Alize Blogazine

I believe that the only way you can know which way to go is to look as forward as you can.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Collecting fruit stickers: how serious can this be?

Looking over … this is not even a hobby…
I’ve seen many websites that try to give “hobby ideas”. I guess searching your hobby in a list works as well as having a list with people names to choose your friend from.
In my opinion there are 3 rules to call something a hobby:

  1. You avoid naming the activity “hobby” to yourself. It’s some kind of little obsession or “passion”.
  2. When some practical guy asks you “What is the use of doing that?!”, you won’t give an answer. It does not mean there is no serious reason. It simply means that your main reason is that you love doing it. By the way, that guy is narrow-minded ;)
  3. You are actually going to learn interesting things from this activity but learning was never your main goal.
I’ll give an example. I collect fruit and veggie stickers. I must confess, I also collect the triangular labels from the cheese wedges since I was 10… Yes… these are two of my little obsessions.

What have I learned?
The number (PLU code) from the fruit stickers can actually reveal a very important thing
1. If it starts with 4 it is a normal veggie
2. If it starts with 8, it is genetically engineered
3. If it starts with 9 it is organic.
I am not the only software engineer under the sun… collecting fruit stickers and having this particular urge to collect small disposable things following of course two common sense rules:
The allure of like objects (that is, a set of things with similar size, shape, and whatnot) is difficult to resist. I am uneasy about the collector mentality, with its inevitable trajectory of ever-increasing sums spent on objects whose values are appreciated by a diminishingly small number of people. I can't stomach the idea of consumption as a creative pursuit. A more informal sort of acquisition - saving the disposable artifacts of everyday life - lets me satisfy the urge to collect. The rules for my fruit sticker collection are 1) each sticker must be unique (no repeats), and 2) the item of produce must be eaten by me.[Andrea Shiman- Fruit Stickers—The Overlooked Booty of the Lunchroom]
I tell you collecting fruit stickers is a serious thing… :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Alize on travel

What can it be more exciting then travel? Actually a lot of things (like computer games for some people :P)… but seriously traveling changes the way you think, your personality and somehow the vision about esthetics. There are all kinds of travel… but the way I see it…
There is weekend/opportunistic travel. That’s right. There is never time/ enough money to travel. It is never the right moment. Therefore, the philosophy is not to miss any occasion.

It is a big disadvantage with this approach: you visit everything in a hurry. You go and see stuff in a “veni, vidi, vici” style and meditate about it later. The advantage: you don’t have time to get bored. This is important. I always fear that one day I might say that I find travel some kind of exhausting effort and decide to stop searching for exciting places to go.

When I want to travel some place new (or an event) I go to Flickr and other similar web-sites to set up my expectations. There are all kinds of travel / tourist attraction sites but it seems to me that they always miss the essence. I’ve found other people’ travel photos so useful for so many times that I felt in debt to share my small collection in a public gallery too. :) I haven’t yet time to sort all of them but what I have ready is on my Picasa photo album.

So… here I am in WA State with a long list of cool things to do. About Seattle.. I like the I520 and I90 bridges when the traffic is not heavy… and regarding the Space Needle... I find it quite nice. When I see such a tower I remember the breathtaking feeling of being in Tour Eiffel’s elevator looking down over Paris at night. It simply worth doing this… New York is certainly an impressive urban experience but something with a medieval flavor like Brussels is more appealing to me. My all time favorite place is Brugge. This medieval city has cathedrals, old buildings, amazing architecture, daffodil gardens and even fairy-tail like windmills. Swans swim on the water channels and eat from your hand.

I think travel can help you choose the best place to live in. You have to see both awful and good shows to recognize a great one. I could never understand why a lot of young people say, “I hate living in Bucharest. Terrible city.” It is not that bad at all. It has beautiful architecture and nice parks; it has cleaner subways then Paris and New York, it is not that crowded and you have plenty of urban life. This sounds just nice to me.

I think it is nothing more rewarding and pleasant then mountain hiking no matter how strenuous the trail might be. The “let’s go to the mountain” does not mean sitting all day in a warm hotel-room enjoying the TV. It is such great feeling catching your breath while admiring volcanic lakes or waterfalls or an impressive belvedere. I must admit… exploring caves is even better for me!
I have a long list of mountain trails here around … and these are pretty much my plans for the next weeks. I hope we’ll have sunny weekends! :)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My movie ratings page

I guess it makes sense to post things in a place where the people interested in the subject can find and read them. I prefer rather then or because the critics are a little more exigent and reveal many truth and subtle aspects about the movies.

So, I've decided to rate movies on and here is my personal web page.

I'll try to rate mostly the movies that draw my attention somehow. I'll mostly rate the distinguishably good movies that I thing worth seeing. Sometimes I might also rate the intriguingly bad movies in contrast to the positive reviews from the critics.

