Rant 2006-12-21: Lincoln, Irak and Quoting

Notes before reading:
*For an explanation on how this rant is organized, please: read this.
*This rant is posted in this thread, under "Privacy only goes so far...", then "too many people are ready to accept erosion...", then "You will have a lot less freedom once America...", then "Terrorist will never destroy this country...", then "'Whereas, it has become necessary to...", and finally "Wonder why he was..." Sorry, Wired.com commentary section is kinda weird, I'll post the relevant parts here.
*The discussion is about an article that talks about USA's government practices during 2006 (like imprisoned journalists, torture and the Patriot Act).
- The conversation turned from the war to quoting... I don't know what to think anymore, hehe.
- A guy that goes by the name of Pacothelovemonkey posted the following as a response for the article:

Privacy only goes so far.. We are at war here and a lot of people forget that. I don't know what kind of a person you are but clearly you have no idea what has to be done to win. It seems by you anger about all these 'violations of civil liberties' you don't' care for us to win. I don't know where your head is, or what you are thinking or if you have any real idea what is going on in the world. I hope one day you can open you eyes and realize that the with our great president tapping everyone's phones (he's not get over it) to catch people trying to kill us isn't a bad thing. He's not arresting you for hate him, or hugging a tree. He's doing the right thing. Which is more then I can say about (the little) i know about you.

- Then jayh replied:

too many people are ready to accept erosion of our constitutional and moral standards while the sit around and munch their 'freedom fries'

I believe in freedom. I believe in the America envisioned by the founders, who realized that in the long run, the unrestrained state itself is a serious danger. I do not accept sacrificing freedom or our lowering our standards of behavior (torture etc) because some people are scared.

- Then mmichaels1970 said:

You will have a lot less freedom once America has been destroyed by our enemies who are using sympathies like yours against us. The founders didn't envision their citizens sitting by while our enemies plotted to blow us up and manipulate our legal system to enable them to do so.

- To which jdiaz1 beautifully responded with:

Terrorist will never destroy this country. The country will destroy itself by feeding the fear. Turn on your TV and it's Fear 24-7. People forgot what this country great. Turning over our sacred rights and making America a police state will not make you safe.

"Those who give up liberty for the sake of security deserve neither liberty nor security."

Benjamin Franklin

- But the same mmichaels1970 came back with the next Lincoln quote during the Civil War:

"Whereas, it has become necessary to call into service not only volunteers but also portions of the militia of the States by draft in order to suppress the insurrection existing in the United States, and disloyal persons are not adequately restrained by the ordinary processes of law from hindering this measure and from giving aid and comfort in various ways to the insurrection;

Now, therefore, be it ordered, first, that during the existing insurrection and as a necessary measure for suppressing the same, all Rebels and Insurgents, their aiders and abettors within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting militia drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice, affording aid and comfort to Rebels against the authority of United States, shall be subject to martial law and liable to trial and punishment by Courts Martial or Military Commission:

Second. That the Writ of Habeas Corpus is suspended in respect to all persons arrested, or who are now, or hereafter during the rebellion shall be, imprisoned in any fort, camp, arsenal, military prison, or other place of confinement by any military authority of by the sentence of any Court Martial or Military Commission.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this twenty fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the 87th."


Wonder why he was assassinated?

That political move was very difficult for him, and the Civil War was a heavy weight over his shoulders. A lot of chaos happenned, and, was it necessary? I certainly don't know, but the hit in America because of it is still felt throughout the South. It's a big scar, to say the least, caused by an abandon of a principle for an apparent greater truth: they were at war back then in their own soil, battling at face level, chaos was everywhere. Lincoln needed to act quickly to recover peace, and he did at a great expense.

You say you're at war, war against what? Do you see your enemy's face? Do you know who your enemy is? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, the fear has brought you to a belief of despair that isn't really there, and your government is the only one to blaim for that. Yes, you may be attacked at any time (the probability of such, although infinitely slim, is still there, so, fine, I'll give you that one); what happenned in the World Trade Center was a complete tragedy and abomination, but that isn't the first time it has happenned, and you don't have to go back that far to realize the enormity of the amount of terrorist attacks you have received throughout your history which were also tragedies and abominations. But those attacks back then were dealt in a manner that was up to the circumstances: dignified and not blown out of proportion (pardon the pun). There are scumbags out there who take their religion/beliefs too seriously, and only a small group of them speak arabic. They do not represent a country, they represent a way of thinking, which, like the Ku Kux Klan, is extremist: they won't be eliminated by war, if you kill one, the children, spouses, brothers, sisters, etc. will become extremist as well (eye for an eye, and everybody ends up blind). I have no clue how Irak came into the picture here; how this small country was suddenly the target because of the "terrorist threat that dwellt within it" makes as much sense as beating the crap out of a guy because he MAY have cancer.

The renounce of a principle so basic as Habeas Corpus and the right to privacy has to be called for as the very last resource during a war (as Lincoln did, and payed with his life for it), but this administration threw it out the window in the first few months! And you caved, spewing out the same argument your government told you to spew: "We're at war. It's necessary." No, you're not. No, it isn't. War is bilateral, war is chaos, war is fear down your throat by the enemy: veterans out there must be so hurt when people around them scream this kind of bull without knowing what a war is. What you need to be doing, instead of worrying about what principles to give up to win the war (how stupid does that sound?!), is to be weary of the persons that are fighting FOR you, y'know, the persons that are over there, overcoming a real fear (death) of a real threat (a hidden bomb), under the unfortunate impression that they are there preserving your freedom, which over here you're flushing down the toilet because of a make-believe fear of a make-believe threat. Pray for them, ask God (and your government) to give them the tools to pass through what they're dealing with and have them come back safely soon; either that, or just shut the hell up.

I'm Mexican, by the way... shame that a person like me has to point that out for you.

mmichaels1970's Reply:
Wow. That quote must have touched a nerve. Considering I only posted it verbatim and provided no opinion, you must be a psychic.

My point is that people are too quick to throw quotes around like those that are alleged to come from people like Benjamin Franklin (see http://www.futureofthebook.com/stories/storyReader$605 for some good research, in my opinion).

By the way, the quote I provided was accurate. For every quote someone can attribute to an American hero, another can be found from someone who is arguably just as or more heroic.

My Reply:
Hehe, yes it did. Although, the reply wasn't just for the quote, but for your previous post as well (I thought I made that clear in there, sorry for that). And in your previous post you did provide an opinion which I was commenting about, which goes along the same way of thinking of paco and others here, so it's for them as well (and I really didn't made that clear, apologies).

Anyway, I agree about your point about people throwing quotes. I understand that Benjamin Franklin himself in a letter to David Hulme actually wrote that it wasn't his quote at all; some people believe that Richard Jackson it's the author (yeah, wikipedia rocks!). This is probably also stated in the link you provided, but I couldn't read anything in it as it failed to open.

And you are correct about "For every quote someone can attribute to an American hero, another can be found from someone who is arguably just as or more heroic", because people think differently, specially in different eras. Throwing quotes around is not a way to argument a point and it shouldn't be perceived as such, is just for dramatic purposes, really.

Furthermore, there's the case in which they don't even make sense! For example, as an argument against war, I can throw something like:

"To place any dependence upon militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff."
- George Washington, 1776

And you, argumenting for it, can throw it back at me with:

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive. And with it, everything honorable and glorious."
- George Washington, 1781

BOTH ARE FROM THE SAME PERSON! And then we'll both say "what the f...?" The thing is that a person, being heroic or not, changes throughout their life (those quotes are five years apart), and you can't expect that they will think the same way from their birth till their death: rendering the whole concept of quoting as an argument useless.

The only way that it may be useful is to provide the historical context of the quote (which I tried to give to the one you provided from Lincoln, in my last post). But, as you may have seen, to provide it while argumenting is not only very impractical, but also kills the drama that you may want to build with the quote, so what's the use?

So, yeah, agreed, hehe... when I start writing, I can't find a way to stop, sorry =P

New song: lwb, and sorry!


Just a brief announcement: there's a new song for the demo called 'lwb' that you can download from my box.net public share. It's number 14, kinda short, but nice. Comment away!

Also, sorry for the last post... had a weird day, little sleep, and noone to say "what the hell are you writing?" and stop me. Although, there's a weird sense of logic in there, I don't know, I'll keep it around just in case, hehe.

Weird Sleeping Numbers

Just three more days... just three letters. Mum says hi, dad says "good job", and I say "lot to do". Having some interesting advances, some interesting chat with supervisor and advisor that leads me to believe that I know nothing... well, no, something, but close to nothing, but the little that I know is actually kinda useful; who would've thought? Smelly, but useful...
Control control control... math math math... AI AI AI... just three... or three squared: three in a box, you might say, but the box may not be squared, there are round boxes, hexagonal ones, and collateral damage ones (DHL uses this last ones, btw), so no, three squared is not the same that three in a box, but it's kinda like an uptight three, y'know, those threes that don't think outside the box (being square, round, hexagonal or collateral), so, if you think about it, yeah: three squared may be the same as a three inside a box (look at me, contradicting and all), but not because of the type of box, is because of the social elements that the three is given because of being inside the box...

