Yesterday there was one bright spot in the gloom and doom of the death of my grandmother. I saw the real music video to the Numa Numa song. It’s a European video, so it’s pretty cheesy, In fact, it’s hard to say which is funnier, the real video or the new one on the internet. I found a place containing the real video as a realvideo format. You can view it here. I will be copying it to my server soon so that it can always be experienced.
My grandmother was buried today. Everything has revolved around the burial and funeral. It’s been weird meeting people and talking about the future with these sad events around. Not much else to say – I’m very low on sleep. The funeral went from 4p to 1a. Burial stuff began at 9a.
Didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I’m looking forward to Cornell.
Thanks, my love, for being here for me these past few days.
If you are in a hospital, you will know you’re about to die when your entire family suddenly starts coming in with more and more frequency. My grandmother died today after nearly eight decades of life. I was really close to her and I loved her so much. Ever since I was a little kid we would see her nearly every weekend. On week days my mother would take her to the stores since she couldn’t drive. I remember being dragged along, but now I treasure those moments. That’s back when she could walk and dance and play without pain.
I think that people can feel when they are about to die, though. I don’t think it’s ever a surprise if the person’s already sick. My grandmother pronounced, five minutes before she died, that she was in a lot a pain and that the end was near. But I also believe that people can last as long as they want before dying. She was waiting for my brother and I to show up. She kept asking our mom when we were going to arrive. After we saw her last night, she finally left today.
I’m glad she died because she was suffering so much. In fact, just two minutes before she died, I prayed that God would relieve her of her suffering. The lymphoma was killing her with a ferocity of a tiger killing its prey. Her veins had all collapsed from the IVs and she couldn’t even move on her own. She wanted to go and so she did. I know she’s in heaven reunited, after twenty years, with her one and only husband.
I got pretty lucky with my timing – in fact – I think she was waiting for me to come back. I went down stairs with my father to see a famous church that was a replica of a church in Cuba. Afterwards I went, retrieved my laptop, and went upstairs. Five minutes later, she died.
I think, because of my deep connection with her, I was able to feel her leave. I hadn’t really cried all day long. As soon as I started crying my dad came out, saying she had stopped breathing.
I loved her so much and I’ll post some pictures of her when I get back into town. This might not make sense, but I’m not in a very coherent state right now. I just wanted to get out all my ideas from today.
Architects ran through the engineering quad and in and out of bulidings screaming
Today is Dragon Day. As you probably know from my earlier posts, this is a huge tradition at Cornell. It was started back in the 1800s as a Spring Prank by the greatest Cornell prankster of them all, Willard Straight, and continues to this day as a rivalry between the Architects and Engineers. Yesterday they ran through all of the buildings decked in green paint and, althought you can’t tell because the picture is so small, skimpy clothes. However, if you look at the next picture, it’s quite clear. Yes, it was 30 degrees F outside and the freshman architects were running around in panties, bras, and boxers. But at least they were running, so that may have helped a bit. In this second picture I love the pair in the center of the shot, jumping for joy as though they were about to win a race.
One of my favorite shots of them running past me
I happened to have my camera because there had been a breakfast with the ECE department heads and students and I had planned to take some pictures. I ended up not taking any pictures, athough talking with the faculty and other students was a lot of fun. I was rewarded a few hours later when I saw the people dressed in green and whipped out my camera as fast as I could to pop off some shots. I ended up with around 9 pictures, but these two were the absolute best. The others will probably go up on the server when I upgrade and get more disk space. Back to my story – I was SO happy because I wouldn’t have had my camera with me if it hadn’t been for the lunch and if I had seen them running around and hadn’t had my camera, I would have been bummed out for the rest of the day for not being able to capture the moment.
A rare shot of the dragon being assembled
I was again surprised and very happy when I went to pick up my brother’s suitcase for Spring Break. On my way to his place I saw the dragon being built, right outside of Rand Hall. Since they usually keep it a secret, I was surprised to see it out where everyone could see. After picking up the bags I decided to ask them if I could take some pictures if I got my camera from the house. They didn’t mind at all. So now you get to see some pictures of the inner workings of the dragon.
