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  Dave Grohl sounds like a very nice person. He says only good things about people, he is passionate and goofy and everybody seems to like him. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music has a whooping rating of 4.5 on Goodreads with many stellar reviews, especially the audio version that Grohl is narrating himself. But I only read the book, which to me seemed to lack a lot of the strong emotions I am used to associate with well written autobiographies. And a book called "The Storyteller" should feel well written.

  It's not like I didn't enjoy the book, but it never goes deeply into anything. Made out of disjointed chapters that factually focus on various events in Dave's life, it merely describes Grohl's feelings, but doesn't make the reader empathize and feel them. There is a scene (I call it a scene, because it really does feel like a PG-rated movie rather than reading an honest self reflection) where the band is playing in Sweden, Dave falls and breaks his leg. He doesn't feel the pain, because of all of the excitement and adrenaline (ahem!) and gets back on stage and plays from a chair while a doctor is holding his leg in position. After the concert he starts feeling the pain but the chapter ends. The whole thing is related just as deadpan as I did here. You don't get to experience being on stage, singing with a broken leg in front of so many people, the concern of other people washing over you, the pain, the fear or even the effect of having to play the guitar and sing from a sitting down position. It all feels remote, curated, antiseptic.

  You know when actors talk about their involvement in a movie and they praise everybody and everything, making it sound all great and perfect? That's what The Storyteller felt like to me.

  And I did check out the comments and reviews for the book and, while others feel like me, most people seem to have emotionally connected with Dave Grohl and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Is it because they were already fans and loved any piece of lore they could get about their favorite performer? Is it because I didn't get it? The book told stories, but I didn't feel them true. A better title would have been: "A Birdseye View of Dave Grohl's life: Random Scenes Seen From Afar"

  Bottom line: an informative yet ineffectual biography.

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As an experiment, try to find this video without knowing the name of the song or of the band. I tried so hard until my brain just gave up and remembered the name of the band all by itself. So here is the video. Now I can always find it when I need it. Cool song and video, I think.

And so that other people can find it: it's a music video about an astronaut crash landing on an alien planet and finding his own dead bodies and more versions of himself continuously falling and dying in different ways.

Coma is my favorite Romanian bands and I've known them almost since they were formed. They have been singing for 16 years now and it was nice to see the concert room filled with people of all ages, including a 16 year old boy who had his birthday on the same day. For me this concert was a double whammy, as the lead singer of one of the opening bands is a former colleague of mine. Yeah, small world.

The opening bands where Till Lungs Collapse and Pinholes. TLC were nice, with my boy Pava almost collapsing his lungs. Pinholes were a bit strange: from five people on the stage, only the drummer didn't sport a guitar. Their writing process must be weird. Then Coma came on stage, at about 0:00 and played for an hour an a half. They were great! I've been to many of their concerts and this is one of the best yet. The band's "curse" struck again, on Dan Costea's acoustic guitar, but they were able to continue without it with no problems. They sang all time favorites, some newer songs, they also did Morphine, which is one of my personal favorite songs of theirs. I wish they would have managed to squeeze Daddy in there, or at least 3 Minute.

Catalin Chelemen was on fire, Dan was doing his usual PR thing and he was great as well and it seemed like they all had a good chemistry with the new guitar player, Matei Tibacu. Well, new for me. Unfortunately the sound in Fabrica was pretty bad. While inside you could kind of focus on the right notes, especially if you knew what the songs were supposed to play like, if you try to gauge the quality of the concert from the videos that are online now, you want to mute it almost instantly. People were respectful enough not to smoke during the concert (I can't wait for the smoking ban to come in effect!), but my clothes still smelled of tobacco when I got home, from people smoking in the next room.

As far as I know you can hear them next at the Electric Castle Festival, July 14-17, with so many other great bands. I am tempted to go there, but I am not one for festivals. Great job, Coma, and good luck!

Click here to see some nice photos from the concert.

