Saturday, December 05, 2009

Heating Issues

Heating Issues
Originally uploaded by gaikokujinkyofusho

Well I am in the middle of a Southern Azeri winter, which is about like winter in the Southeastern US, pretty mild. This is my second winter in Azerbaijan so I had an idea of what to expect, of the weather and I thought of the heating in the house I am staying in. Many of the houses here are heated by steam radiators which would be ok if there was enough gas; the primary heater in this town, little surprise given Azerbaijan's oil but the surprise was that the gas pressure was pathetic last year and would often go out (which was a particular pain because here the water tank heating mechanism consists of an open pipe spewing gas that you just light a match and pray it doesn't set off some chain reaction throughout the town). The person that lived in the house before me apparently didn't like heating with wood stoves so I got through most of last winter with a dinky wood stove and the leftover wood reserves. When I was first told “there is a wood stove stored at your house” by my staff I envisioned a nice old cast iron stove… oh well. This one is made of sheet-metal and while it doesn't retain heat worth anything it does heat up the room. This year the gas pressure is pretty good AND I got a heater that has a auto-shutoff mechanism on it so if the town gas goes off then back on this stove shuts off and stays off (as opposed to just a pipe with no mechanism which would just spew gas as soon as the gas came back on). Anyway, after a bit of thought I don't really remember seeing cast iron stoves outside of the N. America and Europe.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Closed mind?

I remember in school very often people would form their groups, usually based on social class, life philosophy and race/nationality.

I look at the development community and am somewhat reminded of high school. Every time people find out that i am an American working for a European organization they are usually surprised and working in a European organization i very rarely run into Americans. Now i never hear (perhaps because i am American but i don't think so) oh i don't hang out with Americans or hear Americans say they don't' hang out with Europeans and indeed i can think of many exceptions but in general, i seem to see Europeans at parties, restaurants, etc hanging out with each other and the same for Americans... disturbing. 

In job hunting i have discovered that many of the "beltway bandit" organizations pay better than average European (and American for that matter) organizations but the disturbing part to me is that i see this separation even more in people who work for these organizations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

OpenOffice.Org demos ribbon-style UI prototype

I just read a bit "OpenOffice.Org demos ribbon-style UI prototype". I am totally not a fan of the "ribbon style" in MSO or (apparently) the up and coming open office. While i admit that my compu-kungfu isn't what it used to be I am still not bad with figuring out and getting used to new programs but this new ribbon style gui is beyond me. I actually installed MSO 2007 specifically so i could make myself get accustomed to it but after a year i still find myself hunting around trying to figure out how to do this or that function that was just a drop down menu aways in MSO 2003.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Turning Point For Afghan War, And For Obama : NPR

I was reading an article on the NPR site (A Turning Point For Afghan War, And For Obama : NPR) and one line struck me: "While some U.S. officials say that Obama is considering a plan to pull back from daily battles with the Taliban to focus more strictly on counterterrorism options, Republicans are pressing him to approve McChrystal's recommendations." 

Why isn't this situation a bit of a win for him? That is, if Republicans are pushing him to accept the generals recommendations but are pounding him on healthcare then why not say "ok, you want more troops, let my healthcare plan go through" so at least the dems will get thier healthcare (even if they want out of Afghanistan) and the reps will get their war... of course all this begs the question, where will the money come from and more importantly how will we pay it back.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The death of Google's "Do no evil" mantra

I recently came across an article "Google's not fighting Gmail subpoenas" that tells about how google is just handing over the information of some of its users. I remember reading about an instance where google denied (but eventually had to cave) the DoJ (or was it FBI?) access to IP addresses or emails or something, either way it seemed like they tried to do the right thing; but now, this seems to be part of a downward spiral for google, hopefully privacy groups will successfully take google to task for this.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fantasies of a computer hobbyist

Asides from the obvious (lewd) ones which I will not go into I am dreaming of an i7 Core with USB v3.0. Yup, those are the two biggies for me. Of course gratuitous amounts of memory (4+ gigabytes, which means i would need a 64bit OS which again means i would need a realtively powerful [or at least new] computer), a really fast hard drive etc but right now I need a fast processor and speedy external storage.

I am working on three huge tasks which require CPUs of the workhorse variety.

Task #1 Graphics: I have about 35,000 photos that I am sifting through and organizing. This involves everything from image stitching to geotagging to retouching to IPTC keyword tagging etc and in large batches.

Task #2 Audio: I have about 28,000 songs to sift through, the sifting is apparently the most laborious part as I have whole albums that I only one 2-3 songs out of but there is other stuff such as adding acoustical fingerprints, MusicBrainz IDs, finding duplicates, etc.

Task 3# Video: I have video from the internet, and tons of video from the past 8 years of digital camera ownership. I want to start chopping, cropping, combining, and editing this stuff into something watchable (to just string all the stuff together would be insanely boring to watch).

