Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Month: May, 2005

Formatting Tools

I added some formatting tools to the Comment Submission form. I need to change some of the images to better describe what they do. They should be mostly self-explanatory though. If you hover your mouse over the button, a little tooltip should appear, telling you what it does. If you click a button without selecting any text, you will simply see the appropriate tags (with sample text) inserted at the current location. If you select some text, and then click a button, the appropriate style is applied to the selected text.

The [dialogue]…[/dialogue] tags deserve special mention. I initially implemented them over a year ago. You can take a look at that journal entry to read the details, but I’ll mention them here again eitherway. The tags are… how do I put it… sensitive. You start off a dialogue section with a [dialogue] tag. Then on each line, you enter a statement in the form of Speaker: Dialogue. There can only be one speaker per line. When you are done, you close the section with [/dialogue].

So for example:

[dialogue]
l33t hax0r: i am teh leet hax0r!!11!!ONE11!
n00b: oh noes!11!!
l33t hax0r: i w1ll hax0r j00!11ELEVEN11!
n00b: i am haxed!!1 i r suprise!!11
l33t hax0r: pwnz0red!11
[/dialogue]

Will show up as:

l33t hax0r: i am teh leet hax0r!!11!!ONE11!
n00b: oh noes!11!!
l33t hax0r: i w1ll hax0r j00!11ELEVEN11!
n00b: i am haxed!!1 i r suprise!!11
l33t hax0r: pwnz0red!11

I hope that makes it clear. You can also click on the dialogue button to see a template for the dialogue section.

Oh yeah, the [code]…[/code] tags are different from the [codesnippet]…[/codesnippet] tags. The former is used for a line of code (or a small fragment) whereas the latter is used for a snippet of code (usually more than one line). You can see examples of their use earlier on in this post.

Thoughts

So this whole “going to war” thing is a huge deal. Obviously. There are many reasons why I don’t want to go, and then there are reasons that I must. But anyway, that is not the point. Sometimes I think that getting away from here for about a year would be good. An escape? I don’t know. It feels like it sometimes. But I prefer the euphemistic term “welcome reprieve”. I like to think that things may change when I get back…

I find myself seriously questioning certain facets of my life. First, am I happy? I guess I am… but it would be more accurate to say that I am mostly content. My job is a pleasure – I do what I enjoy doing most – writing code. But at other times I feel seriously apathetic about my life. I mean, I go to work from 8 to 5. I pick up my dog, Honey, from Sadhana’s home (I am really thankful to her family for taking care of her), I spend maybe half an hour there with her parents and grandma, and of course, Juju and Nimbus. After that, I come back home. I check my mail (real mail), pay bills, have dinner, write some of my own code, and then I head to bed. That’s it. That’s my day… how boring.

I sometimes want to go back to being in College. Each day was different. But then again, when I was in college, I wanted the stability of a normal job. I guess the grass is greener on the other side. My friends are still here, but of course, they have their own lives and the things that they need to do. My family is here and I do talk to them on occasion (although I should call my mom and dad much more frequently). They’re always there for me and I have never felt neglected by them.

I guess things changed a lot when I graduated. When I was in school, there was always someone I could interact with on a regular basis. Now that’s not there. It’s much harder for me to interact with any of my friends because I don’t see them that much. I guess what I am saying is that I feel pretty lonely at times. In response to that most of my friends might be saying “get a girlfriend” and some might even say “go get married now”. As far as the second one goes, please, I am only 23. The first one? Well. I am picky. Not that there is a serious lack of women to go around, but the fact is that I am picky about who I want to be with. No, I’m not on the look out for “that special someone” and I don’t believe that there is any one person with whom I am compatible. I’m sure there’s a whole range. But of course, that set, when intersected with the ones that my parents would find compatible, leaves a much smaller set. But still, it’s one that can be worked with.