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Japanese culture is certainly special. The music, the drawing style, the writing, the cinematography, they are all easily recognizable and usually of high quality. Yet I think it is even cooler when artists are able to blend Japanese feeling with Western cultural artifacts. Check out this Japanese traditional sound... made metal: Akatsuki no Ito (The Thread of Dawn?)

Stephen Toub wrote this document, as he calls it, but that is so full of useful information that it can be considered a reference book. A 118 pages PDF, Patterns for Parallel Programming taught me a lot of things about .NET parallel programming (although most of them I should have known already :-().

Toub is a program manager lead on the Parallel Computing Platform team at Microsoft, the smart people that gave us Task<T>, Parallel, but also await/async. The team was formed in 2006 and it had the responsibility of helping Microsoft get ready for the shift to multicore and many-core. They had broad responsibility around the company but were centered in the Developer Division because they believed the impact of this fundamental shift in how programming is done was mostly going to be on software developers.

It is important to understand that this document was last updated in 2010 and still some of the stuff there was new to me. However, some of the concepts detailed in there are timeless, like what is important to share and distribute in a parallel programming scenario. The end of the document is filled with advanced code that I would have trouble understanding even after reading this, that is why I believe you should keep this PDF somewhere close, in order to reread relevant parts when doing parallel programming. The document is free to download from Microsoft and I highly recommend it to all .NET developers out there.

Date Published: 7/16/2010 File Size: 1.5 MB

I was just thinking about Coma a few days ago. I don't know why. I thought I miss one of their beautiful songs. And here I see on YouTube they released a new video just when I was thinking of them. This one is a very nice combination of Catalin's lyrics, melodic and hard sounds and a cool interweave of the voices of Catalin and Dan - it's not the usual contrast between singing and shouting, but rather a vocal collaboration which works surprisingly well. Without further due, here it is.
Chip, by Coma:

Also, if you want to see a live version:

A lot of the political discourse these days relates to the difference between democratic and non-democratic systems. More close to home, the amount of choice a government allows and - do not forget that part - demands from the individual. The usual path of such discourse is either "We let you do what you want!" or "We won't allow people do what you don't want!". I am telling you here that there is only a difference of nuance here, both systems are essentially doing the same thing, with top-to-bottom approaches or bottom-to-top. Like with the Borg in Star Trek, there is a point where both meet and make definition impossible.

My first argument is that the ideal democracy encourages personal freedom as long as it doesn't bother anyone else. That makes a lot of sense, like not allowing someone to kill you because they feel you're an asshole. Many people today live solely because of this side of democratic society. But it also means something else, something you are less prone to notice: you are demanded to know what everybody affected by your actions would feel about them. Forget the legal system, which in its annoying cumbersome way is only a shortcut to the principle described before. This is what it means, people: know your friends, know your enemies, join up! Otherwise you will just offend hard enough somebody who is important enough to make it illegal.

The non-democratic societies function like the all mighty parent of all. Under such governorship, all individual are children, incapable of making their own choices, unless supported by the whole of society or at least a large part of it. That's terribly oppressive, as it lets you do only what is communally permissible. But it also allows you the freedom of ignoring the personal choices of others. You don't need to know anything about anybody, just adhere to a set of rules that defines what you are allowed to do. It's that easy! That's why the system is so popular with uneducated people. Or maybe I should say lazy, to involve also those super educated people who end up supporting one radical view or another because it is inconvenient to find a middle ground compromise.

I am a techie, as you may know, so I will reduce all this human complexity to computer systems. Yes, I can! The first computer systems, created by scientists and highly technical people, were almost impossible to use. Not because they didn't let you do stuff, but because they let you do anything you wanted, assuming you were smart enough to understand what you were playing with. Obviously, few of us are really that smart. Even fewer want to make the effort. This is an important point: it's not that you are stupid, that you didn't read the manual, or anything like that. It's a rather aristocratic reason: you don't want to, don't need to, you expect comfort from the people who give you a complicated piece of machinery to operate. I mean, if they are smart to build one, why can't they make it so easy to use that a child could do it? (child sold separately, of course)

The answer to these complex UNIX systems was DOS, then Windows, then IOS. Operating systems increasingly dumbed down for the average user. Now everybody has a computer, whether a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone or a combination of these. Children have at their fingertips computers thousands of times more powerful that what I was using as a desktop in my childhood, and it is all because they have operating systems that allow them to quickly "get it" and do what they feel like. They are empowered by them to do... well.. incredibly idiotic things, but that is what children do. That's how they learn.

