Sunday, December 31, 2006

So you want to be a... anything!

I've spent my last two days watching popular science shows. I've started with the very bad and time wasting "What we still don't know" and ended up with the marvelous "Stephen Hawking's Universe". I've always had this fantasy of doing something that matters, maybe become proficient in the things I really like, but rarely do, like writing, or science. And, in the good old trandition of Sierra games, I've thought of a "So you want to be a ..." series, where average everyday people like myself could be shown how to become something they always wanted, in the shortest time possible. Something like a career guide on speed.

Well, I am certainly not the only one to have come up with this idea: Dr. Michio Kaku wrote an article about becoming a physicist. Well, he basically tells you you cannot become a physicist if you've already lost the train. But I disagree. If you really want something, you can achieve it, at any age, only you can't do it with support from others.

So, what do I want to become? I've written in my todo list to check out calculus, topology and noncommutative geometry. That is almost certain not to go well, but at least I plan to try (trying). Damn, I like to think of stuff and never do anything about it. I only like whinning more! But the question is: what do you want to become? Don't waste your time. And I am not talking about carrers, I am talking about the things that makes one define himself on. Like for me, I am a C# programmer. That defines me at this moment. I certainly am glad there is more to add to that, like other achievements or "I am a good person" or "I have felt true love", but I still wish I could add more. Maybe being a part time garage cosmologist wouldn't hurt. Dreams ARE important and they are surely unachievable only when you don't even try to achieve them.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lying for your life!

Ok, I am not the greatest child lover in the world. I don't want any children, not even to have sex with them. But when I see sites like this: 'Santa Claus does not exist' school tells stunned kids I can't help myself reply in anger.
Does anyone realise that while telling nice stories about Santa, or God, or Halloween or whatever, one is actually lying? When I read the above mentioned article, I immediately replied in irony that kids should believe in Santa and other increasingly idiotic things we usually are told when we're kids. And the list grew immediately to a stagering dimension. I stopped myself, censored some of the things I've written and sent the reply. I am curious if it will ever be published on the said site, as I've noticed that UK sites, including BBC, only publish the moderate or expected responses, especially if you mention you're not from the UK.
How did you feel when you found out Santa is not really a real person? Didn't it change not only the way you see Christmas and the world, but the trust you had in your parents? I am almost 30 and I remember the day when my dad told me an obvious lie and I realised, for the first time in my life, that my parents do lie to me, as opposed to what they've said to me in the past. A lot of the things I've been told during my childhood have been lies, and while there weren't bad lies, nobody desiring my harm in any way, they shaped the way I saw the world afterwards.
Every time such a fairy tale bubble burst, I felt more out of touch with reality, more insecure, sadder, disappointed. Don't do that to your children, no matter how obnoxious they are. So they don't let you sleep well, don't punish them by giving them false hope you just know will break their heart when they realise they have been fed with lies. Beat the crap out of them, it's safer, it hurts less.
Of course, I have no idea how a kid would develop if you told him everything. It is a frightening concept, but does one really have the right to shape one's reality as they see fit just because they don't like the one they live in? "Yes, daddy is going everyday to a shitty job, hating his shitty life, wanting to die, but lacking the courage to end it all." Would such a notion push a child to suicide or to a real life, one that is different from the one his dad hates?
There is no such thing as political corectness. Politics are about the acquisition and application of power. Will you give your child the option to apply his own power of the brain to his own chosen life or will you maim him in his infancy, by feeding him false information, seeding his mind with lies that will never go away, no matter how much he tries as an adult?

And as a small Christmas article that makes sense, check this out: The Real Story of Christmas

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The death of Siderite's wife

Have you seen the movie "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu"? It is a Romanian movie about a guy that is taken from hospital to hospital in order to fix what seems to be a slow cerebral hemorrhage. Wonderful moment when, in the very end, the man is still living, but in a very bad state, and the movie ends. Because the title does say it all.

As a divine retribution for accusing the holidays of sucking, my wife had a car accident. Some female driver hit her while on the designated street crossing area. She is fine, thank you all, but for a clavicular fracture. This specific injury means that she can barely do anything by herself and I have to tend to her until the bone fuses together or she has surgery (I'll know for sure on Sunday, December 24th, when I take her to the hospital again).

Ok, back to mr. Lazarescu. As in the movie, the medical establishment is a dirty, underfunded, disorganised piece of crap. When I got the phone call, Maria was already at the hospital, waiting for treatment. The emergency hospital Floreasca was partially closed, due to reconstruction, and the only entrance was covered with signs that said "Access forbidden to visitors!". I was a visitor, but it was the only way in, so I phoned my wife and asked. I was supposed to enter through there.

