2012-10-23 12:57

Holmes vs. Elementary

Often movies or TV series come in pairs. These days I watched two series that are obviously related, Sherlock and Elementary and there is even a movie series by guy Ritchie (which I actually like!) but let's talk TV.

I am not going to be original in saying Sherlock is the superior show. But why is it?

Well, I think it mostly comes to one being done by people who have read the books, and the other by people who heard about them.

For example, that evil word "Elementary". It's not in the books. It's in the movies, though. So, if you focus on second-hand sources, it makes sense to use it, but if you care about the original materials it makes sense to carefully avoid it.

There's also the problem of Elementary's Holmes looking like a hobo. Holmes was fastidiously neat. He was a slob about his lodgings, but he always kept himself clean and well dressed.

Or let's consider addiction. Yes, in the books Holmes shoots cocaine and does morphine, Thing is, those things were not even illegal at the time. Cocaine was a cough medicine. So, transposing that into nicotine addiction makes sense, specially since Holmes was also a very heavy smoker even for victorian standards. Turning it into a drug habit that forces Holmes into rehab (rehab!) doesn't. Also, "this is a three patch problem"? Have to chucle at that, dude.

The Watsons also are quite different. I quite like Lucy Liu's deadpan delivery of everything, but Watson is not supposed to be a damaged person that nurtures. He's a thrill seeker, a badass character that is only mild-mannered when compared to his company. Again, Sherlock walks closer to the books there, while Elementary tries to shoehorn some weird personal-growth sideplot.

Yes, Watson is the one that brings out the human side of Holmes, but he does that not by being all soft and cuddly, he does it by being a hard headed bastard who stands up to him. He's a true friend, and friends don't take shit from friends, at least not without giving shit back. In Sherlock he does that, and clearly Holmes respects him. In Elementary, Watson is tolerated, and treated like a pet.

Winks. Both series try to make reference, more or less oblique, to the source material. Again, it feels like Elementary is working from second hand references. If I could find you the "Holmes intentionally avoids learning things of no immediate relevance" bits in both, the Elementary one was a groaning exposition, including physical demonstration of how water displaces oil. In Sherlock? Well, it's an argument. Incredulity on one side, quirkiness on the other, funny dialog.

Because that's what Elementary isn't. it's just not fun. And a Holmes that's not fun, is a broken Holmes.

2012-10-22 16:26

The Basics

Because I am going to be traveling for three weeks, I was thinking today about packing. Last year, I spent five weeks on the road, and I packed a cabin-size suitcase, plus a messenger bag. Didn't feel like I had forgotten anything, so I guess I didn't.

That was spring and this will be late fall, so I will add a sweater and a better jacket.

So, it seems the amount of things I need to take with me on a trip doesn't correlate with the duration of the trip beyond a certain point. It seems that all the material assets I need to live fit in a smallish suitcase (plus a bag). I moved to Buenos Aires twelve years ago with a suitcase, a TV and a cat.

So, ignoring details such as family and sentimental value (which, for me, material things have none), suppose everything I own burned down in a fire. How much money would I need to miss nothing I lost?

Assuming I am moved into a bare appartment with the usual things in it (no furniture, but has a stove and a fridge), here's my list:

7 t-shirts, 3 pants, 2 shorter pants, 2 pairs of sneakers, 2 sweaters, a coat, misc. About $400 or so?
I am considering upgrading the one I have for a $800 one, so surely no more than that.
I have a $90 phone, but let's replace my kindle too, so a nicer one: $250
A table, a few chairs, a matress (I had to replace my bed recently, matress in the floor for a week was surprisingly nice!). Perhaps $500?
Cutlery, dishes, a pot, a frying pan, towels, bedsheets, coffee mug, toiletry items, blanket, extension cords, etc. $1000?

Nothing else comes to mind, so, it seems I need a bit over $2000, let's say $2500 to be on the safe side. It's interesting to imagine I could move to, say, Costa Rica, by just having a job there, $2500 in my pocket and no baggage.

