I broke some of my rss feeds with an unfortunate .htaccess file edit. Everything is fixed now, but you might want to check if you missed some of my posts, especially if you are a Livejournal subscriber.
I broke some of my rss feeds with an unfortunate .htaccess file edit. Everything is fixed now, but you might want to check if you missed some of my posts, especially if you are a Livejournal subscriber.
Several days ago I was startled by something in a post titled “moving up in “teh company”” in Livejournal’s Starbucks barrista community. The poster said:
“< insert typical “yay me, I’m being promoted to SS” comment here >
So I went to my learning coach class last night. It was very informative and good. I’ll begin official SS training about a week and a half from now.”
It took me a little while to realize that SS in Starbucksian jargon stands for Shift Supervisor, not Schutzstaffel. Over the years I got used to being asked for my SS (Social Security) number, but apparently when I hear “SS” in other contexts my first thought is still “Nazis!”.
This reminded me of a rumor that I’ve heard before. See, I’ve been told that that SS uniforms were so stylish because they were designed by Hugo Boss. It did not sound right – I thought that Hugo Boss is an American company, that was created after the war and that Hugo Boss is not a real person, but a created brand, like Mavis Beacon (see my post about that).
The first place I went to was hugoboss.com. Well, I was wrong, it’s a German company all right. But the website is missing “Company history” section. Suspicious. I mean, usually established companies are rather proud of their beginnings. Kennethcole.com, for instance, has a whole segment about how Kenneth Cole (he’s a real person, I’ve even met him once) hacked New York City rules by pretending to shoot a movie in order to gain valuable parking permit necessary to sell shoes out of a trailer. You can read all about it here.
So, I did a little digging of my own and guess what – according to Wikipedia, which in turn quotes Washington Post, Hugo Boss, the founder of the company did indeed design and manufacture Nazi uniforms, and on top of that likely used forced labour.
Here’s a picture from hugoboss.com:
And here’s one from Wikipedia that I doctored up a little (I changed the position of the guy on the right – the original is here)
Maybe Hugo Boss of today is very, very different from the WWII era one, but they do make some snappy clothes.
I see that a lot of people add “programming” tag to my blog in del.icio.us. And as they might have noticed, there are very few posts about computers and programming in this blog. So far, my favorite note in del.icio.us is “a NY programmer, I guess, doing you know, stuff”. Anyway, here is an exclusion from the rule, a post about computer technology.
There’s a computer book that I was looking for for a long time. I remember having it in my dad’s library, but it probably was left behind. I finally found a source of used books in Russia, alib.ru, so I finally replaced it.
“Personal Electronic Calculating Machines in Engineering Practice” by Krenkel, Kogan and Taratorin, Moscow 1989, Radio and Communications. I mostly bough it for a certain infamous passage attributed to Dr. Taratorin, a fellow immigrant and Livejournal deserter. If you can read Russian, here is a collection of his prose(he is extremely talented) and here is his blog.
So, let’s see, it’s 1989. Dr. Taratorin is writing these immortal words (my translation follows):
“One example of unwieldy, and in authors’ opinion useless add-ons is integrated WINDOWS system by Microsoft. The system takes up almost 1 Megabyte of disk space and was designed primarily to be used with devices of “mouse” type . It unites in itself functions of a file catalog browser, text editor, calculator, calendar, graphics editor and allows to load different other applications . Because this system integrates different subsystems and allows data passing amongst them it’s often called operating system wrapper (see paragraph 2.9). It seems that the usefulness of such wrapper in the ability of the user to load a few different programs and organize data sharing amongst them. For instance, after editing a text, you can pass it to an electronic table editing program (translator’s note: I think the word “spreadsheet” did not enter Russian vocabulary back then), database, etc.
Work with WINDOWS, of course, is rather impressive: during waiting (subsystem loading, file writing) a symbol of waiting, hourglass, appears on the screen, during file erasing a picture of a trashcan appears, backgrounds and font colors change, helper windows overlap, etc. In our opinion, the symbol of extreme esthetism and unwieldiness is the time-telling subsystem. When invoked, this system shows a pretty clock with familiar clock face and moving hands… But you always have to pay for prettiness. In WINDOWS system the price is long wait times for switching between applications, bloatedness of switching constructs (translator’s note: no idea) and large amount of memory needed from the Electronic Calculating Machine.”