You get where I am getting at, I guess. We are all children now, with tools that empower us to get all the information and disinformation we could possibly want. And here is where it gets fuzzy. The totalitarian systems of yesterday are failing to constrain people to conform to the rules because of the freedom technology brought. But at the same time the democratic systems are also failing, because the complicated legal systems that were created as a shortcut for human stupidity and lack of understanding of the needs of others completely break down in front of the onslaught of technology, empowering people to evolve, change, find solutions faster than antiquated laws can possibly advance. The "parents" are in shock, whether biological ones or just people who think they know better for some reason.

Forget parents, older brothers can hardly understand what the youth of today is talking about. Laws that applied to your grandparents are hardly applicable to you, but they are incomprehensible to your children. The world is slowly reaching an equilibrium, not that of democracy and not that of totalitarianism, but the one in between, where people are not doing what they are allowed to, but what they can get away with! And that includes (if not first and foremost) our governors.

This brings me to the burden of choice, the thing that really none of us wants. We want to be able to choose when we want to be able to choose. And before you attack my tautology, think about it. It's true. We want to have the choice in specific contexts, while most of the time we want that choice removed from us, or better said: we want to be protected from choice, when that choice is either obvious, difficult to make or requiring skills we don't have. That is why you pay an accountant to hold the financial reins of your company, even if it is your lifeblood, and you trust that that person will make the right choices for you. If he doesn't, your life is pretty much forfeit, but you want it like that. The alternative is you would understand and perform accounting. Death is preferable.

You know that there are still operating systems that allow a high level of choice, like Linux. They are preferable to the "childish" operating systems because they give you all the options you want (except user friendliness, but that bit has changed too in the last decade). The most used mobile operating system nowadays is probably Android and if it not, it will be soon. It swept the market that Apple's IPhone was thought to master because it gave everybody (users and developers) The Choice. But the off the shelf Android phone doesn't allow that choice to the average user. You have to be technically adept first and emotionally certain second that you want to enable that option on your own phone! It's like a coming of age ritual, if you will, the first "jailbreak" or "root" of your smartphone.

How does that translate to real life? Right now, not much, but it's coming. It should be, I mean. Maybe I am overly optimistic. You get the accountants that find loopholes to pay less taxes, the lawyers that find the path to getting away with what normally would be illegal, the businessmen that eskew the rules that apply to any others. They are the hackers of the system, one that is so mindbogglingly complex that computer science seems a child's game in comparison. If you mess with them, they quickly give you the RTFM answer, like the Linuxers of old, though.

The answer: make the system user friendly. Technology can certainly help now. There will be hackers of the system no matter what you do, but if the system is easy to use, everyone will have the choice, when they want it, and will not be burdened by it, when they don't want it. People talking to find a solution to a problem? When did that ever work? We need government, law, business, social services, everyday life to work "on Android". We need the hurdles that stop us from enabling the "Pro" options, but they must not be impossible to get through. Bring back the guilds - without the monopoly - when people were helping each other to get through a problem together. Liberalize the banking and governmental systems. Forget about borders: just "subscribe" to a government, "like" a bank, "share" a life.

You think this is hard, but it is not. You can survive in an old fashioned system just as much and as well as you can survive in real life without using a computer. You can't! You can dream of a perfect house in the middle of nowhere with the white picket fence, where you will be happy with your spouse, children, dog, but really, that doesn't exist anymore. Maybe in a virtual world. Where the spouse will not nag, the children will actually love you instead of doing things you don't even begin to understand and the dog will never wake you up when you need to sleep. Use the tools you have to make your life simpler, better, depth first!

