Monthly Archives: February 2008

What I know abut Romania (it ain’t much)

Greetings from Romania, known for its vampires, gymnasts, and… well, I don’t know what else. One of those neat places on the map that very few people know much about.

Since you may not know much about this country (besides Vlad Drac and Nadia Comanechi), I would like to offer a bit of insight based upon what I know. Granted, I spend all of my time in the city (Bucharest), haven’t really done the tourist thing, and don’t generally run into vampires. In other words, I don’t pretend to know much about what’s happening here. F – it I’m still going to tell you what I think because that’s the kind of self-centered jerk I am.

1. Romanian people are cool. The people I’ve met in Bucharest — from business-people to cab-drivers — are nice. They’re engaging, pleasant, surprisingly open about politics, and nearly every one speaks flawless English. The women are also unbelievably beautiful, which means my boyfriend is not allowed to visit. I’ve told him the woman all are hags so he won’t want to visit. Back me up if he asks you about it.

2. Traffic sucks ass. Bucharest is the most congested urban city in Europe. I couldn’t even fathom a guess at the per square mile population because they seem to be jammed into every corner. I’m surprised Darwinism hasn’t turned the newer generations into midgets.

3. They like ketchup. Alot. Mostly on pizza topped with tunafish and corn kernals, because ketchup on fries is weird.

4. It’s dusty. Bucharest is like a city waking up from a long sleep. It’s covered in a patina of dust and dirt. The streets are crumbled, there are piles of rubble where buildings used to be 15 years ago, stray dogs nearly outnumber humans,… it’s a bizarre juxtaposition of the very old Parisian elegance of the city, the more recent Communist concrete ugliness, and the new glossy attempt at modernization all slammed into the same small area. Seriously, there is no logical flow to it, though the newer capitalists are doing everything they can to push the envelope quickly. I think it will likely be a number of years when the post-Comm hangover &  mania ends and sobriety begins to set in.

5. Meat is good. Vegetables…not so much. Let’s put it this way: if you are Hindi, steer clear.

My not-so-intensive research leads me to suggest that Romania (particularly Bucharest) is a fascinating destination. It may not be a comfortable vacation spot for most Westerners, but it does have all the markings of a big economic power in the making. I really am never stoked about traveling since I am more of a home-body, but coming here some 4-5 times in the last handful of months has been an interesting experience and glimpse into an emerging culture.

BTW, they show free porn on regular broadcast tv for an hour at night. …No comment.


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Sloooow news week

I know I’ve been abnormally quiet for the last few days, which can be attributed to two things: 1. I’ve been out of town, 2. ain’t nothing been interesting enough for me to write about. Sure, I could write about the lunacy of a $10,000 Virgin Mary Rold Gold Pretzel on eBay or Britney being allowed to see her kids in all her full frapp & Marlboro glory, but why bother? Slow news week, I guess. Heck, I wasn’t even all that enthusiastic about Castro’s retirement. I mean, the guy died 10 years ago. I think they just ran out of Castro look-alikes and his corpse is becoming too stinky for “Weekend at Bernie’s”-style antics.

Maybe I’m just depressed.

There just hasn’t been much to get me riled up or stoked in the news lately. There was that little blackmail effort against MSFT levelled by a blackhat hacker this week. But I’m always blathering on about the evil empire and I really need a new target. My old pals at McAfee have also finally found out that spam in non-English languages is a neato-keen way that hackers can launch targeted attacks against specific countries. Doy. Welcome to the 21st century, guys. And the sedentary mini-MSFT that is Symantec scored a spot on the Top 10 list for Most Pirated Software. Yawn! Poor John Thompson will have to get the gold faucet for his guest bathroom instead of the platinum. Pity.

Like I said, nothing interesting happening.

I’m off to Europe for a couple of weeks tomorrow. Sorry in advance for the lack of posts…

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Movie quote of the day

I’d rather you go bald to school than looking like a tramp.
– Joan Crawford to her daughter, Christina (“Mommy Dearest”)

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Big brain. No taste.