Geekness (techno geek, not the chicken head eating geek): This isn't a task but is a point dealing with techno-lust. I  love linux, i don't use it nearly as much as i would like primarily because the majority of applications i need are  windows  only (though the things i use the most , like Opera, are also available in linux). There is a way to run two operating systems at once (wrap your head around that!) with virtualization but that requires heaps of memory and a hefty CPU doesn't hurt. As I alluded to previously a 32bit operating system  has a 2 gigabyte memory limit, that is i don't think it can use more than 2gb of memory no matter how much memory you actually have installed so to run dual operating systems (running windows 7 inside of linux) would require alot of memory and in order to use all the physical memory installed you need a 64bit OS)... got it? Not to mention that alot of video/audio/graphic editing (especially batch editing) requires insane amounts of memory.

All of the above requires semi-to-very serious processing power (which the i7 will handily be able to provide) and serious storage (not to mention read/write speeds). A geek reading this might say “what about eSATA?!” but if you look at the USB v3.0 speeds (4gbit/sec) compared to eSATA II (3Gbit/sec) there is no comparison. Of course the biggest problems now are that 

#1 Due to my globetrotting line of work I need something semi-portable (which means a mobile Core i7 [Clarksfield] which won’t be out for another month or two and won’t come down to a price that mere mortals can afford until after the new year) 
#2 USB v3.0 isn’t expected to be out en masse until mid 2010, Windows 7 doesn’t even have drivers for it yet.

As painful as it will certainly be I am thinking I need to hold off until the second quarter of 2010 at least before I get something. By then hopefully USB v3 will be out, prices will have come down, software support will be out (with major bugs fixed)… but damn that’s a long time to wait.

Monday, August 31, 2009

İsanın doğum günü münasibətilə!!!

Isanin dogum günü münasib?til?!!!
Originally uploaded by gaikokujinkyofusho

Ok, that was supposed to be “Merry Christmas” in Azeri but it actually (literally) means “With the birth of Christ” which is strange anyway since Azerbaijan is an Islamic country… but I guess the Soviets instilled a sense of yuletide cheer in Azerbaijan too (Celebrate, Be Happy, or off to Siberia you go!!!). My staff was telling me that actually Azeris use Christmas trees as part of the New Year celebration and for that one would say “Yeni il” (Happy New Year I think).

Anyway, I saw this Christmas tree (or New Years tree as it were) while I was walking through town, I had seen an Azeri Santa Claus (Ded Moroz in Russian) and most amusingly an Azeri Snegurochka (Amusing because Russians are a “bit” prejudice and certainly have their own concept of the Russian ubermensch, which is almost always blonde, not a big deal except if you are familiar with Russian pride/tradition/culture) while walking around town so the Christmas tree was not so much of a surprise, I guess its just that in an Islamic country one doesn’t normally expect to find celebrations of a Christian holiday around (though if you as an Azeri they say that it is not a celebration of a Christian holiday at all, its for new years!)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nixon dug deep for dirt on Ted Kennedy - Yahoo! News

I just came across this article today "Nixon dug deep for dirt on Ted Kennedy". I guess it is not a surprise to some but the dispicable levels that Nixon sank to, levels that you thought "na, even Nixon wouldn't do that" are amazing. These phone conversations are quite an eye opener, I just hope that the same information has been collected about Cheney and that they are published before he dies.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Offensive Thriftiness

Yesterday one of my staff asked if I would mind meeting two European inters who were doing some sort of evaluation of cheese production in Azerbaijan. I will post another time about my thoughts on trying to push European cheeses and cheese making practices on cultures that are perfectly happy with their local products. This post is about how these two were operating, they were carrying backpacks, they came by marshutka (like a van/taxi/bus service found in many CIS countries, and is quite cheap [albeit very uncomfortable]), and they don’t seem to want to pay for anything. They came and had some questions for me etc but seemed to be wanting more assistance which I ignored at first but then caved and offered the organization’s vehicle/driver to take them around a bit. One of my staff put these intern in her house for the night (I was not willing to go that far since I already have to host consultants and regional staff sometimes) and my staff also found a student who would do translation for me (seemingly for free) and these two girls don’t seem (hopefully they will prove me wrong) to have any inclination to reimburse the organization or this student translator. While not reimbursing an organization is acceptable having someone help you for free, not treating them to a lunch or transport back home just seems irresponsible and rude and no, not thrifty, it is downright cheap.

I have seen some pretty obnoxious expats, and some locals that are hell bent on ripping off expats but thankfully most expats seem pretty willing to compensate locals for time/services in some fashion. Those expats who mooch off of locals who are much less fortunate (financially) than they are… are just loathsome.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The impersonal nature of the extra personal networking sites

I accept that networking can be pretty impersonal, and the masters are those who can network and make every networkee feel like there is a personal connection; I am not one of those people. Now comes all these social services, like FaceBook (which is a bit more personal since there tends to be a less business like air about it) and LinkedIn which is a bit less personal due to its business angle... but the gaps between the two are narrowing.