Ironically, the four may be quite confused by all of this because, well, it is by nature a square number, but it's not inside a box, so it may be thinking "what the hell, three? what you doin' inside a box?" (yeah, four also has a little boston accent) "there's no way you can be square!" but the three can answer:

3: "f**k you, four! i can be square and you know it: you have your two, i have 1.732"
4: "that's ludacris! sing us a song, ludacris"
ludacris: "yo yo yo! i don't wana be part of any of this"
4: "fine... three, i need the consent from one, seven, three and two (that whore) to know if what you said is correct, but it seems that it isn't, i mean four (me! yay) numbers to be your root... i dunno"
3: "you're just racist, four. you may think you come from a pure race (just 2's) but there are others numbers out there that come from different background, a lovely mixture of races to form a wonderful rainbow of numbers. isn't that right, 5?"
5: (eating chocolate) "yeah... sorry to dissapoint, but 2.236 is my root, and well, i have to say i was kinda ashamed of it, but not anymore... thank you, three!"
3: "no problem"
4: "you're from two as well??? oh my god! i... i... i'm whore squared!"
8: "uhmmm... can i interject a little bit?"
3: "i think you have just answered you're own question, eight..."
8: "oh, hehe, right... anyway, if i remember correctly, this whole issue began with three wanting to be squared, not with three wanting to be a square number, so it's kinda pointless if you think about it."
3: "oh crap... where's nine? i need to get to 9, before..."
9: "hello three... we need to talk... you say you come from 1, 7, 3, and that little whore 2... does that mean that i don't come from a pure race? that being 3's? mmm?? that i come from little 1's and 7's as well? because i don't recall having a 7 as a grandpa, do you?? that's... that's just wrong! is like having a 6 as your dad!" (shivers)
6: "hey! i resent that!"
5: "nobody cares, and noone listens to you, six... so shut up, come here and let's a make a thirty!"

(scene cut because of unsuitable math for children... hehe, gives a whole other meaning to the symbol: * doesn't it? hehe...)

3: "uh... damn you eight!! my whole purpose in life was to become a square number, and you come and... and... for god sake's six, cover your hole! no wonder nobody cares about you... and watch your thirties, now they're everywhere!" (picks up one of them)
3: "aren't they little nice thirties, though? i don't know, they kinda look like me, don't they?" (little tear coming out of his, uhmm, well, don't know really, haven't seen a three cry before)
3: "you aren't a square number either, are you little thirty?"
30: "what's square? like a four? iou!! no! wouldn't want to be square if i'm like four!"
8: "hahaha... good point, you see three? there's no need to be square, because you can always be squared, and nobody would give a rat's ass where you come from, you are the one that everybody else is coming from... cool, isn't it?"

three, the little thirty and eight, and everyone else is happy with the situation, except for four... four has something up his, well, not sleeve, cuz, if you think about it they're all naked, but, ok, four 'has a secret' (better, isn't it?) that's about to be revealed:

4: (trembling) "don't listen to eight! he's not to be trusted... you fools, he interjected without giving me the chance to say 'no', he's like a vampire, you see... like the devil, confusing you with logic, but you seem to forget something about his nature that makes him unworthy of our trust... you may dislike me because i come from that little whore two, what is it you call me? whore squared? ok... but eight is... haha, eight is..." (suspenseful pause... which isn't really, I mean, you can just skip this sentence and end the suspense, but you aren't... do you like suspense that much that you're willing to read all this rubbishness for it? you're wierd! are you aware of the freakishness that resides in you?? my god, you... you make me sick!)

4: "EIGHT'S WHORE CUBED!!!" (gasps from everybody)
3: "is it true, eight? you have being lying to me all this time? not only that you come from that little whore, but you, of all numbers here, are the only one cubed???"
8: (crying) "IT'S TRUE! but it wasn't my fault, i swear! it was four's fault, he's... he's my father! and HE MULTIPLIED WITH TWO!" (everybody groans in disgust)
6: (fainting)
5: (vomiting)
3: "c'mon five, these were a new pair of shoes!"
7: "alright! who f**ked two again? four? nailed the grandma! alright! here are some antibodies if it starts itching." (oh yeah, seven's a perv)
4: "damn you eight! that was our secret! that drunken night... i thought it was five, i swear! damn mirrors!"
5: "hey hey! don't even think of coming up with some similarities between me and that little whore... yes, i admit, it is somewhere in my root, but that's all... god, it makes me shiver just to think about it!"

2: "ENOUGH! i've had it up to here with your 'little whore' this, 'little whore' that... i'm not little, i'm not a whore... i just like multiplying, that's all! is that such a crime? you do it everyday!"
1: "uhmmm... honey? can we go back... i'm getting the urge, hihi."

everybody: "IOUUUUUU!!!"
5: "two's doing grand grandma!!!"
7: "now that's sick!"
4: (vomiting)
3: "jesus! why does everybody turn my way when they're puking!"

1: "what? it's not like i haven't multiplied with any of you before!!!"

(crickets singing)

everybody, silent, went back to their houses... and a whole lota 12's and 20's and 42's and 24's and 18's and 15's and 21's and 45's and 9's and 8's and 7's and 6's and 5's and 4's and 3's and 2's and even little 1's (yes, apparently that's also possible) came out the next day and said "MULTIPLY YOU!!!"


Does prayer change the outcome of things? I mean, if it's God's will, why would a prayer change anything if it's already written down?

I am free to do as I wish: I can go crash my car if I want to. There's nothing stopping me, except if I fall down the stairs or can't find my keys; pretty random stuff, you know? But there lies God's hand, blessed randomness: if something would happen on this Earth by his will, it won't happen by a big ass hand coming down from the sky and stealing my keys, he has to work through already existing in this world (like a programmer, using other programs or circuitry to interact with the operating system).

He built you, he knows you, and prayer is a two way communication. Prayer is not going to change the world to do your bidding (and nothing's written yet), but it's going to change YOU to do your bidding, and that does change the outcome of things. It's not God will the one that changes through prayer (he wants you to do good, period, he doesn't concern himself with mortal problems), it's your will that changes.

[click the title... interesting read... =)]

"Gobierno" Mexicano

Lo que estoy por escribir tiene que ver de mi patria, por lo que escribirlo en español me suena mas apropiado.

Siempre trato de escuchar y leer todo lo que puedo sobre algún asunto controversial (Guerra en Irak, Aborto, Windows vs. Mac OS, etc.) y después tomo una postura sobre lo que yo creo que es lo correcto. Usualmente, por medio de esta vía, encuentro una posición en la que de alguna manera puedo encontrar razón en todas las posturas del asunto... pero ahora, temo que no puedo comprender ese "gobierno legítimo" que se ha proclamado en la capital de México.

Como siempre, es importante ver el punto opuesto del propio argumento primero y dar oportunidad que se exprese: Hay algunos sucesos que, en mis lecturas, he visto que varios simpatizantes perredistas recurren para mostrar como el gobierno panista frenó los movimientos de "izquierda" para ganar la elección presidencial. Varios de estos puntos son importantes, y no he leído a nadie que haya realmente entendido lo que el otro lado tiene que decir al respecto, por lo que intentaré escuchar a ambos lados en cada uno:

Quisieron encarcelar a AMLO desde mucho antes de que comenzaron las campañas para que no pudiera participar en las elecciones 2006. Es cierto, pero, primero, fue por algo que era ilegal: desapropió territorio de una manera que era fuera de la ley; aunque, en toda justicia, era para hacer un hospital, lo cual habla mucho de él. Tuvo que decidir entre quebrar la ley o construírlo, y francamente yo hubiera hecho lo mismo; pero todo buen acto viene mal pagado, y siento que uno se tiene atener a las consecuencias de lo que uno hace. Y segundo, aun cuando le quitaron la immunidad, el mismo presidente que él silenció en su ultimo Estado de la Unión un año y medio después, lo liberó de ser enjuiciado. Bajo presión de la protesta o bajo buen juicio, el presidente relajó la tensión social que AMLO mismo estaba provocando al utilizar su imagen para movilizar a la gente, de lo cual uno podría creer que es posible que él mismo se puso en esa posición para comenzar hacer campaña de la cual supuestamente se le quería sacar.

Sobre el 'complot' en contra de AMLO, con todos los famosos videos. Es completamente comprensible y difícil de ignorar que el momento en que estos videos se hicieron públicos es evidencia para sospechar que había "alguien" poniéndolos a la vista demasiado oportunamente; a lo mejor para manchar la imagen de AMLO y quitarle credibilidad para cuando su campaña. Ademas, es cierto: AMLO nunca aparece en ellos, y no se le sospecha a el directamente de haber quebrado la ley. Pero, estos argumentos no son suficientes para balancear el gran peso de la denuncia que descubrieron: ¿Cuándo hubiera sido mejor que se hubieran expuesto? ¿Después de que hubiera supuestamente ganado la presidencia? O, ¿Es mejor para los defensores de AMLO que nadie los hubiera visto? Aun más, tambien dice del tipo de compañía que este señor decide mantener en su equipo de trabajo.

Sobre Fox ayudando a Calderón en su campaña. Realmente no sé si Fox desvió dinero gubernamental para la campaña panista, y realmente esto no es un tema de debate, es un tema de especulación (y MUCHA especulación a eso, es impresionante lo que se puede alargar un editorial a raíz de sólo un rumor). Sobre los 'spots' antes de la elección: éstos fueron televisados meses antes, y, la verdad, eran más de defensa propia: de cómo llevó acabo su gobierno y defendiéndose de quiénes no creían en él. Si descalificamos a una persona porque se echa porras a sí mismo, sobre lo que puede hacer y cree que ha hecho, bajo el argumento de que es "propaganda para el partido", creo que tambien podemos descalificar el acto del 20 de noviembre pasado y toda acción gubernamental de ayuda comunitaria de igual manera, lo cual no es bueno ni para el PRD ni para la nación.