The chairman of Mensa International recently took a break from being a his strenuous duties of attempting to impress people at parties with ridiculous factoids to name the top ten smartest television shows of all time. Here are his picks. I’m going to suspend commentary until you’ve had a chance to absorb it all…

  • “M*A*S*H”
  • “Cosmos” (with Carl Sagan)
  • “CSI”
  • “House”
  • “West Wing”
  • “Boston Legal”
  • “All in the Family”
  • “Frasier”
  • “Mad About You”
  • “Jeopardy”

Ok. Done absorbing? Good. Now let’s start shredding.

Before my brain explodes like the guy from “Scanners”, I have to get this one out: “MAD ABOUT YOU”?? WTF?? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry seeing that listing there. That one little entry made me want to run into the kitchen and suck down cheap cooking sherry just to mellow the hell out.

Next up is “Cosmos”. This tells me A. the Mensa guy drives Prius with a bumper sticker that says “I’m saving the environment and you’re not”, B. the Mensa guy wants to impress everyone with his Mensafication, C. the Mensa guy has never actually seen “Cosmos” because it’s on at the same time as “Married with Children”.

“M*A*S*H”… Oh sorry. I fell asleep just thinking of that boring-ass show. Hawkeye is such a putz. The fact that he ever got laid in Korea makes it obvious that this is a completely fictional show (and that Alan Alda had a hand in writing the script).

I’m ok with some of the other shows up there like “CSI”, but I wouldn’t call it “the smartest show ever made”, especially when the franchise is so formulaic. However, that wacky ginge David Caruso does have such wonderful comedic acting skills. Wait, you mean “CSI Miami” is not supposed to be a comedy?

The only show I see on that list which I personally think was fresh, ground-breaking, and culturally relevant is “All in the Family”. It’s still funny and shocking even 30 years later. It’s also the oldest program on this list. Clearly, Mensa man is not aware that other television shows were made before 1970.

One blatent omission is that masterpiece of fine art, “The Geena Davis Show”. He really dissed his fellow Mensa comrade on that one. And what about “Sara”? Maybe I should be a Mensa member because I have a long enough memory to remember that mess.  

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Love means never having to say “you infected me”

David Utter of SecurityProNews filed this story yesterday about targeted holiday spam:

Like eating a box of chocolates, visiting sites touted by spam could leave people with a lot of regret. Security vendor BitDefender spotted waves of junk email promoting pharmaceuticals and replica watches.

Pharma spammers pitch drugs of all kinds. With this being Valentine’s Day, it isn’t difficult to erect an opinion about the kind of pharmaceuticals this wave of spam promoted, though BitDefender did not name any names.

As for replica watches, well, anyone who buys a fake Rolex for a significant other probably deserves whatever negative fallout comes from that. But since this means giving money to criminals, and personal data too, we have to advise people to steer clear of such come-ons, today or any other day.

“The most annoying and dangerously themed spam is an adware-carrying wave,” BitDefender noted. “The emails pretended to open a page specialized in sending e-cards (“Wish them love and a happy Valentines Day with one of our animated, personal greeting cards”), but instead the user was sent to a “smiley center”.”

“If the user downloaded the “free smiles”, an adware “gift” was also received,” they continued. Such a gift keeps on giving, in the form of popup ads and other CPU-draining or worse activities on a PC.

“Believe it or not, spammers are actually starting to target their messages in hopes of getting greater returns” Bogdan Dumitru, BitDefender CTO, said in the post.

“Users need to be wary of the different URLs they click on during holiday seasons, as they will start to notice their inboxes increasingly being flooded with targeted spam during these periods.”

Especially since infected hardware can put a crimp on one’s life, we suspect.

I can totally understand why ordinarily careful web surfers would click through on spam during a holiday buying season. Consider it in light of the comments I made yesterday about holiday paranoia: get something good or get in trouble.

Here you sit at 2am trolling theWeb for gift ideas, just hoping, praying, that some divine inspiration will come your way. You’ve got maybe two days left before the big day and time is running out, so you click on anything that could possibly save your ass — Vermont Teddy Bears, Pajama-Grams, Franklin Mint cherub figurines…anything. It’s desperation that leads people to make bad choices in situations like this, not stupidity (well, ok, a little stupidity). The folks who design spam campaigns know this and they capitalize upon it. Smart business practice on their part, eh?

