my personal blog

August 5, 2008

Golf VI, From Photoshop to In-the-Flesh Photos

Filed under: business,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:48 am

It must really suck to make a computer-generated guesstimate at a future car model just days before the real deal gets leaked onto the internet. If your Photoshop handiwork is pretty close to the real deal, that helps lessen the blow, but still….

Here’s what Autobild came up with, seen just a few days ago at The German Car Blog:

Golf MkVI render from Autobild

Golf MkVI render from Autobild

Cool, so they basically started off with a bodykit-wearing MkV Golf/Rabbit, added the front end of the new Scirocco, and the rear tail lights from the Touareg and called it a day. Anyway, literally the next day, I see leaked photos of the MkVI Golf in the flesh on Autoblog. And a few more photos popped up on World Car Fans the day after that.

Golf MkVI

Golf MkVI

Now, as for the design, I’m happy to see Volkswagen’s design language taking a step back from gaudy chrome to the glory days of the MkIV generation. You might remember that as the generation that started with the then-iPod of cars, the New Beetle, and basically brought Volkswagen from a near-defunct brand in the US to its former yuppie glory practically overnight. Basically, I’m already sold on the design.

August 4, 2008

I bought a cheap pair of glasses when my last pair broke because I needed new glasses ASAP, but I wanted to look for a pair that really suited me. See, when you’re buying eyeglasses because you actually need them and not for fashion reasons, you walk into one of several eyeglass stores and you’re fed upon by salespeople like you’re at a car dealer. Except, it’s glasses, and you can still see without having a car.

At any rate, I decided to start looking for a set of specs that suit me, and decided to use the internet the same way I do when making any purchase—check out reviews, compare specs, look for deals, etc. I’m just fine going to blogs for tech info, furniture info, etc., but eyeglasses? Clothing and accessories are a new frontier; everything I wear came with a Target price tag.

Innocently enough, I started by typing Which promptly redirected me to 1-800 Contacts. Well played, 1-800 Contacts, well played. Next, even though the term made me want to puke, I googled “where can I find fashionable eyeglasses?” and basically ended up with LensCrafters and listings. Damn, I could’ve thought of that without Google’s help.

The thing I like about eyeglasses: they’re the only item where the price disparity between no-name, brand name, and designer brand is next to nothing. No-names? Under $100. Ray-Ban? Oakley? $150-$200. Dolce & Gabbana? Burberry? Ferragamo, Prada? $200-$250. And then there’s the issue about insurance covering a good percentage on frames.

And in conclusion, these are the two frames I kind of settled on, after my exhaustive (15 minute) search. Kind of partial to the Burberry specs at the bottom for the Gordon Freeman look….

August 2, 2008

A 2001 Take on WALL-E

Filed under: thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:33 am

I finally saw WALL-E tonight, and despite it being the highest-rated film of 2008 so far, it could have definitely benefited from a little tragedy. For the two or three people on Earth who haven’t seen the film yet, spoilers ahead:

First off, the plot is really thin, and the payoff is too family-friendly. In other words, yes WALL-E saves the day, and no, he doesn’t sacrifice himself for the good of humanity; and yes, he gets the “girl”, er, robot. In the future, Earth is so filled with garbage that humanity leaves Earth on what are essentially giant cruise ships in space, while WALL-E and the rest of the garbage-bots clean the planet. Fast forward some seven-hundred years: humanity remained on their ship all this time and forgot about returning to Earth because it was deemed uninhabitable.

This is the part of the plot that I’m totally OK with. The first act of the movie was fantastic: the sad way WALL-E went about his programming day in and day out forever, and without purpose set the bar pretty high. Then, he meets his “love interest” EVE and they save the day. The end. Lame.

Enter the 2001-esque version…

One of the reasons 2001: A Space Odyssey endures as a classic is its difficult, vague, open-ended plot. Kubrick never quite explained what happened, and left it up to the audience, but in a nut-shell, it did have something to do with death and rebirth. After all, you can never go wrong with allegorical tales representing death and rebirth, right?

So, in my attempt to turn WALL-E into a brilliant sci-fi epic, WALL-E and EVE get to humanity’s cruise ship, but what they find is scores of robots “living” out the same lives WALL-E has back on Earth: silently following their pre-programmed routines day in and day out forever. In my take, as the ship was meant to be away for only 5 years, humanity died out centuries ago. Yes, humanity is extinct, its only memory encoded into the data banks of the ship’s computer.

And so ends the second act. WALL-E has brought along a single living plant which he found back on Earth, proving that life can continue there. WALL-E, EVE, and the rogue robot cast they meet during their adventure through the ship, face off against the ship’s computer, Auto, which has been programmed never to return to Earth under any circumstance. Because it is programmed, it’s not really evil, but it serves as the film’s de-facto villain. Let’s just cast Auto as WALL-E‘s HAL-9000.

With the ship’s computer dispatched, the robots take control of the ship and set it on a course to Earth. WALL-E is damaged from the fight with the ship’s computer and in bad shape. As soon as the ship gets to Earth, EVE rushes to get WALL-E repaired, but the damage is presumably too extensive, and WALL-E powers down. The robots are able to use a fail-safe mechanism built into the ship that begins terraforming the planet—and he ship is destroyed in the process, and with it, any memory of humanity’s existence.

