Tuesday, January 30

A Tortured Soul

Dear Abbe,

I’ve never written to you before, but I really need your advice on what could be a crucial decision. I’ve suspected for some time now that my wife has been cheating on me.

The usual signs… phone rings but if I answer, the caller hangs up. My wife has been going out with the girls a lot recently although when I ask their names she always says, “Just some friends from work, you don’t know them.”

I always stay awake to look out for her taxi coming home, but she always walks down the drive. Although I can hear a car driving off, as if she has gotten out of the car round the corner. Why? Maybe she wasn’t in a taxi? I once picked her cell phone up just to see what time it was and she went berserk and screamed that I should never touch her phone again and why was I checking up on her.

Anyway, I have never approached the subject with my wife. I think deep down I just didn’t want to know the truth, but last night she went out again and I decided to really check on her.

I decided I was going to park my Harley Davidson motorcycle next to the garage and then hide behind it so I could get a good view of the whole street when she came home. It was at that moment, crouching behind my Harley, that I noticed that the valve covers on my engine seemed to be leaking a little oil.

Is this something I can fix myself or should I take it back to the dealer?

Thanks,

Stuart

minuscule

this animation is somewhat cool, but ... well ... ok, it's cool and that's that.

Monday, January 29

Jay

One of my favorite expressions a long long time ago (right after coining Jay's nickname), was
Hey, Jay!


So, Hey Jay, who are you?

Brain damaged to quit smoking

According to an article one the WebMD website, you have to be brain-damaged to quit smoking ...

Well ... no, not really.

But it seems that damage to a part of the brain called the "insula", terminates the urge for learned dependencies.

From the article:
None of the insula-damaged patients who lost their smoking addiction lost their desire for food, or ate less.

This suggests that insula damage does not make a person lose fundamental urges. Instead, the researchers suggest, insula damage affects only "learned pleasures."

Sunday, January 28

trip to Larnaca

We set out around ten and a half this morning, for Larnaca. The sky was overcast (the atmosphere a bit gloomy), and we were seven, riding on six bikes.

I'm not sure if it was due to last night (we more or less played Magic until half past twelve at S&C's place) or if it was the weather (or something else entirely), but I felt tired, all the way.

Then, we stopped and I had a coffee and a some chocolate bars, in a Περίπτερo by the right side of the road.

We were split by this time, as D wanted to come home and the other guys were not sure; we went to find the lake since it was close, though I'm not really sure why we went there.

It turned out to look depressing, since with no rain this season, the lake looks more like a big plane full of mud and a few spots of water.

Then, we finally decided to turn back (since there was "40% chances of raining in the forecasts" according to D), and set back on the same way.

Paradoxically, I only started enjoying the ride once it started raining. I mean ... you have no effective breaking, visibility gets reduced and passing cars make a mess out of you (among other ... small inconveniences), but if you're properly insulated and a bit careful, it's a great experience. I'm not sure if it's the rain per se, traveling in the rain, or something completely different.

By the time we got back my pants were somewhat wet ( both pairs I was wearing :) ), the motor (and I for that matter) was full of mud, and I felt completely satisfied.

We got back around two o'clock (I think) and I've been sleeping like a pro, until a couple of hours ago.

Anyway, here are my conclusions for the trip: first, I need a pair of ear-plugs; second, I need some riding pants / boots or a full suit; third, the coast road to Paphos is way cooler to make; and fourth, riding in the rain rocks!

That sums it up nicely.

Edit: Here are some pictures
waiting for M

coffee break before entering Larnaca

coffee break before entering Larnaca

coffee break before entering Larnaca

at the lake

at the lake

at the lake

Saturday, January 27

Harley raisers on my Yamaha

I finally changed my raisers to the Harley ones. I expected them to be shorter, but they're perfect (and actually bring the handle back by 5cm or so).

