Saturday, February 19, 2011


God, I miss the '90s. That is all.


The Spirit of a Celt

When you ask many brainwashed Dallas teenagers in 2011, "What radio station do you listen to most?", by the numbers they are probably going to say 106.1 KISS FM. I have nothing against 106.1. In fact, I oscillate weekday mornings between the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show and the Russ Martin Show on 97.1 the Eagle (both for the show, not the music). Kidd Kraddick and crew are funny and have great dynamics, but unfortunately the rest of KISS FM is not so great.


Lady GaGa

I am referring specifically to the generally untalented artists and meaningless music that the station airs around the clock. Don't get me wrong, I like pop music and rap. Madonna, Warren G, P!nk, Usher (his R&B music), House of Pain, Mike Shinoda...hell, even Christina Aguilera and Maroon 5 are okay in my book. But most of the pop-rap and half-assed pop dance music out there is total bullshit whose writers don't deserve a fraction of the money and credit that they attain through the composition of unoriginal musical diarrhea. This includes everyone from Lady GaGa (more the fake mannequin persona that she only uses in public and infects her music) to T-Pain, Ludacris, and others. I just wish there were something more fulfilling playing on KISS FM.

But what music would this be?

Well, since there are lots of other stations to play good music from every genre, maybe we should have a popular radio station that plays Celtic (or Celtic-esque) music. Take this song by Bear McCreary for example:

Or classic pub songs like Black Velvet Band:

And Rocky Road to Dublin:

Even this song:

But really, Celtic music on popular radio?


Will Smith

Maybe Irish and Scotian music is a little extreme. But the point is, we need to start listening to radio stations that play music that couldn't be generated in less than 30 minutes. Whether that be alternative rock, heavy metal, R&B, Country, Hip-Hop, Pop, or Baroque, do yourself and American culture a favor and don't waste away the four or more hours you spend driving each week accepting low-skill trash for music. Alaikum Al-Salaam.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Singularity is Here

At lunch today, I walked over to see if one of my friends, Andy, had come to school today. It turns out he was still at home sick but that he was Skyping with two of my other friends, Sean and Dillon, from home to Dillon's laptop.While that experience (I had never actually seen someone Skype before) was definitely entertaining, what happened next was the spark of enlightment. When we arrived in AP Chemistry, we informed Sister Cecilia that Andy was sick, but that he would like to join the class. She didn't understand at first until Dillon pulled out the laptop and called Andy. We put him on a desk in the front row facing the board, and proceeded with class as normal; And that's what excites me.

In the world of Facebook and Skype, being away doesn't mean that you are cut off. Andy took notes from home and now doesn't have to worry about getting someone else's notes or spending additional time learning the material, saving him tremendous time and lessening the stress of missing classwork. People often talk about the Singularity, where computing becomes so fast that it can mimic human brain patterns, allowing us to download into them, but what if we are already there? Is there really a difference between having a Cylon body, augmenting many aspects of your physical existence, and simply using today's technology to accomplish the same thing? If you want super strength, we have it: a robotic exoskeleton (tethered, though) that allows one to lift weights much larger than any human being on his own. Access to computers around the world?: Cloud Computing. Face-time with people who are thousands of miles away?: Skype. Almost every advantage conceivable by forming the Singularity is available now in other forms.

But what does this mean for humanity?

No one really knows. Maybe we will all grow so used to it that everyone will stay at home all day and use Internet Work-Flow Software including Skype to do everything that they have to do, sacrificing the personal human element of life forever. Maybe it will pave way for a demented computer hacker to unleash a virus that latches onto this connectivity and destroys every computer on Earth, bringing us back to the Stone Ages. But hopefully, it means that the exponentially increasing interconnectivity people have with others around the globe will lead to a Pax Terris and a revival of the inclusive, limitless human spirit to break boundaries, to overcome obstacles, and to explore our existence in every way that we can - to go where no one has gone before. Live Long, and Prosper.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Half-Moon Bay

I know that many people don't really like Train's newest album "Save Me San Francisco" as much as older albums like "Drops of Jupiter" or their self-titled debut. To be sure, "Hey Soul Sister" is terrible song that sounds exactly like Jason Mraz. Even the best songs on their album would be hard-pressed to beat "Calling All Angels", "Idaho", "Meet Virginia", or their masterpiece "Drops of Jupiter", but there is something about one particular song off the Golden Gate Edition of "Save Me San Francisco" that really stands out to me. It's by far the best song on the album.