Sobre el fraude electoral. Este punto es extenso, y muy controversial. Encontré bastante información en línea: hay un muy buen artículo que resume casi todo el punto de vista "pro-fraude" y se puede encontrar aquí. Hay varios puntos que indican evidencia del fraude:

  • Hubieron varias casillas con sólo un representante del PAN en ellas. Es cierto, pero también hubieron varias casillas con sólo un representante del PRD, y obviamente este partido no sabe nada de ello por lo que no lo denunció. De que el PAN o el PRI o cualquier partido haya metido mano, es de esperarse, como tambien es de esperarse que tambie el PRD hizo de las suyas (¿Tienen historias de terror del PAN? Yo tengo del PRD, del PRI, hasta de Convergencia). El PRD no tiene la conciencia limpia aquí y denunciar por este lado al proceso es denunciarse a sí mismo, pero esto es un tema que tomaremos más adelante...

    También esta el hecho de que se firmaron las urnas: una firma por cada partido representado por una persona de dicho partido. ¿Por qué no comenzamos a preguntarle a las personas que firmaron estas urnas? ¿Qué sucedió? ¿Por qué se firmó como válida una urna que al parecer era inválida y luego estas mismas personas maldicen el proceso como corrupto? Hay algo raro ahí, y nadie al parecer lo quiere explicar.
  • Hubo mano de gato en el conteo electrónico y hay evidencia matemática/estadística de ello. Irónicamente, estoy estudiando algo en esa área en mi posgrado y es triste decir que "con la estadística y una buena encuesta, cualquier cosa se puede comprobar". Prueba de ello son todas las cifras que salieron dictando que Calderon, no, perdon AMLO, digo Madrazo, no te creas el Papa iban a ganar las elecciones; encuestar es todo un arte, créanme, y lo verdaderamente importante para ello es la psicologia que se aplica para crear la encuesta, no la verdad que puede resultar de ella. Aun así, en la estadística formal hay muchas variables que contemplar en un ámbito como éste; una tendencia estadística en un proceso electoral implica conocimiento de los datos que en este momento no se tiene: todos los artículos estadísticos pro-fraude que he visto asumen ciertas cosas que realmente no se saben de primera instancia, comenzando con el ruido de medición que se asume que es aditivo y gauseano (lo cual realmente dudo que suceda en un sistema como éste). También mencionan que el "comportamiento" no es como el que se esperaba del de una votación nacional, el cual creo que debe cambiar conforme de votación a votación (son diferentes generaciones las que votan, el humano no es tan predecible) por lo que hasta la fecha no he leído de ningún "comportamiento general de una votación nacional"; y la razón de ello es obvio: no se tiene suficiente información de un sólo país (porque la cultura también cambia esa tendencia) para establecerlo, lo cual aumenta de importancia al considerar que se tuvo una votación con más de 50% de abstinencia.

    PERO (y este es un "pero" muy importante), hay una muy buena y famosa publicación de estas implicaciones estadísticas que se puede encontrar aquí: muy interesante y pone en evidencia cosas difíciles de ignorar, aunque es todavía muy verde (no es para nada un documento investigativo completo, confesado por el mismo autor), sólo personas dentro del mismo grupo pueden contribuir a ello (y dudo que bienvengan datos que nieguen sus descubrimientos), ha habido cambios durante el progreso del documento que yo pienso que son importantes pero que no considera en las conclusiones y, la verdad, involucra mucho su opinión sobre como una elección cree que debería procederse, no como se está procediendo en este momento de la historia (no sólo es matemáticas lo que se debe considerar); aun así levanta unos puntos muy válidos, los cuales voy a retomar más adelante.
  • La incomplacencia del TRIFE de contar voto por voto (nada que esconder, nada que temer). El problema con esto es que el voto es algo muy sagrado, no solo para el tribunal, sino para el mismo ciudadano: no olvidemos a los que 96 años atrás murieron por ello. Por lo que el TRIFE tuvo una pesada tarea de sopesar dicha dignidad del voto por la legalidad que implicaba abrir una sola urna. Aun así, se abrieron algunas, como forma de investigación para ver si había suficiente evidencia de las discrepancias que habia denunciado el PRD para proseguir con abrir el resto, y no se encontró dicha evidencia. Esto es según el TRIFE, una institución aplaudida foráneamente por su profesionalismo e imparcialidad, lo cual también es difícil de ignorar. Añadido a esto, el acto de contar voto por voto implica un costo económico enorme al gobierno, que recae en la población... ya tenemos el FOBAPROA, y todavía no terminamos de pagar eso.

Después de tirar argumentos uno tras otro en un debate, es importante mencionar algunas áreas en las que podemos establecer acuerdo. Es posible que voltee 20 años después y lea este artículo y vea que omití ver algún tipo de ángulo de este asunto y me pegue a mí mismo, pero dudo que lo siguiente se puede negar:

  • El PAN se ha opuesto a que se quemen las boletas, aún cuando puede haber evidencia ahí que lo pueda sacar del poder, lo cual es de aplaudirse. Es importante que el congreso reescriba esa ley para que este proceso se termine de llevar acabo adecuadamente.
  • El IFE es todavía una institucion nueva, la verdad, y el TRIFE no ha terminado su tarea. El recuento total de los votos sigue siendo un tema de discusión, y algo que no se va a ir nada más porque la ley lo dice: la ley se reescribe, y esto se debe considerar para elecciones futuras. El documento que mencioné anteriormente que trata sobre errores estadísticos en el proceso electoral pone en evidencia que el IFE tiene que mejorar sus procesos de adquisición de datos para asegurar imparcialidad y legalidad en ellos: es posible que lo que muestra este documento puede ser evidencia de malhechura o de sólo un error programático (podrían comenzar con sus servidores, reemplazando a Windows con un sistema operativo de verdad). Es decir, aunque el famoso "fraude electoral" no se ha podido, hasta la fecha, comprobar o negar (como muchas elecciones), este estudio trae importantes evidencias al frente, mas allá de lo que yo pueda rebatir; evidencias que NO se deben ignorar, menos aún olvidar...
  • Es cierto que YA se han contado los votos (el día de la elección), pero hay una gran cantidad de personas que sienten que se deben de contar de nuevo (independientemente de quién esté conveciéndolos de ello) y creo que la dignidad del voto puede ser sopesada para esta situación sin precedente. Pero (otro de esos "peros"), creo que se deben considerar dos cosas muy importantes si es que en algún momento se llega a dar acabo:
    1. Yo, como ciudadano, no quiero pagar por ello. Ya se invertió una cantidad enorme de dinero y tiempo no sólo del gobierno sino también de la industria y el pueblo mexicano que ayudaron en diversas formas a sus correspondientes campañas. ¿Quieren voto por voto? Encuentren fondos para pagar el recuento de algún imparcial, porque es bastante costoso hacerlo.
    2. Recordemos que no sólo fue el presidente nacional por el que se votó en esta elección dudosa, sino tambión por diputados y senadores, muchos de los cuales en este momento están sentados en el Congreso de la Unión, gritándole a otro oficial político, dudando de su procedencia, mientras que ellos procedieron de la misma vía. Si se van a contar todos los votos, se deben contar de todas las elecciones que se llevaron acabo de ella... Nada que esconder, nada que temer, ¿No?.

Hasta aquí podría terminar este artículo y dejar el asunto de una manera civil, pero... digo, sigue siendo mi blog y, pues, no puedo aguantarme las ganas de escribir algo (y, realmente, ¿Quién lo va a leer?): si se volviera a llevar acabo otra elección, en mi opinión AMLO ya no ganaría. El número de detractores que ha tenido su partido ya es suficiente para que en la siguiente elección no obtenga al ventaja que tenía hace algunos meses. Han creado de su partido uno que, aunque dice ser de la gente del campo, no es humilde: parte de mi familia viene del campo, y al encontrarse con una injusticia responden de una manera honorable y digna. Enunciados como "seguiremos fastidiando todos sus eventos políticos durante el sexenio. Haremos que siga huyendo y escondiéndose del pueblo, entrando a escondidas, resguardado por policias y militares, como un pillo, como un cobarde, como el presidente espurio que es." son denigrantes no para el presidente sino para el que los enuncia (Juan Carlos Taverra, PRD). Básicamente está diciendo que será gracias a ellos que no vamos a poder avanzar...

Es deplorable que se sienten ahí, apenas elegidos en la misma elección que condenan de fraudolenta, y no dejen al presidente (o a cualquiera que se les oponga) expresarse. Va, el presidente Fox hizo muy mal trabajo durante su sexenio (les doy este argumento, aunque esto también está para debatirse), pero al no dejarlo dar su Estado de la Unión estan destruyendo lo mismo por lo que se ha estado luchando: libertad de expresion; algo que hace menos de dos decadas era un lujo. ¿Cómo se sentirían si fuera AMLO el que fuera forzado a retirarse de su ponencia por una protesta panista? Y no vengan con que ha sucedido porque, no sólo ya hable de su 'complot' hace varios parrafos, sino que también le dejaron hacer su cirquito el 20 de noviembre.