The back-side of the dragon
What made the assembly pictures special to me, in addition to the fact that this was my last chance to see it, is that I won’t be able to participate in Dragon Day tomorrow. So, being able to participate in this way is very satisfying.
Enjoy Dragon Day if you’re a Cornellian and on campus tomorrow. Have a safe break and come back to campus in one piece.
For a while I had taken a break from photography. There were two basic reasons for this – first of all, it had become very cold and that disuaded me from taking my camera around. I was afraid of breaking it with the temperature difference between the outside air and the buildings. I was afraid of falling and breaking the camera or hurting myself trying to protect it. But, most importantly, with all my jackets and sweaters it was a bit of a hassle to carry my camera in its protective case. Second, I really like editing my pictures and making them a little closer to perfect. This was very time consuming and I didn’t have the time for it.
But recent events have brought me back into photography. First of all, as the days go by I become more and more aware of the fact that I am soon going to graduate and will not return to Cornell for a long time. I have, therefore, began to document my surroundings. Speaking of documenting, the documentary style of photography is appealing to me more and more when I read about it and see the types of pictures taken. Second, about a month ago I began posting my pictures on www.flickr.com (this link goes to my particular photos) after reading about it in a Linux article which mentioned the that Flickr ran completely on open source software.
After taking a look around, I realized that Flikr was the best way for me to get my pictures out to a new audience. Yeah, some people do find their way to my website somehow, but I really want to reach people with my photography. Flickr is a great place to do that because of the way photos are linked up. People can search for pictures based on key words, favorite photographers, favorite interests, and other many search methods. It is a proper community with quite a few talented people involved. Another way it gets people to view photos is by having people leave comments. The comments are usually positive or constructive and, along with the comment, a link to the section of the person commented is left. This is how I end up seeing other people’s artwork. Then when I make comments on their art, others go to mine and so on and so forth. This has spurred me to take more pictures to put up including artistic, fabricated pictures and old fashioned pictures that have interesting subjects. The only bad thing about Flickr is that the free accounts have a 10 megabyte upload limit per month. I can’t ever wait until the end of the month to be able to post more pictures. It’s also quite addictive checking back every day or so to see what kinds of comments others have left on your site or which pictures have been marked as someone’s favorite.
I was watching a commercial today on MSNBC for a knee replacement technology. The ad had some woman who lives in San Francisco and the infinitely large hills there were just killing her knees because she had arthritis. But then modern medical science gave her: “a replacement knee that, unlike the ones produced by other companies, bends and turns to ALMOST simulate the function of a real knee.” And it continued with the usual disclaimers – don’t elect to have this done if you’re sick, the knee may gain setience and kill you – stuff like that. But what stuck out for me in the ad was the fact that the replacement knee ALMOST was like a real knee. ALMOST. Are you telling me that modern science can put a man on the moon, build a space station, make computers that store so much information that if you would have told the original creators of the computer you would have been thrown in a luny bin, can manipulate NANO objects to build things for them, yet it cannot make a fully functional knee?!? WTF is that?
While this may not be concrete enough for you, for me this is just another proof of God. Or, to generalize, some Divine Organizer of the Universe who I believe is God but you may call Ganesh or Shiva or something like that. (I’m sorry, but I never was a huge student of Eastern religion so sorry if I’m totally wrong because Shiva is god of destruction or soemthing) At any rate, look at it this way: I took a class last semester on the design of CMOS chips. I actually learned the principles used to desgin them and desgined a few on the virtual level with a simulator. These chips are so complex in their behavior that most scientists and engineers only approximate the behavior. The computer you are using to view this page is a wonderful thing. But look at the human body. The knee’s behavior is even more complex than a computer chip. If it were not, scientists would have figured it out a long time ago. I don’t think they have some evil wish to see old people suffer.
So how could we end up with a part of our body which seems to have such a simple purpose, bending the leg in half for walking; sitting; etc, and yet be so complex? Accidentally through all kinds of dice throwing by nature? I think not! Did you know that the eye is mostly water? Except for the most rudimentary explanations, doctors have no idea how the eye actually does what it does.
Again, this may not seem to be enough for you – seeing a commercial for the latest and greatest in technology which cannot even replicate the “simple” function of the knee perfectly – but it certainly makes me think about how complex we are and that some being had to have designed it.
