Archive for October, 2004

Kein Parken

Photograph of the office building’s parking lot, taken this morning, 10:45am, from my office balcony on the 6th floor. Shown in the photo: epitome of the Israeli asshole driver. Now, consider being the blue vehicle, you’d probably need a game plan to get out of the parking lot.

epitome of the Israeli asshole driver

First German lesson

My first German lesson yesterday was very mentally exhausting. The teacher (a very sweet woman by the name of Doris) barely said a word in Hebrew. In fact, she spoke more English than she did in Hebrew, and 98% of the lesson was held in German; which had the entire class completely confused. Fortunately, she spoke with a great deal of hand gestures, which made it relatively simple to figure out what she was referring to. After the first hour and a half of the lesson in which we learned how to ask and answer simple questions like “What is your name”, “Where are you from”, “Where to you go to school” and “What languages do you speak”, we went out for a short break. Sitting out in the smoking area with about another 5 students, I turned and asked: “So, and I the only one who feels completely stupid?” after a short silence, everyone was nodding their head going “Yup, Yup”, and we broke into some nice social conversation. Good folks.

Second part of the lesson was understanding the alphabet and pronouciation of umlauts, which I wasn’t especially dreadful at, to my surprise. We ended the lesson with more homework than you can shake a stick at, which is very welcomed, as far as I’m concerned; something to do when I get home from work.

My way of extending vocabulary and aiding pronouciation is to basically immerse myself in the language. I’ve started to listen to the online broadcasts of Deutsche Welle radio, and can even make out some of what they’re saying. Even though we haven’t gone through numbers yet, I’ve managed to teach myself numbers 0-999 by sitting down and repeating every single one of them, writing them down one-by-one. This may seem insane to you, but it’s honestly the only way I’m going to get it right. Today I’m hoping to finish the numbers and to start on weekdays and months.

I’ve also got stickers virtually everywhere in my immediate vicinity, both at home and in the office. Stickers saying “Feuerzeug”, “Entchen”, “Spiegel”, “Notizbuch”, “Tastatur”, etc. My book order has been shipped, with Mastering German Vocabulary, Essential German Grammar, Dictionary of German Slang and Colloquial Expressions and Guide to German Idioms. And my father, turned to me and said “Gosh, you’re really taking this German thing seriously”. To which I replied: “Ummm, yeah.”

Learning a 3rd language

I’ve finally decided to take to learning a 3rd language, and will be starting a beginner’s course in German at the Goethe Institute Tel Aviv on Friday. I’ve been playing with the idea of studying an additional language for quite a while – I took French in Jr. High, can complete simple sentences and I have a basic understanding of French grammar. The trouble is that not only do I not have anyone to speak French with, I don’t actually like the language much. German, on the other hand, is spoken by quite a few people I know, and is really just an excuse for learning Yiddish later on. I’d love to be able to read Yiddish literature at some point in the future, and since I have the Hebrew base, German seems like the next logical step.

I’m really excited to start my studies, to get out of the house to somewhere which isn’t the office, to meet new people, learn something new. This seems to be just the thing I needed, and I’m just as excited as a young, errr, schoolgirl. Maybe I’ll make a few new friends!

The politics of Copy Protection

Ever felt punished for having a certain taste in music? Here’s something to think about. I’d like to think I have an eclectic musical taste, and among some of the artists I enjoy most are quite a few popular names; Bjork, Foo Fighters, Sting. The trouble with purchasing music by popular artists is that, most often, they sign up with a label which endorses copy protection on their purchasable media. Being a big fan of original music, I buy my CDs in record shops, and most often the only way I get to listen to my music is on the computer; my discman has been broken for a while, and my home stereo hasn’t been working for years. I keep my music collection on my hard drive – each CD I buy I rip and store. Usually this is not a problem – copy protected CDs aren’t very “protected” under Linux, it’s my music, I bought it, I’ll listen to it the way I’d like.

Or not.

