Best TV series of all time

After watching a lot of TV series, here is my list of what I consider the best TV series of all time. It’s mostly based on this list by IMDB, but also my personal preferences.

1. Game of Thrones

This one doesn’t really need an explanation, it’s the best TV series of all time by far. Not only it’s based on an amazing series of books, but it has an unparalleled production value. Each character is incredibly rich and complex, and there’s scores of them, many which will die sooner than you would expect.

It’s a huge phenomenon and if you haven’t watched it already, you should be ashamed and do it now.

Yes, it’s fantasy, but only the right amount. Paradoxically it is more realistic than most shows; there is no such thing as good or evil, just people with different points of view, motivations and in different circumstances. Good people die, bad people win, honor can kill you, a sure victory can turn into crap. And just when you think you know what will happen next; your favorite character dies.

2. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is the story of a high school teacher going, as the title suggests, bad. Step by step a seemingly average family man starts to secretly change his life. While at first you might think you would do the same morally dubious actions, eventually you will reach a point where you will wonder if the protagonist has gone too far.

It is incredibly rewarding to see how a teacher of chemistry, a man of science, would fare in the underworld of drug cartels. His knowledge and intelligence come in handy in creative ways to find solutions to hard problems.

His arrival to the scene doesn’t go unnoticed, and a host of characters are affected by this new player, and the chain reaction that follow is interesting to see to say the least.

3. The Wire

The Wire is simply a perfect story. It is local, and although you might not relate with most of the characters; it feels very real. The politics, the drama, the power dynamics, the every day struggles, everything is dealt with masterfully.

The characters are rich, some drug dealers are human, some politicians monsters, street soldiers incredibly smart. This show would give you insight into why a clean police detective would choose not to investigate a series of (possible) murders, why breaking the law can be sometimes good, and why in general violence is a much deeper problem that won’t be solved by simply putting some bad people in jail.

4. True Detective

What are Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson doing in a TV series? History. True Detective is anything but a typical show. It might start slow, and if you are not keen in admiring the superb acting that shows in every gesture, you might find it boring, but sooner or later it will hit you like a truck.

This is not CSI, do not expect easy resolutions to multiple cases, in fact do not expect any resolution at all. The show is about the journey of investigation and everything that goes along with it, including the political roadblocks, and the toll it has on the people doing it (officially or unofficially), and their loved ones.

Also, thanks to the beloved character played by McConaughey (Rust); we are greeted with a heavy dose of philosophy, human relations, and in general; life.

6. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

John Oliver is relatively new to the world of comedy, and as many students of The Daily Show, he graduated to be one of the best. Now he has his own political/comedic show dealing with subjects that actually matter, weekly, and deals with them masterfully, and at length.

Since the show is in HBO, it is not afraid of the reprisal of advertisers, and fiercely attacks commercial companies (as any real news show should) when they do something bad (which is very often).

The first season became and instant hit, and since all the important segments are available in YouTube for free, and are from 10 to 30 minutes in length, you really have no excuse not to watch it. In fact, do it now. Seriously.

6. Sherlock

Imagine the most egotistical asshole you know, add a big dose of raw pure genius, spray a chunk of autistic disregard to what anybody else thinks, disinterest in money, love, or hobbies. Finally add a side-kick who is well mannered, polite, and in general: normal. Use this concoction to solve crimes, and what you have is Sherlock.

Sherlock is a very uncommon show, starting from the fact that each episode feels more like a movie. so if you don’t want to watch a movie, perhaps you shouldn’t watch an episode of Sherlock either.

The show is not without its flaws, and sometimes caricaturesque endings–as I said, it’s different–but it is definitely worthwhile.

7. The Sopranos

Can you ever sympathize with a psychopath? After watching The Sopranos you might. The show follows the life of Tony Soprano, the boss of a New Jersey-based mafia. As you would expect, there will be violence, betrayals, and a constant supply of lies. However, you would also experience Tony’s human side, including caring for a family of ducks, and his constant duel with his psychologist.

