Archive for November, 2004

Enter the Moblog

Listening to: My Morning Jacket / One Big Holiday click here to download
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First of all, before anything else, welcome back mom! My mother spent a little while in the UK and I’m glad she’s back; she also gave me a copy of Die Welt from her flight-stop in Frankfurt, and I managed to make out the title of the newspaper rather well: “Hardened fronts in the Ukraine; Janukowytsch: The country is on the brink of a catastrophy“. I even managed to make out an advert (sorry for the stark contrast): “Teethwellness, the original; Hamburg advice center for aesthetics of the tooth. Private clinic, nice teeth for more success!“. Sounds like Engrish when I try to translate it. I’m sure it makes sense in German, though.


Apparently the problem I was having, rather, thought I was having with being unable to send mms to email via my phone has been solved. I rang up my cellular provider, their customer service told me that there was a problem on their side and they’re working to have it resolved. It’s still not 100% fixed but it seems to be working for the time being. I’m not trying to advertise or anything, but the girls who helped me out at the billing and internet departments were so incredibly nice and answered all my questions kindly and patiently – mad props to Cellcom for rocking the customer service. I’ve never been with another carrier and I’ve never had a reason to be.

So, after having that solved, I was wondering what to do with this feature, which is really cheap enough to use once in a blue moon. Since I don’t wander around with a digital camera (photography is not my thing, but I have some friends who have the gift), and the phone’s camera renders in 640×480 with grainy, webcam-like quality, there’s not much I can really do in terms of proper-looking end product, I’ve decided to do the phonecam herd thing by trying my luck with moblogging.

The term “Moblog” means “Mobile Web Log”, and a moblog consists of posts written “on the road” from any mobile device. This usually includes cellular phones and PDAs, less often from laptop PCs. Traditionally, (yes, in the tech-world it’s been around long enough to gather a “tradition”, tech moves fast) moblogs can consist of any media one would be able to post on-the-road (I did a bunch of this when I was in the army), but since the release and popularization of digital cameras as an integral part of a cellular phone, moblogging has centralized itself around low-tech photography. This is not to be confused with the Photoblog which centralizes itself around actual, high-scale photography.

So, what am I going to be posting? Good question. It’s very experiental at this point, so I’ll be posting interesting things I see in my immediate vicinity, wherever I am. I don’t get out much, but sometimes the biggest points of interest are right under our noses. I’m not going to promise to try to “keep it interesting”, I’ll probably post random shots of nothing at all, like the first post I’ve already made. On the main page of my blog will be a thumbnail of the recent moblog post, and if you’d like to see the actual moblog page, you can access it from this link.

Much technology we don’t need

Listening to: Analogue Popkick / Two June click here to download
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Finally, after three years with a clumsy, disintegrating Nokia 7160, this afternoon I treated myself to a brand-new suh-wanking Motorola C650. Hot Damn. This is one hell of a phone.

I’ve never been a technology freak, suprisingly enough. While I always loved looking at interesting new gadgets, I’ve never been serious about owning one, and I’m still not going to splurge for a $1000 pocket pc or however much it costs to get a wacom. I love reading Wired Magazine and being up-to-date with what’s going on in the world of techelectronics. Technology is great – in the hands of other people. I lead a simple life and don’t have too many personal requests.

I ended up purchasing this phone because it was the economically sensible thing to to, the two cheaper models were 1) a siemens, 2) a nokia. I found both models clumsy and uncomfortable, with small buttons. The case design is very important to me functionality-wise, perhaps the most important thing, and some of the recent cellular phone models made a little too much effort to have their designs look “cool”, oft disregarding the ergonometric aspect which is so important for hand-held devices. The Motorola C650 has a FLAT keypad; I almost cried for joy when I saw it. The keys are almost all the same size, all easily accessible, and it has one of those “joystick” buttons, which I took a liking to immediately after being used to the Nokia 7160’s scroller. The model has no hard edges and is curved from top to bottom. It may not be the prettiest device on display, but it’s functional and comfortable.

Paying an extra price for comfort also included a few things I don’t really need in a cellular phone. It can play mp3 ringtones, has a 4x zoom camera, color screen and runs applications written in Java. I support Sun Microsystems so I don’t have an issue with the Java, I don’t need/want mp3 ringtones as long as the phone actually rings, and the camera, well, it was cute for 10 minutes. I can see great hidden functionality for the camera, though; it’s a great ability to be able to take quick snapshots of scribbled notes with important information, signs on buildings with opening hours. I can see myself using the camera for things like this, so it’s a great option to have.

