Quotes and Acknowledgements in my Thesis

I finally finished the first draft of my PhD thesis. I did one page with a couple quotes that seemed appropriate for the work:

We believe nut things because it is part of our little monkey brains to try desperately to make patterns. That is the genius of humans, the quality that lets us learn. Pattern recognition has moved us off the hostile savanna and into the much safer condominiums. When you see your cavemate die shortly after a snake bite, it is probably a good idea to avoid all snakes. Of course, this over-simplification also leads to racism, religion, and all kinds of magical thinking.

Penn Jillette: magician, actor, political commentarist, all-around nice guy.

You are me, and I am you, and you are listening to our song right this instant, but you don't know it. Whatever you think you're hearing isn't there right now, it was prefabricated and melted into your ear a long time ago... try to go beyond the frequencies, beyond the sound of your surroundings and listen to whatever is coming out.
You'll found out that I'm waiting for you on the other side, being you, being me, and our song, our real song, was playing all along.


The only place I can have fun is in the acknowledgements part. I am kind of proud of it.


First and foremost, I would like to thank my greatest teacher of all: God. I know that I am here and that I am able to write all of this for a reason. I will do my best in never forgetting what a great fortune I have had in just being here, and that it comes with a lesson and a responsibility. I hope I am doing the work you have planned me to do.

I would like to thank the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT). Without their grant, this PhD would not have been possible.

I would like to thank my supervisor, Prof. Barry Lennox, for putting in me the idea of shooting directly for a PhD and for creating an environment of humour around this whole ordeal. Whilst the sensation of doing something that would impress everybody was short-lived, those first few days of uncertainty that you pulled with me are ones that I will not ever forget. Whatever the reason of why you offered me this opportunity, may that have been my good looks or my impossible-to-ignore charm: thank you for believing in me, even if it only was for just a few moments. Oh, and I will hunt you down, wherever you are, for making me suffer; I will leave a tip though.

I would like to thank my friends and colleagues that I have met in this my home far away from home called Manchester. Specially Oskar and Marisa, who, even though have reduced me to a third wheel in our relationship, have blossomed into a partnership that will not be forgotten. Whatever happens with you two, do know that, throughout these last couple of years, your relationship has provided me with an impressively beautiful site to see, as it is when two friends fall in love with each other.

I would like to acknowledge Nihil and NihilBack, my two Apple laptops. NihilBack is a PowerBook G4 with a 17'' screen, 1.67 Ghz, 1 Gb RAM. Nihil is a MacBook Pro with a 17'' screen, 2.5 Ghz, 4 Gb RAM. I want to thank you for your essential support in this project, as, without it, all of my work, from the thought process, to the simulations, to the actual writing up, would not have been possible. Both of you have granted me the possibility to do whatever I want, to experiment on my thoughts, to write my ideas down, and to share them with the world. You are the bridge to my loved ones, and my wings to my endeavours. I know you are just pieces of hardware to anybody else, but to me, you are an extension of my being, and without you, it is hard to be me. Thank you.

I would like to thank my beloved, Maria del Carmen Valle Lira. Our relationship was born in a very odd way, but I would not have expected otherwise, as both of us are odd in our own beautifully weird world. You portray the symptoms of my shortcomings, and the celebration of my virtues. I have become a better man because of the mirror you hold up for me. Thank you and I love you.

Finally, my parents: Luis Antonio Rascon Mendoza and Virginia Estebane Ortega. They gave me my name, they gave me my life, and everything else in between. I pride myself in having words for everything, but they truly shut me up when it comes down to describing how much I love them and appreciate the efforts they have put into giving me the life I have now. They are the reason I did this; they are the reason I thrive to be better. Their pride for me is my main goal in life. As I have said many times before, the only thing I aspire for is that when they lay in their deathbed they would think, "I am proud of my son." Thank you, thank you, thank you.


MTV Video Example

YouTube Video Example

The Daily Show Video Example

If you're able to watch the videos inside those sites, you're in luck: you live in the US or your Internet is provided by an US-based company. If you're not, like me, you probably was welcomed by a notice that says that you are not allowed to watch the videos. Why is this so? Copyright.

It has been one of the topics most frequently talked about in the Technological section of the news these past few months, particularly because of the Pirate Bay trial that took place. I won't go into detail about the proceedings, but it has been an interesting ride.