Can you actually get better if you can’t even tell your psychologist that you killed one of your closest friends? How do you take care of your friend’s family with a straight face? These are the problems Tony faces all the time, not to mention trying to raise a couple of teenagers, and keep a marriage together which is surrounded by mystery.

And can you even blame him for being the way he is after you learn about his mother and father? Can a monster have a conscience?

After watching the show a lot of these questions will have clearer answers.

8. Rick and Morty

Rick and Morty is a cartoon, but it’s deep, funny, witty, definitely not for children. It centers around an old mad drunk scientist, and his grandson companion (which is not so smart). Together they have so many ridiculous adventures, so crazy that the mere premise of them will make you laugh.

Yet, despite the overblown adventures they have (due to the impossibly advanced technology the old man has developed), the show is at times deep and will leave you thinking with a renewed perspective about life, family, love, priorities, the human race and its place in the universe, and all the things that could have been, and might be… In a parallel universe.

9. Firefly

Cowboys in space. Star Wars but better. Relatable, warm and interesting characters. Renegades, an empire, the wild outskirts of the galaxy in a distant future that is so different, yet feels so familiar.

Easily the best science fiction series of all time, unfortunately there’s only one season, which is why Firefly became so much of a cult, and a phenomenon. There’s a movie (not as good), and even a documentary about the phenomenon. It is really something else.

There is only one drawback; after watching it, you will become one of us and wonder–why the f*ck did they cancel this wonder?

10. Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul is a spin-off of Breaking Bad. A good honest lawyer in an extremely precarious situation tries his best to succeed with integrity, but it turns out it’s not so easy to achieve that.

The show is very recent, and the first season hasn’t finished yet, so there is really not much more to explain, except that it is dark and intense.

So why is it in the list of the best tv shows of all time? I just know :)

The white and gold dress, and the illusion of free will

At first I didn’t really understand what was all the fuzz about, the dress was obviously white and gold, and everybody that saw it any other way was wrong, end of story. However I saw an article in IFLScience that explained why this might be an optical illusion, but I still thought I was seeing it right, the other people were the ones getting it wrong. Then I saw the original dress:

Original dress


Well, maybe it was a different version of the dress, or maybe the colors were washed away, or maybe it was a weird camera filter, or a bug in the lens. Sure, everything is possible, but maybe, I was just seeing it wrong.

I’ve read and heard a lot about cognitive science and the more we learn about the brain, the more faults we find in it. We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as it is useful for us to see the world. In fact, we cannot see the world as it is, in atoms and quarks, we cannot, because we don’t even fully understand it yet. We see the world in ways that managed to get us where we are, we sometimes get an irrational fear of the dark and run quickly up the stairs in our safe home even if we know there can’t possibly be any tigers chasing behind us, but in the past it was better to be safe than sorry, and the ones that didn’t have that fear gene are not with us any more; they got a Darwin award.

I know what some people might be thinking; my brain is not faulty! I see the world as it truly is! Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but you don’t. Optical illusions are a perfect example, and here is one:

Optical illusion

If you are human, you will see the orange spot at the top darker than the one at the bottom, why? Because your brain assumes the one at the bottom is a shadow, and therefore it should be darker. However, they are exactly the same color (#d18600 in hex notation), remove the context, and you’ll see that, put the context back, and you can’t see them the same, you just can’t, and we all humans have the same “fault”.

This phenomenon can be explained by the theory of color constancy, and these faults are not limited to our eyes, but ears, and even rational thinking.

So, could the white and gold vs. blue and black debate be an example of this? The argument is that the people that see the dress as white and gold perceive it to be in a shadow behind a brightly lit part of a room, the people that see it as blue and black see it washed in bright light. Some people say they can see as both; some times white, some times blue.


I really did try not to see it in a shadow, but I just couldn’t, even after I watched modified photos; I just saw a white and gold dress with a lot of contrast. I decided they were all wrong, no amount of lighting would turn a royal blue dress into white.

But then I fired GIMP (the open version of Photoshop), and played around with filters. Eventually I found what did the trick for me, and here you can see the progress:

So eventually I managed to see it, does that mean I was wrong? Well, yes, my brain saw something that wasn’t there, however, it happened for a reason, if the context was different, what my brain saw would have been correct. Perhaps in a parallel universe there’s a photo that looks exactly the same, but the dress was actually white and gold.