Motorola did a good job with the phone’s OS interface, I’m actually quite surprised. The list-style I cons are extremely well-designed, lists are ordered in a way which makes sense, sub menus are in the right places and visual notification is on the mark. The salesman explained to me earlier that the company had some issues with improper user interfaces in the past, so they made an extra effort for this and a few other models.

Aww, hell, I’m just happy my phone doesn’t fall apart in my hands.

Slow down the world, I’m getting dizzy!

Listening to: The Rapture / Sister Saviour click here to download
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Apparently, this morning while I slept, there were heavy rainstorms which resulted in heavy flooding in certain parts of the country, hail, snow up north, and winds up to 100km p/h. That’s as fast as I normally drive on the highway. Apparently I’m an incredibly sound sleeper, and I didn’t hear anything but faraway thunder, and I woke up to a slightly windy and damp morning, but no rain or hail. Good thing, as I haven’t been able to find my umbrella for years.

In the world of “what’s happening online this week”:

  • The Jewish Fashion Conspiracy seem to be getting ready for Channukah. Don’t forget to take note of their “Yo, Semite!” tees; part of me is wondering how much of this is actually in good taste. The “Pyramid Contruction Company” sure isn’t.
  • Banksy is a British graffiti artist with some smart works.
  • If you’re in the mood for “artistifying” your websurfing experience, points out that you can append “” to any top-level domain, which results in a shotgun-type scrambled ransom-note view of a page. Click here to test it on my weblog and see what I mean.

I’ve also been working on a set of random generic CD sleeves for music compilations which you can print out and use. I’ve been wanting to venture into print more than I have had the opportunity to do so up until now, so this weekend is going to be comprised of sitting in front of Inkscape and working the vectors. If you haven’t yet seen the sleeve I whipped up for The Wired CD, here’s the URL.

In addition. I’ve been trying to devote as much time as possible as of late (due to the sudden expansion to the amount of free time I have) to a new design for lironbot, although this time around, it’s being taken slowly. And with the amount of problems my hard drive has been giving me (it’s new, but it still makes hard clicking noises just like the old one did before it died), it’s going to take quite a long time.

Haben Sie ein gutes Wochenende!

Bloggers for the Commons – an initiative

Listening to: Clyde Federal / Staten Island Ferry click here to download

After jotting down the previous post, I started to think of ways to help spread the concept of CC’d music out to more people which might take interest in it. There are oodles of bands and musicians out there which will allow you to download and share their music for free, sample their tracks, and broadcast it. The question remains; how to get these tracks out to more people? How to point them in the proper direction to look?
click for more music title=
Share more.

I propose an initiative – I have no way of knowing if this strikes anyone’s actual interest, but here’s the basic suggestion; If you’re a music fan, and you run a weblog or webjournal of any kind, make note of writing the song you’re currently listening to in your post. While this is largely popular and widely done anyway, here’s the catch: make sure it’s a track under a Creative Commons license, and provide a link for your readers to download the track (only if it’s under a CC license that allows sharing, of course). The track doesn’t have to reside on your server, you can simply link to the page or direct URL of where you obtained the track from, a .torrent file or a P2P magnetic link.

There are vast pools of CC licensed audio all around the web. The album cover you see above is the cover for another one of CC’s compilations, this one called “Copy me, Remix me“. “The Wired CD” is what I talked about in my previous post, and you can also get free-to-share music from Opsound, Magnatune, and not to mention the Creative Commons Search Engine which is bound to bring up a track or two. For those of you using the English version of The Firefox browser, you’ll be glad to know that CC search is built right in to the browser.

If you’d like to participate in this initative, feel free to comment on this post if you wish and leave your weblog/website URL so I can go take a peek. If you have any suggestions, ditto.

Now Playing: Distributed content in the 21st century

Listening to: The Phoenix Trap / You’re on Fire click here to download

During the past few days I’ve been making a point of listening to The WIRED cd, which I have been waiting anxiously for since last month, and as things go, International magazines tend to hit our newsstands fairly late. I realize I could have just downloaded the tracks from Creative Commons, but I’m an avid music fan who would rather have the actual album in her hands as opposed to downloading and burning.
get cover art
Want cover art?