This Roper song is my second favorite song on the album Brace Yourself for the Mediocre. Although I was quite young at the time, I still identify with a lot of the aspects from “my decade”.
On the back of the schoolbus singing,
“I Love Rock and Roll”
put another dime in the jukebox,
Let the Good Times Roll
Grab the back of a Buick Skylark
just like Michael J. Fox
Grind the trucks on your brand new skateboard
just like Tony Hawk
Delorean those days are gone
We could breakdance, Pop-lock our wrists kid
before your grunge rock ever existed
Years may seem so distant
feels like a million miles
troubles were nonexistant 1985
Run DMC were the kings of rock then,
at the record store
Megatron versus Optimus Prime yeah
Delorean those days are gone
Flux Capacitor in the back
and we’re pushing eighty while the Libyans attack and…
Don’t want to be
on the marquee
Twenty years will fade to nothing
pop the clutch and then we’ll see
I have posted the latest code from the work Rich and I have done for our microcontroller class at Cornell. We are releasing all of our code under the GPL license so feel free to use it, modify it, and have fun with it. The code is modified C code and assembly language for the Atmel Mega32 chip running on an STK500 board. It should be easily available from Atmel or perhaps your local electronic hobbyist shop.
I’m very excited about our final project, which we will also be releasing GPL – a web server running off of an Atmel Mega32! Stay tuned for that, as wel as the highly entertaining Moon Lander source code.
I recently began listening to an unabridged version of The Lexus and The Olive Tree and I must say that after about ten minutes of listening to the book, I’m quite disconcerted over the increasing connectedness of countries and their ability to affect each other. Allow me to illustrate this by paraphrasing the book’s opening story.
In 1998 the Thai government had been keeping the currency, Boht, valued at one US dollar. Banks and investment first in Thailand therefore were borrowing money from US banks for their ventures since US banks were much more stable. In August of 1998 the Thai government, for whatever reason, decided to no longer tie the values of the two currencies and the Boht fell to 30 Boht for 1 US dollar. The Thai banks now had to come up with a lot more money to pay back their loans to the US banks. A short time later, 56 of Thailand’s 58 major banks closed down. Over 20 thousand white collar workers in Thailand lost their jobs. Foreign investors began removing their money from developing Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, South Korea, and others. This would have only caused an asian recession except for the ties to Russia.
Russia was in quite a bad place in 1998. Most of the products domestically produced were actually negative valued goods. As the book explains it, “this means that a Russian made tractor was actually worth less when it was made. It would have been more valuable to the Russian government if it was made into scrap or never made at all.” The few successful firms in Russia were dodging taxes. Therefore Russia had two major sources of income: selling oil and other raw materials and selling government bonds. The bulk of their raw materials had been input into Southeast Asian countries which took the raw product and converted it into Tvs, radios, and other finished products they exported to other countries. As they went into recession they bought less and less raw product from Russia. In order to entice people to invest in their government bonds, Russia had been offering ridiculous interest rates of nearly 50%. Thus American banks were borrowing money from other American banks at 5% interest, investing it in Russian bonds, and making a fortune. That is to say, they were making a fortune until Russia decided to default on their bonds. Basically, they told all the investors they were SOL.
This moved the problem over the America where the banks which had borrowed money at 5% expecting a 50% return now had to pay back that money with 0% return. They began to sell the bonds they had in good countries to pay off their debts. This transmitted the problem to countries like Brazil which had done nothing wrong, but suddenly saw people dropping the stocks and bonds in their country. Desperate for investment, they began to offer crazy interest rates too.
Investors, hungry for a safe investment, began to invest wildly in the US, driving interest rates low. This caused banks to panic, fearing that Americans would pay off their home loans early, cutting off an important source of income for them. Meanwhile, oil prices were dropping, bad news for Middle Eastern countries.
That is about the place where I stopped listening to the book, but I was amazed at what had occurred. A seeminly innocuous decision by the Thai government caused a cascade which ended up affecting the entire world.