At the end of the day our eyes are the windows through which we see reality, and they are imperfect, just like our brains. We can be one hundred percent sure that what we are seeing is actually there, that what we remember is what happened, and that we are being rational in a discussion. Sadly one can be one hundred percent sure of something, and still be wrong.

To me the most perfect example is the illusion that we are in control of our lives. The more science finds out about the brain, the more we realize how little we know of what actually happens in the 1.5 kg meatloaf between our ears. You are not in control of your next thought any more than you are of my next thought, and when people try to explain their decisions, their reasons are usually wrong. Minds can be easily manipulated, and we rarely realize it.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the Internet about the subconscious and how the brain really works (as far as we know). Here’s is one talk that I particularly find interesting.

So, if you want to believe you are the master of your own will, go ahead, you can also believe the dress was white and gold. Those are illusions, regardless of how useful they might be. Reality, however, is different.

The meaning of success

I once had a quite extensive discussion with a colleague about several topics related to the software industry, and slowly but methodically we reached a fundamental disagreement on what “success” means. Needless to say, without agreeing on what “success” means it’s really hard to reach a conclusion on anything else. I now believe that many problems in society — not only in the software industry — can be derived from our mismatches in our understanding of the word “success”. It is like trying to decide if abortion is moral without agreeing on what “moral” means — and we actually don’t have such an agreement — and in fact, some definitions of morality might rely on the definition of “success”.

For example: which is more successful? Android? iPhone? or Maemo? If you think a successful software platform is the one that sells more (as many gadgets geeks probably do), you would answer Android, if on the other hand you think success is defined by what is more profitable (as many business people would do), you would answer iPhone. But I contend that success is not relative only relative to a certain context; there’s also an objective success that gives a clear answer to this question, and I hope to reach it at the end of this post.

This not a meta-philosophical exercise, I believe “success” in the objective sense can be clearly defined and understood, but in order to do that, I would need to show some examples and counter-examples in different disciplines. If you don’t believe in the theory of evolution of species by natural selection, you should probably stop reading.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines success as (among other definitions):

  • a : to turn out well
  • b : to attain a desired object or end <students who succeed in college>

From this we can say there’s two types of success; one is within a specific context (e.g. college), and the other one is in general. In this blog post I will talk about generic success, with no specific goal, or rather with the generic ultimate goal. Since it’s highly debatable (and difficult) how to define this “ultimate goal”, I will concentrate on the opposite; to try to define the ultimate failure in a way that no rational person would deny it.

Humans vs. Bacteria

My first example is: what organisms are more successful? Humans, or bacteria? There are many angles in which we could compare these two organisms, but few would reach a definite answer. The knee-jerk reaction of most people would be to say: “well, clearly humans are more evolved than bacteria, therefore we win”. I’m not an expert in the theory of evolution, but I believe the word “evolved” is misused here. Both bacteria and humans are the results of billions of years of evolution, in fact, one could say that some species of bacteria are more evolved because Homo Sapiens is a relatively new species and only appeared a few hundred thousands years ago, while many species of bacteria have been evolving for millions of years. “Kids these days with their fancy animal bodies… I have been killing animals since before you got out of the water… Punk” — A species of bacteria might say to younger generations if such a thing would be possible. At best humans are as evolved as bacteria. “Primitive” is probably the right word; bacteria is more primitive because it closely resembles its ancestors. But being primitive isn’t necessarily bad.

In order to reach a more definitive answer I will switch the comparison to dinosaurs vs. bacteria, and come back to the original question later. Dinosaurs are less primitive than bacteria, yet dinosaurs died, and bacteria survived. How something dead can be considered successful? Strictly speaking not all dinosaurs are dead, some evolved into birds, but that’s besides the point; let’s suppose for the sake of argument that they are all dead (which is in fact how many people consider them). A devil’s advocate might suggest that this comparison is unfair, because in different circumstances dinosaurs might have not died, and in fact they might be thriving today. Maybe luck is an important part of success, maybe not, but it’s pointless to discuss about what might have been; what is clear is that they are dead now, and that’s a clear failure. Excuses don’t turn a failure into a success.