Thus, the crew of robots are left on Earth, and as centuries pass, life begins anew, with the robots as the stewards of the new Earth. In an ending the film hinted at, but didn’t go through with, EVE finally finds the parts to repair WALL-E, but with his memory erased, WALL-E becomes the mindless automaton he was originally, and continues his pre-programmed tasks. The film ends as it began, except instead of WALL-E roaming towers of refuse, we now see a beautiful prehistoric world.

There we have it: the extinction of humanity, a hero’s self-sacrifice, and the rebirth of life. No easy answers, and a bittersweet ending. That’s all WALL-E needed to go beyond movie of the year, to become an absolute classic.

July 25, 2008

BRB giving my persona info to scammers

Filed under: humor — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 11:18 pm

BRB jokes during the course of an IM conversation are entertaining. Example from moments ago:

[23:03] asurroca: […] I gave you a secret code valid for a prize of a free iPod Touch, Nintendo Wii, or Xbox 360, if you just enter the code, answer whether or not Bush should be fired, and enter your birthdate, credit card info, and social security number

[23:03] asurroca: so you pretty much missed out bigtime

[23:03] Kate: fuck.

[23:03] asurroca: yup, sorry

[23:04] asurroca: I went ahead and entered the info myself

[23:04] asurroca: so I’m going to get some sweet new gear for FREE!

[23:04] asurroca: brb checking bank acct

[23:06] asurroca: holy SHIT! My credit cards are maxed out and my bank accts are drained! How could this have happened?!?!?!??!

July 22, 2008

Albums Best Heard Together: Drums Not Dead and Deceit

Filed under: music,reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 10:45 am

Liars has become a darling of the indie world, especially after their 2006 record, Drums Not Dead—look no further than Pitchfork Media’s glowing review for confirmation. Their drum-based, drone-filled sound doesn’t make for an easy listen, and sounds nothing like the hacks that fill the indie landscape lately. Drums Not Dead is almost perfect, but it’s also been done before.

Album art for This Heat-Deceit (1981)Album cover for Liars-Drums Not Dead (2006)

See, while you’ve probably already heard of Liars (the band opened for Radiohead during their 2008 North American tour), it’s much less likely that you’ve ever heard of This Heat. And Liars’ entire sound is essentially the application of a fresh coat of paint on a 1981 masterpiece by the name of Deceit.

Rather than accuse Liars of ripping off the forgotten 70s-era post-punk band This Heat, I choose to believe that Liars is paying homage to This Heat unless I find out otherwise. If you’ve heard Deceit, you’ll find Drums Not Dead definitely comes from the same place. Both records open with un-threatening, almost peaceful tracks, then pull the rug out and launch into tracks filled with menacing drum lines, screaming, and a caustic, off-balance feel that continues through the remainder of each.

That’s not to say that either record is a chore to listen to. On Deceit: “Cenotaph”, with its Joy Division-esque sound, would have made a fine single in 1981 (less so today; maybe on satellite radio), “Makeshift Swahili” is the most punk-like track on the record, and “A New Kind of Water” morphs from a beautiful, droning anthem into a proper rock song. And on Drums Not Dead, “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack” is likely to be a signature Liars song for a while—when I saw them open for Radiohead in West Palm Beach, it was their set opener. “Drums Gets a Glimpse” is a slower, pretty track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Broken Social Scene record.

It’s interesting that where I heard a little of This Heat’s contemporaries such as Can and Joy Division (and on one track, perhaps Dead Can Dance) in their record, I heard a little of Liars’ own contemporaries such as (in addition to Broken Social Scene) The Microphones, and Radiohead. The only track I’m not sure about is Drums Not Dead‘s closer, “To Hold You, Drum”, which comes off embarrassingly like a carbon copy of Deceit‘s sound. While the rest of the record stays far enough away from This Heat’s sound for Liars to come off as merely on the same wavelength as This Heat, this track implies that the band merely listened to Deceit on repeat while they were dreaming up ideas for new tracks.

As I’ve said, I choose to believe otherwise. Give both a listen. But be warned: Deceit has been out of print for a while, so it’s basically impossible to find at retail stores and difficult to find at download sites.

July 11, 2008

Must-have app: Dashwire

Dashwire logoIf you have a Windows Mobile phone and an unlimited data plan, you have to get Dashwire like, yesterday. If you’re using anything else and/or don’t have an unlimited data plan, then I’m sorry.

Dashwire, recently out of private beta, lives as an app on your WinMo 5 or 6 phone (Symbian and BlackBerry support on the way) and dutifully sends out almost everything to the other half of this equation, a web app that lets you manage your phone from your computer. The data gets synced over the air automatically, so you know that nearly everything on your phone is also available on the web.

Backup to the Dashwire Cloud

Dashwire will pick up and sync your photos, your text messages, your contacts, your ringtones, even your call history and voicemail (via Callwave). And it syncs almost frighteningly fast: I had the web app open, and received a phone call; by the time I hung up perhaps a minute later, the call was already displayed in my call history on the Dashwire web app.