I understand why an author/artist/inventor wants to protect what he or she has created, and not allow anybody else to take credit or make profit out of his or her creation. But, to what lengths? As an inventor, I want people to see and use my creation, and the more the better. I'll get feedback, and make my product better for people that aren't in my vicinity, making it applicable for an even greater amount of people. I thought that this was the ultimate goal of Copyright: by nominating the original creator and setting in stone who gets to decide what happens to the product, it is free to be shared among the users without fear of another person taking credit for others' work. How is it that it has turned into the complete opposite? Today, whenever I hear "copyright protected", the words "limited usage" come to mind, instead of "Oh, so that guy/gal did this?".

It is more than annoying, it borders at stupidity. I'm right now in the UK, and I can't see the YouTube video that I linked earlier. Ironically, the video is about a live performance of an UK band, People in Planes, but, because they signed with an US label, it can, by "enforcing copyright", not allow the video to show outside the US. Meaning that fans that live right around the corner from where they grew up can't see the band's videos.

(However, I did manage to get to see the video from somewhere else.)

Copyright is now being used as a limiting tool, instead of as a vehicle of sharing, which it can definitely be. Take the GPL licensing system, used in software development. Without the need of any lawyers or any copyright institutions, I can create a piece of software and license it to anybody that wants to use it, even to the point of providing my code to the user, and the credit of my work will be protected. The user gets this privilege, as well as that of sharing and even changing my code, with the obligation of passing on my name with it. If the user wishes so, I can incorporate his or her changes into the original code, and turn the project into a collaboration. And it works, the whole Open Source movement is based on it. So well in fact that the Internet wouldn't exist as it does today if it weren't for it. The majority of DNS servers, Web servers, and many of the more popular Website development tools are licensed using GPL.

However, I also understand that this is how I like to share my creations. Others would rather share them in different ways, such as the ones used by some music labels and movie studios. If an artist/inventor chooses that route, I can't do anything about it; it is their creation to protect in whatever means they feel necessary.


Still, that doesn't mean that I can't have an opinion about it:

I've had it with their completely moronic choices to "protect" the artist's work. They're dumb, counter-productive, and reek of greed. The fact of the matter is that copyright institutions are only protecting their bank accounts, not the artist's rights, which are reduced to poster children to be used as martyrs for the sake of the studio. It is a failing system that is only being kept alive by exploiting the artist's paranoia over their work being stolen. Screw the studios and their poor excuse of artistic intentions: if they keep overprotecting the artist's work, I won't spend my money on it. Simple as that.

EDIT: The People in Planes videos can't be viewed anymore in the link provided.

Email: Apple Tax

I just hate it when people fudge numbers for their own purposes. I am going to be complete Mac fanboy on this one, I'm sorry. As a disclaimer, however, it's not that I dislike the Windows environment, many of my dear friends use it with very good results; if you like it, go for it. What I don't like is when people try to convince others by showing numbers that aren't trustworthy.

Subject: Apple Tax Redux
Date: 12 April 2009 01:55:45 BST
To: k@ndpta.com <- (yeah, that's his real e-mail address)

Dear Roger Kay,

I've read your paper titled "What Price Cool?" in which you describe your observations of what you call "Apple Tax" and describe a situation of a family projecting their costs in a 5-year term towards switching to the Mac platform. Interesting read, but I've encountered several issues with the document.

Assuming that the next instalment of the Windows operating system, System 7, will "close the gap" and be a step forward towards the infamous "cool" factor you describe (an assumption which many of us that have already used System 7 may not agree with), it seems to be contradicting the overall objective of your paper. Aren't you touting "cool", which is subject to a product's brand, to be unnecessary? IBM, considered to be THE computer brand when the first version of Windows launched, placed it at the hands of millions of users that already heard of the company in the Industry setting. Microsoft reached all of these users because of IBM's brand marketing, giving it the market share that it has now. I'm obligated to state that, to the contrary of what you may think, there's no "conspiracy theory" here.

For the normal consumer, at first, there was no other better alternative, IBM was it; others came and went, until the IBM clones entered into the picture. Because people didn't need to change much of their workflow when switching to IBM clones, companies, such as Compaq and HP, who offered cheaper alternatives thrived. However, acquiring a machine still needed an initial investment, and many consumers and specially businesses, who are not accustomed to and frankly dislike change, stayed with IBM and Windows.

This is where I found the situation of the theoretical family you've described in the paper a bit confusing. At first I understood that the head of the family was considering either upgrading the family's current hardware or switching to the Mac side with new equipment, which explains why no Office, Quicken, and other software licenses are not shown in the PC side of the spreadsheet. However, the cost of new equipment in the PC side hinted that the head of the family was in fact considering buying new hardware altogether.

Re-reading your paper, various times actually, did not clear up which type of course is the father considering, but the majority of the points describe a situation of acquiring new equipment. If it is this situation, there are some observations that need to be considered which weren't:

- An Office License must also be bought for the two new computers, as well as a Quicken License, which I'm guessing is going to be installed in the main desktop.