I found her holding her right arm with her left, in obvious shock and pain, waiting... for what? She just had her radiography taken to her shoulder and they sent us to another section of the hospital. There they asked what has happened, and my wife explained that immediately after the hit she couldn't see well, and that she was afraid not to have a head injury. So they sent her back to the radiology room.
[small paranthesis] The woman doctor indicated we should go right, then right again, to where the rotating door is, in the middle of the wall. That was her female for first door on the right. There wasn't any revolving or rotating door anywhere![end paranthesis]
I was told to wait outside the radiology room until the male nurse would call us in. I waited, seeing three people appearing out of nowhere and entering in, before I got the nerve to ask the guy there "excuse me, is there a name calling, an order number system, or people just enter?". "People just enter", he replied apathetically. So I took Maria, pushed her in, to finally get her head scanned. All this time she held her injured arm with the other, no one even considered doing anything about it, even if we already had the radio image of the clavicular fracture.

Then we went back to the previous room where a doctor interpreted the scans, then sent us to another section, the one where they actually do something. We waited there as well, at least another half hour, in front of a door which said "we are in the middle of hospital reconstruction, we only have limited support, we prioritize people, do not enter, do not open the door, etc". Already knowing the drill, I opened the door and entered, taking Maria with me.

The actual fix was to make a figure 8 bandage around her shoulders, to keep the bones together. Then they sent us again to the radiology room, to see how well the doctor did, then we went back. All this was done without anestethic, even if it didn't hurt too much, and the only shot they gave her was an antitetanos shot for a little scratch on her leg.

You have to imagine this so called hospital, with rooms that had building materials in them and the whole facility smelling like a zoo. This is not a metaphor, I've recently been to the zoo, and the neglected reptile cages smell exactly how this hospital did. Maria reached the hospital at around 16:40 and we left at around 21:00, this being an «emergency» hospital.

The doctor also prescribed us some medicine, because they didn't actually have a farmacy there. So we had to take a cab, look for a farmacy, pay for the medicine, get back, take her home, etc. I then inquired on how will the insurance company (ING Bank, btw) cover this, since it wasn't her fault (it was determined by the police that it was the driver's fault) and we had to both miss work, pay for medicine, go to the hospital now and then by using a cab, etc. It appears that the insurance, which we dutifully payed for at least 3 years now, doesn't cover anything but the spitalization cost. No spitalization, no fucking insurance. More so, in order to take some sort of compensation from the driver, we must actively sue her, go through courts and so on.

Let me make a short synopsis: car accident, hospital, 4-5 hours spent for 3 X-rays, an antitetanos shot and a bandage, no insurance coverage. If my employers weren't good human beings (as most aren't) I would probably be forced to either neglect my wife or lose my job, and in order to somehow fix it, I should actively sue the driver and (without a job, maybe) go through courts, pay a lawyer, etc., which I don't really want to do anyway, since the driver didn't actually intend to hit my wife, she was just incredibly slow!

Did you like the movie? It's a nice holiday piece. Fuck!!!!

The funny thing is, Floreasca is actually one of the good hospitals. No doctor asked us for extra payment, each doctor or technician actually wanted to help, I am sure whatever they did, they did good work, but they do it in such a misguided, unfunded, disorganised matter. I mean, do I actually need to scan a bone, create a picture of it, carying it all around the hospital in order for another doctor to see it in the next room? It's like the middle ages in there!

There is this saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. None of the people involved in this story had any bad intentions, but we still got screwed!

Update:

Maria doesn't need surgery. Phew! We've changed the bandages to a more manageable type that is also adjustable in case it is too tight or too loose. We are going to the doctor's on January 2nd for another check. Then on the 3rd I am going to work X(. Anyway, I was going crazy sitting in the house all the time, helping Maria up and down, etc. (you have to appreciate me not going into the sordid details), so I guess it will be good.

Thank all the people that showed genuine concern over my wife's state and I hope you had better holidays than my own. ;)

Update 2:

X( We went to the doctor's again. It seems that the bones didn't fuse together and it mostly because the last bandage was too thick and thus ineffective. So Maria was right after all, she always is a good judge of character, that Petre doctor that made the bandage last time was all talk and nothing else.
More than that, it's not that she doesn't need surgery, is that after 4 weeks of observation we will know for sure. Doctors are certain it will heal, eventually, but the whole process gives me the creeps. I'll keep you posted here until she heals (or gets off my back! :) just kidding.)

Update 3:

Another visit to the hospital (with yet another doctor) was close to personal hell for me. The entire facility was packed with old sick people sitting in queues. This might not mean a hell of a lot to others, but I really hate these kinds of things. The only thing I hate more is being very hot. Sure enough, when we left from the radiology section to go to the actual doctor we reached and even more crowded room, which had the air conditioner turned to hot and with no open door or windows. Being very crowded, Maria went in and got out almost immediately. The x-ray looked better, the bones seemingly fusing. So the doctor send us home, told us to return in three weeks. Then we will know more. :-/ Well, at least there are some good news.

