Lakes of Smolensk region

February 3, 2016 Leave a comment

Smolensk is a long way from any sea or ocean but we’ve got a bunch of lakes here. Some are small, others are very small, there’s a few relatively big ones. Non are too big though. Big here means like a few kilometres across.

But again, those are all relative terms. When I was a kid and was for the first time taken to the Spring Lake in Red Forest I thought it was big, there’s an island in the middle. It’s not really a lake but a pond. I imagine it used to be a swamp with a bunch of springs and they just put a dam in there and it filled up with water. The lake’s deep near the dam but on the other side of the island it’s so shallow you can walk across it.

My parents also took me to the so called Curved Lake. It’s also in Red Forest, only on the other side of the highway, closer to the Dnieper. During high water it actually becomes part of the Dnieper.

As I got older, we started going to other lakes, bigger and father away, like Quarries Lake in Olshya. There’s no real public transport there so the only way to get there is by car. It’s not really that big, but is considerably bigger than any of the lakes closer to the city.. And it’s deep too, sort of. Kasplya is even bigger and father but it’s kind of shallow, although the lake itself is fairly large and quite picturesque. It’s pretty old too, dating back to the last ice age.

Last but not least is Kuprino. We searched for it several years, never managing to find it but last year we did find it at last. It’s not really a lake but rather a large swamp. Most of it is overgrown with all sorts of vegetation and it’s really shallow, a paradise for duck hunters and fishing enthusiasts. There’s lots of all forms of life there and it’s fairly large too, but you can’t really swim in it.

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The move

February 2, 2016 Leave a comment

It was a relatively long time ago but I’ve always wanted to write about it.

My parents and I were living in this old apartment. It wasn’t particularly good, for example my room’s window looked out onto the street that had gotten quite busy lately, to the point where it was becoming uncomfortable. I started waking up because of the noise of the vehicles passing right in front of my window. I ended up getting a new plastic window. It cut down on the noise somewhat but still whenever a large truck would craw past, it felt like a minor earthquake.

One day these real estate agents turned up on our doorstep and said they had a guy who wanted to buy our apartment and converted it into a shop of some sort. My mom was against it but my dad and I were all for it. That guy then disappeared but the real estate guys hung around, the whole thing went on for almost two years and eventually they did find this other guy who bought our apartment and they also found us a different place.

Anyway the point is that for over a year we knew we would eventually move out of that old place and I remember how, whenever I’d be coming back to that old apartment I would imagine that we’d already moved and that I was only going back there because I’d forgotten we’d moved. It was just this weird game I played, because I thought I’d feel nostalgic about it. The thing is, though, that after we moved I never really felt particularly nostalgic about that old apartment until very recently when I had a dream about it, but again it wasn’t nostalgia for the apartment but rather for an earlier, somewhat happier time in my life when I was younger and more carefree.

Life is weird that way.

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January 20, 2016 Leave a comment

I had this dream during the day today.

I had to get up really early to do some work remotely.

I did some of it, made a phone call to talk about what to do next. once I knew that I figured I could have a nap for 30 minutes or an hour so I went to bed. I drifted off pretty quickly as I was sleepy.

It was one of those semi lucid dreams – I kind of knew I was sleeping, I also knew I had to get up soon to carry on with the work I took a break from, but in the dream I was in my old apartment, the one I grew up in with my parents and it was dark outside. I went into the kitchen as I wanted to eat something, there was our old fridge there and I opened it. I don’t remember what I got out of there. I remember, though, that I was surprised by how dark it was outside, I looked at my phone and saw it was 11.30 am so I figured it had to be light outside already, were we in the north or something, then I leaned over the table to look out of the window and looked to where I knew was south and saw the sky was light there.

It was a weird dream, it must have been the first time I’ve dreamed about our old apartment.

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Google sucks

October 5, 2014 Leave a comment

It would appear that despite their ambition to not do evil Google has finally succumbed to evil nonetheless.

Ok, here’s the issue – I have an English OS on my computer, but I live in Russia but I want to use Google in English. Issue number one is that when you do a Google search from your browser google takes you to your local google domain, in my case – WITHOUT EVEN ASKING ME.

OK, I found a way around that, there is a google chrome plugin that always takes you to and yet now I have to set my language settings to English several times a day because the damn thing keeps setting my language preferenc to Russia – again it doesn’t ask me if I want to use google in Russian, it just forces the Russian UI down my throat and the worst thing is that it FUCKING IGNORES MY SETTINGS – I’m logged into my account, I FUCKING EXPLICITELY SELECTED ENGLISH A THOUSAND TIMES ALREADY and yet GOOGLE KEEPS IGNORING MY CHOICE.