Let me be clear about my contention; anything that ceases to exist is a failure, how could it not? In order to have even the smallest hope of winning the race, whatever the race may be, even if it doesn’t have a clear goal, or has many winners; you have to be on the race. It could not be clearer: what disappears can’t succeed.

Now, being more evolved, or less primitive, is not as a trump card as it might appear; nature is a ruthless arena, and there are no favorites. The vast majority of species that have ever lived are gone now, and it doesn’t matter how “unfair” it might seem, to nature only the living sons matter, everyone else was a failure.

If we accept that dinosaurs failed, then one can try to use the same metric for humans, but there’s a problem (for our exercise); humans are still alive. How do you compare two species that are not extinct? Strictly speaking all species alive today are still in the race. So how easy is it for humans to go extinct? This is a difficult question to answer, but lets suppose an extreme event turns the average temperature of the Earth 100°C colder; that would quite likely kill all humans (and probably a lot of plants and animals), but most certainly a lot of bacterial species would survive. It has been estimated that there’s 5×1030 bacteria on Earth, countless species, and possibly surpassing the biomass of all plants and animals. In fact, human beings could not survive without bacteria, since it’s essential to the human microbiome, and if you sum the bacteria genes in a human body, it probably outranks the human genes by a factor of 100-to-1. So, humans, like dinosaurs, could disappear rather easily, but bacteria would still be around for a long long time. From this point of view, bacteria are clearly more successful than humans.

Is there any scenario in which humans would survive, and bacteria would not? (therefore making humans more successful) I can think of some, but they would be far into the future, and most definitely we are not yet there. We are realizing the importance of our microbiome only now, and in the process of running the Human Microbiome Project, so we don’t even know what role our bacteria plays, therefore we don’t know how we could replace them with something else (like nanorobots). If bacteria disappeared today, so would we. It would follow then that bacteria are more successful, and there’s no getting around that.

Fundamentals and Morality

Could we define something more fundamental about success? I believe so: a worse failure than dying, is not being able to live in the first place, like a fetus that is automatically aborted because of a bad mutation, or even worse; an impossibility. Suppose “2 + 2 = 5″; this of course is impossible, so it follows that it’s a total failure. The opposite would be “2 + 2 = 4″; this is as true as anything can be, therefore it’s a total success.

There’s a realm of mathematics that is closer to what we consider morality: game theory. But don’t be fooled by its name; game theory is as serious as any other realm of mathematics, and the findings as conclusive as probability. An example of game theory is the prisoner’s dilemma — here’s a classic version of it:

Two men are arrested, but the police do not possess enough information for a conviction. Following the separation of the two men, the police offer both a similar deal—if one testifies against his partner (defects/betrays), and the other remains silent (cooperates/assists), the betrayer goes free and the one that remains silent receives the full one-year sentence. If both remain silent, both are sentenced to only one month in jail for a minor charge. If each ‘rats out’ the other, each receives a three-month sentence. Each prisoner must choose either to betray or remain silent; the decision of each is kept quiet. What should they do? If it is supposed here that each player is only concerned with lessening his time in jail, the game becomes a non-zero sum game where the two players may either assist or betray the other. In the game, the sole worry of the prisoners seems to be increasing his own reward. The interesting symmetry of this problem is that the logical decision leads each to betray the other, even though their individual ‘prize’ would be greater if they cooperated.

There are different versions of this scenario; with different rules and more complex agents game theory arrives to different conclusions as to what rational agents should do to maximize their outcomes, but these strategies are quite factual and universal; we are not talking about human beings; they are independent of culture, or historicism; the rules are as true here as they are in the other side of the universe. So if game theory determines that a certain strategy fails in certain situation, that’s it; it’s as hard of a failure as “2 + 2 = 5″.

