish community and the Italian nationals about the holocaust in WWII and the fascist regime during Benito Mussolini's rule. As a result of such antagonism and open support of fascism, she left Alleanza Nazionale and created an own party (with fraudulent signatures) named Libertà di Azione, now known as Alternativa Sociale, where she continues her constant attacks towards certain groups, most commonly to homosexuals.
  • Dimitar Stoyanov (Bulgaria): Perhaps the youngest member of the European Parliament, this individual criticized the postulation of Livia Jaroka (Hungary) as the Parliamentary of the year 2006 when he was still just an observer in the EU. His disapproval of such postulation was arisen from the fact that Jaroka has Roma (commonly known as Gypsy) roots. He sent an email through the EU to laugh about Jaroka's origins, and to make insulting comments about Roma people as well.
  • Koenraad Dillen (Belgium): A member of the extreme-right party Vlaams Belang, he has fiercely defended his friendship with Léon Degrelle, a collaborator of the Nazi regime during the WWII. In fact, the Belgian media released some information that revealed a picture in Dillen's living room. In the picture, Léon Degrelle appears wearing a Waffen-SS uniform (a nazi armed wing, responsible for crimes against humanity) while being congratulated personally by Adolf Hitler. The image is autographed by Degrelle, where he refers to Dillen as his "dear friend".
  • Luca Romagnoli (Italy): He's a member of the Italian fascist party called Fiamma Tricolore. A holocaust denier, who publicly showed his indecision on whether gas chambers on extermination camps existed or not.
An elite lineup for a xenophobe group, which will be focused to promote anti-immigration, to avoid the approval of a European Constitution, and to block Turkey as a member of the EU.
Congratulations to the EU, for this 'phenomenal' achievement. Shame on you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Time to take out those gloves again!

If you live in the West Coast (particularly in the area of Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle), perhaps you thought that after the unusual blizzard that hit the area last November (click here to read the post about it), it was time to place your gloves, toque and scarf in a drawer again, and to forget about them until next December.
If that's your case, and you haven't checked the weather forecast for the upcoming days, then you'll feel quite disappointed as you keep reading this post. Some weather forecasting services, such as, expect the rest of this week to be very cold. This will be caused by polar winds coming from the north.
How bad can it get? Not very... the lowest temperature for tomorrow is expected to be -6°C, and on Thursday, the highest temperature will be around -1°C. If we're lucky enough, we could see some more snow any of these days, especially considering that the chances of precipitation tonight are 90%, 20% on Wednesday, and 10% on Thursday (wouldn't you love to see a snowman keeping an eye on your garden again?).
The good news is that winds will be much slower than we had today, so the cold won't be aggressive enough to hurt your lips or cheeks!
However, the situation won't be much better in the rest of North America (including, of course, Mexico): It looks that temperatures will drop down elsewhere. The map above indicates the cold winds expected to affect North America starting from today (click on the image to enlarge).
One more hint: If you're suffering a cold or cough, and it's not absolutely necessary for you to go out to the streets, then remain home.

Image: The Weather

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gauteng: Because size doesn't matter

For people who are not familiar to the South African political geography, the name Gauteng will probably not mean anything. But if any of those people are thinking of doing business in Africa, perhaps they should learn about Gauteng as soon as possible... and even if not, it's still a place full of curious facts worth to know.
Located in the northeastern region of South Africa, Gauteng is the tiniest province of such country. It comprises an area of 17,010 square kilometres (a little smaller than Kuwait) and some populated places are located within such small territory, the most remarkable being Johannesburg and Pretoria.
What makes Gauteng pretty unique is its economic activity. Starting from its name, which translates to Sesotho as "Place of Gold", may give an idea of the potential that this area has. 40% of the world's gold has been found in this province (more particularly in the surroundings of the city of Johannesburg); moreover, 1 out of each 5 workers in South Africa are employed in this province, which also produces 33.9% of the whole yearly South African GDP itself. Amazing? Well, more amazing still is the fact that this tiny province contributes to 10% of the total GDP generated in the whole African continent!.
Equally interesting is the fact that the Fresh Produce Market in Joburg (that's a short name that locals usually give to the city of Johannesburg), which is a sort of a central food distribution center in the city, receives about 35,000 customers every day. Some of them drive from places as distant as Angola and Botswana.
Of course, as a result of all the activity there, Gauteng is the busiest freight hub in Africa. Commute times in the big cities, particularly in Joburg, have increased dramatically in recent years, to levels comparable to those of Los Angeles or Mexico City. To solve this problem, the authorities in Gauteng launched the Gautrain project: A high speed train that will link the cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Sandton, and the OR Tambo (Johannesburg) International Airport. The project will be completed by 2010, year when South Africa will host the FIFA Soccer World Cup (and yes! Gauteng will be a host province for it!)
What Gauteng probably has to say to Africa and the world is, "size doesn't matter". I wish I could travel there to see this interesting place myself :)

With some information of the Gauteng Economic Development Agency

Friday, January 05, 2007

NFL: Bye, coaches!

