Archive for May, 2008

PostHeaderIcon Emergency Exit


Imagine this: you and eight buddies go on a trip.

You’re all in a plane when suddenly, while in flight, a wing falls off.

Can you imagine, what it would be like, to have a reunion with your friends in, say, a week from the unhappy event.

Reminiscing about the lucky coincidence that you all happened to be wearing … parachutes when the incident happened?


PostHeaderIcon Indiana Jones and the Communist Curse

Some critiques on the “Crystal Skull” Indiana Jones movie, from Russia.

Communist Party members in Russia want to ban Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from local theaters, calling it anti-Soviet propaganda that distorts history.

(Anti-Soviet propaganda? Get with the program: the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991. As for distorting history: wait till you see the Matrix!)

“It’s rubbish,” said Sergei Malinkovich, a leader for the St. Peterburg Communist Party. “In 1957 the Communists did not run with crystal skulls throughout the U.S. Why should we agree to that sort of lie and let the West trick our youth?”

(Come on! It’s not nearly as bad as when we tricked them with the lies of Harry Potter)

“Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett [are] second-rate actors, serving as the running dogs of the CIA,” the Party member wrote in a blog entry. “We need to deprive these people of the right of entering the country.

(Why? Because Russia already HAS enough second rate actors?)


Communist Party members in St. Petersburg said on a web site this week that the Soviet Union in 1957 “did not send terrorists to the States,” but launched a satellite, “which evoked the admiration of the whole world.”

(Oh that Sputnik thing? Looks like a crystal skull to me!)

Moscow Communist lawmaker Andrei Andreyev said Saturday “it is very disturbing if talented directors want to provoke a new Cold War.”

(I bet he finds this disturbing! Considering who lost the previous one.)


“What galls is how together with America we defeated Hitler, and how we sympathized when Bin Laden hit them. But they go ahead and scare kids with Communists. These people have no shame,” said Viktor Perov, a Communist Party member in Russia’s second city of St. Petersburg.

(Scare kids with Communists? And WHO is accusing us of that? HAHAHAHAHA)

Other communists said the generation born after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union were being fed revisionist, Hollywood history. They advocated banning the Indiana Jones [movie] outright to prevent “ideological sabotage.”

(And which ideology exactly would be sabotaged by this work of pure fiction?)

“Our movie-goers are teenagers who are completely unaware of what happened in 1957,” St Peterburg Communist Party chief Sergei Malinkovich told Reuters.
“They will go to the cinema and will be sure that in 1957 we made trouble for the United States and almost started a nuclear war.”

(Your kids don’t know what happened in 1957? Blame on you, Russia! As for us making them think you guys almost started a nuclear war in 1957: True, that’s distorting history alright, we all know that didn’t really happen until 1962)

Vladimir Mukhin, another member of the local Communist Party, said in comments posted on the Internet site that he would ask Russia’s Culture Ministry to ban the film for its “anti-Soviet propaganda.”

(Soviet propaganda? See above. Having a Culture Ministry banning movies: way to go guys!)


Party leaders accused the actors Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett yesterday of promoting crude, anti-Soviet propaganda in their new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. They have urged Russian moviegoers to boycott the film and told Ford, 65, not to visit the country.

(Well, if Ford doesn’t get to go to Russia, then you don’t get to play in his next movie! So! There!)

The Communist Party’s ideology committee in Russia’s secondlargest city saw red over the plot. In an open letter, it declared: “Your work in this film is an insult to the Soviet and Russian people, who remember the difficult Fifties when our country was concluding its reconstruction after the Great War, but did not send merciless terrorists to the USA.” It said that Russians had loved Ford in previous serious roles ” which include a Soviet submarine commander in K-19: The Widowmaker – but went on: “You have no future in Russia any more. Speaking plainly, it is better for you not to come here. You will be beaten and despised.”

(Beaten and despised. Yes we have grown up a bit since the end of the cold war …)

The party’s central committee called Steven Spielberg’s film an attempt to “slander Soviet Communists” and poison the young against them. It called Ford and Blanchett “capitalist puppets”.

(Capitalist puppet: Psst, here in the west, that’s a compliment!)


“Our women don’t look like Nazis, but maybe Cate Blanchett was threatened by unemployment, so … she made this film,” Perov said.

(What DO Nazis look like?)

“The film is low-quality and would raise a smile if there wasn’t a danger of drawing into its orbit teenagers who know nothing about the 1950s,” Vladimir Mukhin, another member, said in comments on the Internet site.

(Low quality films raise smiles in Russia? As for your ignorant teenagers: why not TELL them about the fifties? Oh I know… I know.. it IS a bit embarrassing, but hey, they deserve to know!)

“Indians and aliens unite with Jones and his untrustworthy buddies to save the world from a Russian threat – what rubbish, simply a paranoid Churchillian fantasy,” Mukhin said.

(Right! Fantasy! Finaly one who ALMOST gets close!)


I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: “O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.”
And God granted it.