I need a place to vent. I’m not the only person having this problem. Go on google support forums – there’s people complaining about this shit from all over the world and GOOGLE JUST IGNORES US.

You write in those forums about how you’re logged in go into settings, select English but the damn google search reverts back to Russian and some fucktard intern from Google tells you to ‘log in go into settings and select English’ – that’s the level of their customer service.

Currently, in my book, Google is the MOST EVIL IT COMPANY IN THE WORLD.

Update: it turns out it wasn’t google’s fault after all. I’m the idiot in this little tale – when I was at parents’ place I logged into Google and never logged out. My dad ended up using my account and every time he went on google he changed the language settings to Russian. Logging out of my account on my parents’ computer has solved the problem. Sorry Google, you’re not all evil, sometimes evil is within us.

Categories: IT Tags: , ,

do we need yet another programming language?

It’s a rhetorical question in the title, of course but it’s not rhetorical in the sense that I know the answer to it, rather, it’s the opposite. 

This post is my delayed reaction to Apple’s recent release of Swift, a new corporate backed programming language that seeks to make programming for OS X and iOS easier and more accessible to newbies throuhg more consistent syntax. 

Of course Objective C is old and weird and what not, but still, I can’t help but wonder whether yet another programming language is really what is needed today given the plethora of programming languages we’re already swamped in. 

Swift may be a conceptually beautiful language and what not, but so was Java, supposedly, when it was first introduced. Then it evolved, accumulating features atop features and got kind of ugly and verbose. But I digress. 

Perhaps it’s silly but I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be really nice if there was just one programming language supported across all platforms and acrhitectures and if it was the only language you had to learn if you wanted to get into programming. It would probably have to be a lisp – homoiconic and highly extensible as it would have to be a Jack of all trades. 

And as for Swift, from the bits and pieces I read about it on the Internet it sounds very nice and all, however, it does feel like an attempt by Apple to tie down developers, sort of. Swift is bound to be more fun to code in than Java, because Java is old and bloated and Swift is new and hip. 

Should perhaps Google have gone with their own custom designed language when they rolled out Android? Although, they were probably using a different strategy, hoping to lure existing Java developers to the Android platform in which they seem to have succeeded nicely so far, despite the fact that from my own experience Android is a major pain in the ass to write native apps for. I have no experience with XCode but I assume it can’t possibly be worse than the mess that is Android SDK that looks like it’s been thrown together by a bunch of nihilist undergrads to get a credit.

Whatever, at the end of the day, the more programming languages the merrier, although it also means you end up with more mess all around than you could ever have thought possible. 

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There’s no such thing as gay rights, it’s human rights all the way

February 18, 2014 2 comments

This opinion piece I read the other day in the Guardian ( got me thinking.

Why do we even talk about ‘gay rights’ as something different and separate from ‘human rights’? Or about the rights of women, for that matter? Aren’t LGBT people and women human beings? Why should their rights be treated separately and somehow in a different manner than human rights in general?

As for this whole gayness issue, why all this talk about genetic predisposition? Hasn’t it been a well established fact for quite some time now that human sexual attraction can work in all sorts of wacky ways with both nurture and nature playing pretty much equal parts and that some people can happily swing both ways and that yes, sometimes it’s a choice when people just feel more comfortable doing it with a person of the same sex as them. So my question is so what?

Why should society, let alone government, be in control over what people choose to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms?

Russia’s going full tilt bat-shit crazy on these issues these days, once again serving as a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, providing an example of what you never wanna see happening in your own country.  However, what’s been going on in Russia these past few years is a brilliant illustration of how gay rights and human rights are in fact one and the same thing.

A lot of those self-righteous conspicuously straight people  who supported the Russian ban on gay propaganda both within and outside Russia ( yes it seems weird but I actually know in person a few of the latter) don’t understand the simple fact that when government starts telling gays what they can and cannot do and gets away with it, tomorrow it will be telling all of us what we can and cannot do, including in our own private personal lives and that is already happening in Russia: come this July lace underwear is going to be officially banned in Russia and the other Customs Union countries (Belarus and Kazakhstan). For that alone the Ukrainians must do everything in their power to try and escape the clutches of Putin’s suffocating embrace.  Run, Ukraine, Run.