With this notion we might be able to dive into more realistic and controversial examples — like slavery. Nowadays we consider slavery immoral, but that wasn’t the case in the past. One might say that slavery was a failure (because it doesn’t exist (at least as a desirable concept)), but that is only the case in human society, perhaps there’s another civilization in an alien planet that still has slavery, and they are still debating, so one might be tempted to say that slavery’s failure is still contended (perhaps even more so if you live in Texas). But we got rid of slavery because of a reason; it’s not good for everybody. It might be good for the slave owners, and good for some slaves, but not good for everybody. It is hard to imagine how another civilization could arrive to a different conclusion. Therefore it is quite safe to say that in all likelihood slavery is a failure, because of its tendency to disappear. Perhaps at some point game theory would advance to the point where we can be sure about this, and the only reason it took so long to get rid of slavery is that we are not rational beings, and it takes time for our societies to reach this level of rationality.

Objective morality and the moral landscape

Similarly to the objective success I’m proposing, Sam Harris proposes a new version of objective morality in his book The Moral Landscape. I must admit I haven’t read the book, but I have watched his online lectures about the topic. Sam Harris asserts that the notion that science shouldn’t deal with morality is a myth, and that advances in neuroscience (his field of expertise) can, and should, enlighten us as to what should be considered moral. Thus, morality is not relative, but objective. The different “peaks” in the landscape of morality are points in which society aims to be, in order to be a good one, and historically the methods to find these “peaks” has been rather rudimentary, but a new field of moral science could be the ultimate tool.

Regardless of the method we use to find these “peaks”, the important notion (for this post), is that there’s an abyss; the lowest moral point. The worst possible misery for all beings is surely bad:

The worst-possible-misery-for-everyone is ‘bad.’ If the word ‘bad’ is going to be mean anything surely it applies to the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone. Now if you think the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone isn’t bad, or might have a silver lining, or there might be something worse… I don’t know what you’re talking about. What is more, I’m reasonably sure you don’t know what you’re talking about either.

I want to hijack this concept of the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone that is the basis of (scientific) objective morality, and use it as a comparison to my contention that ceasing-to-exist is the basis for objective success.

Today our society is confronted with moral dilemmas such as gay marriage and legal abortion, many of these are hijacked by religious bigotry and irrationality, and it’s hard to move forward because many still define morality through religious dogmas, and even people who don’t, and are extremely rational, still cling to the idea that morality comes from “God” (whatever that might mean). Even many scientists claim that morality cannot be found through science, and others that morality is relative. But yet others disagree and have tried to define morality in universal terms, like Sam Harris. The jury is still out on this topic, so I cannot say that morality should definitely be defined in terms of what is successful to our worldwide society, merely that it is a possibility — A rather strong one, in my opinion.


It’s a little more tricky to define what constitutes a successful life, because all life ends. The solution must be one on the terms of transcendence: offspring, books, memes, etc. However people living a more hedonistic life might disagree; but lets be clear, a life can be unsuccessful in the grand scheme of things, but still be good, and the other way around. It might be tempting to define success in different terms: “if my goal is to enjoy life, and I do; I’m succeeding”, and while that is true, that’s being successful in relative terms, not general terms.

Some people might have trouble with this notion, so I would give an example: Grigori Perelman vs. Britney Spears. Most people probably don’t know Grigori, but he solved one of the most difficult problems in mathematics, and was awarded one million USD for it. Clearly this would have helped him to become famous, but he rejected interviews and rejected the money. Does this means he rejected success? Well, lets try to view this from the vantage point of 500 years into the future; both Britney Spears and Grigori Perelman would be dead by that time, so the only things that remain would be their transcendence. Most likely nobody would remember Britney Spears, nor listen to any of her music, while it’s quite likely that people would still be using Grigori Perelman’s mathematics, as he would be one of the giants upon which future scientists would stand. In this sense Grigori is more successful, and any other sense of success would be relative to something else, not objective.


Hopefully my definition of success should be clear by now in order to apply it to the initial example.


iPhone is clearly successful in being profitable, but many products have been profitable in the past and have gone with the wind. The real question is: What are the chances that the iPhone will not disappear? It is hard to defend the position that the iPhone will remain for a long period of time because it’s a single product, from a single company, and specially considering that many technology experts can’t find an explanation for its success other than the Apple Cult. While it was clearly superior from an aesthetic point of view while it was introduced, there’s many competitors that are on par today. Maybe it would not disappear in 10 years, but maybe it would. It’s totally unclear.