Ahh, nice vintage Windows bashing. Warms my heart.
By force of an old habit I read Livejournal blogs through the website instead of Bloglines. I immediately regretted that because once again almost made a mistake of writing about a private post. Livejournal marks private posts with little locks, and I once very stupidly discussed some non-public information about an LJ user without realizing that it was from a locked or “friends only” post. Eeek, I cringe just remembering that. Anyway, this time I got permission to post about this (even though I will try to keep away from “locked” posts as much as possible). Upc747 was very kind to let me use this photo of an old newspaper that he took:
The Soviets are gone, but Iraq and Iran are still troublesome. And you know what? I’ll take the War on Terrorism over the Cold War. It seems like all the Generation X-ers and Boomers suddenly forgot the terrible, paralyzing fear of the global atomic war. Not the fear of North Korean or terrorist nukes or conventional attacks, but the dark gut feeling, the stomach churning certainty that the Soviet Union and the United States will annihilate the entire world in one final showdown.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock at seven minutes to midnight in 2002. It seems that in the years when the clock was at 9, 10, 14 and even off-the-scale 17 minutes everyone seems to have forgotten all about the fear of World War III. Do the people that say that the world at the turn of the new century is crazier than before remember the ominous 1984, when the clock stood at three minutes to midnight? The time when few people thought that the arms race will result in the collapse of the Soviet Union, but almost everyone was certain that the end of human race in nuclear inferno was almost assured?
I started this blog in May of 2002. I got my first digital camera around this time as well. So, it’s time to look back at my 3 years of blogging and 3 years of digital photography.
My mostly backed up (is yours?) photo folder holds about 27 gigabytes of photos, which translates into about 16,500 files (I use Picasa to organize them and a usb drive for backup). That’s about 458 rolls of 36 exposure film. At 5-6 bucks a pop for film and then a couple of bucks for processing that’s a lot of mon-ay. Of course I print a lot less and mostly show pictures in the blog, but still this is a huge economy.
In three years of blogging I wrote 824 posts containing 117,274 words. Considering an average of half an hour per post that’s about 50 eight hour work days. That is a lot of time, people. Considering that I do not write posts at work, this is a very sizable chunk of my free time. I could have written a book in this amount of time.
According to Feedburner my current readership is puny. 47 (a special number, isn’t it?) livejournal readers, 8 from Bloglines, and a couple of others, some of which are probably bots. When I hosted my site in Livejournal it seemed like I had about 250 readers, but as it turned out most of those were just “you added me, I added you” kind of deals. Even then I was far behind Ripley the Cat (and I find it very hard to get over this fact).
So, sob story about the number of readers aside, now I am a member of the elite group of bloggers who have been doing this for 3 years. How elite, you might ask? Let’s ask Mighty Google. Here is a graph of how many results come back to “x year(s) of blogging”, where x is “one”, “two”, “three”, etc. This, of course has just a slight correlation with the number of years people have been blogging, as “hundred years of blogging” brings back three results.
My website that hit the Information Superhighway back in 1996. It helped my future wife find me and gave me some rudimentary skills for my first web job. The blog hasn’t been so useful or popular, it seems. Maybe back then there was less good content on the web, and now there are shite waterfalls of it. Or maybe I need do something to market it. Like asking my staunch 47 + 8 + x readers to link to their favorite post or two (all of the old posts are searchable from http://www.deadprogrammer.com). Right?
Wow. This is a frickin’ Flowers for Algernon situation. Ripley the Cat has 622 Livejournal readers at this time. I have 45. Well, either the cat had intelligence enhancement or I am retarded. Or both.
Maybe Tilde the Cat should guest-blog for a while. If she’ll refuse, I can ask Gary the Cat, my second never before mentioned in this blog cat.
Part I : The Roots Of Russian Japanophilia
What are the roots of Russian (I should really be saying “Russian-speaking Generation X”, but that would be too long, wouldn’t it?) Japanophilia? Honestly I have no idea, but the fact is that it plays an important role in the huge number of high quality Sushi restaurants in Brooklyn, tremendous popularity of Japanese themed blogs in the Russian-speaking Livejournal community and the popularity of Erast Fandorin Mysteries.