There's something about it that reminds me of the Train of my youth. I remember reading a comment on one of Train's videos once. It said something to the extent of "I used to hear all these great songs when I was little. When I grew up, I realized that they were all by Train." And that's what I feel about this song. It's very unfortunate that it doesn't make radio air time, because "Hey Soul Sister", as the absolute number one played song on Australian radio ever (eck), is an abomination to Train's talent and style. Gute Nacht.

The World is Flat...Oh Shit

Though perhaps one of the most important books of our time, The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman is also one of the singularly most depressing. If you have not read this book, please, go out and buy it. It will make you one the most hopeful people ever...until you get to the chapters on how America has to adapt to the flattening (globalization) of the world. You might say: "Should we really be worried? We've survived depressions, world wars, and myriad scandal, is this really any different? Is this really that big a deal?" Indeed it is. No matter what anyone tells you, we are still far ahead of the Indians and Chinese (not to mention the Brazilians, Kenyans, Poles, Russians, etc.) because of one crucial part of the research and development chain - Imagination. Imagination? What are you talking about? What I mean is that programmers in India can build and program a computer just as fast as Americans can, and they can take ideas from others and build on them, just like Americans can and do. What they don't have is the initial spark, the initial moment of genius that propels technology a decade into the future (maybe that's too dramatic). At the very least, American scientists and engineers of all sorts are significantly better at dreaming up and beginning the implementation of those strokes of genius. But why is that? Why are Americans blessed with the gift of daydreaming? The answer may be deceptively simple. Indian education doesn't place much emphasis at all on college education outside of science/technology and business/accounting. According to Friedman, at the time of publication of the book's third edition, there would be more Americans earning Ph.D's in Sanskrit and related subjects that there would be Indians earning Ph.D's in Sanskrit, despite them having four times the population (If you don't know, Sanskrit is the language of the Upanishads and other Hindu holy books). However in America, college grads are forced to take classes in non-technical fields and foster right-brain, left-brain pathways that allow them to better implement hard technical knowledge in an imaginative and innovative way. For that fact we are safe - for now. 

But in the next ten, twenty, thirty years, eventually they will all catch up, and we are going to get left behind at a rate unbelievable at this time. But why aren't the politicians screaming for education reform when we have to start now? It takes decades to fully train an engineer or scientist from elementary school to graduate school. So why are they cutting funding instead for all classes? In all grades? And giving out ridiculous state exams? Shouldn't that be a bigger issue than R&D for laser-guided grenade launchers, TSA full-body scanners, and congressional hearings for steroid usage in professional sports? Apparently not, leaving us to watch Latin America and the East charge ahead into a bright new future while we limp along, half-heartedly telling ourselves that we are still the strongest and best nation in the world. Just think about it. Au revoir.

Monday, February 14, 2011

WTF is a Royal Fig Tree?

Who the hell would name their blog "Royal Fig Trees"? Who do they think they are, some kind of Mediterranean royalty? Well, I'm that kind of person because that's (apparently) what my Greek surname means: "Planter of Royal Fig Trees" or something like that. You must be wondering - Who are you? What right do you have to make a blog in this overcrowded online world of absurdity and bad grammar? And maybe you're right - I don't have a college degree (yet, I'm only a senior in high school), I'm not a public figure, and I can't even stay focused in calculus class. However, I do believe that I see the world in a slightly different light than many other people. If at this point you think that I'm just another blogger fracking up the internet, then you might want to take the mouse off of that "next blog" button and read a bit further. I made A's in AP-level history and government/politics classes and my rage at overly-partisan government ignorant of the true issues at hand will not be mitigated. I took college chemistry and physics and read Popular Mechanics and Science Illustrated, and makes hopes and fears for our tech-oriented generation do not go unfounded. I read actual physical newspapers, and I think. A lot. I actually read every literature book we were assigned in AP English, along with dozens of others. I also play guitar and piano and despise the decline in the quality of rap and pop as serious music (in most cases) since the new millennium. And the kicker - I didn't actually think Avatar was that great of a movie. Sure, the story and visual effects were beautiful, but ultimately unoriginal and highly predictable. Sometimes that's what we want, for better or worse, but that doesn't mean that it's a great movie. If you're still bearing along with me, then I hope that you'll tune into my blog from time to time to learn something new about our world. About the science and technology that will change our world; About the politics that will shape our future; About human culture, reflecting the very nature of the soul; About our potential for greatness, and about and our aptitude for pissing me off. Antio.