Estoy completamente a favor de protestar: grandes cambios cívicos y sociales se han llevado a cabo gracias a ello. Pero una cosa es protestar (algo característico de mi amada izquierda) con el propósito de abrir los ojos de otros compatriotas sobre alguna injusticia que se está llevando acabo, y otra cosa es juntar a un gran grupo de personas con el propósito de presionar al gobierno para poder llevar acabo una agenda personal. La meta de la protesta es forzar al diálogo, no quedarse sentado ahí esperando que alguien tire la primera pedrada. Lo que sucedió por ese par de meses en el que el D.F. básicamente paró de funcionar gracias al plantón, no fue una protesta, fue una molestia. No me abrió los ojos sobre el "fraude" sino, al contrario, me abrió los ojos de la clase de político que es AMLO, y, al parecer, varios vieron lo mismo. El mismo Marcos lo dijo mejor: "El movimiento de AMLO no es de izquierda. Es un movimiento que esta tomando definiciones posmortem, porque él siguió las vías de las instituciones, porque mientras le dieron fuego para él sí valieron. En el momento en que las instituciones le dieron la espalda en el fraude electoral él decide desconocer a las instituciones, en parte. Y la propuesta de AMLO viene de un capitalismo humano, sus bases fundamentales significaban los macroproyectos que han destruído el campo mexicano..." (Marcos en Nuevo Laredo)

Y quiero dejar en claro que no estoy a favor del PAN en esto completamente. De hecho no estoy a favor de ningun partido, porque los políticos, por definición, son partidistas. Primero, buscan por el bienestar de su partido; después, de quienes le ayudaron en la campaña; luego, de qué hacer para quitarle la ventaja al otro partido; y, al mero final, si queda tiempo, por el bienestar de su familia: el pueblo mexicano queda completamente fuera del círculo. No he visto ningún caso que no sea así...

El PAN debe ver que hay una gran cantidad de personas que no están satisfechas, y mientras tanto no lo van a dejar avanzar. No se ha abierto un canal de comunicación entre ambos partidos, aunque, siendo sinceros, este canal nunca realmente se ha abierto (hubieron rumores de un chorrito en la época de Benito Juárez, pero se secó hace mucho tiempo). La clausura de este canal es culpa de ambos partidos: decir que "estoy aquí para cuando quieras hablar" (parafraseando a Calderón en su juramento) no es abrir el canal, eso es darle la pala al otro para que comience a cavar. Si hubieran habido intenciones reales de diálogo por parte de Calderón, ya se hubieran formado equipos de negociación y una cadena interminable de comunicados al PRD a sentarse a hablar, con el IFE en la mesa.

Desgraciadamente, aún con todo eso, dudo que AMLO se siente a dialogar; le conviene que siga seco el canalsito. En este momento el PRD está en una situación muy ventajosa, porque sabe que no le van a dar el recuento, pero al gritar "voto por voto" esa otra mitad de la nación va a gritar con el, apoyando cualquier movimiento que haga. Irónicamente, varios amigos perredistas me señalaban de "borrego" por creer lo que veía en las noticias de México (y de Estados Unidos, y de Inglaterra) y de lo que leía en los periódicos de México (y de Google, y de BBC, y de News.com); me pregunto que escucharan ellos... ¿AMLO News? Jeje, bromeo, bromeo... hay también varios panistas, y priistas que estan enbobados con lo que su partido les dicta como camino a seguir. Lo que me lleva a: ¿Quien escucha ahora al mexicano? Muy bien nos dicen qué hacer, y de lo que podemos protestar, pero ¿De vuelta? Tantas decisiones llevándose acabo sin que me den la opción de intervenir: un voto, eso es todo, vete a tu casita, ya nosotros nos encargaremos de ver quién tiene la banda presidencial más grande.

Es difícil enfrentarlo pero aún siendo poética la posición de AMLO y sus bonitos 20 puntos que señaló en su ponencia (y ustedes saben que me fascina la poesía), siguieron siendo puntos en el aire, siguio siendo un político, pero ahora peor porque ni siquiera es de verdad: no puso fechas, no hay nada sentado en piedra, sólo promesas. Y claro: una gira nacional, para eso sí hay fechas, para eso sí sacamos el pincel y lo sentamos en piedra. ¿Que no se supone que él debe ser diferente? ¿Que su "gobierno" va a separarse de "la banda de potentados que nos robó la elección presidencial"? Mientras que ni siquiera me dejaron oír al que sí es de verdad (bueno, esta bién, "oficial")... ¿Quién le está robando a quién?

Traté de entender, realmente, la posición perredista y su correspondiente justificación. Evidencia de ello es el hecho de que a través de este artículo he dado varios argumentos hacia el lado perredista que raramente han recibido del "otro lado". También creo que el PRD está en una posición que puede beneficiar enormemente a la nación, en la que puede actuar como un poderoso "abogado del diablo", inspeccionando cada movimiento que el gobierno haga a través del siguiente sexenio, presionando a que realmente considere a todos en sus reformas. Pero también creo que deben cuidar un balance: como un alumno en una clase viendo a otro alumno resolviendo un problema en el pizarrón...

Es bueno que el alumno interrumpa la clase y le diga al maestro cuando el otro ha cometido un error, y si el maestro lo ve necesario, pedirle que pase y él mismo lo resuelva. Pero es bastante odioso, e influye negativamente en el aprendizaje de los demás alumnos, que se pare, intente quitarle el gis al otro alumno y que, por frustración de que el maestro lo castigue, comience a gritar que el debería ser el que debería estar resolviendo el problema, y prosiga a traer su propio pizarrón a la clase. Todo lo que esto causa es que atrae hostilidad, provoca tensión, y, principalmente, distrae al resto del salón de lo que verdaderamente deberían estar haciendo: resolver el bendito problema.

New track for Just Three Letters

After a long time since I haven't recorded, I finally succumbed to the urge of it.

It's actually a remake of a very old song of mine called “Laberinto”: it originally involved only two guitars and I'm pretty sure that this was my first attempt ever to do a multi-guitar arrangement, so it's quite basic. In the remake though, I've put around three more guitars (you'll hear'em around the middle), some strings and good ol' loops all around. I used it to substitute “xal” in the demo, now demoted to a b-side, because it's the only one in the demo that was kind of if-fy.

The official song's name now is “lbr” (to continue with the tradition of a three-letter-name-song demo), and you can find it in my box.net public share; it's track number 13.

I've written about box.net in earlier posts, if you're wondering what's that all about

Remember, it's a free download, all I'm asking in return is for you to comment about the song here and give me some feedback. Thanks and I hope you enjoy it.

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd,
With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

Hip hip Hoorah !
Hip hip Hoorah !

A penny loaf to feed ol'Pope,
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar,'
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we'll say: ol'Pope is dead.

I'm hearing fireworks outside my window, could it be? Has he done it? It's anarchy now our reality?

MPhil leading to a... drumroll... PhD

Well, it's official: I'm a research student.

The teacher of one of the classes that I was attending in the MSc course asked the group who was going to or thinking about doing a PhD in the University of Manchester after finishing. I think it's not needed to write that, well, I was totally there (hmmm, if it's not needed, why did I anyway? Think about it).

The teacher's name, by the way, is Dr. Barry Lennox.

His logic was very convincing: what's your reason to be doing a MSc, other than it being the precesor of a PhD? If it's to get knowledge before hand, that's what you do in your first year of the PhD anyway: actually, the program that you can get into if you don't have a masters degree is "MPhil leading to a PhD" which will grant you a MPhil in the first year.

Brief parenthesis: there's a big difference between a MSc and a MPhil. A MSc is a taught program, meaning going to classes and doing a small dissertation project in the last three months of the 15-month period. A MPhil is a research program, meaning reading, reading, reading, and doing a small thesis about the findings at the end of the one- to two-year period. Both give a masters degree, but a MSc degree is a little more prestigious than a MPhil in the U.K, mainly because of the fame that it has brought on to itself of being "the degree that is given out when someone doesn't complete a PhD". Although, in my perspective, being that a MPhil is research-based, in Mexico, where it doesn't have that fame, it should be the other way around.

And that leads to Dr. Lennox's second point: if some reason you don't find any funding for the last two years (which, considering the 300% increase in tuition fees for foreigners, is viable), the University will still give you a masters degree to go back and boast about. Taking care, at the same time, of the fact that you'll have to pay for just three years of tuition fees, not four (£11,000 less to pay is always good).

To finish off his argument he mentioned that if you're seeking funding, you need to apply during this year to have the whole process finish by the time you finish the MSc (around the end of next year). And if you're applying for help to fund a PhD, the scholarship organizations will ask for a summary of the project that you're going to be developing; if you have this already, why not start working on it now?

It was hard to ignore the opportunity, but one thing was bugging me: I didn't have a project to work on. That was the point of doing the MSc first: get an idea of what can be done. I went to talk to Dr. Lennox anyway, and he first asked of my qualifications: I mentioned my bachelor's degree GPA (94/100) and that I have my own company, Makko Solutions. Apparently that was enough for him: "You're in. What projects do you have in mind?" I was completely stumped. I explained the whole situation and he replied that I should think of some ideas in the next couple of days, of what interests me, what area is the one that I would like to get into, and to read what the staff have dwelled about to also get a feel of who would I like as a supervisor; I wasn't even a research student, and I already had an assignment.

I was actually quite impressed with the amount of ideas that came about. I never realized that I have had stored so much stuff in my little nugget. I first read of what the staff have written about, which was glaring: very diverse stuff, really. But I settled on two: Dr. Heath and Dr. Lennox. They have written about a subject that I've always heard about and that sounds interesting: Model Predictive Control, MPC, and justs as it sounds, predicting to satisfy every state of the controlled process (to read more: go here). It also implies controlling non-linear models (which in classical control is VERY hard) with more than one input/output (also a pain).

