The boring rants of a lazy nerd

Friday, January 28, 2005

Fandom - Kokopelli writes more!

He posted a follow up to his excellent summer-after-5th-year story "The Letters Of Summer". I already said I prefer fic written by men, and John does it just right.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Commerce - Ripoff, take 2

Following my previous rant on the topic of hardware prices in Israel, AnandTech published a new mid-range guide so I've made another spreadsheet. Again: this does not describe a full PC, this isn't the best combination of parts (not even price/performance wise) for every task, and you should really talk with someone knowledgeable who isn't getting any of your money before buying anything. Prices include shipping (either in US or in IL, appropriately).
HardwareRecommended ComponentUS PriceUS price in ISLIL priceripoff rate
ProcessorAMD Athlon 64 3200+ 512K 2.0GHz 90nm for 939 (Retail)200974130025.08%
MotherboardMSI K8N Neo2 Platinum (NF3 250Gb)146711.02101029.60%
MemoryCorsair Value Select 512MB DDR PC-3200 CL2.5 x 2120584.4140058.25%
Video Card6600GT AGP 128MB GDDR32101022.711007.03%
Hard DriveSeagate 160GB SATA w/ NCQ105511.3567023.68%
exchange rate:4.87
Finding an AGP video card in Israel is near impossible, and the prices for RAM are really excessive. Also, vendors don't really publish (or know themselves, I kid you not) the correct full specs (or at least the correct SKU) for products, so it's anyone's guess e.g. whether that DIMM is CAS-2.5 or CAS-3. Zap still has problems following the hardware industry, or it seems like their analyst is really lazy - their list or models and features is always out of date, and they don't sort out parts into models all that well (meaning they let vendors lie). This time, the ripoff-rate is the markup for living here, instead of the proportion of local prices to US prices. Oh, and I have to say I'm impressed with the Mac Mini. Not enough to buy one, but still - If it had a G5, a gig of RAM, a 7200rpm hard drive and 6-channel audio (for double the price, let's say) - I'd be all over it.

Leisure Time - Fantasy

I'm a technical person, more specifically a computer geek. I'm good at it, and when I'm not depressed I like it a lot. I used to be hard sci-fi fan. For me, "hard sci-fi" is when the author makes efforts to explain faster-than-light travel, communications, weaponry etc. rather than just assume it all works the way to readership expects it to work and then carry on with the plot. In an imperfect world, the quality of an average product behaves by the rules of zero-sum economy: when you raise the mark on one parameter inevitably you lower it on another, e.g. in a tech-centric book the character development, dialogue and even plot will suffer. I didn't mind. And then I'd read Dune, and Hyperion, and Bujold's saga. So then I figured out, if I can not just stomach but enjoy a romance novel (I mean A Civil Campaign, and I'm sorry if I hurt anyone) - it doesn't matter if it's sci-fi. So now I'm half way through Dragons Of Winter Night. I'm not terribly impressed, but I'll save my review for when I'm done at least with the first trilogy (won't be too long I think). I now have two requests from my own (rather limited) readership:
  • Do any of you know of a decent official or fan artwork of Tika Waylan? (say it with me: duh)
  • What can you tell me (from personal experience, mind!) about not computerized RPGs, D&D style?
I'd really like to get some feedback. If anyone feels I'm neglecting to read & review on one's blog - it's true I've been slacking, but I do read, even if I don't comment.

Personal - regrets

Some people decide to live their lives with no regrets, sometimes because they believe "everything happens for a reason". I am not one of those people. I'm reading Paul Graham's latest essay, "What You'll Wish You'd Known", meant to be given as a speech to high school grads. My eyes are watery and I'm hitting the chair's armrest. The tragic thing is, even if it had been published six years ago and I was given it to read, I'm afraid it wouldn't have made any difference, because I'm not sure I was ready to "get it" then.

Monday, January 10, 2005

TV - Star Dreck

Enterprise-3x15-Harbinger. So, they finally undressed T'Pol. Ick.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Personal - observations

Maybe because I'm a geek, maybe because I'm an INTJ, or because I'm socially inept and thus a perpetual outsider, but I often find myself taking an anthropologist's stance with regard to my peers. It's elitist and lonely and kind of sad, but it's the way it is. Anyway, it's a well known fact that females travel in packs to the bathroom. Numerous explanations for this behavior have been suggested over the years, including but not limited to security and opportunity to gossip. Personally I believe the real reason is a combination of a number of them (you're invited to share your $.02). What I have noticed is something else peculiar about girls and the girls' rooms - they believe, on an unconscious level, that the grith they enjoy in restrooms and bathrooms applies to sound waves, as if the door is a portal to another dimension where only females exist, and no physical phenomena travel between the two worlds by means other than the door. I don't know how universal that is, but at work male and female bathrooms and restrooms often share the wet wall, and although the doors may be in opposite sides and far apart, the facilities themselves are in fact very close together, allowing for excellent sound transmission. Men are aware of this, but they don't treat bathrooms as absolutely private – either because it's an unwritten rule of men or maybe because the residual hunter instincts (part of the reason for stalking and voyeurism) caution them. So for the last two years I've unwittingly heard girls I don't know talk about their boyfriends, periods and all kinds of private things. During my last weekend on base I've also endured a horrible rendition of No Doubt's “Don't Speak” in the showers, which led to this post. Now, am I the only one to notice this?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Politics - Economic Freedom etc.

I'll have to think long and hard to formulate and express my beliefs on copyright, intellectual property, business, society and freedom but I'm too lazy to actually do it well and because I'm a perfectionist I won't publish anything that's not done "well" (a pretty high standard to live up to, since the net allows me to compare my work with the best and not just the neighborhood), like for example the three themes(1,2,3) of Tim Bray's OnGoing. So the same way I can't write the perfect fic myself but keep looking for it on archive sites, I can't express my beliefs but I can provide links. As you might know, I use Gentoo and Firefox (exclusively, at last!), and my blog is CC licensed (because I believe in the cluetrain and unprofessional journalism). I've reread Frederik Pohl's "The Space Merchants" and "The Merchants' War" twice, and each time was horrified to find it much closer to reality than fiction than I think it was when written (or maybe I'm just romanticizing). I don't particularly like RMS' very strong style and generally seem to prefer ESR's philosophy as more practical (as in my ability to make a living off the thing I love) but he has been proven right a few too many times, and The Right to Read has touched me. I deeply despise "lock-in" as a business strategy (a free iPod anyone?). Microsoft's and Big Media's attempts in recent years to become Big Brother unsurprisingly lead to P2P pirates becoming "cool" and denying the RIAA and MPAA their money seem almost noble. An ex-pirate myself, today I break copyright law only to watch already-aired episodes of TV series, but I sure do understand the motivation for resisting DRM and other things that make you not the boss of stuff you paid your hard earned money for. Various repeated anti-competitive behavior and aggressive FUD marketing campaigns as well as the revival of McCarthyism only strengthen people's willingness to support Google's "Don't Be Evil".

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