I’m not yet ready to offer up a real opinion about this globalization. On the one hand, it’s getting worse and worse every day, with countries becoming very entangled in each other’s affairs. However, is there a way to put up controls and safety nets? Or would these controls do more harm than good? It wouldn’t be the first time something like that occurred. For example, tarriffs, which protect domestic goods from cheaper foreign goods, end up hurting the country trying to export its goods. In the early history of the US, these tactics led to economic wars that, in the long run, only hurt all players involved, including the country imposing the tarriffs.
As I continue to listen to the book, I will be able to offer up a more informed opinion. If the book continues to be as exciting as these first few pages were, I may be blogging about it quite a bit more.
You may have noticed that almost everything in life is organized into catch-22 situations. The video game situation in Linux also follows this law. We’ve got the following dilema: we can’t play regular, consumer PC video games on a Linux box, but if they were made available we would lose a bunch of freeware game developers. Like others, I often wish developers like Maxis would make a Sims 2 port for Linux, allowing me to play the game without having to go through programs like Cedega by Transgaming, which charge a monthly fee for usage. It would make life a heckova lot easier for those of us who wish to legally purchase video games and be able to play then without being locked to the Windows desktop.
However, there are currently a lot of video games being developed for Linux by small software companies and individuals in order to fulfill this need. For example, there Wormux, a Worms clone and Freebooters, a Pirates! clone. Often these clones intend to duplicate game functionality while adding extra features they wish the original developers had implemented. How many people would still play these clones if the real games were available? We can take a look at how Windows shareware and freeware games turned out. I used to have tons of disks of freeware games we would run on our Win3.1 computer in DOS. Nowadays, I don’t hear anyone ever talking about any games execpt for those put out my the major developers. There are also Linux game developers putting out original games and I also fear that these would be ignored if the major developers were to make games for Linux.
So here we are, stuck in a tough place. One of the best aspects of the open source movement is the semi-democratic way in which software can be distributed. If you can find someone to host your source files, everyone can potentially download it. You don’t have to worry that the big boys have money to get their games through the distribution channels to the Best Buys and other locations. You just need to get popular enough that people link to you and talk about you. In that way, entrenched Linux games do have somewhat of an advantage over new projects, but all it takes is for someone to mention your game on Slashdot and you’ll have more hits than your server can handle. But we will lose part of this if commercial games are available. It’s not that the commercial companies will intentionally shut down any of the small-time developers, but people will stop looking. Because Civilization is unavailable people will search on www.google.com/linux/ in order to find freeciv.
I used to think it was very clear – lobby the developers to release Linux versions. Now I’m not so sure if this is the best thing that could happen to Linux.
This week my grandmother will probably be diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. This is one of the worse types of cancer for two reasons. First of all, it is attacking the very part of your body responsible for keeping the body healthy. So this cancer leaves the person extra debilitated as they not only have cancer, but lose the ability to fight off infections. Second, because the lymph nodes can’t be removed like bone or even lung can, there are no surgical procedures which can be performed. The patient can participate in chemotherapy or some of the newer drug therapies.
According to my parents, the average life span for a young, healthy person diagnosed with lymphoma in the early stages is approximately five years. For someone my grandmother’s age, with all of the other medical “baggage” she currently posesses, there is a life span of perhaps a year. Chemotherapy can destory a beast of a man, so imagine what it can do to a frail old lady.
I’m also worried about my grandmother for metaphysical reasons. She’s always been a little on the pessimistic side when it comes to her health. It has been proven anecdotally, if not scientifically, that one of the most important factors in the recession or curing of a person with cancer is a possitive outlook on life. Because the body and mind are so intertwined, depression depresses the body’s ability to heal itself. Optimism, conversely, increases the body’s defenses. Of course this is about a lot more than just being happy while having cancer, it’s about a total life outlook; it’s about finding ways to laugh even when you know it may be the last time you laugh. Prayer also tends to help and she lacks a little in that area too.
Of course, if I may be a little “selfish” with this whole issue, what bothers me more than all of this is my inability to let out my sadness. Of course, I’ve always been one to have delayed reactions to large emotive situations. When my family moved, it took me months to “realize” we had moved and have the reaction. It wasn’t until a year after 11 September 2001 that I first cried for the victims. My psychology just works that way and it really ticks me off at times like this. I want to let loose and be disturbed, but I can’t…not yet. Until then, I’ve got to have a general funk superimposed over my mood. It doesn’t mean I won’t laugh and enjoy life, which is a good thing – otherwise it would be unbearable not to be able to let it out. But, and here’s where being an engineer helps with descriptions, it’s like an AM radio signal: my emotions are the signal content and the sadness is the envelope. So it modulates my everyday emotions so that my highs aren’t quite as high and my lows are much lower.