I assume some people would give me the attitude that is prevalent in some movies that try to explore this situation: "you want to escape reality!" - Yes! Who doesn't? Have you seen reality lately? "you want to play God!" - Yes! I like playing and I would like being God: win-win! And if I cannot, I will get real serious and not play, just be! Is that OK? "this is fantasy, this cannot be!" - Join the billions of dead people who thought the same about what you are doing daily without thinking about it. "You are an anarchist! The government as it is today knows what to do!" or "Allah/Jesus/Dawkings know best!" - no, they don't! And if they knew, they wouldn't tell you, so there.

It all comes to dynamical systems versus static ones. You don't go to the web to search for things and find what you were actually looking for because there is a law against sites hijacking your searches. It is because people want it enough so that a service like Google appeared. You can still find your porn and your torrents, though.

Consider every option you may possible have as a service. You need the service to be discoverable, but not mandatory or oppressive in its design, it has to be easy to use. You want to be able to find and use it, but not for it to be imposed on you. A good example for this is copyright. A small community of producers and a significantly larger one of intermediaries trying to leach on them are attempting to force a huge community of consumers abide to the (otherwise moral and reasonable) laws of paying for what you want and others worked for. The procedure is so annoying that people spontaneously organize to create the framework that democratizes theft. Someone is risking jail to film the movie in the cinema so you can download it free. Why is that? Because technology increases the dynamicity of the system with orders of magnitude. Another service is sex. Porn be damned, prostitutes don't stay on street corners anymore, they wait on the web for you to need them. Supply and demand. So the important point is what are you really demanding?

You know what you won't find on the web? Easy to use government sites. Services that would make it simple to interact with laws, lawmakers, local authorities, country officials. All similar attempts are notoriously bad, if at all present. Why is that? Because the system itself is obsolete, incapable of adapting. Built from centuries of posturing and politicking, it has as little connection to reality as a session of Angry Birds. And you may be enjoying the latter. They survived as long as they have because they were the best at one thing: limiting your choices. Even if you hated it, you enjoyed other people being as limited as you. But the dam is breaking, the water is sipping through, it will all vanish in a deluge of water and debris. It's already started, with peer to peer banks and online cryptographic currencies and what not. Why wait for it? Join the nation of your choice; if there isn't one you like, create one. Be God, be Adam, Eve, the serpent or any combination thereof - whatever you do, just don't be yourself, no one likes that.

I leave you with the beautiful words and music of Perfect Circle: Pet. Something so awesome an entire corporation was created to offer the ability for people to share the song with you, for free, even if theoretically it's illegal.

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I remember fondly the first albums from Garbage. Shirley's naughty lips and delicious Scottish accent, the new sound that used all those electronic sound filters, the weird melodic combinations and heavy guitars. It all fit into my rebellious streak from back then. So I thought I would listen to their last album: Not Your Kind of People. Unfortunately, the title is quite correct: they are not my kind of people anymore. The entire album sounds like a single long song, a boring one. Gone is the Scottish accent, gone are the hard riffs and hard lyrics and most of all gone is the angry emotion from Shirley's voice. The background music is some kind of sound filtered electropop that doesn't do anything for me.

I don't really blame them. It is difficult to maintain the angry forceful image when you're 46 years old, but also experience should bring new value into music. It's not all youthful anger. Too bad, I really wanted to like this album. I leave you with the original song that brought them to fame: I'm Only Happy When It Rains.

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It has been a while since I've posted music here. The performer is Lindsey Stirling and today is the first time I've heard of her, but I like her stuff. She is a pop violinist akin to Emilie Autumn, but not as dark. Here is the clip for Phantom of the Opera, 7 minutes long and very nice.

I thought about translating the lyrics to English, but there would be no point. It is pure poetry and it is beyond me. For the non-Romanian visitors, I just hope you like the song.