The frustration of not making it to the playoffs has meant the exit of many coaches from their positions... and not all of them because being fired.
One of the coaches that left his organization is Bill Cowher, the guy who led the Pittsburgh Steelers during 15 seasons, wining a superbowl for them. Cowher decided that it was time to say goodbye to that job, just to have more time to spend to his family.
An unexpected announcement came from Miami in recent days, when Nick Saban announced that he resigned as the Dolphins' coach. The appointment of this guy some seasons ago was thought by many as the beginning of a long Saban era, in which the Dolphins would be able to obtain the championship at least once. But none of those happened. Saban just accepted an interesting proposal coming from the University of Alabama... so there he goes!
Unfortunately, not all coaches have abandoned their jobs because they wanted to. Some have been fired, like was Jim Mora's case. The management of the Atlanta Falcons decided that his job was not satisfying enough during the three years that he remained as the head coach for that team, with an overall record of 26-22. But he might be accepting a job coming straight from Miami soon.
Another fellow that was ruthlessly fired from his team was former Raiders' coach Art Shell. After finishing the worst season in more than 40 years for the organization (being able only to win two games), the management considered appropriate to fire him. However, they''' (supposedly) try to reallocate Shell somewhere else in the same Oakland based team.
Coaches leave, and coaches come. For those who are out, regardless of the circumstances that drove them out, good luck in your future projects!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Saddam's execution, dramatized

Saddam's execution has not only brought violence to the streets of Iraq and criticism from some members of the international community, but it has also brought some bizarre and unexpected reactions.
One of them is the one that led a boy named Sergio Pelico, 10, to hang himself on a noose. The boy from Houston, TX, allegedly watched the TV the day before his own suicide, where the mother claims that the boy saw the images of Saddam's execution. It looks that the boy decided to experience his own recreation of the scene, but I think that the performance went too realistic.
How guilty of this strange incident are the mass media? Whilst it is true that the TV and the media's sensationalism had a lot to do in the behaviour that led this kid to hang himself, as well as the promotion and sale of toys recreating Saddam in the noose (like the figure created by the Connecticut-based Herobuilders), I would dare to say that the lack of accurate information about what was going on with Saddam by his parents (or whoever was taking care of him) had something to do. It makes me think that the communication was not the most appropriate, and... the common sense didn't play as one of his major strengths in the moment.
Sad but true.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Don't accept imitations of the imitations!

Groups dedicated to the production of counterfeit material, such as illegal copies of movies and music CDs, are reaching disgusting and ironic limits.
The sale of illegal copies of copyrighted and trademarked items has become a very profitable businesses for organizations that "make a living" from this activity. All these individuals are completely aware that they ruin some other decent organizations' business (and that they're putting in risk the jobs of many people who support entire families), but it doesn't seem that they care much about that. And neither do the customers who buy these illegal items, who normally are not sensitive of the damage they're causing to third parties and to national economies as well.
However, piracy finds a good market especially in developing countries, where buyers tend to be more price sensitive than in other parts of the world. In such countries, people usually prefer to buy counterfeit articles (you can call them movies, books, music cd's, computer games, clothing, toys, or whatever you like) just to pay a lower price than the original thing, but having the satisfaction of owning it. This makes a huge market for illegal organizations, and the gradual growth of the market is also attracting more and more individuals to this kind of activity.
Particularly in Mexico (but I'm sure that this phenomenon is happening in many other places as well), the amount of organizations that sell illegal material has grown so greatly, that some of them have decided to adopt commercial names that may distinguish them as elite brands for counterfeit material.
Some of these organizations have adopted names such as "DVD Guerrero", "Gallo Records MP3", and "Fast Record". The idea of these names is to create a brand awareness among the potential customers, so whenever a buyer purchases any material 'produced' by any of these groups, they can have the guarantee that they're acquiring a 'high quality' illegal item, much better than any other similar pirate product that some other organization may be offering.
So now, if you use to buy piracy, you can look for quality brands when purchasing these articles. Don't accept imitations of the imitations!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Uneven twins

I really enjoy reading strange things that occur in our strange world. And this one is, technically, one of the strangest ever.
A note that appeared today in a popular newspaper states that last Sunday, almost at midnight, was born a kid in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But he didn't come alone, his twin brother was also about to come to the world. The interesting part is that the second twin was born some minutes after the first one, just after midnight, which technically means that the baby was born in a different day than his brother... and, more radically speaking, in a different year as well.
I wonder if this strange event will cause a lot of confusion in the future for the children. It will sound quite strange that the boys are twins, one born on December 31, 2006, and the other one on January 1, 2007. That sounds like a lot more time than their actual difference of age is!. But not everything will be so bad for them after all: They're going to have two consecutive days of celebration each time is their respective birthday, and if they're lucky, they'll receive twice as many presents as they would otherwise.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New look, new things in the EU

Everything's Corner changed its look (I'll certainly miss the old blue background... and you?). I hope you like this new image, I'll be testing it for a while to see if it works or not. If it doesn't, there's always a chance to go back to the old scheme.
But not only the look of this blog has changed to begin the new year. Some important things have happened in the world today, which will make a difference in the present and future for millions of people.
  • Romania and Bulgaria, starting from today, became members of the European Union. With these additions, the total number of members of this community raises to 27. Perhaps it'll be necessary to do some modifications to the EU Flag, as the stars on it are actually only representing 12 of its 27 members... that makes less than 50% of representation. However, my congratulations to Romania and Bulgaria. I'm sure that this change will open new horizons of development for both countries.
  • The other relevant thing, also concerning the EU, is that Slovenia adopted today the Euro as its official currency. Such country becomes that way the 13th nation to adopt such currency to its everyday activities; this move makes the Slovenian tolar obsolete.
This way, it seems that this new year begins as a very challenging one (but potentially rewarding) for several millions of people living in Eastern Europe, and why not, also for the big contributors of the EU.

Cheers! To share any comments (regarding the Euro topic, the blog's new image, or whatever you wish to express), please post a message!