January 30, 2004

Outsourcing: NOT Our Own Damned Fault

Robert X. Cringely writes:

When It Comes to Understanding Why Government Doesn't Understand High-Tech and Why Financial Markets Seem to be Working Against Our Own Interests, Well, We Did It to Ourselves

This is one in a series of his excellent articles regarding outsourcing 1|2|3|4|... He is right to the point (as always), but I do not agree that oursourcing is "our own damned fault". Below is my response:


I aplaud your comments on technology and outsourcing. You should keep on putting them forward.

However, I don't think you understand the problem. The problem is the capitalistic nature of our society, not outsourcing.

Imagine you could travel back in time to ancient Roman times with your current knowledge of sociology and technology. If you awake in Rome as a slave, there is (almost) nothing you can do about gaining freedom or preventing the fall of that civilization. You would perfectly understand the political, economic, and sociological forces behind slavery, but could do nothing about it without freedom.

Travel in time to the age of Great Depression and wake up there as a poor worker. You would know exactly how industrialists and bankers ravaged the economy to their own detriment, but you could do nothing about it without capital.

Fast forward to current society. You know exactly how 401(k) funds, banks, CEOs and politicians rob us to their own detriment, but you can do nothing about it witout a lot of capital and a lot of political influence.

In my opinion, the best you can do is try to educate population about one tiny problem, such as outsourcing. If there is very many of us doing that, we will still achieve nothing, but at least we will be content that we tried..



Posted by laza at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2004

Cuban healthcare and education

Philip Greenspun writes: "[in spite of] universal health care and an excellent public education system ... Cubans are dirt poor. ... but really you'd think that the Cubans, being so well educated and blessed with a large and fertile country, would have done better for themselves. Perhaps politics do matter, a sobering thought as Election 2004 sweeps across the U.S."

In spite of the U.S. embargo, and the great distance to USSR and Europe (which effectively increases the cost of Cuban goods dramatically), Cuban standard of living and public safety is higher on average than in other countries of the region. They have been lucky that there was no direct U.S. military influence as in Guatemala, Nikaragua, Colombia, Haiti, Panama...

In the same post, Philip talks about "the [Colon, Panama] city's largely black population lives in rotting buildings". In Cuba, turists can go accross the country and sleep anywhere under the open sky, without fear of being mugged.

Coming from Serbia, and talking to Russian friends, I know that the bulk of the population of the ex-Socialist countries yearns for old days when Coca Cola and Levi's were very expensive, but jobs, healthcare, and schools were stable.

Alas, human beings always yearn for the things they do not have. And rightfully, given the choice of either freedom in poverty or luxurious captivity, they inevitably choose freedom.

Posted by laza at 01:37 PM | Comments (3)

The funniest bottled water

From e-mails exchanged last year between David Armstrong, a former English teacher, and employees of The Coca-Cola Company.

This is by far the funniest post of this year so far.

Posted by laza at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2004

Chain Letter Responses

A fabulous pre-written chain letter response is written by Dilbert:

I recently received your chain letter. Over 1,000 people have sent me chain letters, and every one of them has died within six months, probably from the "Chain Letter Sender's Curse." You will probably die soon if you experience any of the following symptoms: 1) Tiredness at bedtime, 2) Hunger just before lunch, 3) Inability to remember your license plate number, or 4) Stupidity.

Also, Death To Chain Letters site has a bunch of funny responses.

Posted by laza at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

Response to JDBGMGR.EXE hoax

Every once in a while I receive forwarded hoax e-mails. This hoax can be rooted out by educating gullible computer-phobic computer users. Here is a letter you can reply with:

Posted by laza at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2004

Windtalkers' White Brothers

I recently saw Windtalkers, a World War II movie about a Marine assigned to protect another Navajo Marine who uses his native language as an unbreakable radio cypher.

When the movie came out, it raised some controversy because Sgt. Joe Enders (Caucasian) is given orders to kill his Navajo protectee "windtalker" private Yazee to prevent the "code" from falling into enemy hands. Needles to say, U.S. military denied ever giving such orders.

