September 24, 2004

The first class

Rob Young, an American teaching English in the Bulgarian city of Silistra, lets the cat out of the bag on his method of introducing himself to the class, and letting the class introduce themselves back. His methods of breaking the ice look wonderful - and believe me, there usually *is* quite a bit of ice to break in a Bulgarian school when the students see a real, live, talking and performing native speaker of English for the first time, and the way school works, if he (God forbid) addresses them personally, they are required to answer him in English! Of course, there are always a few students who are already kinda sorta comfortable with making up a sentence or two in English, but they are usually the exception rather than the rule, and usually the first reaction to a question from the teacher is a blanched expression and a stammering search for at least two or three words that could go well together.

From Rob's description, it seems that he has found a way to ease the students into it in a way that they almost like the idea of an English class in the end :) He brought up memories of the English and American teachers that we had in the "English B" classes at the First English Language School in Sofia ("English B" is an English grammar/literature/whatever-the-teacher-fells-like class taught by a native speaker). Of course, FELS differs from most other schools in that the students there have already implicitly expressed an interest in the language, but still, from what I remember, there was quite a bit of ice to break back then - and our teachers did great, too.

Posted by roam at 07:54 PM

EU Software Patents directive delayed again

The Register reports that the EU's Competitiveness Council has once again returned the software patents directive for reconsideration. Among other interesting points in the article:

Cohn-Bendit said that the software regulations proposed by the Competitiveness Council on 18 June would have led to EU's economy being controlled by a small group of multi-nationals.

Oh, but ain't that the truth...

The European Parliament takes the view that strict software patents will stifle innovation among small European companies. Software would instead be covered by copyrights and algorithms and commercial methods might not be protected in any form.

That was one of the points that Plamen Tonev repeatedly stressed in his talk on software patents at the LUG-BG 2004 seminar back in May, and in my not so humble opinion this point alone should be enough to bring the whole thing to a conclusion, not "one way or another", but certainly to the scraping of both this proposed bill and any further talk on the subject.

Posted by roam at 06:41 PM

September 23, 2004

Party on, Garth!

And hot on the heels of Georgi Chorbadzhiyski's birthday party, yesterday we celebrated Lyubo Yovchev's adding another year to his wisdom. A great opportunity to meet once again some former cow-orkers from Orbitel, including Lyubo's wife Petya, and some friends from Mobiltel. I was quite surprised to find that an old friend seems to regularly read this blog - thanks, you know who you are, and remember: four months! ;) All in all, another pleasant evening with conversations drifting from topic to topic, only rarely touching on computers, telecommunications, or IT in general, although the aikido argument at the end would have been better left for another time and place.

Posted by roam at 02:26 PM

September 22, 2004

Party on, Wayne!

Well, looks like I'm still kinda good for a party. Yesterday Georgi Chorbadzhiyski celebrated his birthday, and threw a party in the Praga club (yep, the name of the club and the name of the boulevard it is located on - 'Praga' - is the Bulgarian pronunciation of Prague, but somehow it doesn't seem right to "translate" it). It seems that my days for wild parties are kinda gone, though, and I've turned more to the socializing aspect - well, for some values of 'socializing' including spending most of the evening in a room with dimmed lights, discussing Bulgarian literature, the Google challenge, some funny properties of the transcendental number 'e', Bulgarian poetry, blogs, and Bulgarian prose with six or seven more crazyheads...

At least, it was good to attach faces to names - the gang introduced me to Bobson, Rossy, and probably a couple of others whose names I didn't quite catch. All in all, a well-spent evening, although for various unrelated reasons, despite Buchvarov's reassurances, my alcohol consumption reached an all-time low for a party :)

Update: Vasil Kolev graciously pointed me to the new location of Rossy's blog.

Posted by roam at 07:54 PM

September 17, 2004

Writing e-mail messages fit to read

Sometimes I wonder whether some people realize that the goal of writing e-mail is so that other people can actually read it and grasp the meaning - and no, I don't mean only top-posting[1]. Here's Jeff Boulter's take on the subject.

All I can say is - *sigh*...

[1] A: Because it makes the text confusing and hard to read.
Q: Why should we never write the answer before the question?

The Day of Sofia

Serdica to the Thracians, Triaditza to the Romans and Byzanthians, Sredetz to the Slavs, Sofia to the Bulgarians - a city with almost three millennia of history. The coat of arms, originally designed by Haralampi Tachev in 1900, bears the inscription "It grows, yet does not age" (image c/o the Sofia Municipality website):

Sofia coat of arms

In 1992, in honour of the celebration of St. Sofia the Martyr, the Government chose September 17th as the Day of Sofia. On this day, which is also a church celebration of martyrs Viara, Nadezhda, and Lyubov (the Bulgarian names also mean Faith, Hope and Love), we honor the centuries of history of the city which bears a name of wisdom.