- Antivirus and anti-adware software and their respective subscription must also be acquired, as well as registry clean up tools. These are not optional in the windows environment you're describing.

- The Windows PCs also need a 2 hour monthly maintenance, which factors in as time spent with both computers. Two hours on a Sunday is time away from the kids, from the wife, from rest; it does matter. Another, more expensive option is to not do any maintenance whatsoever, and require IT support every so often to re-install everything from scratch.

- There is a great amount of software (mainly iLife) that is included inside Apple computers, which are not considered in the PC side of the spreadsheet. This software is helpful in the already established workflow of a family such as the one you've described. A set of substitute software must also be added in the PC side, as well as their upgrade in the 3-year time, if an honest comparison is to be made. Also, two licenses of each of these substitutes should be bought and upgraded for each computer, as the iLife family package already accounts for the whole family.

It can be argued that the iLife software should not be factored in, as it is probable that some software may not be actively used, however, as you've added the MobileMe subscription (which many Apple users don't actively use), it seems only fair to consider EVERYTHING that the user is investing in when buying the hardware.

I've attached a recalculation of your projections having all of what I described in mind. I don't think you'll be surprised how the overall costs of ownership changes when you do an honest comparison.

Thank you for your time.

PS. The fact that Microsoft sponsored your analysis did not surprised me in the least.

Caleb Rascon
Software Developer
Makko Solutions, Co-founder

PhD Student

Click here to download the PDF file with the new projections I attached to the e-mail.

Creatively Wrong

This post was inspired by Sir Ken Robinson's conference at the 2007 TED Talks.

I was on my way home a couple of days ago, riding a half-full bus near a mother with her (I'm guessing) less-than-a-year-old daughter. Sitting beside them was a man in his early thirties. The child was given a piece of paper to play with and dropped it. The man picked it up and handed it to the child. The child at first was suspicious. She looked back at her mum who smiled acceptedly, and grabbed the piece of paper back. Then, the kid surprised me when she dropped it again, but this time to experiment if the man would do it again; he did. This was the game the lad played all the way to my bus stop. That's all she needed: a piece of paper, and somebody to pick it up.

I remember when I was a kid and the teachers made us work in the classroom. Not to brag, but I regularly finished working before almost everybody, partly because I liked to play with my pencils and erasers afterwards. I imagined that they were spaceships, or cars in a race, or martial arts experts, or super-powered humans with awesome abilities like flying or laser-beam controlled rockets that were shot from their arms. Other than when I was working, I don't remember a moment in which I imagined they were actually pencils and erasers.

I miss that sensation of living in my head, of not caring to do wrong. I've always wondered what happened to it. Hearing Sir Robinson made me realise where it went: the teachers took it away from me. Not the actual persons, mind you, but the academic process. It's a bottleneck of sorts. The persons that are good at math get good grades and are expected to excel in life, whilst the artistic types are left behind to fend for themselves. Sir Robinson's right, the current school model aims to form academic professors, which are built to keep the model alive. By its own definition, no creative process to improve the model is allowed.

Kids are born without the adult's reservation of doing something out of precaution of getting it wrong; frankly, they couldn't care less. In fact, many of the kids I remember talking to when I was a teenager even craved being shown wrong. Is as if they knew insticintively that "if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original" (Sir Ken Robinson). Their questions drowned my senses when, knowing they can do anything they wanted, wanted to know everything about everything.

Do the following experiment: walk into a kinder-garden classroom and ask the kids there if anybody knows how to dance, sing, or paint. Everybody will say that they know how to. Now try to do the same in a college classroom...

It's like the academic model is built to suck the creativity out of us, producing future parents that will suck even more creativity out of their children, turning all of this into a spiral of numbness and unidirectional boredom. To think I picked up a guitar until the age of sixteen, to think I knew how to create a whole universe from a stain of ink, to think... to imagine.

I guess this is my objective for the next year: to crave moments of imagination, to not care of my wrongdoing, and to believe, wholeheartedly, that I can do anything. To be a child again and, in the purest sense, have fun.

How ironic that now, after all this time of seeing and knowing and experiencing life, it sounds like probably the hardest thing I'll ever do.

A six-year-old little girl, who hardly ever paid attention, was in her drawing lesson. This time, however, she was deeply concentrated in her work. The teacher, surprised by her conviction, came close to the child and asked, "What are you drawing?" "I'm drawing a picture of God", the little girl replied. The teacher, puzzled, exclaimed back, "But nobody knows what God looks like!" The little girl, with that cute smile prevalent during that age, answered, "They will in a minute."