Hope you'll enjoy my movie reviews and recommendations!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Norhwest storm. What to do / have on power blackout.

How was it? It was a pretty strange experience.
It started with a call “Honey you’d better hurry up home because a storm is coming”.
I went outside… expecting some wind and heavy rain... but what I saw in the dark was water flowing all around in the outside parking. Cold water was everywhere, freezing my ankles while I was running to the car. And then the poor car… had to make it to through some ugly mini-rivers and puddles along the road while I wasn’t able to see too much in front.
Then, at home, the power started to swing until finally went off. We went to sleep pretty confident that tomorrow morning we’ll have some hot milk or tea for breakfast. Well, actually, instead of that it was cold as there was still no electricity. No problem, let’s go to work. At the residence gate there was a fallen tree blocking the way out. Again ‘no problems’ I thought, the tree was old and didn’t make it. Let me take the other exit. And then the shock: as far as I could see on the street, there were no semaphore lights on! I must say it look pretty sinister to me. All I could see was a huge queue of cars; every intersection was now a 4 way stop…
Then we heard the big news: no power for the 1 million people. So, no power all around us at least for the day! Ok, what do we do? Some supermarkets were opened because luckily they were on generators. Of course, no cheese, yoghurt or ham, etc… as there was no power for the refrigerators. Cans, chips and biscuits were filling the baskets. So…we got some too… and joined the long queues at the cashiers.
Back home, it was getting pretty cold in the apartment and dark. I was kind of confused by the lack of news on the radio. A lot of annoying ads… and nothing I was searching for: where was electricity available so we could head that way to find an opened gas station? Well when the power is down this means: no stove, no refrigerator (we had to throw away most of the food…), no light, no heat, no hot water…and also no gas station opened because they need also electric power. Sad but true… With no gas, there is no way to go anywhere to get candles, batteries or any stuff that you need.

So I guess all this story is somehow a lesson learned. Here is what I think is relevant to do / have in case of a power blackout that seems to take more then a few hors:

  1. Whatever you need, there might be a lot of other people needing it also. Don’t count on finding it in the few opened stores.
  2. You can hear useful things from the people around rather than from the radio. (like from where you might find a propane camp stove or an opened gas station)
  3. What is good to have in this situation: candles and matches, a flashlight, working batteries, a radio running on batteries, extra blankets in the house…Having a car charger for the cell phone and for the laptop is handy.
  4. Keep just some lamp turned on so you notice when the power comes. It is recommended to turn off the appliances. This will protect them when the power will turn on and eventually have some high peaks.
Well, that’s about it. After two days the power is back on and we’re so happy about it!
I made no pictures as I consider that for this kind of stuff you must be a journalist to have the angle.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Why such bad reviews from the critics?!

I saw a few days ago Pirates of the Caribbean 1. I liked it, so I wanted to see the sequel. A quick look on the reviews warned us that it is not much to expect. The preparation for the Pirates of the Caribbean 3 "It is a disaster".
But the movie has a good box office against the all the critics:

For instance, one of moviedom's most influential critics, Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, put the smackdown on "Pirates," calling it "a hellish contraption into which a ticket holder is strapped, overstimulated but unsatisfied, and unable to disengage until the operator releases the restraining harness." Schwarzbaum gave the film a dismal D+ -- and look what happened.
What did the critics expected from the second part…a documentary about the pirate’s condition?! It usually helps me a lot to decide upon a movie starting from the critics’ reviews, so I trust them.
It was a first exception: Scanner Darkly. Interesting technique, great acting, incredible image editing but still, a movie that could last 20 minutes instead of 100. Not exactly something I appreciate. But it has nice reviews on Rottentomatoes.

Now, the second exception: The "Dead Man's Chest" has awful reviews but I’ve found it marvelous. I wonder if the critics watched objectively the movie or applied rule: "the sequel must be worse". The rules is true, disappointingly true about sequel of the "Lord of the rings", "Matrix II", "Harry Potter"... and perhaps many others. But this time, I think the sequel was so great. To me, was better then "The Curse of the Black Pearl"

"Dead Man's Chest" brings fantastic imagination. I loved to see pirates dealing with mythological forces rather then robbing ships. (Tia, the witch is kind of a Hermes and Dutchman reminds me of Poseidon)

Right now, I must say I can not have the same trust on what critics have to say about movies...
I read about an interesting declaration of Keira:
If kissing Depp wasn’t enough, Knightly also kisses Bloom during the film! She does, however realise how damn lucky she is saying: "It's like, wonderful, I can have feelings for both of these very beautiful men."
How else could it be, but having feelings for both?