I bought Bjork’s Greatest Hits this morning while running a few errands. Upon coming back to the office and popping the album in the tray, I encountered the infamous Cactus Data Shield (official link), a digital rights management method and application which inserts errors into the tracks in order to prevent ripping and, thus, sharing over p2p networks. What CDS also does is to embed a low-grade audio player into the album which allows a Windows machine to play the album, yet at 48kbps. Horrible. And many people have already testified to having numerous problems trying to get one of these CDs to play on a car stereo. Basically, this copy protection method is forcing me to get on a Linux machine or Mac, rip the tracks, re-burn the album, just so I’d be able to listen to it properly in anything but a home stereo system.

The work-around for this, it seems for the moment, is that Real Player is the only audio application that can play the CD on a windows machine besides CDS’ embedded player. And even then, the tracks skip and jump.

So, the record companies think that purchasable, per-track, music downloads are the answer? What a sad, sorry mistake. These “copy protection” methods, which, in actuality, prevent honest folks from listening to their bought music, are a breeding ground for thousands of new generation of P2P file sharers, which organizations like the RIAA are trying to eliminate. Kinda counter-productive, don’t you think?

A great deal of the people I know who share music over the internet, also have a rather large, continually expanding, original album collection. This makes sense; the use of P2P as a tool to discover music, rather than to obtain it solely. This is a good reason why independant music labels, mainly the likes of Fat Wreck Chords, manage to keep their heads above the water – they do not produce copy-protected albums. Folks rip or copy the albums, share the tracks, other people get to know the music and in turn, go out and buy the album for themselves, wheel turns. Albums bought by major music labels have fans fighting with their computers or car stereos, just to be able to listen to the music which they legally purchased.

So, the record companies think that purchasable, per-track, music downloads are the answer? What a sad, sorry mistake – these tracks are “copy-protected”, too, with filetypes which can only be read on certain platforms with certain media players, only be played on a specific number of “authorized” computers, and only on computers running a specific operating system. Think you can listen to music you’ve purchased from the MSN Music Store on your Ipod? Nope. Think you can listen to the music you’ve purchased from the Itunes Music Store on Linux? Nope. Think you can listen to the music you’ve purchased from Raphsody on your Windows Media Player? You’ve guessed it – the answer is no.

In theory, in order to eliminate the non-compatibility issues between music stores, audio players and software platforms, these stores could, just as easily collaborately decide on the use of music sold under Open Standards – a solution which would allow the companies selling the tracks to focus on quality, availability, and promote choice. But, as mentioned, this is only a theoretical solution, and what’s more: to a problem these companies don’t believe exists, since it poses two main issues that could badly affect their market share . The first: Open Standards are open, meaning that copy protection is impossible. Second: Open Standards would promote consumer choice in the player platform market; and they don’t want that. Remember, Apple didn’t open the iTunes music store in order to sell music. They opened it to sell iPods.

If you’re a musician, consider releasing your works under an OpenMusic license or a Creative Commons license. The future of Intellectual Property looks dim for consumers, now would be a good time to start putting the artistic value back into the creation and enjoyment of music, if we can.

ADSL, Taschen art, Balloons and K-mart

Finally, my home computer is back online. Tal dropped by last night and managed to do what I had been trying to do for just about two weeks; to figure out the modem was apparently shot. Interestingly enough, my modem works on my brother’s computer, but not my machine or Tal’s laptop. Either way, I don’t mind – as long as it works, and I can once again read User Friendly in the morning.

Now that the machine is back and hooked, I can spend more time working on my website, and would you believe it, a version 2.0 is already in the works (as far as my brainmeats go). Taschen’s 1000 favorite websites (enormous 608-page book) was on sale at Stiematzki Books, so I picked it up for inspiration.

I woke up this morning, and there were two large yellow balloons hanging from the planter out in the apt. building hallway, with a nice good-morning note. I haven’t had something nice like that happen to me since I recieved flowers in the 11th grade. It’s nice to have friends who care, after all.

So many people have been emailing me about my Zenith iconset, asking me when I’m planning on continuing the set, or uploading the SVGs. Truth is, Zenith is rediculously low on my my list of priorities right now, but I’m considering opening up a dedicated page here in my portfolio, where you’ll be able to download the SVG sources and keep track of Zenith development. If anyone reading this would be interested in me notifying him/her when such a page is up, comment to this entry with your email address or send me an email and I’ll let you know when the page is up.

Oh, and by the way, if anyone has flash plugin and is interested in hearing me make a complete fool of myself K-mart style, visit the homepage for the company I work for, Skylab Studios, and click on the “Audio Help” link in the upper right corner. Yeah, that’s me talking, and it took about 50 takes.

