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December 9th, 2008

Transition

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I've always wondered why I tend to feel happier on cold gloomy days.  Quite serene overlooking undisturbed snow with a barely detectable smell of burning wood... stillness, no wind.  Listening to the echo of silence while observing the swirls of chaos as I exhale.  Cold has an inherent silence of the void about it, unlike the whispering, noisy tendrils of heat rising avoid the hot cement.  I await the winter.

July 13th, 2005

Doom's Day Machine...

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Been about a month since I picked up the latest Candlemass album. I never thought they would reunite after they split up in 1992, but they did. The album is awesome. As odd as it may sound, but I thought a few times in the last 13 years that I may never get to hear anything new by them and what they had/have is quite unique. Those not familiar with their music, it can be roughly described as a red headed step child of heavy metal and opera (not to be mistaken for the child of death metal and opera called Cradle Of Filth). Candlemass has an overwhelming singer that has a booming tenor and can sing without a microphone in a small club. The music is all doom and gloom in a melodic sort of way. All I can hope for is a US tour, but they tend to stay around Sweden most of the time, so it may never happen (at least Opeth made it to the US a few times; Opeth is like death metal meets Pink Floyd, then gets beaten with the Ummagumma stick).

Set the controls for the heart of the sun, I say :)

February 28th, 2005

Living on his own terms...

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"There he goes -- one of God's own prototypes -- a high powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die." - Hunter S. Thompson, 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'.

Just found out that Hunter S. Thompson "died" past Sunday, he shot himself in a very "calculated" way, he didn't want to deal with the pain of growing old, he was in pain, he made a decision, he was 67.

Sad say indeed.

February 9th, 2005

Freedom of libel

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Lately lots of media attention has turned toward bloggers (the stuff you are reading now). At Electronic Arts, a wife of an employee blogged about horrid working conditions and a class action lawsuit follow. A Delta stewardess was fired for her blog. And now at Google, a product manager blogged about his life and ordeals at his new job (with some complaints) and was promptly fired.

There is a fine line here between freedom of speech and libel. And most of it could be avoided if the employees read their contracts when they join a company. I know I didn't read all of it, so you won't see me here writing about my job. Some things are best kept out of the public's eye.

What makes bloggers different than someone standing at the corner complaining is data retention, you enter it and it will stay around for a long time and haunt you (ever check the WayBack Machine? scary stuff). If people go on "record" about their complaints and make obvious and direct accusations at a corporation that has too many lawyers on retainer, it's akin to rubbing yourself down with steak sauce and running into a hungry lion's den and doing the polka, the outcome is ugly any way you look at it. Even anonymity on the internet is questionable but too many people are lulled into a false sense of security (all your communication is based on your IP which is linked to your ISP and they have information about you and most are more than willing to hand it over, there are ways around it but to most it's a walk though a dark forest).

What made these unfortunate (or unwitting) bloggers stand out was their direct reference to their company and a traceable bits of information about who they are. I am sure they learned a lesson, but was it worth the aggravation?

July 16th, 2004

Drugs and schools

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We are living in a world of two opposing factions: the corporations, that are driven by greed and profit and the academia, that are driven by ideals and quest for knowledge.

If we ever expect to find a cure for cancer, I expect it to be in an academia based lab, pharmaceutical corporations don't want to cure it, they want to treat it, there is a lot more money in it for them.  If a cure is found, no doubt the corporations will try to put a hefty price on it. It's much more profitable to treat AIDS and collect money for the medicine than to cure someone and never receive a single cent from them again. This is immoral, but that's how a lot of corporations work.  They are big, inefficient and controlled by people who only look at profits.

The ends always justify the means.  And if ever they are found to be guilty of something, they just flat out lie that they did nothing wrong (even when there is irrefutable evidence showing otherwise), they hire lawyers and litigate the matter for years hoping to wear down the prosecution.  Large corporations are a disease on society.  When you have viral cadavers like Kenneth Lay, Michael Eisner, Dick Cheney, Bill Gates and even George Bush, who have a goal of making money without regard to how their actions affect the world.