So now you might be saying “so what? just date someone for fun!”. Can’t do that. I consider it a waste of time. “WTF?!”, you say. Well.., let’s say I date a girl… I go out with her… and then what? Eventually there comes a point when I have to break it off because I can’t make the committment. I am going into the relationship without the intent of ever making one, so logically, what is the point? I guess it would be different if it was mutually agreed upon that there wouldn’t be a committment, but that is rarely the case. So in that sense, am I looking for someone with whom I can have a long-term committment? Yes. With can being the operative word. That word has a lot of import. I have to think about what my parents want as well. They would want me to marry a nice, Malayalee, Hindu, Nair girl. I am not averse to that at all. In fact, that’s what I would like ideally, because then my parents and I are in total agreement. Some of my friends say that I am closing out a lot of options if I think of it that way. Yes, that’s true. I am aware that as an individual there are definitely women who I am compatible with, but aren’t any of the things that my parents want (for me). Therein lies the problem.

An Indian Marriage isn’t just the union of two individuals. It is the union and alliance of two families. In that sense, I can understand the cultural isolation that my wife could feel in the presence of my family, and vice-versa. And also the awkwardness and lack of any common ground when both families meet. But then again, there are cross-cultural marriages that do work, and work well. So I guess I am saying is that I don’t want to go through the trouble of it all. Which in a sense might be chickening out. I myself am not sure what it is. There are certain things I want, and I think I might have them better if I were to be with a woman who is aligned as closely to me as possible. For example, I consider my culture very important. My customs and traditions are very important to me. This is something I would like to pass on to my children. And this isn’t because of some misplaced sense of pride or superiority. No. I consider culture and tradition to be something that has evolved over a period of so many generations and so many hundreds of years. Something built upon the traditions and observances of the generations that have passed. I feel I should try and preserve as much of that as possible. Otherwise, something precious will be lost. I might be able to make it work with a girl from a different culture – something that is still close to mine – a girl from Tamil Nadu for example. Tamilians and Malayalees have reasonably similar languages and customs. But even still, between these two similar cultures, there are a vast number of differences… and with differences, arises the possibility of conflict (but isn’t there conflict in any marriage?). What if she is as concerned about her culture as I am of mine? What would the children learn? Would they be confused? Would it be cause for conflict between she and I? Almost always, one side has to give way. The children end up knowing one side better than the other. Is that a problem? I don’t know. When I was younger, and therefore more idealistic and naïve, I thought I could easily make it all work, and it didn’t matter who I married. Somewhere along the way I realized that real life isn’t so simple.

I guess my dilemma right now is that I don’t know if I’m limiting my options too much. I can’t say. Most of my friends have someone special. Sometimes I find it hard being around them sometimes because I feel that I’ve missed out on that aspect of life. It would certainly alleviate a lot of the loneliness that I feel… But then again, I’m only 23… a lot can happen in the next few years.

So… am I being too picky? God knows… but that’s also why I think it may be nice to get away from all of this for a while… get everything in order.

I can’t believe I wrote all this crap on a public website for the world to see. Someday I am going to read this and laugh… or regret writing it… or possibly both. Is there such a thing as a regretful laugh?

XHTML and Episode III

Getting this site to be XHTML compliant is a total bitch.

Anyway, today (well, tomorrow really) we are going to see Episode III. It’s the 12:01 showing. I remember when I went to see Episode II three years ago. It was really awesome, and I liked it. But I guess the feeling sorta died down and now that I think about it, some parts of it really sucked. Especially the parts with Anakin and Amidala. George Lucas is just a terrible director. I did like Yoda’s fight scene with Count Dooku though! Awesome, it was!

I have high hopes for Episode III. Reviewers are saying it’s pretty good, and that Lucas might have finally redeemed himself for the atrocities that were Episodes I and II. They are even saying that this one is like The Empire Strikes Back. I talked to Michael about it and he told me that he heard that certain reviewers were even placing it before Return of The Jedi as far as their favourite episodes go. That’s saying a lot.

I hope I’m not disappointed. It would really make my day if I they have a scene where they show Jar-Jar dying… horribly. Where he says something like “Ahhh!!! Meesa skinsa burningsa!!! AHHHH!!!”. That would SO make my day.