Kitya, the author of the above mentioned outstanding blog, whom I met in Tokyo, thinks that the reason is probably the same as with the US Japanophilia – anime cartoons. I have a different theory. Before the first anime shown in the USSR,Flying Ghost Ship, made it’s appearance, I was already fascinated with Japan. The reason for that was the excellent book called “Branch of Sakura” that I found in my dad’s library. As it turns out, 30 years later the author of the book, journalist Vsevolod Ovchinnikov was invited back to Japan to write a second installment of the book. Ovchinnikov’s writing still has the same lucidity, simplicity and attention to detail. I think that he is one of the major reasons why Soviet Generation X is so interested in everything Japanese.
Some time during Perestroika there was a week of Japanese TV in USSR. They showed the most amazing stuff : how they make Japanese water sharpening stones (I own a set these days) and how a skillful sharpening master can sharpen a carpenter’s plane so that he could make a micron thick shaving with it. They’ve shown how chasen whisks (I have one) used in a tea ceremony are made by splitting bamboo by hand. They’ve shown a fisherman who could tell exactly how many trouts his net was catching and a master bamboo fishing rod maker. They’ve shown an awesome game show called Takeshi’s Castle. Oh, how I wish someone would make a DVD of that show! There was the usual exotic stuff like Sumo wrestling, Sakura festivals as well more unusual stuff such as a few clips of Japanese reporters walking around Moscow (a part of which I described earlier.
Before coming to America I thought that there must be hundreds of channels on TV there, and specifically a few that showed only cartoons (as opposed to 3 or 4 channels in the USSR with one to two old cartoons shown per day). My expectations were overly optimistic as the Cartoon channel came into existence significantly later. Now I hope and pray that there will be a channel of Japanese TV with English subtitles, Sumo, news, Abarenbo Shogun and other Chambara. And Takeshi’s Castle reruns. Ah, one can only dream. For now all I have is the couple of hours of Japanese shows on Fujisankei Lifestyle which airs for a couple of hours. Actually while writing this post I learned that there is a Japanese channel on the Dish network, but it’s $25 a month.
I never anywhere abroad since I came to the US and me and my wife did not have a decent vacation in years. So I decided to pleasantly surprise my wife, who knows and tolerates my extreme hate of traveling, and proposed that we have a vacation in Japan. Thanks to her diligent planning we had an amazing 10 day trip to Japan, spending 6 days in Kyoto and 4 days in Tokyo.
My camera died in Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district. But still me and my wife managed to take about 2500 pictures. I took a lot of 3d pictures. 3d picture technology is very simple : I have a lens that takes two slightly offset pictures at the same time. To view the image you can either learn a special technique and really, really strain your eyes or obtain a rather simple viewer of which there are many varieties, some very cheap, some a bit more expensive and some are pretty expensive. I find that the cheap viewer made by the same company that makes the lens that I use work very well.
[update] : due to the lack of interest there won’t be many 3d pictures in my posts.
[update] Ok, I did get one request for a 3d viewer. So maybe someone out there cares. So if you want one, send me your postal address to
Once again instead of writing something good for you to read I am changing my blogging software. Movable Type was a little better than Livejournal, but looks like WordPress is the right tool for me.
It will take some time for me to fix the feeds, lins, etc, so bear with me for a while.
Dear readers, let me vent some useless thoughts about HTML and share the fruit of my procrastination with you today.
It occurs to me that HTML code has finally become a third rate citizen of the World Wide Web. Back in the day, there were horrible WYSIWYG editors that mangled poor HTML, raped it by adding their own non-HTML tags and in general produced bloated and unreadable mess. They still exist today. But now most sites are script generated, so rarely do you see clean, beautiful and handcrafted HTML code when you view the source.
One of the worst offenders is Microsoft, of course. It gave FrontPage, an unholy product of a dying company called Vermeer Technologies (I’ve read in this book that the price of FrontPage was huge and number of copies sold – miniscule) an eternal life as a part of the Office Suite. Other Office programs always produced horrendous HTML. And now, they don’t even want developers to touch HTML directly. They added extra layers – Server Controls (again, plans for VTI extension and FrontPage come to mind) and Web Forms to isolate them from the language that can be learned in 20 minutes and mastered in a few years.
I can’t say that positive things did not happen. For one, fewer people write in old skool all-caps HTML tags. All lowercase tags are so much more readable.