I have no doubt that Bush/Cheney duo along with other "friends" involved fabricated evidence to go to war in Iraq so they can get more oil and make more money (is it a coincidence that both Bush and Cheney stand to gain from an oil business?)  The sad part is the number of lives lost on both US and Iraqi sides, mostly innocent people fighting for ideals.  The US soldiers in the war were sent to die so that people like Bush, Cheney and their friends can be richer, while most soldiers will return back (if they are lucky) to mediocre life and eventual poverty.  There are too many poor war veterans that fought for a cause they did not believe in (Vietnam, Korea, Iraq 1, etc).  The war with Iraq and Afganistan has created a new generation of terrorists, sworn to avenge the deaths of their parents, grandparents, relatives, neighbors and friends killed in a senseless war of greed.  Where are these so called weapons of mass destruction?

There are too many sheep in the world and the sheep aren't going to have any rights. So vote for a Republican Head named George and his vice of Dick, then return to grazing.  Your opinion is not needed here nor in the "white" house.

July 13th, 2004

The Master Of Sellouts

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or Ride the Corporate Lightning or ...And Lawyers For All.

You see what I may be getting at.  This was something that I have been disappointed with for a long time.  It all started with the Black Album and it has been a steady downward slide since then.  Picking up speed at the Napster trial and now yet again with their latest "movie" which should have been called "The mid-life crisis therapy video".  Hey they have ostracized lots of their fans, why not add to that?

It was 1985, I was into break-dancing, listening to Run DMC and Whodini.  Then a friend who was into break-dancing but was switching to metal and taking up electric guitar.  He played some Black Sabbath's Paranoid for me and at that point I realized that I had it all wrong.  Hip hop was cool, but there was a serious lack of depth in it at the time (it wasn't until Wu-Tang Clan in 1993 that I finally found rap with depth).  But now in 1985, I had discovered a whole new world of music.  So like any other novice I asked a friend in school to record some "heavy metal" music for me on an old, very low-fi audio tape (that is all I could afford at the time, it cost 50 cents at the deep discount store).

That tape contained Motley Crue's Shout At The Devil and Theater Of Pain.  This was all that I could get at the time, I listened to it on a mono cassette player that my parents got on a sale for 9$.  It wasn't a boom box, but I carried it around all the same listening to my metal tape.  Next time I saw my math guitarist friend, he played some Deep Purple and AC/DC and I was hooked.  I went to the deep discount store and bought 5$ worth of blank tapes and went over to my friend's house who had a 2 tape boombox and copies Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC and some Metallica.  Metallica's Ride The Lightning was an exceptional album and Master Of Puppet's that followed was just as good if not better.  Most of the metal heads passed tapes around of the music, bought t-shirts, posters, and went to the concerts.  The band was about the fans.  My friend's bought the tapes, I couldn't afford to buy them, so I bought blanks and copied.  (When I got a job in 1990, I bought lots of the music on CD which I had decaying away on tape, I have more than 600 CDs at this point, despite the recent boycott of the music industry).  I was spending 30-50$ a weekend buying music back then.  I would copy the music first to get an idea, and if I liked it I bought the whole CD, if not I recorded over it.

Back in the 80s, Metallica put out albums that had no bad songs on them.  I could listen to Hit The Lights, Ride The Lightning, Master Of Puppets, and even Garage Days, without skipping songs, it would loop for hours while we played D&D or with my Atari 400 with 32K of RAM (yep I got a good deal on the 32K expansion module from a guy who bought a 64K one).  I also went to about 6 Metallica concerts (they were still expensive at around 15-20$ a ticket, but I was able to scrounge enough money to go).  I would make copies of tapes for friends, who also got into the band and it spread.  Metallica back then didn't have much of a marketing department, just dedication to music and loyal fans.  Word of mouth worked wonders.

Then a bad thing happened, Cliff Burton (the bass player) was killed.  It was a sad time because we all felt he held the band together (as a good bass player should).  And Justice For All album had Jason Newstead as a bass player, but I didn't really like Flotsam And Jetsam and the new album now had few songs that were not too good and we all started making mix tapes of Metallica songs to skip over the uninspired songs.  But there were always concerts with older songs.  The new Metallica lost the drive they once had, but they were still a force to be reckoned with.