Yamaha bike, Harley raisers

Yamaha bike, Harley raisers

Yamaha bike, Harley raisers

Friday, January 26

Microsoft password checker

Hey, I found a password checker (linked from Bruce Schneier's blog); Then, I realized its made by microsoft.

Its pretty good, but apparently Password1 is a strong password (come to think about it, its somewhat unrealistic to expect dictionary checks in a javascript implementation with no server communication).

Its a good start anyway.

Thursday, January 25

on limits

There is a personal discovery (by personal I mean that each of us makes it for themselves - if at all) which appeared independently, in a plethora of sources (like the stanford prison experiment or this movie)

That idea is that limits are not real.

I know what could be said: What Dreams May Come (and all the others for that matter) was just a movie, not some universal truth.

But this argument is not necessarily relevant, because those things (I'm talking here mainly about the movie) expresses someone's ideas about the way things are.
These ideas could be more or less true. Regarding the main points, I strongly believe they are.

I see it like this:
When someone wants to - say - torment you, what he has to do, is convince you first that he (or she) has the power to do it. That, what you go through, what you experience, depends on them.

I'd like to say that in fact it depends on you (and I believe it ultimately does) but for now I'll just say that the truth is somewhere in between: while they may control what you go through on an external level, they cannot decide how you feel about what you are going through.

They cannot decide, that is, that you should feel - for example - miserable. Only you can do that.

They cannot decide you should loose hope; Only you can do that also. Or that you are a victim. In fact, I strongly believe that there are no victims.

This (all this separation between what you go through and what you perceive from it) is the same, whenever you're in a situation you don't like. It is the same when you feel that something is pressuring you: it's up to you how you feel about it!

I'm not talking here about denying the facts!
When it is clear to you that you cannot do something (or that it won't happen the way you want it to), then there's no use denying that.

Denial is not actually going to make things change around you.

But even when you see no choice in your external circumstance, there's ALWAYS a choice in how you feel about it.

And this is all it takes for the world to take notice. And when the world takes notice, the world changes.

Thus, in a roundabout way, you're never powerless. It's just a matter or perspective.

the perfect gift

At last, I found the perfect gift.

Monday, January 22

old boat in Latchi harbor

old boat in Latchi harbor

about little airplanes

A boy and his mom are riding on an airplane. The boy asks his mom,
"Mommy, if big dogs make little dogs, and big kitties make little kitties, why don't big airplanes make little airplanes?".
His mom replied,
"I don't know, honey. Why don't you go ask the stewardess!"
So the little boy scampered up the aisle and approached the stewardess. She said,
"Hi, little boy, what can I do for you?".
The boy said
"If big doggies make little doggies, and big kitties make little kitties, why don't big airplanes make little airplanes?".
The stewardess smiled and said,
"Did your mommy tell you to come ask me that?"
and the boy nodded.

The stewardess bent down and looked the kid straight in the eyes. She said,
"Well, you can go tell your mommy that the reason our big airplanes don't make little airplanes is because Continental® planes always pull out on time!"

"Now have you mommy explain that!"

Sunday, January 21

about the bike trip

Well ... my first longer trip was officially a success (around 230km).

DP couldn't come (his low oil problem is still there), so in the end it was me and DV for half the road, then we met M and came home together (Man, it's hard knowing people with the same first name initial!).

We started at 11, from the office parking lot, then went to Paphos on the old road, then we proceeded to Latchi, then turned around and came back the same way.

Here are some pictures:

me, before leaving
before leaving

at the edge
at the edge

Kurion, from above (our first stop)
Kurion from above

D and the bikes (first stop)
first stop on the road

random passing people on the Paphos seafront, enjoying their ice-cream
icecream

at Hobo's Caffee
D

my bike, at the third stop
My bike, at the third stop

rocky beach, after Paphos (third stop)
rocky beach

our bikes
bikes

breaking wave
Breaking wave in Paphos

boat in Latchi harbor
boat in Latchi harbor

and a rusty anchor
rusty anchor

ramblings

Sunday morning and I'm in office again.