Star Trek: Enterprise

I finished watching the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. I think I would be correct in saying that I had mixed feelings about it. To be more accurate, I’ve had mixed feelings about the entire show. I remember being pretty excited when the series first premiered. However, that excitement quickly died down when I heard the theme song. I was expecting something instrumental, like the rest of the Trek series. I didn’t get too hung up on it, and watched the show anyway. After the first few episodes, I realized that the show wasn’t that great at all. That actually, it kinda sucked. There was nothing new about it (except maybe, watching the Enterpise getting its ass kicked everytime). The whole story arc with the Temporal Cold War was just ridiculous and stupid. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga did a great job of thoroughly screwing up Star Trek.

Berman has been steadily departing from Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek ever since he took over The Next Generation. However, I guess he wasn’t bold enough to try anything crazy with that. Deep Space Nine started off weak, until Berman turned his gaze of destruction to Voyager. Once Michael Piller took over DS9, things got much better with the Dominion War story arc. Some people didn’t like DS9 because of its religious themes, due to the introduction of Section 31, and due to the fact that it was darker than the other Star Treks. I liked DS9 though, I thought it was really good. I never got into Voyager that much. Then there was Nemesis, that I don’t even want to think about.

But anyway, back to the topic. Enterprise was a chance for Berman to “do his own thing”, I think. First he removed “Star Trek” from the name. It was just “Enterprise”. Then came the theme song. After that, he just turned the series into an excuse to pander to testosterone-fuelled teenagers who wanted to see some T&A. Add the abominable Temporal Cold War story arc, and the end result is a steaming pile of crap. He succeeded in alienating a large part of the Trek Fanbase. I stopped watching it after the first few episodes of season 1. I didn’t get into it until two years later when I stumbled upon a synopsis of an episode from the third season. I can’t remember which one it was, but I decide to start watching it after that. I watched all of Seasons 1 and 2, and started following Season 3. Season 3 is how ST: ENT should have started off. It had an excellent story arc and a bunch of cool episodes (Twilight and Similitude). I later found out that Manny Coto had taken over the helm. This wasn’t surprising because the only thing that Berman did well, was destroy Star Trek. As they say though, it was “Too Little, Too Late”. Seasons 3 and 4 didn’t stop the cancellation of the series.

Season 4 was really good. I enjoyed it a great deal. They brought the stupid Temporal Cold War thing to an end, they gave a really good explanation for the smooth-headed Klingons, and concentrated on the formation of the Federation. The only disappointing thing was the season finale. It was cool to see Riker and Troi, and it was really nice to see the inside of the Enterprise-D again. But I didn’t like the fact that they had made the finale into a holodeck simulation on the Enterprise-D. Also, the episode takes place in the past (according to the TNG timeline), and is also part of an earlier TNG episode. Riker and Troi don’t look like they did in that episode, since they look a lot older now. It seemed to downplay the importance of Enterprise by simply making it a part of a TNG episode. Also take into account that they never even let us hear Archer’s speech at the signing of the charter.

Anyway, I guess it was inevitable. We can thank Dumb and Dumber (Berman and Bragga) for this terrible mess. I honestly think they should let the franchise rest for a while. But I hear that Berman is planning on making the 11th Trek film. If the past is any indication of the future, then I predict that this one may be as bad as Nemesis. At the very least, I should say that in retrospect, ST: ENT wasn’t all that bad, and I did enjoy some of it. So I guess I’m a little sad to see it go.

And yes, I’m a Star Trek Nerd. I don’t give a shit if you think that’s lame, because I’m not ashamed of it.

Laloo Prasad Yadav is a retard

India is the world’s largest democracy, and Indian politics is interesting. It’s amazing that anything actually gets done. The government is a bureaucracy-choked mass and moves like drunk tortoise wading through tar, whereas at other times it surprises everyone by flashing by like a hyperactive cheetah on speed. But anyway, that is another issue.