Then the Black Album came... how prophetic.  It had 2 good songs and the rest was crap.  We were all very disappointed that we bought the CDs and had to make mix tapes with 2 songs from this album, 4 from the previous and few for the trusty old ones.  It never got any better, they became one hit per album wonders, usually releasing a video and singles for the albums.  I got copies of every album, listened to them and promptly overwrote it with some other album.  The medium which got Metallica out to their fans was not also letting them see the sellouts for whom they really were.

Then came the dark blotch in the Metallica history, they sued Napster.  A service which would expose them as the lackluster, middle of the road, metal band they have devolved into.  People could no longer listen to their songs and decide if they wanted to buy the album, instead they wanted to push album sales on people based on one single/video leaving their fans with 9-12 crappy songs.  Once the Napster debacle started, I vowed never to buy another Metallica album/item/ticket ever.  Why support sellouts.

So here they are now, releasing a movie about mid-life crisis and group therapy they had during the making of their latest at-best mediocre album.

Metallica joined the ranks of artists that make 1 good song, then pad the album with fluff and try to sell you the whole album; there are a lot of those.  When RIAA decided to start suing people who share files I started my boycott of the record industry and have not bought any CDs since.  Occasionally I'll pick up a CD by an artist I know or have heard, but I no longer just buy albums based on one of two good songs.  That's about 50$ every weekend or about 2600$ a year easily that they will not be getting from me.  I don't want my money going to lawyer fees so they can sue people just like me, who are in it for the music.

May 26th, 2004

McProphet!

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Well we went to see "Supersize Me" yesterday and it's very much about what I wrote in my last entry. It's a movie worth seeing. I only eat fast food when there is nothing else available and that usually occurs once a month (on long driving trips). I also don't drink soft drinks (although after reading the ingredients of Jamba Juice, that is off my list as well). This all started when a doctor told me that I had 250 cholesterol rating years ago. This was a result of eating Taco Bell for 4 years straight daily since that was the only food near my college (the campus was in the middle of nowhere and the cafeteria closed at 5pm and vending machines only had stuff that had longer shelf life than me).

After seeing the movie, I realized that there is a lot of corporate pressure to sell this cheap crappy food to people and mask it as good, brainwashing the kids to some degree. I don't want to give too much of it away but it was definitely an amusing movie.

So now there are few things I look out for:
1. Partially hydrogenated oils/fats - the worst of the fats
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - designed in a laboratory in Japan in the 1970s
3. Fat-Free anything - that means that there is tons of sugar (mostly HFCS)

My things to avoid:
- Drink water and lots of it. If I want a soda I usually drink Fresca - there is nothing in here except mild flavor and carbonation.
- Avoid deserts. Empty sugar calories to help convert all that you ate before into stored fat.
- Avoid appetizers if you plan on eating an entree (there is nothing better than places selling you both appetizer and entree in most cases you will not be able to finish or consume more than you intended).
- Avoid sweet alcoholic drinks. Have a beer or two, it is not the best but way better than having some super sweet drink with barely any bottom-shelf alcohol (you don't think mixed drinks are made with anything half decent do you?) Have a few shots of tequila or vodka or scotch, cut out the middle man!
- Skip the mayo. It's egg yolks and oil mixed together, there is nothing good about this high fat spread.
- Don't eat anything deep fried. How is forcefully attaching fat to food good for you? I always ask if something was deep fried if it doesn't say how something was cooked.
- Walk everywhere you can and avoid elevators if possible. Even the smallest amount of excersize helps, the more the better.

Coming soon: How Starbucks uses additives in their coffee to addict you :)

May 24th, 2004

Sweet corporate lies

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Fat is getting a bad reputation thanks to the corporate marketing machines preying on the fear of the masses that being fat is bad. It is not health to be obese, but this whole addiction to thin, undernourished "models" is a wart on society. With so much money riding on diet plans, diet foods, and diet pills, it is no wonder that the corporate marketing machines will perpetuate lies to get paid. I have always believed in a statement: "Look at who has to gain and you will see why they are making a statement"; why would a corporation that sells sugar tell you that sugar is bad for you? They will lie and tell you that sugar is good, they stand to profit.