I'd curse, except I came in my own interest: we're actually going through with the bikes trip and I needed the number of one of the guys :)

Anyway, yesterday morning it rained all day and my plans for the day went to Hawaii:

In the morning I wanted to go to D's place and play on my bike (he wanted to change his oil, I wanted to attach the rear seat, fix the clutch and change the handle raisers with the Harley ones).

At 12 I had Aikido lessons, then wanted to visit L, then S (around six).

It happened like this: By the time I got to D it started raining heavily (OK, not immediately, but after he dismantled his bike :-().

Then he had to go and buy something so I stayed there and dismantled my handle; by the time he came back I had missed my Aikido lesson, then went home, completely wet and seriously frozen.

I didn't change the handle raisers since the screws didn't match (I'll have to look for new ones), but on the good side, I dismantled the handle and put it back (enough to realize there's nothing to it :)); I also managed to unscrew the backseat screws (they were stuck in place). The end result was getting some confidence in fiddling with the bike.

As I got home F&L took me to Carrefour for some shopping and when I got home I was one step away from having a fever.

That "kind-of" put a stop to my afternoon visiting plans, so I spent all afternoon in bed, reading fan-fiction. It also made me wake up with a sore throat and coughing this morning (again :().

On the bright side, this morning I adjusted the clutch control and attached the backseat (so that's two points for utnapistim - or something).

Also, after the heavy raining, this morning the skies were clear and sunny and it seems to be drying out.

As such, I came to office to get that phone number and we're meeting at 11 to leave on our trip.

Wish me luck (since it'll be my first longer bike-trip).
utnapistim

Saturday, January 20

Feng Shui Fountain

Feng Shui fountain
I got this from my friends, for my birthday.

Thanks guys! :)

Thursday, January 18

about employee satisfaction

(or maybe just small satisfactions, as an employee).

Mr Manager [6:18 PM]:
 Are u handling anything urgent?
utnapistim [6:19 PM]:
 the env. problem for XYZ
utnapistim [6:19 PM]:
 and I'm working on a ping client application ...
Mr Manager [6:20 PM]:
 when do u think you'll finish it?
utnapistim [6:20 PM]:
 which one of them?
Mr Manager [6:20 PM]:
 both
utnapistim [6:21 PM]:
 I hope tomorrow ...
Mr Manager [6:22 PM]:
 do you want a day off (paid)? :-)
utnapistim [6:22 PM]:
 yes :-)
Mr Manager [6:23 PM]:
 you got it after the hard work of last weekend!
Mr Manager [6:23 PM]:
 please tell me when
utnapistim [6:23 PM]:
 cool :-D
Mr Manager [6:23 PM]:
  :-)
utnapistim [6:24 PM]:
 If I knew I'd have taken one today (it's my birthday)

 is it possible to have a day off next monday?
Mr Manager [6:26 PM]:
 I didn't know it's today!
utnapistim [6:27 PM]:
 it's ok :-)
utnapistim [6:27 PM]:
 I'm 28 starting today
Mr Manager [6:28 PM]:
 congratulations!
Mr Manager [6:28 PM]:
 you can take monday as long as you finish your task
utnapistim [6:28 PM]:
 ok
utnapistim [6:29 PM]:
 thanks :-)

a night out

I was about to go to sleep yesterday (late) evening, when B and D dragged me got me out for a game of bowling.


It wasn't anything special, but I (ok, we) had some fun.

some green space in front of Rio Cinema
In Limassol at night

A, in the parking lot
A, in the parking lot

waiting for a bowling lane
waiting for a bowlong lane

at the table
at the table

chatting away

the guys
the guys

B
B

the game
bowling

bowling

and the balls
bowling balls

Wednesday, January 17

me & my bike

my bike

the old times

My brother found some old family pictures at home, scanned them and sent them over.

Here we go:

me
the old times (me)

my brother
the old times (my brother)

me and my brother
the old times (me and my brother)

the old times (me and my brother)

me
the old times (me)

... and me again
the old times (me)

paranormal phenomena

Do you know how little kids believe in Santa?