I just received another invite through LinkedIn from a person I know of but hardly know personally, which is a step up from those i have never even heard of, and it was simply a "X wants to connect with you". I got another invite via Facebook which was almost the exact same thing, which is a bit more insulting to me in Facebook because both of these are generic invites but facebook is supposed to be more personal and in facebook i *thought* the purpose was to make friends not contacts. Anyway, I have inboxes in facebook and linkedin full of unaccepted invites. I have made it a point that anyone I invite (very few so far) I include a personal message to, to at the very least not give the appearance of totally superficiality be it for facebook or linkedin... I thought these two services were supposed to promote socialization but they seem to have done the opposite with people taking the attitude of who-ever-dies-with-the-most-online-friends/contacts-wins... sigh.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mud Volcanos?

Well Mud Volcano would be a bit of an overstatement but it is the first thing that came to mind. Anyway, i am almost hesitant to upload this considering some of the fairly critical comments i have gotten for other uploads (such as driving along in Afghanistan, sorry no bombs or anything) but hey.

Ok, this is an area near the capital city of Azerbaijan (Baku). There are no signs to it or anything so if you dont have an Azeri with you (or dont speak the language) then you are SOL trying to find it. Some of the mounds were not bubbling constantly (I timed one to be about every 7 minutes) so i didn't feel like waiting around for the "perfect shot" especially after i got this one. I had thought (for some reason) the mud would be hot but not even, it was actually cold. I was told that many Azeris come there to put the mud on thier skin (kind of like an open air spa... without the spa). That is about it, for those of you looking for dancing cats or bombs etc you might not want to wait for this video to load and keep browsing.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Google should take geocities

I recently heard on the futuretense podcast that Yahoo would be closing geocities sometime in the near future. The covered how some organization "Archive Team" is trying to copy as much of geocities as they can. The first thing that came to my mind was "isn't doing this?" (apparenlty they stopped archiving geocities in 2002) but today i was studying up on using regular expressions (regex) in the Vim editor and found a webpage... on geocities (I guess Yahoo hasn't taken it down yet). After i noticed this it popped into my head, hey, google should buy geocities! Google now has its own webpages for its users and i would think that Geocities would be a steal now (plus google has already taken another icon from the pre-internet bubble age "De Ja News" and managed to monetize it why not geocities?

Anyway, hopefully someone will take geocities, as the "Archive Team" mentioned, there are alot of pages on geocities (including one of my own which i haven't accessed in years) which ind of give one a peek into the days-of-internet-yore; it would be a shame to loose that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Drunk Squirrel

Apologies to all for the lack of postings, its kind of hard to post when you just don't feel like it (and i haven't). Anywho, I came across this video on youtube, kind of typical but there is a bit of irony that you might only get if you are Russian. In Russian culture squirrel (белочка) can be a reference to being drunk (I think it is something like "you are so drunk you imagine squirrels") so that made this particular video quite amusing. Just thought I'd share that little tidbit.

An unrelated side note: I use the opera browser the most and one of my gripes (more with the website than the browser since opera is w3 compliant) is that it didn't work with blogger... now it does! I can just click on the add link button instead of having to manually edit the HTML or use a different browser. Horay!!!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Getting harder to be anonymous

I have a facebook account but prefer not to advertise myself too much but now i am finding that other people who have pictures of me (like group shots) are now tagging me in those photos. As much as i do online i prefer to keep things private like where i live, phone, and photos etc
but that gets a bit difficult when people start posting photos of me (so far group photos) online... grrrr.

I have been accused of wearing my emotions on my sleeve but people on facebook take it to a whole new level. Another observation is that i seem to be almost totally friend-less since i have under 20 "friends" and many facebookers seem to literally have hundreds! I think i have invited maybe 2 people to "be my friends" but all the others have contacted me and even of all those who contact me i don't accept. I don't think i am being a snob but i kind of think, did i ever talk to
these people when i was around them (or did they ever talk to me), does this person have anything in common with me (for the few random friend invitations i have gotten from total strangers), and can I stand being associated with these people? (the epitome of snobbery but hey, there are some folks out there who i view as repulsive, slimy, hopelessly annoying etc and i think it would be rather insincere to accept them as "friends" when i view them in such lights).

Anyway, this whole social networking internet thing is a bit much for me, i perhaps i "just don't get it" though i do see its utility so its probably more accurate to say its a combination of
online-anti-social-ness and not "getting it". oh well.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Nadof is corrupt its America's fault but...

So many people countries are blaming the "corrupt USA", but how many people would invest in Russia or China etc? Only a very *brave* few, why? because those places are risky

The latest scandal with Nadof is a great example of carelessness, everyone assumed those "greedy Americans" would not be corrupt so businesses/people/countries invested ****blindly***** you can find many examples of professional investors that didn't fall for the Nadof hype and looked at the numbers and said "something is off". The same for the sub-prime market, packaged debt where no one knew what was in the package... but invested anyway... wildly... and now everyone is crying that there is corrupt business in the US (duh, care to compare the US to some other countries?).

*Of*Course* I am not even attempting to justify any of the corruption here, one of the reasons i might have considered voting for McCain is his semi-tough (shall we say tougher than the average politician which is perhaps not saying much) stance on corruption, but this reminds me of the saying "lotteries are taxes on people that are bad at math" well perhaps this whole financial debacle is a tax on irrational investors (though of course the repercussions are much further reaching than just the jobs of those irrational investors).