Weekend foodstuffs

It’s amazing how your week can start off on the right foot it you let it. While my weekend consisted of nawt too much excitement (cooking rose’e pasta and sleeping a grand total of 27 hours), it was a positive weekend chit-chat with a good friend, over coffee, which set me up for a less-than-dreary Sunday morning. For those of you which are unaware, Sunday is the first day of the week here in in Israel, being a Jewish state. Being Sunday, most of you are still rockin’ the weekend, so here’s the recipe for the high-calorie pasta sauce I made. Mind you, I can’t cook, and I’m awful at measurements, so you’re going to have to excuse me for the lack of terms like “kg, oz and ml”. Recipe is for enough sauce for a battalion large bag of pene. Bon Appetite!

Liron’s simple pasta sauce

  • 4 small, fresh tomatoes, pitted, washed
  • 1 small carton, fresh cooking cream
  • 2 small cartonettes of tomato paste
  • 1 small onion, peeled, washed
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • a sprinkling of basil
  • a sprinkling of garlic chips
  • a sprinkling of black pepper
  1. Add about a tablespoon of oil (sunflower best) to pan on a small flame, let heat, and add chopped onion until lightly brown
  2. Chop tomatoes into large blocks – three slices to each tomato, 4 blocks to each slice. Add into pan and let simmer. Stir every few minutes.
  3. When the tomato blocks seem to be peeling off their skins (and cooking in their own juice, bwahaha!), add both cartonettes of tomato paste, stir for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Slowly add the cooking cream, while stirring. Make sure flame is kept small, stir every few minutes.
  5. After 5 minutes, add basil, pepper, salt and garlic.

Oh, yes, and here is our new office friend, Sabi Wassabi:
sabi wassabi

This was contributed by Fade:
sabi wassabi frog

Good Morning Tel Aviv

Did anyone watch the US presidential debate last night? I keep missing those and reading the transcripts on CNN a day late. While the transcripts are a good way to get a pretty good idea of the nature of the debate, they can’t bring across the facial expressions of the candidates or vocal tones, which are, as far as I’m concerned, just as important as the actual words. But again, I still think Dennis Kucinich should be elected. Reading the transcript, it seems to me that Kerry would have been much better off by answering the Moderator’s questions directly, instead of playing accusation ping-pong with G.W. Bush. Moreso – the transcript seems like it could be properly re-enacted by a few kindergardeners, continually punching each other. As a matter of fact, the entire presidential debate last night could be summed up just as easily like this:

- “Ow! He Started it!”
- “Ow! No, He started it!”
- “Ow! He Started it!”
- “Ow! No, He started it!”

It seems that the general schematic for answering the Moderator’s question was to turn the question around; from “How do you believe that you would handle so-and-so” into “How do you believe your opponent is too inadequate to handle so-and-so”. That works if it’s done elegantly – redirecting answers to a question is an art form all it’s own. Just ask Ra’anan Gissin.

I won’t be voting this time around – I actually missed the registration deadline for overseas Americans. But as usual, do as I say; not as I do. Go Vote.

Here’s a photo of the view of Ramat Gan’s diamond stock exchange district from my balcony at the office in central Tel Aviv, for your morning enjoyment:
Morning in Tel Aviv is up, finally.

I can’t even begin to express what the last few days have been like – a race against the clock to get this site on the air, during which my 40gb Maxtor hard drive decided it had enough of this world and threw itself into a fiery grave of nonfunctional drive-wheel rotation.

I must have reinstalled my system about 5 times in the past 4 days, and I still can’t connect to the internet from my home computer. But hey, my site seems to be completely functional. And that’s what counts most, right?

What’s new since
The portfolio has been expanded, the blog is now running on a Wordpress system instead of a Blogger system, I’ve uploaded a bunch of new articles and I even have a contact form now.

Poke around, see what’s new, leave your feedback, suggestions, and ideas.
Welcome to lironbot!

Liron Tocker is proudly powered by WordPress.
Based on the theme "The Fundamentals of Graphic Design" by Arjuna and all included materials are © Liron Tocker 2002-2011 (unless otherwise stated) under the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0