The World is Flat.

May 31, 2008

by Thomas L. Friedman.

When I first heard about this book it was not amongst my priorities (for me, economics == boring). But after hearing recommendations from two different sources, I decided to give it a try. I ended up listening to the audio version instead.

What I liked:

  • Good answers to questions like:
    • Why does India have some of the best programmers?
    • Why are most of my gadgets made in China / Taiwan / Malaysia?
    • Why does Amazon.com not ship electronics to Moldova?
    • Why do I find it strange that my parents expect their employer to keep them hired for life?
  • The author really did his homework. You wouldn’t expect to be finding Linux references in an economics book, would you? (That’s just an example.)
  • Good thoughts to consider about the positive side of globalisation. The few globalisation critics I have asked couldn’t give me a good answer to what’s so BAD about it.
  • Although written from an American point of view, the book contains enough ideas for people in the third world to be worth the read.

What I liked less:

  • It is written in a very repetitive (self-help-like) style. To avoid falling asleep I listened to it at 1.3x speed
  • This is not the author’s fault, but there doesn’t seem to be a definite way for countries like Moldova to really get into the “flat world”. India made it, but it seems like we have neither their optimism nor their hard-work genes…

This book has convinced me (yet again) that this is the perfect era to live in, and that technology and globalisation are solving more problems than they are creating. The world is moving in the right direction, and there is no point turning towards the past and swimming against the current.

A quotation from the final chapter:

When memories exceed dreams, the end is near.

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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

May 30, 2008

by Gabrielle Zevin.

After the great first few sentences, I honestly expected more from this book. I liked how it was split into three parts (I was, I am, I will). But there is not much in there besides this. The ‘why’ behind many parts of the story is unclear, in fact ‘luck’ has more to do with it than I would have liked. The novel is an artificial and didactic (which I hate) story about putting ones past behind and becoming a better person. It also contains a bunch of references to movies and music, which perhaps I’d look up if I liked the story more.

Some quotes:

  • […] listen for the pauses when you want to know if someone’s hiding something.
    2/44:45
  • I was worried that you had gotten a bit, well, cynical […]. I wanted to remind you about romance. It was probably a stupid notion — a sixteen-year-old who’s not an expert on romance ought to be brought to a lab and dissected.
    3/16:45
  • Ask two people to tell you anything, you’ll get two versions.
    3/17:55
  • Screw the past.
    4/14:00
  • I think it’s in somewhat bad taste to give an amnesiac a blank book.
    4/23:40
  • It’s when you don’t need something that you tend to lose it.
    5/43:15
  • But the good thing about art is that no one necessarily knows what you mean by it anyway.
    6/11:10
  • They should tell you when you’re born: have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel.
    6/52:15

Pădurea Spânzuraţilor

May 28, 2008

de Liviu Rebreanu.

O carte care imortalizează fricţiunea dintre sine şi lumea exterioară, prezentând drama lui Apostol Bologa, suflet distrus de realitatea războiului, rupt între datorie şi patriotism, ros de “tirania gândurilor” în singurătate; dar care în sfârşit îşi găseşte împăcarea în iubire şi credinţă. Romanul începe cu o presimţire, dezgroapă din trecut o cauză, iar apoi redă cu dureros detaliu rostogolirea în jos a unei vieţi, în acelaşi timp găsind o cale pentru emanciparea spiritului. Deşi se ciocnesc, se sparg şi renasc în fundal, diversele frânturi de filozofie (judecata, vinovăţia, iertarea, religia) nu duc — poate intenţionat — spre nici un răspuns definitiv. În schimb, în minte răsună metalic cuvintele reci, “îmi fac datoria.”

Autorul m-a impresionat prin bogăţia stilului. Pe fiecare pagină se ascund diamante ale expresiei şi ale emoţiei. Este primul roman românesc care mi-a plăcut cu adevărat. Doar două dintre diamantele mai sus amintite:

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Shortcut: Delete an Entire Word

May 27, 2008

Before I began using VIM I didn’t care much that my typing habits were very inefficient, but now I’m looking everywhere for possible optimizations

There are two simple shortcuts that work on KDE, Gnome and (AFAIK) even Windows, and that will probably become second nature once you start using them. Perhaps they are regarded as common knowledge, but I’ve only stumbled across them this year.