Earlier today I went to the family doctor (in Romania this is a doctor that is assigned to our family... and other thousands of others X( ) to ask for a medical break for Maria's work. I had to fought off sickly old people again in order to get to see the doctor, but after all I only had to take a paper in and return with another paper.
Of course, it wasn't going to be so easy. Apparently, the doc is supposed to give me a paper for the orthopedy department, they will give me the medical break letter. However, I need to take there yet another document to attest that Maria is hired somewhere. Why the hell would I need the papers for a medical break if she wasn't hired?! I say this while trying to ignore that if I weren't around Maria would have to make one trip to the work place to get this latest paper, then go to the family doctor to get that paper, go to orthopedy, etc.
Getting to the orthopedy department reserved a special surprise to me: it was going to open at 14:00 hours. Of course, it was 8:00 and I went there especially in order to find the family doctor who worked mornings and get to work immediately after. So that would have meant another trip for Maria.

Update 4:

Ok, last update on this post. Maria is now (1st of February 2007) ok. Her bandages are off, she is painfully using her hand and she goes to kineto and physio therapy. We had to pay around 50 euros to be able to do that now and not after a few weeks (with the other people waiting to get well, but without money) and, of course, that's not a sum that will be covered by the insurance. The medical insurance actually payed for nothing at all. Isn't that great? Fortunately, the driver agreed to pay us the medical expenses so we won't sue. We wouldn't have sued anyway, I think. Although for my avid readers I might have started a whole Romanian legal system series :)

'Interface not registered' when building a project

Check out this little link: You receive an "interface not registered" error message when you try to build a Setup project in Visual Studio .NET
Why this is happening in the first place, I do not know, but the fix worked wonderfully. I was trying to build a Net 1.1 setup vdproj with Visual Studio 2003 and I got the error: "Could not find the file '[file that was obviously there]' 'Interface not registered' ".

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The X-lions.

Hey! I have internet at home, at last! I dedicate this entry to the Titannet guys :)

Browsing the web I stumbled about this almost incredible story, one that shows in no ambiguos terms that evolution does run continuosly and that it can happen very fast: The superlions marooned on an island.

Long story short, a group of lions were marooned on an isolated island for 15 years. Instead of dying out they've adapted to a new prey (the buffalo), becoming swimmers, more intelligent pack hunters and stronger as individuals. They have become a lion subspecies in 15 years flat.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Metamorphosis - by Franz Kafka

This book is odd enough. Finally finished reading it a few days ago, I remained with the feeling of not getting it. What the hell? A guy is turned into a bug, then his family tries to take care of him, but after a while they just stop being nice to the poor insect and it finally dies.

But then, thinking about it, I noticed the symbols in the book. It is all about a dark hopeless capitalism as in Kafka's day, one that can only be coped with by roaches. Working continuously while being at the whim of whatever greedy employer you have, supporting family and servants and a bigger house than needed because you don't dare have a spine. In this sad little story, the main character did not once revolt against the situation in which he was. Actually, I am wrong, he did revolt against some trivial things like taking a picture from his room or wanting to see his sister playing the violin, thus exiting the room where he was confined.

The book itself ends with his family feeling relief of getting rid of the big roach in their house and having a better life because each of the members had to take a job to get through this.

Conclusion: this didn't feel like a very good book, but it was good enough. It is also a classic, this being the reason for reading it. So, it's worth a read, if you can take the time to think about it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holidays suck!!

Yes! At popular demand and enormous pressure, the World Sucks series is back!
Todays episode: holidays! The word itself comes from holly and day, but in the meanwhile it collapsed into this one word that has nothing holly in it anymore. It's all about buying stuff, planning vacations in the "season" when all prices are inflated and all nice places are assaulted by noisy tourists (like yourself) which makes them less than nice, getting job time off in the same damn time with everybody else (and being considered not a team player if you want to work while all the others go away) and, last but not least, all kind of deities mixed together with local folklore to create a special kind of brand for each particular miserable disgusting day of each bloody holiday.

Accept it, people, holidays suck! It's this type of awful planned and allowed liberations that show the true nature of slavery. Holidays have become so much embedded in our culture, that we measure our own time and pleasure by them. If there is a holiday, you must enjoy it! If you don't you are a weirdo and if it ends you must stop enjoying anything. Get back to work, you lazy bum! I see people that expect those few free days from work like a child awaits the cndy from the sweets dispencer. What about the other days?! They are also yours. You can decide what to do with them. You can stop feeling miserable in any given day, you can miss on office work and stay in bed all day any time. I completely understand that some employers might not agree with this and even some self employed work alcoholics that think the world spins around them might growl at me from their dark den, but that doesn't make them right!