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Another song that I've been listening obsessively for the last day or two. I am fascinated by the mouth on that girl. So filthy the words, so beautiful a smile, so machinegun the speed. Not something that I would have associated with Manhattan , either. Here is the video, I will paste the lyrics below, because you may not understand them from the song alone :) You may also understand why at first I didn't believe it was on a TV music station, where I heard it the first time.

Hey, I can be the answer
I’m ready to dance when the vamp up
And when I hit that dip, get your camera
You could see I been that bitch since the Pamper
And that I am that young sis, the beacon
The bitch who wants to compete and
I could freak a 'fit, that pump with the peep and
You know what your bitch become when her weave in
I just wanna sip that punch with your peeps and
Sit in that lunch if you're treatin'
Kick it with ya bitch who come from Parisian
She know where I get mine from, and the season
Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening
And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in
I guess that cunt getting eaten (4x)

I was in the 212
On the uptown A, nigga you know what’s up or don’t you?
Word to who made ya
I’m a rude bitch, nigga, what are you made up of?
I’m-a eat ya food up, boo
I could bust your eight, I’m-a do one too, fuck ya gon' do?
I want you to make bucks, I’m a look-right nigga, bet ya do want to fuck…
Fuck him like ya do want to cum
You're gay to get discovered in my two-one-deuce
Cock-a-licking in the water by the blue bayou
Caught the warm goo in your doo-rag too, son?
Nigga you’re a Kool-Aid dude
Plus your bitch might lick it, wonder who let you come to one-two
With ya doo-doo crew son… fuck are you into, huh?
Niggas better oooh-run-run
You could get shot, homie, if ya do want to
Put ya guns up, tell your crew don’t front
I’m a hoodlum nigga, you know you were too once
Bitch I’m 'bout to blew up too
I’m the one today, I’m the new shit, boo, young Rapunzel
Who are you, bitch, new lunch?
I’m-a ruin you, cunt (4x)

Ayo (ayo), I heard you're riding with the same tall, tall tale
Telling them you made some (made some)
Saying you're grinding but you ain't going nowhere
Why you procrastinate girl? (-nate girl)
You got a lot, but you just waste all yourself
They'll forget your name soon (name soon)
And won't nobody be to blame but yourself, yeah

What you gon' do when I appear?
W-when-when I premiere?
Bitch, the end of your lives are near
This shit been mine, mine (x2)

Bitch, I’m in the 212
With the fifth cocked nigga, its the two-one-zoo
Fuck you gon' do, when your goon sprayed up?
Bet his bitch won't get him, betcha you won't do much
See, even if you do want to bust
Your bitch’ll get you cut and touch you crew up too, Pop
You're playing with your butter like your boo won’t chew cock
The gun, too -- where you do eat poon, hon?
I’m fucking with you, cutie-q
What’s your dick like homie, what are you into, what’s the run, dude?
Where do you wake up? Tell your bitch keep hating, I’m the new one too, huh?
See, I remember you when you were
The young new face, but you do like to slumber, don’t you?
Now your boo up too, hon
I'm-a ruin you, cunt

What you gon' do when I appear?
W-when-when I premiere?
Bitch, the end of your lives are near
This shit been mine, mine (x2)

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It's been a long time since I've posted a music entry. Here is one from Hanzel und Gretyl, an Industrial Rock band with Nazi overtones singing mostly in German. Actually, I couldn't say what ideology they have, since the band contains two people from New York who are not even German! But I like their music, this one in particular (I've listened to it on repeat for a day or so). Enjoy!

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Long time since I've posted a song. I heard this one at a lunch with a friend and then I dug up this rare video of the last performance of Shakespeare's Sister before they split up. Enjoy!

Here is the original video of the song:

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Coma has finally released a new song. It's completely free to listen and share. Here is the SoundCloud link for it: Un semn. You can also listen to it here.
Coma - Un semn [2011] by COMA-band-official

I wish it weren't such a light piece or that Dan Costea would have added some of his trademark screams in the background at least. I can't but think of Linkin Park, starting with great, powerful songs and continuing with whining in their next album. But being the first piece out, it may be a teaser for what it is to come.