And the Tooth Fairy?

And how, when we grow up we stop believing in such things?

Actually, they exist; and I'm saying this from personal experience. I haven't actually seen Santa, but fairies definitely exist.

Considering our office for example, although we have a well-organized working environment, the Screw-Up Fairy visits very often, and lately there have been sightings of the Lay-Offs Fairy hanging around.

I just hope she doesn't come anywhere near me, or my friends.

Tuesday, January 16

green

green

exit to Kurion

By popular demand ...

... ok, TWO persons asked me - and both their names begin in a R. (honesty sucks sometimes) - I went this morning to get some shots of me & my bike.

Here we go:
my bike (5)

my bike (3)

my bike (4)

my bike (2)

my bike

Monday, January 15

teardrop

This is what hooked me to listening Massive Attack, some ten years back or so ...

Sunday, January 14

5:46 AM in the office

It's close to six AM, and at this point it looks like I'll got some sleep around noon.

I'm almost done with my wayward server (and I learned two protocols overnight - reminds me of exams a few years ago) and I just got a love letter:
Broadcast Message from root () Sun Jan 14 05:50:04...
PLEASE LOG OFF NOW ! ! !
System maintenance about to begin.
All processes will be terminated in 0 seconds.


Broadcast Message from root () Sun Jan 14 05:50:06...
SYSTEM BEING BROUGHT DOWN NOW ! ! !


So, what is a guy to do? I'll keep working (and see if anything starts burning :D), then - I figure around nine, if I finish by then - I'll go home, take a shower (maybe have something to eat) and at 10:30 I have another motorbike lesson.

At least I'm keeping busy (even if it's 5:65 AM).

Saturday, January 13

the idiotic interface

There are two opposite ways a that system interface can be, while still being a good interface:

The first one is the non-technical way:
It's the interface one sees on Windows and Mac, or the iPod interface: focused on what YOU (as the user) want to do, prioritizing on the most used features, and so on; maybe, elegant.

The second one is the technical way:
It involves the user actually knowing a lot of inside information, specialized data and what it all means. It's the UNIX/Linux philosophy, or the interface of the studio sound mixers: lots of controls, all looking the same and each controlling a different aspect of a process.

One of the good examples of the two interfaces and the differences they enforce on the users, is in consumer cameras versus prosumer cameras:
the consumer ones make all your adjustments, you just press the shutter (and for most amateur photographers, this covers all their needs).
the prosumer ones, ask you to understand exposure, aperture, focal distance, sensor (or film) resolution and a bunch of other things.

Considering all this, when you are in the position of designing something, I think there is one criteria that will point you in the right direction:
Who is the targeted client?

And here I (finally) get to the purpose of my little rant: One of the most frustrating experiences is having one, when you need the other.

In our company, we have an excellent help-desk system: spanning multiple countries and offices and covering all needs from user problems like helping users:
-Dogbert's tech support This is Dogbert. How may I abuse you?
- I need to move my cursor to the right but my mouse is at the edge of the mousepad.
- Have you tried rebooting without saving your files?
- Yeah, several times.
- Have you tried moving your desk?
- It didn't work.
- You need my $800 mousepad upgrade.
- What account does this get charged to?
- "Idiot expense," just like everything else.

It also covers requesting a new office in another country you'll be in, starting next week, for that matter.

My only pet-peeve with this system, is the process of opening a help-desk case. The interface could use some major improvements, starting with a search function, or a simple web wizard.


It's like this: Let's say one of your UNIX servers displays the message:
You don't exist. Go away!
(this is an actual error message one of my friends got, while trying to make a remote connection).

You want to open a HD call to get over this, so you open the HD website, and check the categories: you have (let's say):
  • account problems (one link), which kind-of might be, since your account is not authorized for remote connections;

  • Once you open it though, you find out the link relates to NT accounts, password expiration and asking for a new account.