If I can be “selfish” a little longer, what really gets me on edge about her condition is the uncertainty involved. I really want her to be at my wedding in July. Even worse, I wanted her to be able to interact with my children. It’s not “fair” that she got to be with my cousins’ kids because they decided to get pregnant when they were 19 and 20. But now we don’t know if she’ll be here next week, much less two years from now. Sure, all of life is uncertain; I could die walking to class tomorrow. However, it’s all about probabilities – she has a much higher probability of expiring before I do. I know with very high probabilities what will happen to me this week. The probabilities decrease the further out I go, but I still have things I am certain of – for example Spring Break will come on the 21st of March. And of course, death at the end of my life has probability 1, or 100% depending on how you look at it. But with her, with cancer in general, you never know. She could be alive for a year or she could defy all the statistics and live for thirty more years.
Of course, I also don’t want her to be alive with pain, no one wants that for their loved ones. I would prefer for her to “rest” than to be alive and be in pain every day. I can’t even stand when I’ve got a pain in my neck for a day, so for someone to have chronic, large scale pain is something I couldn’t even wish upon my enemies.
Well, life is always unpredictable, so if you believe in God/Allah/Yhwh, pray for her.
Just when you thought the world was in huge trouble, you see an act that give you faith in humanity. I truly love those moments because so often we see these negative things on Tv: rape, murder, suicide, and hatred.
Yesterday I was with a friend of mine, talking his recent slip into some rather unfortunate circumstances. He told me I could blog about yesterday’s events, but I’ll protect his identity for now. If he wants to out himself, he can do that through commenting on this post. He cast some pretty bad lots and was lamenting not having been hugged in a long time. I suggested, in a tone of mirth, that he walk through Ho Plaza (where each student passes at least once a day according to the campus tours) with his arms outstretched in a hug shape and see if some random person hugged him. He responded that he would find that unsatisfactory because he wouldn’t know the person. He may as well just walk up to some random person and ask for a hug. At least one person, he claimed, would comply. While I disagreed people would hug on command (I certainly wouldn’t!), I didn’t say anything because there are always bozos out there that will act irrationally when compared to normal social protocol.
We left the subject to work on our homework and project for the upcoming week. We spoke of many things, but we did not return to the subject of hugs. I certainly did not want to bring it up because I have no pleasure in seeing others suffer. He didn’t want to bring it up because he’s not a sadist. (Well, he’s a bit sadistic in the way he loves to code…but that’s a different story)
An hour passed and we completed all the work we needed to do for this weekend. We both got up to leave and packed up. As we walked through the hallway, we passed this female college student who had been about two desks away from us in the hallway. She stood up to hug my friend, and, I was dumbstruck. I automatically assumed they knew each other and she was bidding him goodbye. Then my brain began to work again and I realized that she was responding to his lack of hugs. She was very nice about it and had such a big smile on her face. I commented, “that’s very nice of you,” My friend was a little pessimistic about it, but given his circumstances, I don’t blame him.
“It’s nice, but not the same,” he proclaimed.
As we walked out, I said, loud enough for her to hear, “That was very nice of her.”
Because, when you think about it, it was VERY nice of her. She had no idea who my friend was and didn’t have any reason to hug him. She just saw another human being who had a need and then sacrificed to fulfill his need. What did she sacrifice? She put herself out in the open and made herself vulnerable to him. I’m glad she did. I know that the odds are EXTREMELY slim, but I hope she reads this. Whoever you are, thank you for doing that for my friend. I hope you have planted a seed of hope within him.
This song is one of my newest favorite songs and so I thought I’d share the lyrics with you. Part of what I love about this song is the fact that I was acting this way for a while at Cornell and I could have used a song to point out how ridiculous I was being. It’s about trying just hard enough to not be the worst. For a while I just wanted to get the curve. Then I realized how bad that was. I needed to strive for the absolute best and never settle with being on the curve. The lyrics are great and Reese proves once again why he has a legion of fans.