Dashwire screenshot

Web2.0 for your Phone

Dashwire doesn’t stop there, even though as an online backup for your phone alone, it would already kick ass. No, Dashwire gives you the whole web2.0 social networking aspect, like any good web app would. When you set your status on your phone through the Dashwire app, it sends the status update to your Facebook and Twitter status (and I’m sure more services are in the pipeline). Your phone gets its own little profile page, with a stream of all the photos and video you’ve shot posted up as a tumblelog. And you can view your text messages like an instant messaging conversation, a la iChat/iPhone. You can also send text messages or Skype any of your contacts from the Dashwire web app, as well as share anything with your contacts.

Verdict: Awesome Squared

So far, I’m in love. Dashwire has that feeling of something that does everything just right. The last time I was so smitten with a service was Google’s GrandCentral, which I still use constantly. Hell, it’s replaced my phone number. Did I forget to mention that Dashwire, like GrandCentral is completely free? It basically does 90% of Apple’s MobileMe service, except it costs nothing. Read: Killer app.

One final note: Apparently, Microsoft is already on the list of investors. And the start-up behind Dashwire just happens to be in Seattle. With Danger (the folks behind the Sidekick) in their company, I immediately thought that adding Dashwire to the Sidekick would be nothing short of perfect. If Dashwire can get their “cloud” to sync back to Outlook over the air, then, I’ll be in mobile heaven.

July 2, 2008

A Little Linear Love in Album Covers

Filed under: artwork,music,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 7:41 pm

When I saw the cover for the new Death Cab for Cutie album, I thought to myself, “hey, I’ve seen this before.”

Cover for Death Cab for Cutie album, \

Les Savy Fav, The Microphones, and Lamb all had similar album covers for their respective albums around the turn of the century.

The Microphones, in 2000
I would say the Death Cab for Cutie album cover bears the closest resemblance to this one, made from a few apparently hand-cut photographs.

Cover for The Microphones album, \

Les Savy Fav, in 2001
The artwork consists of several photos that were chopped up and then spliced into one, creating a colorful, line-filled collage. It’s especially apparent on the album’s backside, where all the band’s members show up in the same space.

Cover for Les Savy Fav album, \Rear side of Les Savy Fav album, \

Lamb, in 2001
Rather than cutting out the band’s members linearly, the artwork here uses squares, but does about the same thing as the Les Savy Fav cover. The album’s 2003 US release was much less interesting, showing only the band’s lamb “logo” on a blue background. Boring, and two years late. Thanks,

Cover for UK edition of Lamb album, \

July 1, 2008

Garfield Minus Garfield

Filed under: humor — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 1:37 am

Yes, I know Garfield Minus Garfield, or G-G, isn’t new, and I may lose internets cred by posting an old meme. Whatever. At any rate, I’ve always felt sorry for Jon Arbuckle. When you get past the humor in Garfield, what you’re left with is depressing. As evidenced by G-G:

G-G cartoon

G-G cartoon

G-G cartoon

Sadly, I’m finding that I can relate to Jon more and more each day.

June 19, 2008

Albertsons, What a Tangled Web You Weave

Filed under: business,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 6:54 pm

Can you spot the real Albertsons?

Logo and slogan for Albertsons IncLogo and slogan for Albertsons LLC

There are two Albertsons supermarkets near my home. I know exactly where they are, but out of curiosity I decided to go to and search their locations. Instead of a list of stores, I was greeted with the notice below:

“The ZIP Code that you have entered is in an area serviced by the Albertsons LLC family of stores. To read more about Albertsons LLC, read the press release explaining the distinctions in more detail.”

Apparently, in 2006, Supervalu, CVS/pharmacy, and Cerberus Capital Management got together to purchase Albertsons, Inc. In the deal, Supervalu and Cerberus split the Albertsons roughly 50/50, with Supervalu’s batch being spun-off as New Albertsons Inc. and Cerberus’ as Albertsons LLC.

Confusing customers, one market at a time

At any rate, I was directed to, since my area is apparently serviced by Albertsons LLC and not New Albertsons Inc. Only one of the two Albertsons near my home showed up in this site’s search, leading me to assume that the other one belongs to Supervalu. Well, that, and the fact that it’s suspiciously close to a Supervalu-owned Sav-A-Lot.

So, I’ve got two Albertsons stores run by two different companies in my area, and they’re as different as night and day. I will say that the Albertsons LLC store is clean and inviting, where the New Albertsons Inc. store is depressingly dollar-store-esque. I haven’t paid any attention on the prices, but I think I might start.

Actually, I probably shouldn’t bother. Just last week, Publix and Albertsons LLC announced that Albertsons will be selling 30 Central Florida locations to Publix come September.

Blip: Yellow Rain

Filed under: artwork,music,video — Tags: , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:02 pm

I was just driving home this evening and rain and sunset mixed together to make everything cool and yellowish. I’d already taken more than enough photos at times like these, so I thought I’d do something a little different. Music is: Lamb – “Five”.

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