Holidays suck because they take away freedom, in it's most basic sense. You are allowed to not go to work, you are allowed to buy things that in the middle of the year you wouldn't even consider buying (ask yourself why?) and you are allowed to spend it with your family and friends. What? You don't have family and friends any other day? What if you don't want to spend your free time with family and friends? What if you just want to be left alone, to make a cool software program, play a game for 24 hours straight or watch the entire third season of Battlestar Galactica continuously from start to end? Then you clearly don't have the holiday spirit. Well, fuck the holiday spirit! It sucks!

Gerrold, David - The Martian Child

Wee! I've received a PDA from my bestest of uncles (which will soon work for Google and I am so proud of him). Ok, back to adult mode. I've used the newly acquired PDA to read books! I've started Metamorphosis by Kafka, but the file was incomplete by accident, so I ended up reading The Martian Child.
It's a small text, 80KB in length, and it's not really sci-fi, but it's nice. It's the kind of warm, easy to read text suited for bus rides. It involves a sci-fi writer adopting a child who says he is a Martian. During the entire text, the author struggles with the eerie feeling that the child was actually right, even if there is no way to prove it.
It was nice enough.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

InvalidCastException error in an ASP.NET 2.0

Sometimes, when you use ASP.Net 2.0 with MasterPages, UserControls and dynamic loading like LoadControl, you get a silly error: Unable to cast object of type 'X' to type 'X' where X=X. Of course, it is a versioning problem. Some of these errors appear in the VS2005 designer, when the designer uses an older version of a library, but also when trying to open the web page in a browser.

Microsoft has released a fix for this: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/915782 , but, to quote the same source: "This hotfix may receive additional testing. Therefore, if you are not severely affected by this problem, we recommend that you wait for the next Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 service pack that contains this hotfix.". So you risk screwing things up.

The issue seems to be mostly a developer problem. That means that during programming, you get this error when you keep changing stuff in the project. A client might get this error if an update of the site created this problem. The iisreset utility won't work. Recompiling locally and reupdating the site usually solves the issue.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The most efficient way of getting rid of security issues: jail hackers for ridiculous amounts of time!

Another suspected NASA hacker indicted tells the story of a Romanian hacker who entered 150 NASA computers, then made them display messages boasting the hack. Of course, the US government immediately took initiative and fixed all their computer security holes, suing the corporations that made the buggy software sued the Romanian hacker for "conspiracy and nine counts of computer intrusion", mounting up to 54 years in prison, if found guilty on all charges. I won't even go there. It is just ridiculous. A few years ago, an American soldier killed a man in a traffic accident and he was immediately flown back to the States, where they found him guilty of a misdemeanour and he didn't even do jail time. Read again he KILLED a man.

But there is also some justice in the world: U.S. marine sentenced to 40 years for rape in Philippines. Now, of course, the poor guy didn't do anything as serious as hacking into a computer and boasting that he did it, so he gets only 40 years.

Bush in Space, part 2.

A couple of weeks ago I posted this: Bush in Space. Now I come back with a few nice articles that show what the future of space is likely to be. Or not to be.

First of all, a news article from May 2006 US seeks laser to shoot down satellites talks about a "secret" U.S. project that uses lasers to shoot down "enemy" satellites. Considering the ability of most nations to put satellites in orbit, I can only conclude that they mean Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Russian or European satellites. Probably, the Chinese thought the same thing, and here is where this article: China Attempted To Blind U.S. Satellites With Laser comes in. It talks about the Chinese trying to shoot down (or at least blind them considerably) U.S. satellites spying on them. This story was "dug" here. You can see in the article that the US already plan for a "constellation" of satellites to replace the vulnerable spy satallites they already have in place.

Now, most comments on this are usually either moronically nationalistic, either uselessly anti-American. However, there are people that have actually put thought into this. How come the US is augmenting this "Cold War" with China, when they have such a lucrative economic bond. Is it because they see a more business oriented (read democratic) China as a more maleable one? A good consumer market just ripe for the US culture? Or is it because they actually fear a democratic China, as a very serious competitor. Most analysts observe that placing and defending stuff in space is way harder than destroying stuff in space. Even lasers work in space, but low tech solutions like plain old rubble would work just as well. This is described as asymmetric warfare. When even the little guy can fight back.

But what does all this mean? The US have all but openly dismissed the ISS. The only science projects that they do on the station are related to the human habitation of space, which leads me to believe they either plan on colonising the Moon or even Mars (a man can hope) or they just don't care about space any more than their precious spy satellites. How does the entire "teritory" concept work in space? How can you attack in space and not get into a ground war at the same time? These are questions about things one might think do not affect us, but they do. From weather to global positioning, from TV to the Internetand the telephone, they all come through space. You have to imagine a world where space wars are common and plan ahead against it. We cannot color the sky, we can't afford to.