Compared to the iPhone, Android has the advantage that many companies work on it, directly and indirectly, and it doesn’t live on a single product. So if a single company goes down, that would not kill Android, even if that company is Google. So, as a platform, it’s much more resilient than iOS. Because of this reason alone, Android is clearly more successful than the iPhone — according to the aforementioned definition.


Maemo is dead (mostly), so that would automatically mean that it’s a failure. However, Maemo is not a single organism; it consists of many subsystems that are part of the typical Linux ecosystem: Linux kernel,, Qt, WebKit, GStreamer, Telepathy, etc. These subsystems remain very much alive, in fact, they existed before Maemo, and will continue to exist, and grow. Some of these subsystems are used in other platforms, such as WebOS (also dead (mostly)), Tizen, MeeGo (also dead (kinda)), and Mer.

A common saying is that open source projects never die. Although this is not strictly true, the important thing is that they are extremely difficult to kill (just ask Microsoft). Perhaps the best analogy in the animal kingdom would be to compare Maemo to a sponge. You can divide a sponge into as many parts as you want, put it into a blender, even make sure the pieces pass through a filter with very minute holes. It doesn’t matter; the sponge would reorganize itself again. It’s hard to imagine a more resilient animal.

If this is the case, one would expect Maemo (or its pieces) to continue as Tizen, or Mer (on Jolla phones), or perhaps other platform yet to be born, even though today it seems dead. If this happens, then Maemo would be even more successful than Android. Time will tell.


Like any a scientific theory, the really interesting bit of this idea would be it’s predictive power, so I will make a list of things in their order of success, and if I’m correct the less successful ones would tend to disappear first (or their legacy):

  • Mer > Android > iOS > WP
  • Linux > Windows
  • Bill Gates > Steve Jobs > Carlos Slim (Richest man in the world)
  • Gay marriage > Inequality
  • Rationality > Religious dogma
  • Collaboration > Institutions

To me, this definition of “success” is as true as “2 + 2 = 4″ (in fact, it’s kind of based on such fundamental truths), unfortunately, it seems most people don’t share this point of view, as we still have debates over topics which are in my opinion a waste of time. What do you think? Are there examples where this definition of success doesn’t fit?

Unique Mexican music; Son Jarocho, folklore and more

There’s a lot of interesting and unique music in Mexico, both modern and traditional, but there’s one kind that I find particularly unique and beautiful that I think it’s extremely underrated in Mexico, let alone in the world; Son Jarocho.

This first video is from Cafe Tacuba, IMO the best band from Mexico, although I’m not sure what kind of style it is, it’s certainly awesome :) (I couldn’t find a better video quality)

The rest of the videos are of what I consider Son Jarocho in the right setting; small room, 3 guys; jarana jarocha (small guitar), requinto jarocho (even smaller guitar), and more importantly; arpa jarocha (a special harp). It’s a mixture of different styles from different continents, and the lyrics are often funny and sometimes improvised to make fun of something, or somebody. BTW, jarocho means from Veracruz, one of the 31 states of Mexico.

La Bamba is the most famous one, but I couldn’t find one video worthy of highlighting, so I just put the best one I could find. And before you ask, yes, the high pitch and loud voices in the chorus are intended, also, wait for the solos ;)

This is what you most likely would expericence; a group wandering around restaurants, improvising and making jokes.

This one seems professionally recorded. Just for measure.

For more more about Mexican music and culture, check this previous post.

Why United States of America is a stupid name

I’m not an European, I’m an American, more precisely; from Mexico, unfortunately U.S.A. has snatched the name for itself, which is very annoying to me, specially after living for some time on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. I guess because some extra need to relate myself with Peruvians, Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Canadians, etc. Which I never met before in Mexico. There’s really not much to do about it, but nonetheless there’s plenty of interesting facts and conversation tidbits to explore.

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