Feel the burn and the fury of my pen
feel the fire, as I fan the flames again
brace yourself for the mediocre
Hail the king of the almost good enough
nothing bold, nothing’s flying off the cuff
things might change, but don’t hold your breath yet
Try floating with the flow,
try not to run too slow
be average, not below, Let’s go
Hello lamewads, I’m with you
raise your fists if this rings true
Hello lamewads, never quite our best or finest
hello lamewads, I’m predicting a C minus, now.
Hello lamewads, hello.
Like a shoelace slowly coming loose
like a flashlight running out of juice
save your necks, with some lame excuses
I’m neither friend or foe, I’m never going pro
does this sound apropos?
Niether hot nor cold this is getting old.
Dina Mehta’s post about the current state of Blogging in India resonates so well across cultural and state boundaries because she touches on topics which transcend the human race. One of the best things about the article, in addition to the great writing, is the fact that, by reading it, one realized that in most ways all of humanity shares the same traits.
For example, this paragraph of her article pertained to me in every aspect:
Many bloggers will tell you of their addiction to blogging that goes well beyond just writing a piece. How many active bloggers can really say they do not start their day looking for reactions to something they wrote the previous day? Or checking if someone has linked to something they’ve written? Or running their newsreaders to look for interesting pieces by other bloggers in their community? Or checking back at others’ posts they might have left comments at to see how the discussion is evolving? Or checking blog statistics to assess whether more or fewer people are reading what they write?
I love checking behind the scenes of my blog at least daily to see who has written comments. Up to now it’s mostly been my fiancee, and I’m glad to have the comments, but I would hope to have more people making comments as more and more people learn about my blog.
I also love going to other people’s blogs to see what style others employ. Some bloggers like to make themselves into a portal. For those unfamiliar with the jargon, it means they pick a subject for the post and then point the user to a dozen other sites they can go to for learning about the subject. In one extreme example a blog post consisted of just a news headline and lines to news websites talking about it. Others, use their blogs to editorialize. I do this myself with articles like the one I wrote about Snoop coming to Cornell. Some use them as journals where they write about every detail of their lives, no matter how banal.
When it comes to my own blog, I like to think that I have a mix of editorial and journal as my format. Which side my blog seems to be leaning towards depends on my mood at the time. If I’m spending more time watching the news and learning then I tend to editorialize more. Most recently I’ve been using my blog as a forum for advocating Open Source Technology, specifically Linux most of the time. But when the driving force in my life is more of a personal one, I talk more about that.
The other thing Dina mentions in her article that really resonated with me involved the media:
There will be a day when this new media will encourage traditional media to find new ways to connect with their audiences. Where it will change the way people, groups and organizations organize for work and play. Where organizations in India will wish to adopt such technologies and pay bloggers for their time spent blogging.
I have already seen this begin to take root within the traditional media. MSNBC.com has many of its news personalities maintaining blogs where they talk about the items they are reporting in the news. I’m curious to see what people will end up thinking of this. I know that early reaction tended to be a bit resentful as people felt that these weren’t honest blogs, they were just trying to take over what we “little people” were using. In a way it felt as though we were being violated and corrupted. I know there has been a bit of a reversal with MSNBC’s Keith Olberman mentioning getting some of his news sources from blogs. Slowly people will begin to adapt to this new paradigm.
So, as I said in the beginning, it was most amazing to me to see how similar we are in different countries. I feel that there are two ways in which the Internet can have a VERY positive impact. First of all, it can serve to desseminate the ideas of the repressed who have no way of getting their message out on the traditional media. Second, as more and more people truly navigate webpages of others from around the world, the Internet will allow them, if they open their minds, to see that all of us are the same. There is no reason to hate others in a blind xenophobia. If one must feel ill will towards others let it be towards the individual who has wronged you, not the race or country you know little about.
Hey, I finally got the MyMooMus plugin for WordPress working after taking a look at the code and clarifying the way to use the tags. I had originally misunderstood the way it worked and was a little frustrated when it appeared not to be working right. You’ll notice on the rest of my posts that I will be having my mood and the song I’m listening to posted. This was the last feature I was missing from my Tripod blog. Now I am 100% fully content with this software.