2012-10-22 10:44

A Year With My Kindle

I got my first Kindle a year ago. I quickly replaced it with my current and second kindle, a Kindle Touch.

So, how well has it worked? Pretty damn well. I am a fairly heavy user, I think, and the Kindle has traveled quite a bit, in bags, suitcases and cargo pockets. The only care I take is to use a leather cover when outside the house.

I have read, according to goodreads.com, somewhat over 17000 pages in this year, in 61 books. That' a lot of pages. And if you look at the gadget now, it still looks brand new. No scratches, everything operates correctly, even the battery still holds the charge fine even if it's down to about two weeks per charge instead of almost three.

I still miss the older kindle's page-turning buttons. Using a touchscreen to turn pages is idiotic. but hey, it works, and I can still do it one-handed (yay for huge-hand boy here!)

The only things I don't quite like are the same ones as when I bought it.

  • The page has too little contrast when not ideally lighted.
  • You can't read in the dark.

Since the new paperwhite fixes both of those, I am getting one. I have already sold this one, and the difference is not a lot, so it's a very cheap upgrade.

Quite happy about Amazon's ability to not suck at giving me goods in exchange for money, too! It's rare that I want a book and it's not out there in Kindle format (still waiting for Evan Dara's Easy Chain!)

So, no unexpected issues, has brought a lot of fun, was cheap... that's the definition of gadget paradise to me.

2012-10-21 09:11

Small Things Break Big Things

I have been watching Galactica (the newer one) on and off for a few months. And there is one small thing that drives me nuts every time I see it. It throws me off the story, and completely breaks the world-building that's going on.

Octogonal paper.


This. Makes. No. Sense. Nice font, though.

Why? Because paper is square for functional and manufacturing reasons. You take a spool of paper, you cut it, you end up with rectangular pieces.

Are you manufacturing linen paper? Then you need to build frames to do it, and making octogonal frames is much harder.

To make octogonal paper sheets you need to cut every one of them from square sheets. That is stupid.

Oh, it gets worse. In the BSG universe, they have octogonal *tractor paper*.

What sort of idiot came up with that? How can that even work!

So, a fun series but every time I see a piece of paper I want to scream.

2012-10-19 21:32


El viernes que viene me voy a París. Me llevo a mi mujer, a mi nene, y a mi vieja. Me llevo a mi mujer porque nunca tuvimos luna de miel, entonces cualquier excusa es buena, me llevo a mi nene porque tardé mucho, y me llevo a mi vieja porque se lo debo.

Mi mamá tiene 78 años y cuando estudiaba, pupila, en un colegio de monjas, estudiaba francés. Y cuando estudiás francés semipresa, las lecciones sobre París, el libro con fotos de la torre Eiffel... se me hace que deben haber sido material de los sueños de esa piba de quince. Yo sé que mi vieja sueña con este viaje hace más de sesenta años.

También lo soñaba mi viejo que siempre contaba de cuando tenía que escribir una redacción (en francés obviamente) sobre el puerto de Le Havre y como no la había hecho la inventó al vuelo, hizo como que la leía y le pusieron un diez igual, en su secundario en Resistencia, pero mi viejo se enfermó y se murió.

Entonces ahora que puedo, porque con la tarjeta la saco en muchas cuotas, y tengo un descuento, y el pasaje mío lo paga un cliente, y Tato paga la mitad, y alquilar un departamento allá sale lo mismo que en Mar del Plata (o lo mismo que una carpa en La Perla), y tengo un ahorrito, hace un tiempo le dije a mi vieja que sacara el pasaporte, que se venía conmigo.

Y que no, que estoy grande, que qué me vas a llevar, para qué, qué voy a hacer allá, pero el ojo bueno se le iluminaba, porque mi vieja por adentro es todavía esa alumna pupila del colegio en Santa Fe, que tenia que estudiar en silencio sus lecciones de francés, sobre esa tierra lejana, exótica de gente con boina.