Ctrl+Backspace deletes the last word.

Ctrl+Delete deletes the next word.

And of course Ctrl+W in bash (as in VIM) is very useful when the length of your command gets out of control.


Freak

May 21, 2008

I’m such a freak.

I thought you were happy.
I thought you had a girlfriend
and you had money
and that made you happy.
I was wrong.
I’m such a freak.

I thought you were happy
and I thought I envied you,
or perhaps I really did.
But not anymore.
I was blind.
I’m such a freak.

We went to a pub.
You drank.
I didn’t.
You said I was missing out.
Maybe you’re right.
I thought you were like me.
I’m such a freak.

Peer pressure.
Fuck it.
Fuck you all!
Hate me!
I hate you too.
I’m such a freak.

Every time I’m supposed to be happy,
I think of some part of my life which is not OK.
I thought,
I’m such a freak,
I don’t know how to be happy.
But you don’t know either.
Oh wait,
you do.
C2H5OH.
But that doesn’t work for me.
I’m such a freak.

The smoke stung my eyes
and I felt like I wanted to cry.
Because I wasn’t like you.
Because I never could be.
Because I felt more alone than ever.
I’m such a freak.

I don’t understand.
Show me an adult that’s happy.
Really happy,
not just a mask
like you.
Or me.
Is this the big lesson in life?
The final revelation?
“Congratulations, you’ve come to the end of the line.
There’s nothing for you to see here.
Now you die.”
Congratulate me,
I’m such a freak.

Right now I’m sitting on a chair.
My breath is shallow.
My butt hurts.
And sad music is in my ears.
And I’m writing this freakish poem.
Which is not even a poem
but some kind of hate speech
or a confession
or a cry for help.
I’m such a freak.

And maybe I’ll delete everything I wrote
or maybe I’ll throw my laptop out the window
or maybe I’ll throw myself.
Then maybe I’ll somehow stop being
such a freak.

Clint Mansell is a genius.
And I’m thinking of a drama.
Someone else’s drama.
And how easy it is to feel compassion.
And how hard it is to express it.
And what good does compassion do,
when everybody else just makes fun of you.
(Nineteen Minutes taught you nothing.)
I feel like tapping you on the shoulder
and saying
“Don’t worry —
they’re all idiots.”
But I can’t do it.
And maybe that’s not even true.
Like you,
I’m such a freak.

An idiot and his “social skills”
and his way to laugh loudly
go a longer way
than a freak with his compassion.
This world is so unfair
and it makes me want to cry.
I’m such a freak.

I didn’t know you smoked.
Is it wrong to hate you for doing it?
I feel like I’ve been lied to.
But I saw you
simulating pleasure
as you drew in smoke.
Then throwing your head back
and simulating pleasure again
as you opened your mouth wide
to let the smoke out.
Eyes narrowed.
A superior smirk on your face
as you tapped the thin cigar
(I always thought they were for women)
upon the ashtray.
It was so fake.
Aren’t you disgusted?
Are you all blind?
Or am I
such a freak?

I know.
I do that too.
I try to look cheerful on the outside
and normal
and composed,
when inside my guts are boiling.
That’s why I’m so afraid
of showing my real self,
because everyone will hate me then.
And I’ll be even more
of a freak.

That’s why if you meet my eyes
and I don’t know you
and I’m not somewhere familiar,
you’ll likely see anger on my face.
Because anger is easy to muster.
Because anger is better than fear.
No I cannot afford to show fear.
Or you’ll all know
that I’m such a freak.

That’s why I have S.A.D.
(or at least I think so)
in a mild form
and I never told anybody.
Because that would be
scientific proof
that I’m such a freak.

That’s why I jump if you touch my back.
That’s why I want to hide my face all the time.
That’s why I don’t have a cellphone
and I dread calling you up.
That’s why if you point at me
and laugh
I’ll probably swallow it
and get out as fast as I can
and feel bad all day
and listen to Katatonia.
Like a freak.