But back to my point: when LGBT people are discriminated against in any way, it’s not a gay rights violation, it’s a human rights violation. There is no such thing as LGBT rights separate from human rights.  People must understand that we all have to speak out loud and clear against discrimination of LGBT people because when their rights are being violated, our rights, as humans, to do whatever we want to do between consenting adults are being violated too.

And as for how homosexuality is unnatural and all that: people, wake the fuck up: it exists, that pretty much means it’s natural, saying homosexuality is some sort of an aberration is like saying that whoever doesn’t like apple pie is a genetic aberration and must be stripped of their human rights. In other words, it’s just insane.

Geoblocking is evil

December 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Geoblocking is when you go to a website such as netflix and it tells you that the service is unavailable in your country, or worse still you go to a website such as amazon, and you want to buy something there so you add the item to your basket, go through the tedious process of filling out all the details to place an order with them, enter your credit card details and that’s when, they look at your credit card details and tell you the item you’re interested in cannot be purchased from your country.

Now I believe this practice is evil because it is a lose-lose situation. The vendor does not make a sale, the prospective buyer does not make a purchase – the question is who wins? I can’t see anybody standing to gain anything in this situation and yet what totally blows my mind is that nine times out of ten geoblocking is introduced and enforced by the businesses themselves – WTF?

The worst geoblocking offenders are companies that sell content or access to content. Netflix’s already been mentioned here, then there’s services like Hulu and the like. And then the media/movie companies backing them have the gall to go after people who share that content on the Internet. Again WTF? Are they really that stupid that they can’t understand that if only they removed their stupid geolblocking Internet piracy would probably go down by as much as 90%? These days the bulk of content that gets downloaded ‘illegally’ is comprised of TV shows that come out in the US and that people want to watch on the same day or the next day.  Now what totally escapes me is why the companies that hold rights to those TV shows won’t simply sell access to them globally through the Internet?

Those guys really love to compute how much money they lose every time somebody downloads their content ‘illegally’ but have they ever tried to calculate how much money they lose every time someone wants to sign up for netflix from outside the US and they’re told they can’t do it?

The Internet gives them access to the global market and yet, in a fit of irrationality, they say, ‘we don’t want that, we only wanna sell in these little local markets.’ Again I do realise that in a situation with a lot of small local markets there’s opportunities for price gouging, in theory, but again when we’re talking about digital content that’s so easy to copy I’m fairly sure that all that extra profit they make from price gouging gets eaten up by the loss they make when they refuse to sell content to people thereby forcing them to go and get it on torrents or P2P networks.

The question is what am I missing here? Could it be that all my assumptions are wrong and that it’s still more profitable to lose money on people who are forced to get your content ‘illegally’ but make up for that loss by selling overpriced content to a handful of dupes who don’t know how to use the Internet?  Because to me it seems like geoblocking is totally more trouble than it’s worth.

Movie companies often cite staggered release schedules as a reason for geoblocking but that’s BS, imho.

For one staggered releases don’t really make sense for countries that speak the same language. I mean what’s the point to releasing a movie two weeks later in the UK than in the US? Especially in our day and age when you can download the digital copies to all the movie theatres around the world simultaneously, seeing how modern movie theatres use digital projectors and all, it’s not like you’re going to be shipping reels of film by boat across the Atlantic.

And as for countries that speak different languages: ok before an American movie can be properly ‘released’ in Russia, for example, it has to be translated and dubbed but what’s the point to blocking access to the original English language version of the movie from Russia. Those people who can speak English in Russia and know how to use the Internet will be able to watch it in English anyway if they really put their mind to it before it gets released in Russia so why not just let them do it legally for a reasonable fee? And those that can’t speak English are going to wait for the official dubbed release because watching it in English wouldn’t do much good for them – again we come to the same conclusion, geoblocking does not make sense.

And last but not least, one more reason why geoblocking is evil is because it’s part of a rather ominous recent trend where vendors are trying to control their customers more and more. I.e. instead of doing everything they can to allow people to consume their products where and when people want, vendors, and especially media companies, are increasingly trying to dictate people when, where and how they are supposed to consume their content.  What I can’t understand is why these media corporations fail to realise the simple fact that people don’t generally like to take orders and they won’t take them. In fact that’s the main reason because the media market is collapsing: media companies are trying to force people to consume their content the old way, the way people bought and consumed it when it had to be sold on physical media, like CDs or tapes before that, but people will have none of that – and why should they do things the old inconvenient way when today we have lots of far easier and more convenient ways to access and consume content?

Categories: economics, IT, Politics