Also now it’s probably safer to put little Easter eggs and funny notes in HTML comments. Are there more of those around? I don’t know. But the oldies but goodies are still out there.
Famous hacker JWZ’s enigmatic page contains this haughty comment:
<!– mail me if you find the secret –>
<!– (no, you can’t have a hint) –>
Smarter people than me tried, but failed to find meaning in in the 404 lines of what seems to be a hex dump. Former Livejournal user mcgroarty, for instance, wasted a good chunk of his time on this. Where is his blog now, by the way? Does anyone know?
What I noticed though is that the page is not static as mcgroarty probably assumed. It changes with time. More than that, it seems like it is not the same data – it probably cycles through different files. You can clearly see that if you look at http://www.jwz.org through the wayback machine. Meanwhile you can see the old design featuring the Jamie’s cool terminal graphics likeness. You can see the old design get resized, then get replaced with the 404 line nightmare. Then “mail me if you find the secret” gets added. Enough people send emails and JWZ, always eager to save some time, adds “(no, you can’t have a hint)”.
Are these 404 a cruel joke – meaning not found?
I suspected that the 404 lines show chunks of the old green image that I mentioned, or are generated from web collage. When I looked at the famous animated compass gif (the one that replaced the Netscape diddler when you typed in about:jwz or went to JWZ’s old homepage in Netscape 1.1 and some other early Netscape version I think) I found another hidden message from JWZ:
“You have a lot of free time on your hands, don’t you?
Tell firstname.lastname@example.org that you found the secret message!
“Some people will tell you that slow is good — and it may be, on
some days — but I’m here toÃ² tell you that fast is better. Being
shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out
of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
Oh, Jamie, I have very little free time. But whatever free time I have I usually end up wasting on stupid things.
This does not seem to be the solution to the 404 line homepage puzzle, but the heck with it.
Russian-speaking readers can entertain themselves with reading comments over at tema.ru. There are a couple of hints of hidden links, a few sprinkles of profanity, showing off about Photoshop mastery. Outstanding advice to journalists that was there in the earlier version is gone. I also remember seeing a completely blacked out page about his photo equipment there (you needed to do control-a trick to see it) in a very old version of the site. http://www.design.ru has its share of rowdy commentage.
I really hate email these days. Gmail might have solved (at least for me) the storage problem and mostly solved the spam problem (the filter is very efficient), but there is soooo much crappieness in email.
Email servers and clients are just out of whack lately. Even Gmail checks zip files for executables somehow (neat trick) and refuses to add them. It works ok if you change the extension to .zip.foo or something like that. But this at least is a decent way of dealing with the problem of people sending virus laden executables – warn that you are not sending it and let through people who are smart enough to rename the extension.
On the other hand I’ve encountered every type of nastiness – from silently dropping emails to stripping the attachments (again, silently) to bouncing the email back with absolutely unintelligible error messages.
Filter stupidity similar to what excellent Joe Grossberg is describing here is also rampant.
Oh, and trying to send out an email in Russian. Fugedaboudit! The extra bits in Unicode or KOI-8 get chewed off every which way rendering my laboriously typed and spelling error infested emails unreadable half the time. If there is a way to reliably send Russian encoded emails without using attachments – I was not able to find it yet.
Worst of all, you sit there waiting for a replies wondering – are people just ingnoring me? Did the message get silently dropped, swallawed or chewed up on the way? Did it get lost amongst spam about Ciagra and Vialis? (As a side note, my co-workers were joking this morning about how I should write on my cubicle dweller’s box that contains vitamins, painkillers, antiacid and caffeine pills “V1A8RA” in marker). Did the person mean to answer me but forgot lately? Did something happen to him or her?
But you know what I hate even more than email? Public comments in blogs. Letting my own often illiterate and/or stupid comments spill out onto the Information Superhighway and having them fester and petrify there for future generations is not a good idea. From now on my policy is not leaving any comments whatsoever. I’ll use exclusively email from now on. If you want to leave me a public comment in Livejournal – go ahead, but I’ll probably answer via email. I do try to answer most comments.
Also a part of this policy is not reading or writing any private posts in Livejournal. Nothing good ever comes out of them.
In other news, I am thinking about leaving a little note at the bottom explaining obscure puns in my topics. For instance this one is based on the Sopranos Episode 204 title – “Commendatori” (Knights). Babelfish tells me that “commentatore” means “commentator”.