That’s why girls are a different species
and I don’t have a definition for “friend”
and like Joel in Eternal Sunshine,
I fall in love with every woman I see
who shows me the least bit of attention.
I’m only brave
when I am alone.
And books are my closest friends.
What a freak.

But I digress.
(Or maybe a digression
is the best way
to make you understand
this hate speech
or confession
or whatever,
and that’s why
I’m going to make this sentence
longer by three words:
one two three.)
This was about you,
and how you make me feel.
I don’t care if you read this.
In fact, I hope you do.
I’m not sure why.
I’m such a freak.

You drew the line some place else.
And I don’t blame you
as long as it makes you happy
(whatever that means).
In fact you almost convinced me
that you’re right and I’m wrong
like so many other times.
But I never learn,
because I’m such a freak.

I won’t do the accounting for you
because I’m sober.
Fuck you!
It feels good to tell people to fuck off,
it gives me power.
That’s where I’ve been missing out.
I never knew the power of the middle finger.
I never thought I could actually choose.
You freed me in a way.
I’m such a proud freak now.


Note #1: I’ve just had a conversation which made me unable to write this any further. But since this does reflect my thoughts at a certain moment in time, I want to publish it as is before I decide to delete it.

Note #2: If you feel that I’ve personally mentioned you in the text above, please understand that nobody except you knows that. So don’t feel threatened.


People are Mirrors

May 16, 2008

I always thought that I was independent and that other people could affect me if and only if I allowed them to. But lately I’ve been wondering if my assumptions were correct. This article is the result of my observations and my lazy reluctance to look up scientific facts.

I am beginning to think that people’s influence on one another manifests itself daily, and that it does not rely on any previously established relationships between individuals. Instead, it works on a much lower level, one that often eludes consciousness entirely.

Here is a couple of examples:

  1. If I see a girl with wide eyes, narrow eyes, or a “stuck” expression on her face, such as of surprise, I automatically attempt to paste the same expression on my face. This is not at all related to any feeling of attraction I might experience, on the contrary, the reaction is stronger when the combination of features is rather repulsive. It is probably not limited to girls, but I guess that shows where my attention is
  2. If I listen to my math teacher yelling for five minutes, I get angry myself and I feel the acid rising in my stomach. This happens in spite of my efforts to take things lightly, stay uninvolved, and try to laugh it all off.
  3. It’s difficult to keep a neutral expression when I see a wide smile on a face that is full of light. It’s strange. But it’s still difficult to be the first one to smile
  4. After a certain time spent with a person, even if I happen to dislike them, I begin to mirror their accent and manner of speech. This is especially obvious to me when I stress the ‘r’, or utter expressions that I never thought I’d willfully use.

All this is intriguing, since I don’t normally want to mirror anybody. Perhaps it is an automated mechanism to aid in communication, but it’s pretty scary that it happens without my conscious consent. Where’s the on/off switch dammit?! It makes me ask myself who I really am.

On a lighter note, Copycat by The Cranberries just came on shuffle. How appropriate!

Copycat, copycat, copycat
Copy copy copy copy yourself
Copycat, copycat, copycat
Copy copy copy everyone else


Neterminat Uitat Expirat

May 15, 2008

Parfumul cald al unei veri
S-a dus;
Azi visul gloriei de ieri
I-apus.

În van am încercat mai sus
Să sar.
Şi tot ce mi-a rămas e-un gust
Amar.

Oraşul tot, asfalt topit
Şi fum;
Plonjează în nemărginit
Acum.

Luna în templu s-a ivit;
Adorm.
Trăiesc ce încă n-am trăit
În somn.

Din cerul singur, dureros
De alb
Se prăbuşeşte-un luminos
Catarg.

Un soare nou rege va fi
Mâine.
Nici zeii nordici nu vor şti
Cine.

Miticul lanţ nu a cedat
Nicicând.
Şi lumea asta nu-i decât
Un gând.