Lets talk about this album, shall we?
To begin with, the Wired CD is a wonderful compilation of different types of genres; David Byrne click here to download (Talking Heads, you fools), Paul Westerberg click here to download, Beastie Boys click here to download and The Rapture click here to download, to name a few. This is just one of the things that makes this compilation so incredible; contributing artists from all over the world, different styles and genres, and one subject to unify them all – only some rights are reserved.

All tracks in the album are distributed under the Creative Commons’ “Noncommercial Sampling Plus” or “Sampling Plus” licenses, which allow you to share the files freely, and use bits and pieces of the tracks for sampling into your own works.

If you are not familiar with the Creative Commons initiative, their website reads: “a single goal unites Creative Commons’ current and future projects: to build a layer of reasonable, flexible copyright in the face of increasingly restrictive default rules.“. To better understand the role of copyright and the impact it has on today’s culture, creativity and expression, I can’t recommend “Free Culture” enough; written by Lawrence Lessig, chairman of the CC’s board of directors, this book tries to pry-open the gut of the monster we know as “Intellectual Property” while discussing issues like Public Domain, File Sharing, the RIAA, “fair use” and the future of content.

Former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, Hilary Rosen, sees sense in initiatives like the creative commons. And for good reason; as technology has continued to grow and expand, content has become more accessible, but it is not just the accessibility which has grown and evolved. The content itself has changed, led by this very technological development and it’s readiness. Copyright laws in the spirit of the 1910’s make as much sense to today’s distributed content as it would be to try to hook up a digital camera to a telephone poll in order to wire the photo to the editorial office downtown. Or in other words, as the tools change, the means change, even if the ends may stay the same.

What we seem to be facing today, for a lack of a better term, may very well be the “Crossroads of Copyright”. With the evolution of content and it’s accessability in general, and the evolution of music specifically, we find ourselves at a point where copyright may be taking multiple paths. The Creative Commons is just one initiative in the field, other sources are making an effort to struggle and find a solution which will point us into the direction where copyright should be heading. Some initiatives, like copy-protection and pay-per download file-sharing have so far proven to be only partially successful, at best. Other initiatives, like “Weed“, try to build and expand on the priced downloading concept, and in contrast, initiatives like the Creative Commons are making an effort to change copyright at it’s very root – the license.

Wherever we may find ourselved when “Copyright Armageddon” shows it’s ugly head, one thing is for certain: the face of distributed content has changed forever.

Now, go listen to some good music.

On the subject of teachers.

Today at German class, I went out into the lounge to have a smoke during break, and a German teacher’s seminar came out of the seminar hall. One of the teachers decided to join me for a smoke, a 60 y/o man with yellow teeth. He looked at the mockup ashtray I made out of a plastic cup and water, looked at me and asked “Ist das der Aschenbecher?” (I think this is the correct grammar). Now, he spoke REALLY fast, and VERY silently, and well under his moustache (“der Schnurrbart” in German, heehee!), and I couldn’t make out a word. I looked at him, and said: “English or Hebrew, please.”

He sits down, lights a cigarette, and says: “You didn’t understand?”
I said: “No, I did not. You spoke very fast.”
In return: “So, when will you understand?”
Me: “Eventually.”
(A few minutes pass, he gets up in order to leave)
Him: “Viel Glueck mit der Unterricht!”
Me: “Slowly… please!”
Him: “Viel Glueck…”
Me: “Yes…”
Him: “Unterricht. What does that mean?”
Me: “Lesson.”
Him: “Very good!”
Me: “Thank you”

I finish my cigarette, and head back over to the classroom thinking “This is the reason I disliked highschool.”

Und jetzt, etwas ganz verschiedenes

It’s been a tough week. I’ve been struggling with my time, trying to synchronise beween studying German, meeting a close friend who came to visit from Berlin, dealing with work-related odds and ends, rearranging my room/life, and trying very hard to settle down what used to be an emotional hurricaine and has now become a mere turmoil. The question remains, however: Was jetzt, und wohin gehe ich von hier (What now, and where do I go from here)? This abstract question bears relevance to so many aspects of my current life, that I don’t even know from where to begin; If not Israel, and not the United States, then where? Why is it that I am no longer feeling enriched by my surroundings? Perhaps I need to move on, and fast. Perhaps I need to move on, and slowly. Perhaps I am missing something, and do not need to move on at all. Perhaps I am giving it too much thought than fit for a mere 22 year-old. Perhaps now is the best time to consider things forward.

I woke up very happy this morning; it was raining, and I was was in the company of someone I care very much about. And in the greater scheme of things, when speaking abstractly, perhaps we’re all exactly where we need to be, every day that goes by.