Some basics about metabolism, you body usually prefers to use simple sugars for energy since it is a path of least resistance (it doesn't need to convert fat or breakdown complex carbohydrates or proteins). So If given a choice of where to get energy simple sugar is always first, with rest being stored away for later use.

If you look at make "Fat-Free" or "Low-Fat" products you will notice that the sugar content is sometimes off the scale (as an example Jamba Juice drink averages about 120g of sugar for a regular sized drink). This much sugar is never good for you if forces your body to use it for energy and whatever fat you intake gets stores since it is not needed. The Atkin's people do this in the other extreme where they remove all sugar and force the body to use fat and protein for energy (this is very unhealthy as well, especially if you get sick and you are put on a dextrose drip). Staying away from extremes and manage your caloric intake is what is needed to keep your weight manageable. And most important, don't listen to the pop trends that want you looking a certain way, be happy as you are.

Fat is not the enemy (your body needs fat, your brain is mostly fat). Sugar is not the enemy either. Extremes are the enemy. Keep a balanced diet with low fat and sugar intake, it is sufficient for most people. Most important is to avoid fads and to avoid corporate lies (remember they don't care what you look like or how your health is affected as long as you keep buying their garbage and making their executives even richer).

March 12th, 2004

Short term gains...

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I can safely say that consultants and off-shoring suck. I have spent the last 15 days cleaning up code that our off-shore consultants wrote and we have to support.

The code has broken all sorts of records:

1. the most prominent is the total number of bugs on the date it was promised to be completed is twice of any project in the immediate history
2. the number of full-time employees needed to help meet the deadline
3. the number of projects impacted by poorly written code
4. the number of subsequent cleanup projects needed to cleanup this mess

Yes there you have it, consulting at work. Most of the engineers working on this are only a few years out of college (working for peanuts no doubt) and rest are from an off-shore country (literally working for peanuts). When you have people willing to work for so cheap, you get people that have very little experience in programming and they make all the classic programming mistakes that experienced programmers know how to avoid. To put it in perspective you have people with various non-computer science bachelor degrees writing and designing the code and people with a masters in computer science supporting it. There is something really wrong with this picture.

So the company saved money by out-sourcing it, but did they account for the number of hours that full-time employees will need to spend on it, or the number of hours full-time employees will need to spend on fixing bugs and cleaning up the code so it is half way decent. Of course not, it seems business school is teaching people about short term gain to make the quarterly numbers and ignoring quality of work and long term gains.

This is like hiring people who paint wall for a living to draw a replicate of the Sistine Chapel. Programming is an art and a science. There is a ten-fold difference between an average programmer and a good one, that's a huge gap. There is also a similar gap between an average house painter and Salvador Dali... you get the point.

February 26th, 2004

Relatively free

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By now most people have heard that Howard Stern show was pulled in 6 cities by Clear Channel Radio. Purely a knee-jerk reaction by corporate executives who worry that their undeserved, overinflated bonuses are in danger due to FCC fines. So to protect their assets they censor free speech. One can argue that it is a corporation and their purpose is to make money (mostly for large shareholders and executives, but I digress). Here you have a corporation based on free speech and the hypocrites are censoring what allowed them to be created in the first place. In countries where free speech does not exist, this corporation would not exist either.

We as a country are feeling diminishing rights on all fronts. Most are due to legislature that is set up to benefit those who contribute to the lawmaker and his backers pushing it though; the more dubious are the riders that are attached to legitimate bills that have nothing to do with the parent bill, they get passed and often overlooked but always benefit some political or corporate entity. You want to find out the real purpose for a bill, take a look at the elected official pushing it and his sponsors to figure out who is most likely to benefit; and ignore the commercials, commercials are mostly lies packaged for mass consumption.

The only thing we can do, besides feeling helpless, is to vote, in many cases against the greater evil and hope the lesser evil is not going to interfere with the country too much.
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