The ideas that I most liked where the following:

  1. Using MPC as an optimizer of the process of coming up with a solution by genetic algorithms.
  2. Global-Positioning-System-based guidance system as a control problem solved by MPC.
  3. Quality control by MPC.
  4. Flying Saucer project.
  5. Using MPC for fault monitoring in the Intelligent Guitar Effect Box project.

All of these are quite hard to explain in layman's terms, because of the specialization that they involve, but I'll try:

The first one. Genetic algorithms is an artificial intelligence concept, which, of what I've read, it's the standard of comparison for other problem-based solution-finding algorithms. The problem is it's speed, because it relies on evolving over all the possible scenarios (no matter how improbable they are), so I'm proposing using MPC to optimize it and speed it up by trying to predict the way it will evolve the quickest. The interesting point of this is that usually AI is used as a tool for control, but this proposition reverses that, using control as a tool for AI.

The second one. Putting the reference point of the system to be the desired position of a vehicle and the observed variable being it's current position (all this GPS driven), use MPC to not only solve the positioning problem, but also try and predict problems and obstacles ahead.

The third one. If you're from the industry, quality control must be day-in and day-out concept for you. I would like to see if MPC fits in there and what advantages can it bring out.

The fourth one. I always thought that flying saucers were possible to make: by a fan controlled by a motor and counterweights in it's edge, not by the center. MPC will be used to handle height control and direction.

The fifth one. This was just to try and include my hobby in the whole thing: imagine a guitar effect's box that you teach your song to, and the box will learn WHEN, in the song, to put WHAT effect. Now, when you go on stage, just plug it in and you don't have to come back to step on pedals to apply the next effect. Obviously, because we always play a song differently everytime, the box needs to predict and compensate for any error in tuning and/or timing whilst playing live.

I met with Dr. Lennox with the ideas in hand, and was very surprised that he was very interested in the fifth one... yeah: the guitar one. He mentioned that he had started working on a game which would teach a person how to play a certain song, like the dancing games you see in every arcade, but with any type of guitar. That actually fitted well with my project, but he instated that it's very important to keep an open mind on where the project may lead. It's very possible that this project, or it's findings, may be applicable to other areas that aren't sonic analysis, and, thus, don't get too attached to it because it may change over time. Almost as in queue, here comes a bank, yes, a bank that has grown interest in the project and it's feasibility of applying it to credit account owners and/or the accept/reject process of getting one.

It's now being about a month of "working"... it's been confusing, really. A lot of new terms to understand, therefore a lot to read, and always thinking on where to apply it. Right now I'm finishing reading on Principal Components Analysis, PCA, and it's meaning (for more information, go here), Wikipedia rocks!). It's something that took more than two weeks of banging my head against the wall to understand, but it's worth it, because now I know that PCA can simplify my life in the near future.

Now that I'm full on this thing, as Dr. Lennox predicted, we have slowly changed course of where I'm going. It's ok though, I prepared myself for it and was expecting it: many other students that I've talked to have said that the original topic of research of a thesis is never the same as it is on when it's being written up. I'll probably wind up using this project as a training application of the terms that I'm reading upon and writing up something in System Modelling which is beginning to appeal to me. Coincidentally, that is what the bank is interested in.

I'm ok here... confused, but apparently is normal. I've never found comfort in confusion, there's no control there, but irony is now my way of life and it looks comforting =)

What if everything around you
isn't quite as it seems?
What if all the world you think you know
is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection,
is it all you wanted to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks?
Would you find yourself
find yourself afraid to see?

What if all the world's inside of your head
just creations of your own?
Your devils and your gods,
all the living and the dead,
and you really are alone.
You can live in this illusion.
You can choose to believe.
You keep looking but you can't find the woods,
while you're hiding in the trees.

Good song...

Rant 2006-10-19: MSN Messenger for Mac, Microsoft Doesn’t Get It

Notes before reading:
*For an explanation on how this rant is organized, please: read this.
*This rant is posted in the comment section of this blog's post.
-Sorry for my disappearing act: I'm doing a PhD over at the University of Manchester, so my leisure time has decreased exponentially during these last few months. I may change the publishing period of these rants to a monthly thing, instead of a week, sorry about that.
-Anyway, the topic of the blog was of the launch of the new version of MSN Messenger for the Mac (6.0.1) and the absence (still) of A/V support for PC MSN users.
-My rant is mainly as a response to one pro-Microsoft comment that was from Johnathan Wise saying:

No dude, you don’t get it. Microsoft even published a blog post on this release to explain things to people like you. In order to add new features, such as A/V, Microsoft had to have a stable code base to work with. They didn’t originally write the software in XCode, so make a universal binary was nearly impossible. It would be stupid for them to add new features on that old, non-compatible code base, so the first priority was to move to XCode and release a Universal Binary. This gives them a compatible, future-friendly code base off of which they can begin to add new features.

I’m not saying Microsoft has properly prioritized Messenger for Mac. I too have been frustrated by the lack of features. But they are “getting it” and they are moving in the right direction. And Apple shares some fault for not communicating in advance their plan to go “Universal.” They recommended using XCode, but didn’t tell anyone why, and a massive software house like Microsoft isn’t going to just switch development environments without good reason.

Now they have good reason, Apple’s strategy is clear, and they can begin making progress. Ya, they’ve been slow, but now that they’re doing the right thing, cut them some slack!

-You can find the Microsoft blog post he mentioned here.
-A/V means Audio/Visual. Y'know: using the webcam and microphone in your computer to see/talk to another person by MSN. You can't do that with a Mac to a PC user through the MSN protocol, you have to use something else, like Skype, SightSpeed, etc.
-XCode is the official (and probably only) development environment to create Mac applications.
-Universal Binaries are applications that can run natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs. It's a source of frustration for most users that have Intel-based Macs because there are many applications right now that aren't Universal, so they don't run as fast as they do on a PowerPC-based Mac, including Office, Adobe Photoshop, and, until a month ago, MSN Messenger for Mac.

Actually, Steve Jobs in the 2005 WWDC, made it very clear why should Apple Developers should use XCode 2.1 (or later): to make Universal Binaries of the programs. Apple did this over half a year before the Intel Macs were shipped and it also made some Intel Macs available for developers to test on before hand. Even the General Manager of Macintosh Business Unit of Microsft, Roz Ho, made a little speech in which, and I quote “We’re releasing a new version of MSN Messenger for Mac in the next few months” followed by stating that they are working with Apple to create Universal Binaries of Office with XCode. So, they had known about this well before. Actually, Adobe did exactly that and has now put up a shipping date (Spring 2007) for Photosho CS3 which would be Intel-compatible for Macs.

So you see, there IS a good reason for them to switch development environments, Apple gave them all the tools and support for such (as it did for every other developer), and still they haven’t delivered; not completely anyway. They DID release a new version of MSN Messenger but, come on, the new features we’re really poor: it’s more of a 5.2 than a 6.0.1 in my opinion. This isn’t news, really: the browser-based messenger can’t run on a Mac because of Microsoft’s choice; they have dropped Virtual PC development; and didn’t they dropped support for Messenger for the Mac a while ago? And now they’re back, who knows what’s going on in there?

Frankly, stick with third party applications for MSN chatting and use something else to conference with. I use SightSpeed, someone else mentioned Skype, they get the job done; and right now Microsoft it’s not doing that, whatever the reason (they have to launch Vista, make Office Intel compatible, etc.), this is showing that Mac users aren’t a priority for Microsoft, and well, duh! I wouldn’t care if iTunes crashed on a Windows PC, and, although Apple is doing a somewhat decent job on that point, it’s not a priority for them either.

You want to use a Mac? Research what’s out there, and get something that works in the third party area; don’t sit around and expect Microsoft to run to your rescue.

Just Three Letters

I have been searching for a way to share my ideas that I've put into recording. For now this is the best that I've found. Click here, or the title, to go to one of box.net public shares in which I've made available to download the tracks of my demo "Just Three Letters". Hope you like it, and please comment; I'm very interested in your opinions.

Box.net offers quite an interesting value at no charge. There's an upgrade that gives out more stuff, which you have to pay for, but the free package comes with 1 Gb of storage, and no uploads larger than 10 Mb, which for most people wouldn't be a problem.


The way the society works is very much the same as everywhere in the world; at least from the perspective I've learned during these weeks. I'm not saying this is really how it works (I don't think nobody knows that for real), but, because of the diversity of culture that Manchester is famous for, this fact is hard to ignore.