  • access problems (second link) which it could be also, for the same reason as above;

  • When you open it, you realize it relates to NT security permissions over the different shares and resources on the local network.


  • UNIX problems, which it also is

  • When you browse through the tree of options here though, you realize it's for asking for a bigger quota, requesting a new UNIX account, or reporting UNIX environment problems.


  • Development environment problem, which it might be also, since you're doing development under your account

  • If you actually browse through this category (an have not given up yet), you might get lucky.

On top of this, every one of the links opens a different page that asks you to fill a form, with each field doing a page reload with new data, so by the time you realize your server name is not in the list (and you're obviously in the wrong HD call category) ten minutes have passed and you have to start over.

As an extra bonus, the categories have descriptions filled with acronyms from other projects, so you have no idea if they actually might relate to you and your problem.

Because of this interface, all the experiences I've had with opening HD calls up to now, have proved to be time-consuming and overall annoying.

Most of the time, I feel like cursing it and claiming it idiotic.

Instead, it was just designed for the wrong audience.

wishful thinking

Hey guys, in five days it's my birthday ...

I want one of these:


Thank you :)
utnapistim

12 Girls Band


(found on feridun blog)

It's been a while

It's Saturday morning and I'm in office, working on a small server.

Why?

Well ... two days ago, as I was preparing to go home, Mr. Manager asked me if I was busy; I only had some low-priority tasks to do so I said "no" and three minutes later ended up in a phone conference with Mr. Manager and members from three (?) other teams (all in Mr. Manager's office in the Promised Land); thus did I end up working on "a small ICMP applicative ping application", that "should be ready by Sunday morning", as one of our major clients is going live tomorrow and "we need it to check on something".

... and I didn't know anything about ICMP, applicative pings or small applications! (OK, OK, about small applications, I knew a lot, but it didnt't help much).

Ecco, I'm in office.
I took some minutes to post this on my blog, since it's been a while.

Thursday, January 11

Have you ever killed your name?

I read fan-fiction; a lot of it ...
I have friends who play World of Warcraft;
... and friends who read novels;
I have a friend who has a passion for movies, some who enjoy playing Counter-Strike, and I'm sure the others have other measures of entertainment of the same kind.

Its all the same: one gets engrossed in an activity that proposes another framework as real, a different set of rules, with victories and losses, values, risks and uncertainties and ... and in the end all of us are just telling ourselves stories, believing them and living them (be it for an ninety minutes, a few hours or a few years).

What I only just realized, is that we do the same when we don't acknowledge the story, when we don't know the framework isn't real: I tell myself I'm a programmer, a tourist sometimes "visiting this or that", motorbike driver, a "PADI Resque Diver", Reiki practitioner, vegetarian, curious, "Romanian living in Cyprus", friendly, well-intended and lots and lots of other different tags and legends.

Its still the same, story after story, victories following losses, values risks and uncertainties: its all just new frameworks, new stories.

In the end I'm really not a programmer, not a bike-rider, not a Reiki practitioner, not a ... not anything!

If I dig deep enough, I'm the small boy, who used to go with his brother in the afternoons through the park in Bucharest, for tennis lessons, wondering when it all went "zu Helle" and what in God's name happened ... (that happened while I was in second or third grade in case anyone's actually wondering).

Its all just a different story, along with my name, nicknames, my preference for darker color clothing and newly discovered passion for photography, me answering the phone and this body becoming sick.
Have you ever killed your name?

Its a trance technique that usually leaves me feeling powerful ... or maybe just free.

I watch it all, see the drama come to pass, then transform into memory; and the memory, like judgements and descriptions, is just another story.

I need some sleep.
utnapistim

Wednesday, January 10

autumn colors

autumn colors
This morning I started playing with gimp to learn how to add a small copyright message to my photos.

This is one of them (though I still can't add it as a watermark).

Tuesday, January 9

me

me
I don't remember who took this, but it's a good portrait.