I wanted to see the movie for a long time, but did not want to pay for it. War movies in the U.S. are usually funded by the military, and in return they have to be a kind of a commercial it. I did not feel like paying to see an ad for increasing an overblown Pentagon budget. Luckily, the movie came into my local library.

[As an interesting aside, U.S. military refused to fund Francis Ford Copolla's Apocalypse Now because of one sentence - where Martin Sheen is given an order to liquidate insane Col. Kurtz.]

The movie shows a bus load of Navajo Indians laughingly, merrily going to enlist. When they arrive to the training camp, Yazee says something in Navajo language, and the vigilant translator puts into subtitles as: "I have never seen so many white brothers in one place" (emphasis mine). In light of the slaughter of Indians (Native Americans), and their miserable treatment afterwards, I could not believe that Navajo Indians call cowboys "white brothers". Any Navajo's, please advise.

Yazee is very eloquent at describing the mistreatment of Indians through history, topping it off with a personal story: as a kid, he was locked up for two days in the basement of his Catholic church for speaking Navajo. Now, that language was his greatest asset in the military.

The movie has decent special effects, and a bunch of Rambo-style shootouts. Airplane fly-overs seem too crisp, smelling of computer generated graphics too much. Bullets are authentically whizzing and poking holes in soldiers splashing blood all over. Very kung-fu like knife fight choreography (Navajo vs. Japs) is identically repeated 20 minutes later, with the same camera angle. The final run with the enemy behind the back shooting poor Nicolas Cage at least 17 times seemed a bit ridiculous - kids might believe this kind of bullet-dodging moves, but even they do not have patience to watch it for so long.

Otherwise, the movie is quite watchable, and gives a balanced view of glory and hardships of a soldier's life. The best moment of the movie comes when a Marine who picks on Yazee from the beginning repents, extrapolating the arch-rivalry of cowboys and Indians: (paraphrasing) "maybe in 15 years we will be together with Japanese..." Very funy and intelligent.

Posted by laza at 09:20 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2004

Canon PowerShot SD10

My sister got a Canon PowerShot SD10 for Christmas. Due to high demand, the camera actually got in mail a couple of days ago. I must say that it looks really sleek: it is small, but heavy with metal feel in hand. I don't like "weightless" disposable cameras because they feel like a toy, and are easily destabilized.

The camera is boxy, with rectangular edges. There is a trend today to make free-form gadget moded in blobs of plastic. I don't find this Flash Gordon style appealing, and it is harder to pack, box and stack (design tip: medical devices should have slanted or round tops that cannot be used used as coffee cup holders by doctors and nurses - untimely spilling of hot dark liquid over user interface and IV tubing could wreak havoc during treatment). SD10 has a chain-ring slightly sticking out, but still looks nice.

The resulting pictures do not look impressive - as is expected from the miniature lens. Still, I am thinking about buying it as an easy to use camera for carrying around on trips, performances, parties, etc.

Posted by laza at 04:33 PM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2004

The Duality of Roads and Walls

Humans percieve roads as lines that connect two points of interest (e.g. cities), whereas wildlife animals percieve the same roads as walls that separate parts of their habitat.

Building a road cuts a wildlife habiatat into two halfs. The total number of animals is not affected directly by building the road. However, each half has its gene pool halved, which tremendously decreases their ability to resist diseases, famines, droughts, wild fires, etc.

Topologically, humans see a line linking two points, and animals see a line separating two half-planes. The more dense the roads are, the smaller are the patches of land delineated by them. Every time I travel hundreds of miles of the United States roads, I think about this duality. I wonder how the so many deer manage to survive in so dense network of North East.

Posted by laza at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2004

Getting Engaged for New Year's

Two friends from work have just got engaged (to their respective boyfriends) during this past New Year's celebration. Both were on vacation trips for the Christmas holidays. What are the chances of that happening in an office of 9 people?

Posted by laza at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2004

Compile Your Own Binaries...

I got an e-mail response from the author of SWin Ruby library (see my yesterday's blog). He uses Cygwin version of Ruby, so thus he is neither maintaining nor publishing native Windows libraries. There is a link to the Cygwin version of the binary library, so my rant was misdirected.