Deutsch ist schwer!

Mark Twain was right. Or, at least, partially correct. German is a horrible, horrible language to learn, the grammar is completely chaotic, there are more “exceptions” to rules than there are conforming examples, and the only thing that makes sense is the presence of phonetic pronouciation, which is a complete slap in the face for any native English speaker, which is used to the rediculous pronouciation of the English language. It works in my favor, then, that I also happen to be a fluent speaker of Hebrew, in this regard, I have so much to be thankful for; knowing English may be good for German vocabulary, but Hebrew is an asset when understanding the (il)logic of grammatic sexes, various bits of pronouciation, and even translation of the meanings behind words that English speakers would have a hard time with. Consider the word Ueber, which corresponds, in most cases, directly to the Hebrew word Al. In English, however, this word could mean Over, About, On, Regarding, and probably a few others depending on context. A word like this would throw an English speaker into a frenzy. For a Hebrew speaker, however, this makes complete sense.

English, of course, has sexes too, but they are not grammatical. The use of “He”, “She” and “It” is always to to the subject of the sentence, and whether it is blatantly male, female, or an object. In Hebrew, the use of sexes is grammatical, and every subject or object recieves a male or female use (“It” is grammatically considered male). In German, every subject or object recieves a male, female or neutral use, and, as in Hebrew and unlike in English, the relation of the object to it’s sex has no direct connection to the object’s actual sex. So, consider the position I am in, when I confront this sentence in three different languages (shown here in direct translation to English):

  • In English: The floor, it is dirty.
  • In Hebrew: The floor, she is dirty (female adj.).
  • In German: The (male) floor, it is dirty.

According to the above, in English, the floor is neither male or female (obviously, unless you have taken a personal liking to your floor and give it a pet name and personality, like I do with my computer), therefor is an “it”. In Hebrew, the word “floor” is female, therefor will be regarded as a “she” in all instances. The word “the” however, remains “ha” (“haRitzpa”) regardless of the grammatic sex of the word. In Hebrew, the adjective also recieves a grammatical change accordig to the sex of the object, so “dirty” would be “Meluchlechet” (female) instead of “Meluchlach” (male). In GERMAN, however, it is “the” which recieves the sexual attribution according to the sex of the object. If “floor” is male, “the” will be “Der” (“Der Boden”, as opposed to “Die Boden” or “Das Boden”). HOWEVER, since the floor is still a sexless object when speaking non-grammatically, it will be regarded as “it” when defining it. So I would say “Der Boden, es(it) ist schmutzig” instead of “Der Boden, ER(he) ist schmutzig” as upside-down logic would assume. English, of course, takes the easy way out here, since there are no grammatic sexes in the language. Unless the floor suddenly grows a bosom (or chest hair!), it will be forever an “it”.

It is easy to hear which language is being corresponded to when the students in my class speak German. The corresponding is inevitable and impossible to avoid for those who fluently speak a single language. If there are 15 students in my class, 13 of them correspond directly to Hebrew, having that as their first language. It’s simple to make that out due to the fact that they are having less difficulty with grammar and the concept of grammatical sexes, and have no problem pronoucing a great deal of sounds (like the “ch” in “mittwoch” or the “r” in “raum“), sounds which are completely non-existant in English. Another student has English as his mother tongue, and is South African. It is simple to see that he is having a better time than the rest of the students with the issue of vocabulary, since many German verbs and nouns are very similar to the ones in English.

And I? Well, that is is great question. I don’t have one mother tongue, but two. Ich spreche zwei Sprachen: I speak both English and Hebrew fluently, speak mixed sentences (my friends despise that) and when engaging in internal dialogue, I think in both languages. The issue of corresponding German to one or the other is something I do intuitively, but knowing which to correspond to (even though I theoretically shouldn’t at all) is extremely difficult, and my German comes out with a rediculously odd accent and word order which is completely mutated beyond comprehention.

I’ll concede with a few wise words from the forementioned article by Mark Twain:
If I had not shown that the German is a difficult language, I have at least intended to do so. I have heard of an American student who was asked how he was getting along with his German, and who answered promptly: “I am not getting along at all. I have worked at it hard for three level months, and all I have got to show for it is one solitary German phrase–’ZWEI GLAS’” (two glasses of beer). He paused for a moment, reflectively; then added with feeling: “But I’ve got that SOLID!”

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