A fucking retardIndia has some amazing politicians, but it also has some real rotten ones – ones that abuse the system. I’d like you to take a look at the picture at the right. Look at that face. Personally, I think it would look much better with a baseball (or cricket) bat being smashed against it, or even better, with a spear through it. That man right there is Laloo Prasad Yadav. This stinking pile of crap has an entry in Wikipedia – so go ahead and read it to get the backstory on him. He is one of India’s most infamous and reviled politicians. Anyway, you might be wondering what instigated this rant on my part. Well, this morning, I read this article from ExpressIndia. Here are some snippets from it:

Laloo a pain in the neck for UPA

Posted online: Friday, May 13, 2005 at 0920 hours IST
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2005 at 1234 hours IST

New Delhi, May 13: Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has turned out to be an all around grief for the Congress-led UPA government and for India as a whole with his shenanigans making institutions of democracy crash to a virtual standstill.

… institution to come under assault was the Election Commission whose two commissioners B.B. Tandon and N. Gopalaswami were deliberately targeted by Laloo…

After Laloo’s accusations Prime Minister officially backed the Election Commission saying it was an institution to be respected. But, this in turn made Laloo see red and the entity that he attacked next was that of the Prime Minister.

Laloo went to the extent of defying the PM when he met Manmohan Singh and still asked for the heads of both the commissioners, thereby taking the fight straight to the top. HE did the unthinkable in a Parliamentary democracy by defying the PM.

His presence has overshadowed the state of Bihar too. His ability to retain power here, whether as Chief Minister, married to CM or even merely as head of RJD, has ensured that Bihar remains a troubled state.

Also, as Railway Minister, when the Sabarmati Express crashed in Gujarat, Laloo at once turned all the attention away from the accident by targeting Modi. His car was stoned and he blamed Gujarat CM Narendra Modi for instigating it.

In short, what is clear from Laloo’s actions is that he will take any and all steps to save his skin.

Laloo Prasad Yadav, for India, is like ozone layer [sic], he has caused a huge hole that is making the UPA government to burn out. Is the same happening to India? What we are looking at, on a national scale, is the gradual Biharisation of India.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what this man is doing to India. He is a retard. Retarded dumb-shits like these make me really, really angry. Personally, I would like to see him in front of a firing squad. Perhaps that’s too extreme. How about solitary confinement for the rest of his life? That would be good too. It is beyond me how such an obviously corrupt and pathetic man (who is barely literate) can become the Railway Minister. But as they say… “It happens only in India”. I hope he suffers an accident or something soon. Like slip on a banana peel and hit his head and go into a coma… for a long, long time. Am I going to hell for wishing all this on him? Nah… I will be doing the world a favour.

Fixed a problem with Comment submission

Sam alerted me to the fact that the comment submission feature wasn’t working. It had to do with improperly setting the action attribute of the form. Well, it was set correctly, but after created an .htaccess file, and wrote some Rewrite Rules, it got messed up. I just had to set it to an absolute path. It should be working now.

RIAA Retards

The RIAA gets a hard-on everytime they talk about DRM. Anyway, Hilary Rosen, formerly head of the RIAA, is complaining that she can’t get music for her iPod that doesn’t come from iTunes.

More details here.

What it comes down to, is that Ms. Rosen is bitching about a problem that she helped create. Talk about being a hypocrite.

Going to War

Maybe it was close to a month and a half ago, perhaps two months. I don’t recall correctly – as strange as that sounds. I should be able to recall an event so significant.

I chose to join the Armed Forces of the United States in what was a relatively peaceful time. It was on December 19th that I raised my hand and swore to defend the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. A few months later, I left Phoenix for Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. A few months after I returned, was when September 11 happened.

Twice, I was almost deployed. Both times would have seriously affected my academic career. As it is, I had lost a year due to my training at Fort Lee. But as God/higher power/luck would have it, I simply fell through the cracks. However, the possibility of deployment always remained with me. It could come at any time, and so it did. My Sergeant called me up one fine day and told me that I was going to war. I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I would be. After I put down the phone, I sat quietly for a while. I had tried to mentally prepare myself for such an occasion. I had planned for contingencies and things of that nature. The first thought that I had wasn’t “Oh crap, I gotta go to war!” It was “Oh crap! Now I gotta take care of five thousand things before I go to war” Then came the unpleasant task of having to inform my family and friends. They all took it as well as they could. Initially they thought it was some sort of joke, but then they realized that I wasn’t joking at all.