Y la plata no compra la felicidad, pero esta plata, justo esta plata, me deja darle de regalo del día de la madre un viaje con el que sueña hace mi vida y media, ir a Montmartre, sentarnos en alguna parte, pedir dos cafés, morfarnos dos croissants, darle un beso a mi Tato, abrazar a mi mujer, a mi viejita, saludar a mi viejo, y sé que se me va a piantar un lagrimón, si se me está piantando ahora, mientras escribo, cómo no se me va a piantar allá.

Y me la llevo para allá. Y vamos a ser felices.

2012-10-18 22:12

Kremlinology of Myself

Understanding what goes on inside my head is not easy for me. I am separated from the thing I am examining by subjectivity, and suffer a comprehensive observer effect that clobbers simple reporting and disables my comprehension.

So, it's rare that I have a moment where I feel one way or another in a clear manner. To me "How are you?" is confusing. I tend to hesitate for ten seconds while scrambling for the standard response, like the terminator scrolling through response trees. Usually my state is, I feel exactly like myself. I feel the way I feel, and I just have not put that in words, scales, and comparisons, much less one word.

Half the time it's easier for me to know how others feel. I look at my wife and I know. I look at my son and I can probably tell you if he got a good lunch at school today, and whether he won his last rock paper scissors match.

I can do that because I can see them. I can see their faces, and I know how they look, how they change, how they react, I know Juan does this thing with his lip when he's frustrated, I know Rosario puts her sweater backwards if she's distracted.

I have to get my self-status indirectly. I woke up early and rested. I look forward to working, or to doing something in the weekend. I attack a task with intensity, I avoid an encounter, I forget to start music, I abandon projects, I reach out to people, I can't come up with ideas, I make up excuses, I make a quick joke.

I have to wonder where that comes from, then. Who is the me doing those things I examine to decide how I feel? I feel like my head is a town and I sit in a cafe, in a street table, and listen to the passers-by, gauging the mood.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I was simpler, and straightfrward. I wish I could do things without thinking so much. I wish I could react normally without intermediating myself in my own thoughts.

Of course maybe everyone does the same things. Maybe everyone is the same. Even if not the same, strange in the same way, just like things can be all different and part of a class, different in degrees and the same in essence.

I am fine, thanks. And you?

2012-10-16 13:14

Nature Hates You.

The next time someone suggests you take a dietary supplement, or a plant or herb extract, or tells you to eat, drink, apply on your skin, inhale, or do anything with the argument that it's natural, remember this:


Almost everything that comes from nature will kill you. All animals would prefer that you die, all plants are toxic, and it's only through a long evolutionary process that you are barely capable of digesting any vegetables.

There is a reason why we take aspirin instead of chewing bark, and why we cook meat before we eat it. Freaking potatos are toxic if eaten raw.

Give parsley to a parrot, give chocolate to a dog, give celery to a cat, give hemlock to you: DEAD. Because all around you is trying to kill you. All the time.

Nature is not a mother, nature is actively hostile to you and will be happy to make your life as hard, brief and painful as possible. Man has changed that. Saying "oh, but this is natural" is an indictment, a warning sign.

Raw foodists, paleo diet advocates, herbal-supplement-chuggers: you are all the beneficiaries of a long history of knowing what is semi-safe to eat because everything else will kill you.

I will not eat anything nature gives me until it has been carefully tested by men and science. Because science is good and nature is evil.

2012-10-10 21:35

How You Could Not Replace Cable, If Only This Were Legal

Suppose you wanted to have free TV. Suppose by that you mean series, not movies or news (both of which you can get in other ways).

Also, suppose you want to have it on your actual TV. Also, that you don't mind breaking IP laws. Well, this is how I would do it, if that was the case.

First: get hardware.

You need a general computational device with TV connectors and lots of storage. Like, say, a Mele A1000 or A2000 running android, and a SATA disk. This will cost you around $150 or so.

The Mele has HDMI, VGA and composite, so it can connect to pretty much anything that can display images. You could even use a 64GB SD card instead of a SATA drive if you want to go cheaper.

Second: choose some series.

