Monday, November 28, 2011

5 Reasons why Mad Men is one of the best TV Series Out there

I am not much of a TV watcher. I came across this show by pure chance. My wife was watching it one day and it immediately caught my attention, at first I tried not to watch it, but now I am totally hooked. This show is different from what's out there.

The show itself it's about Don Draper, an advertising agency executive at Manhattan in the early 60s. We see the life of an ad man in his office and his home. We see the glamour and the culture of those days. Beautiful people with an authentic 60s feel, it has the drama you'd expect from a TV series, but, there is more than meets the eye. And not all it's as it seems.

I love this show because it has depth. Every episode resonates with profound issues, but it's not overly done, it's subtly inserted in the dialogue. It's things like the scene when Don and Pete are discussing how to sell more Lucky Strikes Cigarettes you are both appalled and rooting for the Ad agency. It's like a study on human nature. And entertaining at the same time. All the characters have depth, they are real with their imperfections.

1. Bets the desperate housewife

She's attractive, educated, and represents what a lady was supposed to be like in that era. She is also depressed, and she doesn't know how to deal with her cheating husband.

2. Peggy the career woman

She wants to be like the guys in the days were sexual harassment was an everyday thing. She is just as talented but has to work twice as hard to get noticed. She also had an affair with one of the guys at the office.

3. Joan the bitchy secretary who runs the office

She's attractive, and bitchy, but also has a tender side to her.

4. Don the man who started life again '
The main character of the series. Can't decide whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. He is a cheating bastard, seems to have no values, and yet, I can't help but wish him well.

5. Campbell, the man who has it all, and wants to kill himself

Perhaps the mirror image of Don, he has no social grace, unlike Don who is smooth, displays naked ambition just like Don, but he doesn't know how to get his way.

For a TV show, it's not bad at all.

J. V.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vacation Time!

So here I am, sitting at home relaxing. Work at the office will be there when I get back, so finally I am taking the best kind of vacation, time off, with no plans, no hassles, just me at home, doing nothing in particular. Martha is at Gaby's school volunteering, so I am going to go for a run to the park, I'm running fairly often these days, last couple of times 3.5 miles, today I am shooting for 4 miles.

I am exited to be volunteering as mentor for a high school robotics competition, FIRST with Terra High School, it's my first time doing it, so it should be interesting.

I want to finally start making android and iPhone Apps, but I just don't have the time, every time I do have some spare time I do spend it sharpening my technical skills, there are a few books I want to get trough before I spend time doing projects, I think the best way to become a good engineer is to actually make cool things, like robots, mobile apps, and such, but before I get there, I want to get the fundamentals right, so I am trying to get trough that first.

Anthony is showing interest in robots, but then again, what kid doesn't? I am trying to figure out the best way to show him and teach him the ropes without turning him off of it. He wants to do all these things but he's too impatient, he wants to do everything the first day. I can understand that because I used to be the same way, I need to show him the virtue of patience and perseverance, but not sure exactly how to do that.

Another thing I got planned for this week is to finish reading Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, I have noticed that my Spanish has been on a decline lately, and when I think about it, it's a shame that my heritage would be lost in the next generation, my children already refuse to speak my mother tongue even though they can definitely understand most of it. So I think that it's worth the effort to teach them my language. Anyway, I am reading Don Quijote, and it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be, when you know what's going on, it's actually a funny book.

I've read a few really good books lately, I finished Steve Job's biography, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, and Phil Dick's Minority Report and Do Androids dream of electric sheep. Each of these books is awesome in it's own way.

Steve Jobs taught me the value of good craftsmanship, when making things, (and engineering, in essence is about making things) engineering students are taught to provide functionality. For a product to have quality is must be functional, it must not have defects, it must do what it was designed to do, optimizing the available resources, not wasting materials, time, energy or cost, but for Jobs that's a "stupid" way of looking at it. For him, design is an art, the creator and designer must pay attention to how an artifact makes the user feel, a designer must get to the essence of the product, and make something beautiful, something that will delight the user, we engineers must make something useful, elegant, tasteful and ...yes, beautiful. This combination of technology and art has become cliche lately, with the fame of apple products it seems like a fad, but there is something profound to it, it makes sense, engineers just don't pay attention to beauty and it shows.

There has been a lot said about Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, so I don't want to try to give a complete review, but
this is a psychological story before psychology was invented, in this novel, a crime was committed, but the mystery is not who did it, but why was it done? Was it a feeling of alienation? was it madness? social conditions? lack of god? depending on who you are and your convictions, you will get a different answer, the protagonist Raskolnikov has something that everyone can relate to, and yet, he is the strangest character of any novel I've ever read. Reading this was torture, yet I couldn't stay away from this book I had to read it till it was done.

I read Crime and Punishment and Steve Jobs biography for education and personal growth, to gain some wisdom and what not, Phil Dick's novels are for pure pleasure, after reading The Lord of the Rings and Neal Stephenson's Anathem and being underwhelmed I declared myself, but Phil Dick is changing that, although I can't get over his unfortunate last name. The dystopian worlds he and Asimov created are luring me back to the Sci-Fi realm. Reading Asimov and Phil D. is better than watching any Hollywood movie. A good book is to a movie what sex is to masturbation, movies are ok, but the real thing is way better.

So that's it for now, I am going for a run, I might give another vacation update, or not.