In an unrelated note, all this talk of spam has made me hungry for it. I love those little spam sushi bricks they make in Hawaii. They fry up a little slab of meat, slap it onto sticky rice, and wrap it in nori. It’s damn good, too. I had to look up the name of it: musubi. One of those things you’d probably never eat at home, but is somehow perfectly delicious if you’re on vacation. Yummy. Actually, I’m not sure if I’m craving spam sushi or just craving a vacation.

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Movie scene of the day

Andie: What about prom, Blane?
Blane: Andie, I’m having a bad day. Can we talk later?
Andie: No. What about prom?
Blane: Why don’t we meet after school?
Andie: No! What about prom?
Blane: Andie, come on.
Andie: Just say it.
Blane: What?
Andie: Just say it. I wanna hear you say it.
Blane: Andie, please, all right?
Andie: I wanna hear you say it.
Blane: A month ago, I asked somebody else and I forgot.
Andie: You’re a liar! You’re a filthy, f**king, no-good liar. You don’t have the guts to tell me the truth. Just say it!
Blane: I’m not lying.
Andie: Tell me!
Blane: What do you want to hear?
Andie: Tell me!
Blane: What?
Andie: You’re ashamed to be seen with me.
Blane: No, I am not!
Andie: You’re ashamed to go out with me. You’re terrified that you’re goddamn rich friends won’t approve.
Andie: Just say it!
Andie: Just tell me the truth!
Blane: You don’t understand that it has nothing at all do with you.
Blane: Andie!

— Andie nails Blane about not calling (“Pretty in Pink”)

BONUS! Here’s your VD gift for today:

Oh, Jake, my wish already came true!! Now let’s blow out the candles and make out all over this table.

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Rosie palm

This article was in the SF Chronicle today:

Palm trees in Antioch falling prey to arsonist

 An arsonist in Antioch has set four palm trees ablaze in the past week, authorities said today.

All the trees have been torched on or near A Street, Emily Hopkins of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said today. The first two fires happened Friday on A and West Third streets, she said. Another fire was set Tuesday near West 11th Street. The most recent tree fire was Wednesday, but Hopkins had no details on that blaze. She had no idea why an arsonist would target palm trees. “We don’t have any leads,” she said.

Want to know why the trees are getting burned down? For anyone who doesn’t live in California, allow me to school you on palm trees.

When I first moved to Southern California as a young bright-eyed rube, I loved palm trees. They symbolized the whole Hollywood fantasy that most of us (even outside of the US) dream about when we’re young. Convertible sportscars, tanned beautiful people, gorgeous actors, wholesome surfers with wacky nicknames —  palm trees are the physical representation of the L.A. experience. I was fascinated by them. …Until my first week in town, when I accidentally brushed against one and sliced my leg open. Lesson #1: untrimmed palm tree trunks are sharp.

My first home in California was a beautiful rented townhouse 1/2 block from the beach in a very popular young area. My neighbors were a special effects artist and a semi-famous porn actress. It was a great house but, best of all, I had a small Queen palm nestled right up to the entry area. Living in a busy area near a bunch of bars seemed fun at first but got old really fast, especially since now I was constantly picking garbage out of my little tree area. Lesson #2: people like sticking trash and beer cans inside palm tree trunks and crowns.

One thing I noticed about the soaring palms that line L.A.’s city streets is that many of them also sport rings around their trunks. Some are made of metal, some are just a sticky glue/resin-type substance, but all of the rings are about 1/3 down from the top. I also noticed that crews were constantly trimming the dead fronds that lie under the crown. I thought both were strange and asked a friend who was a local. Actually, what I asked is “Is the band to keep people from stealing the coconuts those guys are cutting down?” After she stopped laughing at my idiotic question she explained that the bands were there to stop animals from climbing into the dead fronds. Animals, like parrots and beautiful jungle rainforest type creatures? Uh no. Lesson #3: Rats live in palm trees and sometimes fall out, landing on unsuspecting people below.

So all this many years later, the allure of palm trees just ain’t what it used to be for me. And, judging from the work of some kook in Antioch (which btw ain’t exactly a paradise of a city), I’d have to say that there are a few that agree with me.

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