Will is honest, brave and self-confident.
Jack Sparrow: So what's your plan?
Will Turner: I row over, search the ship until I find your bloody key.
Jack Sparrow: And if there are crewmen?
Will Turner: I cut down anyone in my path.
Jack Sparrow: [turns to Gibbs] I like it. Simple, easy to remember.

Jack Sparrow is Machiavellic, funny and surprising.
Elizabeth Swann: It's real!
Norrington: My God. You actually were telling the truth.
Jack Sparrow: I do that quite a lot. Yet people are always surprised.
Will Turner: With good reason.
Will Turner wins Elizabeth’s heart playing the handsome hero. *Captain* Jack Sparrow seduces her being mysterious and tempting:
Jack Sparrow: [To Elizabeth] One word love; curiosity. You long for freedom. You long to do what you want to do because you want it. To act on selfish impulse. You want to see what it's like. One day you wont be able to resist.
I think that curiosity characterizes the modern girl. The tale of the princess doing nothing but waiting to be rescued and loved is deprecated. It seems that the actors needed to make a declaration about this non- conventional fairy tale approach:
"I couldn't ask for a better kissing scene with Johnny Depp actually, I think my 14-year-old self was yelping with pleasure," the 21-year-old actress said. "It was fantastic! What more can a girl ask for? I've got Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom and I get to kiss both of them. It's wonderful!"

The declaration is 10 times more "yelping" if you read what Johny Depp has to say about the scene:
"Any kind of scene like that whenever you're doing that sort of thing, it's always unbelievably awkward, especially having met Keira when she was 17 years old," the 43-year-old actor said. "But regardless of that it's always awkward so you kind of just make light of it; she was a good sport and we just kind of did what we had to do, that's the gig.”
I can’t wait for the "Pirates of the Caribbean III". "Savvy?"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The best websites for airplane ticket reservations.

Over the last few years, many great websites have sprung up that offer outstanding airline travel fares that beat what most agencies and ticket brokers can offer.
These websites might seem a bit daunting at first look, but once you get comfortable and realize how to navigate it and how to submit your questions, you'll no doubt be able to enjoy outstanding airline travel fares in a relatively short time. Here's a quick peek of what you may see from a typical travel website.

Finding The Best Airline Travel Deals By Morgan Hamilton
I am sure that all the above is true… but...
What does everyone want when searching an airplane ticket?
Well, to optimize the price subject to the departure date time and the traveling duration.
Optimizing the price is practically optimizing the date when you make the purchase and the flight schedule.
It matters a lot how is your schedule constrained by departure hours, month or trip duration and between what airports you are traveling.
And there it is: an optimization equation with a lot of variables!

Make the reservation too early or too late, have non-flexible traveling hour or try to minimize the trip duration, prefer a certain airport from your area and the price doubles… There is no magic solution, no know it-all searching tool, no way to say "yes I did see all the possiblities and there is my best choice"!

Most of the traveling sites do not allow aggregators to use their search results. Their Terms of Use forbid the use of robots / crawlers. You should not develop one even for a personal use to optimize your travel over a largely flexible time schedule.

This is why, buying some plain tickets online is not something to I enjoy so much. I do like heuristic algorithms /approaches but not when I talk about money and time spent in airplanes and airports.
The truth is I’ve find some nice features on some websites that significantly reduced my frustration:
  • autocomplete my travel request on the most popular airplane tickets sites bookinbuddy. This is a great work-around for the aggregator restrictions.
  • aggregate with one search data from as many websites as possible: this is kayak.
  • let me sort after trip duration, and then narrow the results by price or the departure/ arrival hour: kayak again.
  • optimize the search around departing date and hours. The best place to do this: orbiz. It shows a nice table with a few days before and after.
  • have the option of searching the nearby airports (expedia and kayak again)
There is a lot of room for improvement. I wish I had the possibility when choosing the departure hours to choose my own departure interval rather then a fixed hour or some general option like noon evening, etc.

I wish things could be more transparent as I only spent more time to search for the same thing.
In the end, of course everyone is patient when saving many hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cainele vagabond, parazitul sfant al Romaniei

Am citi de curand un interviu cu Radu Georgescu, "Romanul care i-a vandut un antivirus lui Bill Gates". Excelent interviul.
Una din intrebari, fara legatura cu IT-ul... mi-a trezit amintiri vii:

«-De ce va este teama in Romania?

-De cainii vagabonzi.

Da... le e teama multora dintre romani. Si mie.