You could go to ShowRSS create an account and just choose series you like. ShowRSS would then provide you with a nice RSS feed updated as your shows are uploaded.

You could even choose between SD and HD versions.

Third: get the episodes.

You would need a BitTorrent client that supports this:

  1. Android.
  2. Choosing the destination folder (uTorrent for android doesn't)
  3. RSS Feeds with autodownload

For example: aDownloader

If you are using the Mele and the SATA drive, there is a bug in aDownloader where it can't write to the SATA disk. You can fix it if you have root and some patience.

Fourth: get a good video player.

You want one that:

  1. Has HW decoding
  2. Has SW audio decoding (a mele-specific issue)
  3. Supports many video formats
  4. Supports subtitles, if you need them

For example: MX Player

Fifth: get subtitles.

If you ever watch something that is not in your native language, you also want something that automatically gets subtitles for your videos. For example Subloader

How well would this work? Well, it would take roughly 5 minutes to download a show in SD or 15 minutes to download it in HD on a 10Mbps internet link.

It would let you play them in your own time.

It would let you see shows before they air in your country, and even if they will never air there.

It is also illegal as all hell, so don't do it.

2012-10-03 14:15

100 Days With the Mele A1000

I have been using the Mele A1000 for a few months now. I think I have settled into a usage pattern, so let's do a quick roundup of what it's good for and what it's not very good at.

First a quick reminder of what it is:

  • Small computer running Android (4.0.4 right now)
  • HDMI/VGA/Composite video output, ideal for using with a TV
  • SATA connector, full size SD card, 3 USB ports: basically unlimited storage capacity.
  • Remote control that works with most apps
  • Wifi and Ethernet
  • It will cost you ~ $90 to get one.
  • No noise, low power usage.

I have it in my bedroom, next to my old CRT TV. I could put it in the living room with the newer LED one, but I have a Mac Mini I got for work there anyway.

Having it plugged to an old TV means the video quality sucks. However, it works great for watching videos, and when connected to a modern display it works perfectly.

So, what do I do with it?

I watch movies and series on Netflix.

Version 1.8.1 of the Netflix app works fine (later versions do not!) and lets you see movies and series legally for a flat low monthly cost. The remote provided doesn't really work all that well, because you can't do "drags" and therefore can't scroll the movie lists left and right. So, to take full advantage of this you need to get a keyboard/mouse set. I use this one.

However, if you know what you want to see, it's just a matter of searching for it.

I watch videos in general.

MX Player works very well, and gives smooth, well synced video. The Hardware video decoder works just fine, but you have to switch to software audio decoding.

Having a pluggable SATA drive is very useful here. Just get any 2.5" SATA drive, plug it in, and start using it.

File Server

I used Samba Filesharing and it "just works". You set it up, configure user and password, and your drives are now shared locally and accessible to all your other devices.

I am using it to store backups from my "real" computers, created using rdiff-backup but any backup tool that can store in a remote folder should work.

Radio & Music Player

There are plenty of android applications that handle music streaming and playing your local music collection. Just use the one you like.

Weather Gadget

I like my TV telling me the weather. Uses a random widget from the play store.

VNC Server

In order to use it more comfortably, or be able to do stuff in it when I am on the notebook, I am using Droid VNC Server and that even means I can use my own phone as a "remote" using the Jump VNC client

Yes, that means I am in my bed using my android phone as a remote to my android TV's screen. If the performance were better, it would be as cool as it sounds.

I am using Jump because it's the only Android VNC client I found that supports dragging things (and it's not perfect by a long shot).

Possible future uses

  • Skype box (need to hook a webcam. Microphone?)

  • Game console?

    I have Need For Speed: Shift and I would love to play it on a large screen, but how would I control it? I need to investigate controllers, maybe joysticks or gamepads.

I bought this with the idea of using Ubuntu on it, but the lack of accelerated drivers and Netflix support has made that a non-starter. So, I am doing lots of things where Android really has lower quality software than Ubuntu, but those are forcing me to stay there.

I am quite happy with it, and as a "dumb-tv-smartener" it's quite awesome for its price.

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