[Here is the i386msvcrt version of the library taken from another distribution: swin.so. Copy it into $RUBY_HOME/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/i386msvcrt]

Which leads me to another point. Many developers on Windows opt for working under Cygwin because they cannot afford Microsoft's compilers and tools (and they don't want the bootleg copies). Anyway, Microsoft Visual XYZ tools might be soon (are already) obsolete, and here is why: With all the Pentium and Opteron microprocessors, it is now possible to make fast-enough software using interpreted languages (Java, Perl, Ruby) that make developers much more productive. When using dynamic languages which are not strongly typed (Lisp, Perl) todays IDEs cannot help much with auto-completing method names because the type of the variable is not known at 'compile' time. Help on method names usually returns several or dozens of responses ('length' is used for Strings, Hashes, Arrays and many other classes).

The IDE tools will have to become much smarter, having global knowledge of the application and tracking flow of objects from creation through all the methods. Or maybe the developers will stick to the decades old technologies of Object Oriented programming (from 1970's).

Posted by laza at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Compile Your Own Binaries - Because You Have Nothing Better to Do

Trying to learn more about OLE and Windows Automation. There is a nice free software tool Simple OLE Browser that displays interfaces, and it requires SWin library for Ruby.

Instead of publishing the SWin DLL, the author of the library says: "You can make this DLL with a C compiler. (recommended)". So we should dash out $1,000 for Visual C++, or spend two days downloading and installing cygwin/gcc/make trying to compile this little library. As if we have nothing better to do.

Needles to say, I tried compiling and it fails the link step with '72 unresolved internals'.

Some free source contributors would like everyone to review their code and hand compile it. And this gives free software (and Linux) bad name for being hard to use.

Posted by laza at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2004


My friend Boris, carried by a patriotic fervor, found another Serbian word that entered English language: slivovitz. It joins paprika, and the most famous vampire. Serbian cultural imperialism at work!

Posted by laza at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)


Recently I stated that I do not believe in the effectiveness of Acupuncture/Shiatsu, and a friend labeled me as a "Western person" - one wanting instant gratification.

Although I am not aware of any scientific studies that support or disprove the effectiveness of 'body energy flow/pathways/points', I do not deny that these might exist. Future science might discover the mechanics of these elusive techniques. However, I believe that acupuncture and shiatsu are used today mostly like snake oil. Ill, poor, unfortunate, and in general unhappy people have always been the target of unethical health professionals. Many of the healers actually believe in their powers: read about 'Bullet-proof' man shot dead).

My friend Djordje /'jorje/ who learned about Shiatsu agreed, but still said:

Dj: I now realize you are a "Western person". You want instant gratification and instant effectiveness.
Me: So you mean I have to be treated for a year before feeling the effects?
Dj: Here he goes again! It is not a year, or month, or any definite period. You have to practice it throughout your lifetime.

I agree - I am a "Western" person. When I was a kid, I thought that all Chinese live in Kung-Fu monasteries or practice Ninja art. Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon opened my eyes and showed me that Orientals are as cowardly and dishonest as the Westerners are.

Anyway, another friend told her Chinese co-workers that she went for an acupuncture diagnostic treatment:

Chinese co-workers: So, what did he say? What is wong with you?
She: He said that my kidneys are not well.
Chinese co-workers: That is what they always say. There is always something wrong and you should come for another treatment.

Posted by laza at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2004

The Power of One

The New Year is here. Happy New 2004. A bunch of us went to Barbés in Brooklyn to listen to Zagnut Circus Orkestar. A small room could accomodate about 50 people crammed together so dancing was not an easy feat to perform.

Along came our friend Boris. He single-handedly converted quiet swinging bodies in the room into lively kolo-dancing, jumping crowd.

People tend to look up to one person that shows outstanding talent and leadership. One person can easily turn a boring gathering into a success party. A single person can remake a country (Ghandi, Ataturk, FDR, Hitler, Lenin). That made me think of Asimov's Foundation, where behavior of millions of people can be predicted mathematically, as long as no individuals are outstanding enough to decide the fate of the whole planets by themselves. People tend to organize in such ways that individuals or few can always influence the lives of many. Thus, I am not sure that the premise of the book is realistic.

Posted by laza at 03:55 AM | Comments (0)