There are people here, literally, from all over the world: name a country, there is a "town" here for them. China, Pakistan, Oman, Mexico... but the incredible thing is that, even though it should be a disaster waiting to happen (so much culture clash), is not. People get along, people discuss about taboo subjects (religion and politics) and, for the most part, reach a very amigable conclusion. You see people from New York talking with muslims about 9/11 and how it affected both cultures. A lot of doubts are cleared about the stereotypes that have been stated about different societies and most of them come with a pleasant and enlightening surprise:

  • India was made up by different tribes and "countries" before the British came and unified them in one. The languages of each of the old countries still remains though, and, even though English and Hindi are the country's main languages, about less than 30% of them actually speak or understand Hindi, making English probably the most spoken language in the country. That's why you see so many indians (a term that they are comfortable with) in U.S.A, U.K., Canada and Australia: they are english-speaking countries.
  • The basic definition of the Islam is believing in God in a way that trascends man and his form. There are no forms or images given to God, even Muhammad (the religion's main, and probably only prophet) himself petitioned his followers not to remember his image but only the words that God spoke through him. It takes consideration of the Christian and Jewish religion and accepts them as part of the prophecies that God gave to mankind, and Islam being the last of them and, thus, the purest. From a logical point of view, that makes sense: have you ever heard a man tell an anecdote that happenned to him 50 years before? It sounds extraordinary, when it really probably isn't, but the time that's passed made it a little bit blurry so he has to make up for it by filling in the blanks of what he thought happenned. I'm not saying Christianity and Judaism are distorted or anything (who am I to say that?) but, from this take, Islam is a fresh look in things, and that gives it a very good standing point in my opinion.
  • War and violence is frowned upon... to hurt another person is to hurt humanity itself. I love that, so many people saying that the war that's hapenning over there, and way over there is just, basically and utterly wrong. I'm not saying any names, not because I don't want any controversy, you know I like that, but because I'm really bad in geography and history.
  • The openness of questions and the actual need to inform about one's culture is engraved into our brain. Maybe it's pride, maybe it's altruism, but the matter of the fact is I've learned a lot mainly by the motivation of the persons of the same cultures that I'm learning about. Not that I need more motivation to do that, but these people actually come up to me and ask "Do you have any questions?" without me saying a word, which not only makes the whole situation much more civil but also is very inspiring.
  • There's always a lot of ways of seeing a situation... you don't have the answer, we all do.


When I reread the post "Direct Debit and Me" I realized that, well, it got a little out of hand. Sorry for that, I tend to go ballistic when it comes to writing.

To compensate for that I'll try not to write that much in this post, but rather put a lot of pictures of my visit to London and the Apple Store. This works very well for me, being that it's almost five minutes before class, jeje. Take in consideration that we had only about eight hours to visit, so don't expect that much detail of the stuff that we saw. I'm definitely visiting London and Liverpool later into the year with more time in my hands.

Ok, first and foremost: the House of Parlament and Big Ben (which's the name of the bell, not the tower, apparently), taken from the Eye of London's point of view:

We then went to Buckingham Palace. These are the gates of one of the Royal Parks which are exactly in front to the left of the palace:

The Buckingham Palace itself (I loved the sky that day):

The Victoria Memorial (in memory of Queen Victoria, who reigned the longest any other monarch has in U.K.'s history, 63 years... and we thought Porfirio Diaz had a long run):

Next, whilst trying to find one of those famous red buses to continue on our journey, we encountered this statue that some mistake as a statue in honor of Napoleon (yeah, that Napoleon) but rather it's actually in honor of the british admiral that beat him during the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Lord Nelson (actually, the place in which this statue is located is called Trafalgar Square):

During the bus ride, I finally got to see one of the three things I wanted to see in this London's visit; one being the House of Parlament, the second being the Apple Store, (which's coming, I promise), and the third being the St. Paul's Cathedral. I don't know why it just me drew me to it:

And... (I love how this one came out)

When we went through Regent Street, we hoped off to eat, I crossed the street carefully as noted here (hilarious, isn't it?):

I quickly went into the Apple Store, in which I bought an automatic light for my iSight (yeah, I'm a Mac fan, I had to buy something, jeje):

And to finish off, we had to have the stereotipycal scottish (not british) bagpipe player doing Classic Lullaby in D Major to an infant wishing for £1 from his mum (cool guy, though, and he really played well):

That's it! I promise I'll visit again with more in-depth pictures of the House of Parlament and of the fourth thing I wanted to see but didn't in this visit: Old Bailey, for all the V for Vendetta fans out there (yeah, Hugo, this means you).

Direct Debit and Me

Yesterday I FINALLY finished my registration after a, what, two week process (or probably three). Like I've said in earlier posts: the british way promotes doing things at the time that they're supposed to be done, not before, not after (... definitely, positively, not before).

Anyway, so I arrive here on September the 4th with the next plan on my head:

  1. Get an account with direct debit. This is needed as The University of Manchester requires that I have this type of account for me to be able to pay my tuition fees by instalments, if not I have to pay the whole tuition fee in one setting during registration (and, because of the type of postgraduate program I'll be taking, that fee is around £11,000... you can now guess why we went for the pay-by-instalments plan). It is also needed because that's the way that I'll pay my residence fee (by instalments)... so basically if you want to pay stuff by instalments you need this type of account. I've enquired around and apparently this is also needed (or, at least, encouraged) to pay the bills and rent in a large part of the U.K.
  2. Give the details of my account to the University to register myself in their system.
  3. Give the details of my account to my Hall of Residence and get online after that to tell the story.

Easy enough plan, right? Well, from what I've learned these past weeks, a simple, pre-thought plan is usually one that won't work out as it was intended to...

I applied online before coming to the U.K. for an international student account with HSBC U.K. (my parents have the money in HSBC Mexico, so it sounded logical). We also researched in how to make a transfer overseas, and apparently HSBC U.K. and HSBC Mexico are two completely different banks: they have very similar logos and names but that's it, their systems aren't referenced to each other like I thought they would be, so the overseas transfer it's just like any other overseas transfer between two banks... bummer. Oh well, that just basically means that it will take a little bit longer (a day, I think) and will cost a little bit more (£10 per transfer, if I remember correctly).

The online application, after it finished, told me that I would get in post mail everything that I needed to bring to the HSBC U.K. branch to deposit the money and order my card. Now, I was in Mexico at that moment, so when I read that I figured it meant that I would get the information in my Mexico postal address; I didn't receive anything. I knew my postal address over in the U.K. (which was one of the things that the application process asked of me). So when I was over here in the U.K. and went to a HSBC U.K. branch, I was told that the information will be sent to my address here in the U.K. This was around Sept. the 5th; I wasn't getting in my residence until the 14th (the contract said so, and no mail could be delivered before that date), and the registration process was going to "start" the 15th (I'll explain the quotes later on). So I was completely stumped: what now? This step was the initial part of the plan, without an account I can't do anything. Add to that the fact that when I was in Mexico, I didn't know my flat number (which I did have, but didn't know that that weird number was actually my flat number: xx.xx.xx, how is that a flat number???) so I didn't give it to the application process, just my name and the hall's address (which I have been informed that is enough, just takes a while); so now, not only did I didn't have an account, but I also didn't know if the information needed to open it was going to arrive properly and on time.

So, I said, f**k that account: let just open another one here that has direct debit. HSBC replied: the only account we have with direct debit for persons that are not U.K. citizens is that one, and you can only apply for one online.

So, I said f**k HSBC: I'll look in other banks. The other banks said: do you have an address here so we can send you the information? I said yes, but I can't receive any mail there until the 14th. The banks said: well, we can start the application process before that with a letter from the university confirming to us that that's your address or you can wait until the 14th to start the process. I went to the university to ask for such letter, for which I receive a friendly sign that that sort of letters will not be printed until the registration process.

So here was my problem: the bank, to give me an account, needed a letter of the university which it can only give me during a process that needs a bank account... beautiful, isn't it?

Everywhere I read information about the university (the site, prospectus, booklets, etc.) almost at the end all of them said something like "if you're in trouble or need of help, contact the Student Service Centre". I deduced that I was indeed in trouble and needed help, so I went. I encountered another friendly face...

I just have to make a little parenthesis to make a quick but important note: even though this whole situation was tiresome, I have to admit that every person that I met during it was very helpful and very friendly, and made their best effort to help me given the circumstances. Very cool, and very patient =) Thank you again if you're reading this!

Anyway, another friendly face; when I finished explaining to her my situation, she was kind of distraught:

"Uhmm, well, you're kind of early. We don't start the process until the 15th".
"Exactly, I'll need the account by that date."
"Actually, you won't. If you don't have it by that date, you can temporarily register; that being you're going to receive a temporary card that'll get you in the library and computer clusters and get you in our database as a normal student. Then you'll have from two weeks to a month to get that account and give the details of which to us, and then we'll give you a permanent ID card. We're very sorry for the confusion, we've getting a lot of these situations over the last few days. Don't worry, just wait till the 15th to start dealing with all of your registration concerns."

Heaven came down and lifted this enormous weight from my shoulders... the registration process starts on the 15th, of course! I could still completely register after that date (almost two weeks, apparently). So there I was: tired, weight-free and with nothing, NOTHING to do but wait.

When my dad heard the news, he said "Ok, good. Then it's time to switch over to tourist mode!" And he went wild with it: we visited Liverpool and London over the next days. I loved Liverpool by the way; I can't put my finger on why, but I felt drawn to that city. I'll probably visit it a few times during my postgraduate year. We also visited the Regent St. Apple Store in London: beautiful, just beautiful, I'll write about it in a later post.

During these days, another worry came about: what's going to happen with my residence payments? They need a direct debit account also. But later I checked the dates for such payments and the first one is until october, which is congruent with the fact that we payed through the telephone £150 to confirm my acceptance of the place. So, another worry taken care of.

We visited, touristed, and got accustomed to the new hour schedule (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that during all of this, I still wasn't accustomed to the new schedule so everything felt like a surreal dream, haha).

The 14th came. Moving in was actually very simple: I showed my contract and got my keys and my resident ID and magnetic card without question, they also sold me some bed covers for £27. When I got in my room everything was were it supposed to be and my parents liked it. I unpacked in a matter of minutes and we were done for the day.