People ask me if I am scared. Am I? No. Nervous? Yes. Anxious? Definitely. Do I want to go to war? Of course not. Nobody does. Then why am I not scared? I don’t know. I don’t know if I am supposed to be. The only thing that bothers me right now is wrapping up my life here in Phoenix, and putting it in stasis for the next year and a half. Everything else is secondary. What matters also is that I am a Soldier, and this is my duty. I know some of you might be scoffing at that, and I won’t even try to explain it to you. It’s not something that can be explained. You have to be a soldier to know. Now you might call it “Brainwashing”, but that isn’t it either. It simply is what I have to do.

When Arjuna stood before the great battlefield of Kurukshetra, his will to fight wavers as he sees his gurus, friends and family on the opposing side. He turns to Krishna for advice, and Krishna counsels him. Thus begins the Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna advises Arjuna that he should fight as a matter of duty, without attachment to the result. Far be it from me to compare myself to Arjuna. I am merely trying to explain what I have to do and why.

Do I want to do it? Not really. I don’t really want to go to war. But what I want is irrelevant. Only what I must do is relevant.

Over the next month I received a lot more information. Currently, we are going to Bhagdad, and will be based in the Green Zone. My primary function will be to provide Logistical Support to my unit, since my MOS in the US Army is “Logistics and Supplies Specialist”.

Our date for departure right now is August 14th, though that is subject to change. That about covers everything I know. Now I’ll just play the waiting game.

In closing, here is a quote from the Gita (unicode support required):

Bhagavad Gita: 2.47

karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karmaphalahetur bhūr
mā te saṅgostv akarmaṇi

Translation:

You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action.
Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

Sandstorm

I’m sure most of you have seen the movie The Mummy. If so, I’m sure you remember the sandstorm scene with the huge, towering sand wall. Here are some pictures of a real sandstorm in Oman.

Wall of Sand

A wall of sand approaching the campsite.

Wall of Sand

How big is this thing?!

Wall of Sand

Getting closer…

Wall of Sand

The sand wall, right before it hits the trailers. It’s actually much bigger than it looks.

FCC Broadcast flag struck down!

From C|Net News:

Court yanks down FCC’s broadcast flag

Published: May 6, 2005, 9:52 AM PDT
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

In a stunning victory for hardware makers and television buffs, a federal appeals court has tossed out government rules that would have outlawed many digital TV receivers and tuner cards starting July 1.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that the Federal Communications Commission did not have the authority to prohibit the manufacture of computer and video hardware that doesn’t have copy protection technology known as the “broadcast flag.” The regulations, which the FCC created in November 2003, had been intended to limit unauthorized Internet redistribution of over-the-air TV broadcasts.

Full Article

Let me be the first to say, take that you bastards! Time and again, I’ve seen how consumer rights are being stamped on by the RIAA, MPAA, and the FCC and by such bullshit laws like the DMCA. Finally we have something that actually helps the consumers. A major victory, for sure.

The court was absolutely correct in this ruling. The FCC has no constitutional authority. They overstepped their bounds, and had no right imposing their authority over consumer choice and the private industry.

However, I don’t know if this is the end of the broadcast flags, since the courts have basically said that the FCC needs to go to Congress. So I’m pretty sure the MPAA is lobbying pretty hard right now and calling in some favours. But at the very least, you have people in the Congress who are accountable and answerable to their constituencies, which wasn’t the case with the FCC. I hope this pans out well in the end.

There were also some funny remarks from the judges about the case:

“You’re out there in the whole world, regulating. Are washing machines next?” asked Judge Harry Edwards. Quipped Judge David Sentelle: “You can’t regulate washing machines. You can’t rule the world.”

Heh. Right on the mark. The story is also on Slashdot.

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