Merg acasa. Trec prin parcul de leagane. O mama tipa la un copil care se joaca in nisip. A pus mana pe un r*** uscat de caine. Trec pe langa spatiul verde din fata blocului. Ah pute pute a hoit… iar a murit un caine in boschet. Da, uite muste. Trec prin tronson… muste si r*** de caine de nu stiu pe unde sa calc. Au vecinii caini si pentru ca ii scot prea tarziu… nu mai ajung sa faca in parcul de leagane in nisip… si isi dau drumul in tornson. Iar muste, iar pute. Cinci-sase caini stau la intrarea blocului si maraie. Imi atin calea. Trebuie sa stau calma si sa ma uit in alta parte. Nu am mancare la mine asa ca poate scap. Ma chinui sa intru in propriul meu bloc, in propria casa. Urc in bloc. Un caine la parter pe pres. Un caine la Etaj 1 pe pres. In fata usii sta o cutie de conserva cu resturi de mancare care put. Nu e nimic, oricum pute peste tot a excremente si a caine jegos de tomberon. Nici nu ma agit sa gonesc cainii din scara. Oricum ii baga iar la 12 noaptea vecina. Femeie buna. Intru in casa. Aud ceva care s-a pleostit de frunzele copacului din fata geamului. Sunt bucati de paine inmuiata in mancare prelingadu-se. Acum si copacu e imputit. Asta e, a aruncat vecina de la 4 mancare la caini. Bine ca nu m-am trezit cu un os unsuros in cap. Ce tare e vecina!... nu mai trebuie sa duca gunoiul plus ca a facut o fapta buna. Deci sa ma culc. E cald. Deschid geamul. Nu pot sa dorm… latra cainii. Or sa adune sobolanii de la subsol resturile aruncate. Cainii se pare ca au treaba sa latre si sa schelalaie.

Cred ca este perceputa gresit libertatea si protectia animalelor.

In Bucuresti, lucram prin Pipera. Cel mai greu a fost sa intru in cladire cand am avut interviu. Apoi am invatat sa vin la ora optima, dupa ce oamenii buni hraneau cainii. Cand sarea la cate un nefericit haita faceam ca toata lumea... ocoleam scena.

In ianuarie 2006 un om a murit in plin centrul Bucurestiului, atacat de un caine vagabond. Nu a fost nici primul, nici ultimul incident grav. E incredibil ca tot ce s-a intamplat a fost ca milioane de romani sa ridice vocea in apararea cainilor vagabonzi. Vor sa se cheltuie sume uriase pentru vaccinare si castrare ca sa fie iar retrimisi pe strada!!! Sunt aproximati 200.000 de caini numai in Bucuresti. O astfel de campanie e deja imposibila. In timp ce cateva sute de cadre specializate castreaza cateva mii, restul se isi dubleaza numarul in cateva luni.

Sunt zeci de specii pe cale de disparitie, padurile sunt defrisate, dar pentru astea nu are nimeni bani... Oameni atacati, cosuri de gunoi rasturnate de cainii flamanzi, purici, zapada in parcuri plina de r**** de caine, lesuri de caini calcati sau nu de masini = peisaj romanesc urban.

Planul cu castrarea si repunerea in libertate e ca si cum cineva ar dori sa interzica otrava de sobolani, sa ii adune pe toti sa ii castraze si sa ii vaccineze. Sobolanii sunt la fel de “folositori” si se inmultesc cu acelasi succes ca si cainii vagabonzi.

M-a muscat odata un caine vagabond si mi-a dat sangele. Nu a latrat, a venit din spate, fara avertisment si a sarit direct sa muste. M-am dus pentru vaccin anti-tetanos. Era coada. O femeie cu o fetita in brate cu mana sangerand. Mi-am amintit cu tristete de urmatoarea parere caraghioasa: “Numai pe oamenii rai ii musca cainele. El simte omul.”. Absolut. Politia de pe tot mapamondul e incompetenta. Folosesc ei cainii pentru depistat urme dar asta e nimica toata. Detectorul de infractori ar fi o haita de caini vagabonizi flamanzi. Suspectii sunt pusi la zid. Cei la care sar cainii sa ii muste sunt omenii rai. Da da da, cainii vagabonzi sunt cei mai buni psihologi si clarvazatori. De altfel si pe politisti ii latra cainii. Oameni rai! Si oamenii care merg pe bicicleta sunt tot oameni rai. Si cainii care latra la masini... simt oamenii rai din masina. Clar!

M-am gandit de multe ori sa infiintez o organizatie de educare si trezire la realitate in privina cainlor…dar am renuntat intelegand ca nu sunt destui adepti. Oricat as incera sa imi inchipui pana unde se va merge... simt ca imi depaseste imaginatia... Cred ca inspaimantatoarea moarte a omului de afaceri Hajime Hori a adus o pata de nesters Romaniei.

Am gasit pe unele forumuri cateva pareri care mi-au trezit sperante. Nici in EUROPA si nici in USA, eu nu am vazut caini vagabonzi. Si e o idee buna. Cainii abandonati de stapani care nu gasesc adoptie sunt eutanasiati. Are cineva o idee mai buna? Care?