The 15th came. Went in Whitworth Hall (the building that I was appointed to register), did a fairly short line to get to a "purple person" (the official color of the university) and he helped me get through to the rest of the registration. He gave me a temporary ID card and told me to get that letter I needed over at the Student Service Centre. I went and they told me that they couldn't give it to me right there because the system was in "acquisition mode", and printing those letters would take all day, so I should come back monday 18th. That was OK, because now I had my ID card so I could get in the computer clusters and signup for an IT account. I also wanted to see about the internet in my room, but that also was going to begin in monday. So basically, the lesson of all of this, is that we got here REALLY early: a lot of stuff can or must be done during classes.

My parents were going to leave the 16th very early, so this was my last day with them. We went shopping to the Trafford Centre and Piccadilly Gardens. Finally we hugged and they got into a cab waving a Kodak moment goodbye. We tested my cell phone to see if it was receiving calls and said epiloguish goodbye's.

The 16th came. My parents gone... déjà vu all over again.

The 18th came. Activated my room internet access. Went to the Student Services Centre and was informed that there was a bank over at Whitworth Hall that didn't need the letter from the university that confirmed my address to open a bank account with direct debit. Just a passport and an acceptance letter from the university (which I already have). The bank's name is Barclays: it was the first bank to ever use a credit card (called Barclaycard, term that the bank still uses) and one of the largest banks in the U.K. The staff was very friendly and had a type of account for my situation; I called my parents for an opinion on it and they told me that it sounded fine and that it was up to me. I went for it; the bank's staff told me that my account would be ready by friday 22nd. By that date they would give me the account details (account number and sorting code, both needed to start a direct debit payment) and that I should bring whatever money I intended to deposit so they could order my debit card that will be delivered to me by post. So, one week to get the account, and another one to get the debit card; I really didn't mind at that moment that I'd have to wait another week to get my card, I just wanted somewhere to put all the money I had with me in Traveller's Cheques and an account with direct debit within the registration week time-slot. That same day I went climbing... it still hurts, hehe.

The 22nd came. As advised by the lady in Barclays', this was the plan for that day:

  1. Go down to the Barclays' branch to get my account details.
  2. Go to the American Express office and cash in all of my Traveller's Cheques.
  3. There was another Barclay's branch near the American Express office (about 100 m. apart, very practical) so I could deposit the money in my account there. Walking around with that much cash in the city centre or in a bus doesn't scream safety. The other option was to deposit the Traveller's Cheques as they were directly into my account in my account's branch, but it would've taken about a couple weeks to clear them (because of the large sum); the first option, which I preferred, would make it as so that the money would immediately reflect on my account... enough waiting around.
  4. Then come back to my account's branch and asked them to order my debit card, now that there actually is money in there.
  5. And finally go down to the university so they could finish my registration and give me a permanent ID card.

Well, everything went fine until the final step: the direct debit account is needed by the university to ensure the payment of the LAST TWO INSTALMENTS (there are three in total); you have to actually pay for the first payment during the registration process. You can do this online by paying with a credit or debit card (which I still had to wait another week to get), you can do the same in person or by cheque (my account didn't handle these) or cash (which was kind of unsecure). Went back to the bank to see what solution they can offer me and said that a lot of students were using what they called a "Banker's Draft Cheque", which is a cheque that is charged by my account but with the name of the bank as the payer and the name of a certain institution as the payee. Went back to the university to see if this was viable (I really didn't want to have a cheque for that large sum with me and realized at the end that it won't work), and two different persons confirmed that it was ok. Went back to the bank (I know what you're thinking: why didn't I just called the university from the bank to confirm that? And you're completely right, but, first, I didn't know the registration help hot line number, and, second, frankly I felt more confident with a person, face to face, telling me that it was fine; we're talking about a lot of money here) and got a Banker's Draft Cheque for the amount of money that I needed (if I would've deposited the Traveller's Cheque, this wouldn't have been possible, so, ha, good decision after all). Went back to the university, made the long queue again (yeah, it's "queue", instead of "line") and everything went smoothly. I have now with me a permanent ID card (which, well, it's not really permanent, it expires July of 2007, but well, an ID card for the rest of the year, so it's all good).

So... people coming from overseas: listen up. This is what you must do if you ever come to the University of Manchester (maybe even most other universities in Europe) and are plainning to pay by instalments your tuition fees:

  • If you can, get an U.K. address as soon as you can and make sure you can get stuff delivered there at the moment you arrive, it makes life much easier. They ask you for an U.K. address for EVERYTHING here, much like they ask for a local address everywhere in the world.
  • Explore for banks. I've tried HSBC, NatWest, and Barclays', the latter being the one that I chose because of the circumstances. I'm pretty sure (this coming from all of the banks that I checked over here) that there are options with which you can set up accounts of this type from overseas successfully having an U.K. address. I tried, but I misinterpreted the whole thing: do as I say not as I've done, jeje.
  • Bring a credit/debit card with you from an account of your country with some money in it. It will probably take some time before you can actually open an account here (even if you already applied for one online), so you'll need to eat and have a roof over your head before that, and you don't want to cash in that big cheque for your tuition fees to pay for it. If it has Visa or Mastercard logo on it, it's all that's needed for you to use it over here as a cash card to take money out of ATM's.
  • Try to think everything in pounds (£), even before you come here. Thinking "that burger costs £2.50, which translates to around $50 mexican pesos, wow, that's a lot" is mental torture, really. If you think by those terms, everything will be expensive. Coming here is expensive, and you better get over it soon. That doesn't mean that you can go in a shopping spree everytime you want: one thing is mental torture, another is living by a budget. If you can cut costs in stuff, like meals (eating in is much less expensive than eating out, cook your own dinners and breakfasts, etc.) and accomodation (getting a shared appartment, not using that much water or electricity, etc.), go ahead, but don't go hungry or sleeping out in the rain because of it: your study time is going to suffer as a result and that's your main goal and job right now. Just think that if you ever are in need of money, having a student account in a bank here opens a lot of possibilities in terms of loans and credit; there are also possibilities of part-time jobs inside the university as teacher assistants; and the psychiatric department is always in need of subjects for their research, and most of the time they are willing to pay you for taking part in their psychologic experiments (I haven't even started classes yet and I've already received three such like offers through email).
  • For your initial deposit in your new bank account, there are two options that seem rather safe as well as practical:
    1. Traveller's Cheques. It apparently has the best of both worlds: it's much safer than cash but potentially has it's immediacy. The thing is to find a bank near an American Express office so you don't have to walk around with all of your cash and expose yourself for too long. You're probably wondering why I'm advising to go to an American Express office for this; I mean it is possible to cash in Traveller's Cheques in any bank, but it comes with a cost, BIG cost, almost 0.5% of the amount to be cashed in (that comes to being hundreds of pounds if you're cashing in your tuition fees).
    2. Plain Old Cheque. If you feel that Traveller's Cheques is not a completely safe solution, but you're willing to wait: bring a plain old cheque for your deposit. Knowing what I now know, I probably would've gone with this solution: even though it was immediate, that 100 m. walk was a real nerve test for me. I don't like carrying that much money with me (£80 and up makes my neck quiver) and probably a lot of people out there don't either.
  • Find out what's the amount of the first instalment. The Crucial Guide that's on the web about a month or two before the registration week should inform you of this. Although, because the Crucial Guide is a more general guide for all programs and degrees, it probably won't reflect the exact total amount of your fees for your specific course or program; however, it WILL tell you how many instalments will there be. You can take that number and use it to get the instalment amount: just divide the total amount of your fees, which you WILL be informed by post mail after getting your acceptance letter, by that number. If after the division, the instalment amount has decimals, just rounded it to the upper most integer... yeah, I'm an engineer, sorry... if your total tuition fee is £5000 and there are three instalments per year (which usually there are): 5000/3 is 1666.6666, so your first instalment payment will be £1667.
  • To make your first payment during the registration process bring some sort of cheque, a credit/debit card with a LOT of allowance, or wait until you have openned your account and get a Banker's Draft Cheque; don't bring cash to pay for your first instalment, people get nervous with that option and frown upon it. Don't forget your account details to ensure the payment of later instalments.
  • Be patient, VERY patient. The queues that I've encountered were generally between 30 minutes to 1 hour and a half during the registration week (also called the Freshers' Week); although that may sound like a long time, consider that the "purple people" have been there helping others for much more than that. It's a strenuous, confusing process, and everyone is aware of that: you're not alone, so ask if you want to, there will be people there to answer; and, again, you're not alone, so don't act as if your problem is the only one without a solution, because it does have an answer (it just might take some time to figure it out) and that attitude is tiresome not only to you and the staff, but the people around you that also have some sort of problems. I encountered some rude people in the queues, including one that skipped ahead of me; I asked him is he was kidding, because it was so obvious what he just did, and he plainly said that he was pretty sure that he was in front of me since the beginning, which he wasn't (a young lady and a gentlemen behind me, eye-witnesses to the fact, later confirmed to me that he indeed skipped ahead), I finally replied that "Well, I'm pretty sure that I was in front of you, but fine, if you think that it's that important for you to be first, go ahead. God!". There wasn't a need to make a spectacle of the thing, and everyone else (well, at least, the ones that I talked to later) agreed that it was the best thing to do. If I would've taken that further, some sort of conflict would've arosed and I probably would've lost my position in the queue because of it. Interestingly enough, I, and I think some others behind me, finished the registration process before him...
  • And, this goes out for EVERYBODY that will go through a queue... I can't believe that I'm the one saying this... please, for the love of God, TAKE A BATH BEFORE YOU TAKE A QUEUE! The community smell that is collected in the registration halls can sometimes be unbearable, and that coming from me means that I wouldn't be surprised if some people passed out from it.