I guess that’s what a life long exposure to state sponsored propaganda movies, presented as the truth and historically correct, does to the less enlightened minds: it apparently grows a blind spot for the genre of ‘FICTION‘.


To be sure:

Not all Russians are communists and apparently the above sentiments don’t quite represent the opinion of the average Russian:

The protests appeared to have little impact on the film’s commercial prospects. It was released on Thursday on 808 screens in Russia, a record for a Hollywood film.

PostHeaderIcon Seven Minutes of Terror

Last year, on August 4th, I wrote, although not immediately apparent, about the launch of a Delta rocket that would put the Phoenix space craft on its way to Mars.

After having traveled some nine months at around 74,000 miles an hour, Phoenix is almost at the end of its 423 million mile journey:
Tomorrow afternoon it will make its landing attempt: when is starts its harrowing descent to the Martian surface it will be flying over 12,000 miles per hour (relative to Mars).
Seven minutes later it should be touching down on the cold rocky planet.

Unlike the previous rovers, this is not a big airbag that is dropped and bounces around for a while: this is a real lander that is supposed to make a controlled soft landing using a parachute, retro-rockets, radar, lots of computer power and … quite a bit of luck: so far, only 55% of all Mars landings have been successful.

Is the Phoenix team confident they will pull this off?
Not quite:

I do not feel confident. But in my heart I’m an optimist, and I think this is going to be a very successful mission,” said principal investigator Peter Smith, an optical scientist with the University of Arizona. “The thrill of victory is so much more exciting than the agony of defeat.

The number of things that can go wrong in the seven minutes it takes the lander from going from almost 13,000 mph to gently stepping on Mars’ surface is mind boggling. One single small failure will make the difference between success and Mars having yet another impact crater. This is why the Phoenix team refers to this landing event as “The Seven Minutes of Terror”.

I will be watching the landing coverage tomorrow on TV and it will be a nail biting experience.

And if we’re lucky and Phoenix survives this mission critical maneuver, we’re in for yet another nail biting experience.

After all, Phoenix’ mission is to hopefully find a conclusive answer to that centuries old question:

Is there life “out there”?

PostHeaderIcon The Price isn’t Right

Price Tag Microsoft Visual Studio 2008Assume you’re in the market for a new car. You have picked your car: a ‘Standard’ model from car maker XYZ.
Your new car has everything you need. And the price is right: say $30,000.
The model you chose also comes in a ‘Pro’ version.
It’s basically the same car, but it has some additional gadgets like a sunroof, GPS and leather seats.
Some of these extra gadgets are really nice, and you may even use some of them once or twice in the car’s lifetime.
You briefly contemplate this ‘Pro’ model, until you see its price tag: $80,000.
Hiding your astonishment about this strange pricing strategy you stick to your ‘Standard’ model.
Then you learn something else:
If you have owned a car before, then, for some reason, you get a $10,000 discount!
That’s a cool deal. Too bad this is your first car.
But wait!
There is more!
XYZ has a stripped down version of your ‘Standard’ model available as test car!
As I said, it’s heavily stripped down, bare bones, but it gets you from A to B.
You can test drive it for as long as you want for FREE! No cost! Gratis. All you pay is the gas.
Now .. if you DO borrow that car, then THAT counts towards this ‘had-car-previously’-discount!
So you drive that loaner for a day or two, and now you can buy your ‘Standard’ for $20,000.
But wait … you THEN find out that if you DON’T buy directly from XYZ, but order it through, they knock off yet another $2,000!

You secretly wonder if the guy who came up with these somewhat odd pricing schemes will still have a job tomorrow.

Strange story, you say?
Well, this actually happened to me yesterday!

No, not with buying a car from XYZ through Amazon.

It happened with buying software from Microsoft.

I needed Visual Studio 2008.
It’s not for enterprise or development groups purposes, so I basically have the choice between Visual Studio 2008 ‘Standard’ and ‘Professional’.
Standard costs $300.
Professional, which is Standard + gadgets, costs $800.
If you ‘upgrade’ from a previous version, Standard only costs $200.
“Previous versions” INCLUDE non-Microsoft, Open Source (free) Eclipse software  AND Microsoft’s own FREE Visual Studio 2008 Express software!
I double checked the price with Amazon, since I have free 2-day shipping with them, and they listed Visual Studio 2008 Standard Upgrade for $179.99.

Who on earth would ever pay $300 for the full Standard version? (Probably the people who didn’t read the upgrade policy!)
And how would they feel if they learn, that they could have had it for $120 less, LEGITEMATELY! By first installing (I doubt you actually need to do that) either the free Eclipse software or the free Visual Studio Express version?

They would probably be as pissed off as I was when, after buying a full version of Windows XP, I found out I could have gotten it for half the price by first simply ‘borrowing’ it, and then fessing up to Microsoft that I ‘borrowed’ it and want to pay for it afterall.  Granted, this is not QUITE the same, because in this scheme there IS some illegality involved. NOT so in the Visual Studio case! (For this XP story, see: link)