There is a video for the song, and here it is:

Ok, I am cheating now. I was feeling bad for not playing chess lately (or playing badly when I had other stuff to do, generating even more guilt) and having nothing to blog about except maybe books and also thinking about all the other directions of the blog that I failed to cover: programming, music, tech news.

So I bring you Brute force or intelligence? The slow rise of computer chess, which is an article about chess, it is from Ars Technica (tech news) and it involves some notions of programming. All I need for this to be complete is music!

Seriously now, I went to a friend's last night and played a bit of chess. We were both a little tired and drunk, so we played chess "for fun" (which translates to incredibly bad), but it really felt fun as opposed to playing a computer at a very low level. Why is that? I believe it is all about prioritization.

When a human plays, he is trying to use the principles of chess, but he doesn't have the time or mental resources to take each one and analyse each piece or position. Humans do use subconscious mechanisms to quickly scan a table, but that only comes with a lot of chess training. So basically, what a beginner human player is left with is finding a strategy that would quickly and (preferably) forcibly win the game. That means that we use something akin with the "Type B" algorithm from the article above. But it's not quite it, because it is a bit of everything, something that is traditionally hard to implement in a computer program (and that has more to do with the psychology of programming engineers than with a specific level of difficulty). Basically we look at the pieces, prioritised by their power and reach as well as their position relative to an area of attack or defence. That is why we don't see the queen or bishop in the corner of the table, because, looking in ever wider circles around the area we are focused on, we suddenly stop and start doing something else. Compare that with a computer which can take the measly 32 pieces on the board and computer in a few fractions of a second all their possible moves and the resulting board position.

Then, when we see a possible good move, we take it forward as many steps as we can. Does a chess beginner do a comprehensive tree of all possible moves in that scenario? Of course not. Not only we do not see all (or most) of the moves, but when we see a possibility for the opponent to play a counter move, we quickly analyse the likelihood that the other guy would see it and sometimes we even gamble that they won't do it, just because we wish they didn't. This is also psychological: the gambler way of thinking has been documented for a while, they are motivated by loss which gives them more of an adrenaline rush than winning or that makes winning ever sweeter; also the guy we play with is probably our friend and we partly root for the guy as well. Program that into a computer! I've had games where I took huge risks on the hope that my friend would a) not see the move, which would make me look good when playing a cool game and b) that he would see the move, making his game look cool, thus making the entire session interesting.

Back to programming, I think that the easiest way of implementing this kind of bad human play in a computer game is to take a normal computer algorithm for playing chess, like mini-max, then program a sort of Alzheimer routine, that would remove bits of its reasoning based on a probability computed from the following factors: proximity of pieces to a region of interest (which would also have to be defined, but let's just assume it would be the average of positions of the pieces involved in the current line of thought), the artistic value of a line of thought (which would be defined either by massive sacrifices for important gains, or by how severely we limit the opponent options - in other words: power), the probability that the opponent would see a move (computed based on current history of play) and also by the artistic value of the entire game, as described in the last paragraph.

In other words, what I am proposing here is that we have a perfect algorithm for playing chess, one that is limited by computing power alone. What we don't have is a good algorithm for bad play, for fun play. Most computer programs I've seen, including ChessMaster, which boasts with its ability to simulate human players of varying abilities, have incredibly stupid ways of limiting performance. For example: a knight wants to attack f7, the black soft spot; it has plans to move a bishop there as well. I move a pawn to prevent the bishop from attacking that spot and the computer takes with the knight, sacrificing a minor piece for a pawn and my king's ability to castle. Or a rook attacks a knight. It then takes the knight, even if defended. In other words, random, pointless moves. Every human move is purposeful, even if the purpose if flawed by bad judgement. Random moves won't do, they have to be moves that follow a plan, no matter how bad that plan is. We need a perfect algorithm for throttling the playing chess level. We need to look at human bad games, make their own chess database, extract rules for bad play and implement this into computers.