Manchester Climbing

Sorry for the random subject, I won't have access to the Internet from my room until monday, and I swore to myself to update this blog with something; so I'm doing this from one of the computers in a University PC cluster close to my apartment building and this is the only subject in the list (which are lot, by the way) which I don't need information stored in my Mac to write about. I just wrote to both Hugo and Julia quite extensive emails of how things are doing over here and how I'm feeling (which, in summary, all is good and rainy, I got into my room at last, I've met two of my three flatmates, they're nice, one's from China, the other from Saudi-Arabia, very cool, my parents have just left, scary but cool, and I'm hungry, yes you read it right, I'm hungry which hadn't occurred in quite a while), so don't expect this to be a long post... mmm, judging from the length that it already has... nevermind.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of indoor climbing; I was in the Boy Scouts when I was 10 so they teached me some technique on climbing bare rock and rappel, I was maniatic tree climber (still am when nobody's watching) and I climbed when I had the chance over at Queretaro (the school had a very nice wall on campus). So the first thing that I do when I arrive to Manchester (well, not the first, but, y'know what I mean) is get online and find a good climbing center (which, now that I think of it, is something that I could've done while I was in Mexico... douh!), and here's the one that I've decided upon. First of all, they have a LOT of walls ranging from beginner to advanced, they have walls just for bouldering (which I do a lot) and, this is the best part, it's inside a church.

It's not an actual church, it's just a building that used to be one, but the structure and the window work still remains, so it's quite beautiful.

These pictures are from their website. I haven't been there yet, but I will later, beleive me.

First impressions of Manchester

Well... here's me, in the U.K.

Apparently I got here early, everything that I thought I had to do during these two weeks must actually be started by september the 14th (four days before classes start). Two weeks early... you could say that's great: more time for vacationing, but there's a catch, I can't get into my residence until that date also. So I got to stay in a hotel, which is a little unsettling: the way this is usually done in Mexico is with a LOT of anticipation (relatively speaking). Basically you do everything locally and spend some time in the city 'fixing' stuff which involves paying for everything at least a week before classes start, so by that time everything is taken care of. In the U.K. it's completely the other way around: you do everything remotely to just come here about three to four days before the registration day, move in, and if something can't be payed for remotely, you can pay for it here while being already on classes.

The streets are transited in by the left side (not the right), which makes crossing the street a religious experience if you aren't careful. I thought that I would get used to that quickly, but I haven't; is that sort of things that get stuck with you since you were a kid, so it's a very old habit to look to your left side first when crossing (when you're going on the right side), making it here a very deathly habit too. I've also discovered that that's the essence of my orientation, because now everything gets bended backwards when I get out the door more usually than it used to in Mexico ("left is right, left is right"...).

It's summer (well, the last part, anyway), so the weather's nice. It rains very delicately, so it's nothing like the rain in Juarez (which is basically buckets falling). And it's not that cold, and it's not that warm... although, because of the last rainfall I witnessed and was wetted by in Juarez (thanks Hugo, I loved it) I think I'm getting sick (no worries, it was worth it!), so I'm not getting to enjoy it that much.

Most of the people are nice, although very intimidating. I come from a place that a serious face means trouble, so I feel I'm in the middle of trouble everyday. What I have found out, though, is that a smile goes a long way here: I suppose that they aren't use to it, or that a smile here means "I like you a lot" (haven't figured that one out yet), so most of the people which I've approached smiling or humbly have turned out very friendly and helpful (even, in some cases, flirtatious). Talking of which, I have to admit: wow! I mean, really, wow! Very beautiful women here. The epiphany of beauty in Mexico is exactly what apparently here is just regular womenfolk (well, at least to me): slender, decent bust, decent behind, clear eyes, tall, long legs, clear skin, etc. I'm talking about the average that I've seen around... although I've also seen a lot of Punjabi people here, thus, a lot of Punjabi women also; very good genes, I must say.

The thing that has thrown me off the most is the language. At first it was a complete turn-on, but now it's a total nightmare. The way some of the british talk is anything but comprehensible to an american-english-taught person like myself. At first I thought I wanted to obtain their accent (I loved how it sounded), but now I'm not so sure if I want to sound sexy at the expense of nobody understanding me. I guess I'll obtained it without even trying, but that'll come; right now I'm struggling with just knowing what the hell are they talking about without the need of the now overused "I'm sorry, what was that again?". My dad says that it just takes a little getting used to, and with all fairness, it has only been two days; and he must know about this, he spend also about a year in Israel having only english to communicate (imagine the accent they had over there!). Even so, I'm a worrier, it keeps me alive; I hope by the time that I'll write my next post I'll be writing britishly (if there's a such a thing, hehe).

Even with the fear of jinxing it...

Less than a week and half for me to leave for England... I think I've reached the stage in which I don't feel a thing towards them. I hope I'm right, I saw them both one more time (we went to eat italian, nice restaurant by the way: Italiani's, couldn't finish my meal, jeje, yeah, you win Hugo), and frankly, yeah, it was kinda weird; but, not bad weird, just weird. Hugo still was the silent one, although he spoke a bit more than usual, probably because of the whole deal with their "relationship" now.

I quoted that because, well, it's kind of a mess right now: Julia's ex (whom she met in Queretaro) is still around in Juarez, with a job and all. Not only that, he, up until a week ago, was staying with Hugo; he now has moved with a friend that moved to Juarez from Queretaro. So you can imagine why I'm not in there: not that I want to, if I know myself well, I probably would've jumped in there to stir things up even more. But I didn't; I don't know why, maybe because Hugo didn't let me (although we talked a lot about it), or Julia, or I was just too hurt to include myself in all that shit. The thing is that, well, I'm not in it: I'm being taken more of an external observer. Which in itself is hurtful: I'm not in it, I'm not taken into consideration, I'M NOT CARED FOR. But, it IS for the best: right now I feel ok, the England stuff that I have had to deal with (I'll write about it in later posts) has been a mind and heart saviour. I feel that I'm already there, and I'm the stage of being excited and at the same time frightened by the idea of moving to a new continent. It's kind of a fresh start, a new chance to screw things up, a new opportunity to be remembered but not that much.

It's so weird that I'm typing this with the fear of me deceiving myself, of not actually feeling ok but saying that I am to trick myself into it (y'know, the Julia way). I hate that, I've done it so much up until now that I can't tell the difference between the bull and the grass. Nevertheless, I do feel ok; no more stomach aches (pre-ulcer symptoms; I'm 24, I don't take abandonement easily), I actually can talk with Hugo about this whole situation with a cool and clear head, and I can sit in a room with them holding hands, in each other's arms, and being this close to making out in the room, without killing myself (y'know, just the usual nervous twitch). Yeah, it hurts, being forgotten does that to you, and having somebody that you STILL have feelings for look at you as not being there like before is hurtful (yeah, I still don't know what that's about, sorry; no worries, though, I'm leaving soon, good excuse for not caring, or a good reason for me to convince myself of it). But i'm beginning to see some sort of light at the end, I can sincerely say right now that I'm not over her but that I will someday; I KNOW it, I FEEL it... everyday I feel my heart growing a little bit tougher. I know that this will kill most chances for me to begin a new relationship in the near future, but it's probably for the best; I'm not planning staying in the UK for a very long time, most of which I'll dedicate to studying, so I probably won't have a lot of time for that. But, hey, if somebody is thrown my way, I hope (you hearing me up there?) that I won't be too blind to see her (or him, who knows?).

New iPod. That's right!

I got the 60 Gb, Black Version... here it is:

The picture that it's showing is of a friend of mine: Cristina Bringas (I've written about her before).

Here's the back panel:

The thing that bought me into it (which I'm very embarrased of not knowing about, being a Mac fan and all) was that it plays video. I've downloaded two videos from the Apple Music Store before I bought it (that I couldn't find anywhere): Banquet from Bloc Party and They from Jem. Both of them played beautifully in the new iPod; a problem arose when I tried to import some other videos that I've downloaded from other sources. I've converted the AVI ones to MPG so that I could import them into iTunes and then do the "Convert selection for iPod" (which took almost half an hour for one video to go through the whole process; and I have almost fifty videos that I want to upload to my iPod, you do the math). Most of the initial MPG videos (with which I was testing, including the ex-AVI and the ones that were originally MPG) didn't have sound but did play in iTunes as well as in the iPod.

After digging in the Internet for an answer, this is what I found: Multiplexed MPEG-1 is bad, and MPEG Streamclip is good. Apparently, a Multiplexed MPEG-1 movie stores it's sound information in such a way that when it's being converted into another type of movie (MOV, AVI, MP4, etc.), the file doesn't bring it's sound with it to it's new type. So, a "demultiplexing" or demux is needed before the conversion, and this is where MPEG Streamclip comes in. Besides converting between a wide variety of types of movies, it also demuxes in the process if needed.

Very nice app, by the way. Just drag n' drop the movie into the square, choose "Export to MPEG-4" in the File menu, a window will pop up, press the "iPod" button in the top right corner which will put in all the necessary options to make an iPod friendly movie, press the "Make MP4" button, write a location and name for the new movie and you're done. This new movie will be ready to be imported into iTunes and will play in the iPod as is (no "Convert selection for iPod" in iTunes needed). Another great thing about this is that it only takes around 15 to 20 minutes for the process of converting a movie to complete; so it doesn't only solves my problem, it also cuts my waiting time in almost half. Oh, and did I mention it's freeware? Yeah, Squared 5 rocks!