Posted by roam at 01:03 PM

September 15, 2004

University of Nigeria

Finally, a degree program that leads straight to ROI and wealth, no tricks, no questions asked, no holds barred... err, scratch those last two, they're not too good for PR, are they now?

When I graduate, I will gladly forward my first $15m to Stefan Tilkov for setting me on the One True Path!

Posted by roam at 11:51 PM

Alternate energy vehicle web link bonanza

A BoingBoing post summarizes the use of alternate energy in actual transportation vehicles running on actual roads in actual countries. Looks like there are quite a lot of companies that *do* realize the importance of moving away from petroleum oil! Link via Zak Greant.

On the other hand, they could have picked another headline - chains of words, English style, anyone? :)

Posted by roam at 08:49 PM

Can't they wait a little longer?

Kev notes that some US stores have already begun selling Christmas trees. It kinda reminds me of that old joke about the wife telling the husband that he will really have to choose - either throw out the Christmas tree, or bring down the Easter decorations... only this time, it seems the joke's on the people, the ordinary people, who go to a store to shop for something they really need, and chances are they cannot find it because it's been crowded out by something no sane person would want for the next, what, three full months?

And just when I thought it was funny in a grotesque kind of way, I saw the first comment on Kev's blog - the one that says that there are Christmas puddings on sale already; I hope y'all have big enough fridges, because there's probably been a Thanksgiving turkey on sale a month ago, and in a month or three there will also be little chocolate Easter bunnies, and they'll all need to go in that fridge, and it'll get quite crowded in there, won't it now?

Posted by roam at 08:20 PM

Long-overdue gallery update!

I've added *lots* of stuff to the new Ringlet gallery - basically, most of the things that have happened to Iva and me ever since June! Enjoy!

As usual, if it asks you for username/password and you do not know those, just drop me a line - I'll give access to anybody, without any kind of tracking, but non-authenticated access will be disabled.

Posted by roam at 07:43 PM

September 14, 2004

Chains... chains of words...

Matt writes:

Somehow I don't think this was written to appeal to the general public:

Lucent to provide Ultra Dense Large Micro Electro Mechanical Systems Spatial Light Modulators for Maskless Lithography to DARPA

This is the actual subtitle of a news article. For a long time, I've been of the opinion that English is not much better than German when it comes to long words, it just substitutes word chains for words, to much the same effect - sometimes nauseating, sometimes hilarious.

Posted by roam at 06:35 PM

Fixed the comments RSS feed dates

As arved pointed out a couple of days ago, my comments RSS feeds were just so slightly wrong: the date displayed for the comments was the entry date, not that of the actual comment. Thanks to a Chasing Coffee post which led me to one on Michael Hanscom's blog, I've fixed the problem now - this blog's and the gallery's comment feeds display the date properly now.

Thanks to everyone involved! And yeah, I know I really should update the gallery blog more often...

Posted by roam at 05:37 PM

September 13, 2004

Tryn, Krusha, and Dobri's place in the wild

Another weekend not spent in Sofia: we had originally planned to gather some people together and spend Saturday night at a chalet in the mountain of Vitosha, but then Iva's coworker Dobri came up with a much, much better idea - his folks' place in the village of Krusha (see the note below for the pictures). On Saturday Dobri had some work to do with a good old friend, Hristo Erinin (some people might know him better as 'zorlem', at least on IRC), and when Iva, Petya and I dropped by to get a map of sorts so we could actually find the place, Hristo regretfully refused to come along, citing his four-month old daughter as a fair enough reason. So Dobri drew us a map, we picked up Iva's university dorm roommate Polly and her husband Milen, and drove off into the sunset... well, alright, not all the way towards the sunset, merely towards Krusha.

This village, near Tryn, is just a couple of klicks off Bulgaria's western border with Serbia. We took the southern road, along the road to Tryn. Consequently, the first set of pictures shows mostly the countryside in the lands west of Sofia. There were a couple of fun moments when we had to leave the road to Tryn and drive through a couple of other villages to get to Krusha - there were no signs for that detour, and there were no signs at the entrance and exit of the first village, Vrabcha. Still, we found the way somehow, and reached the bus stop at Krusha.

There, we got off the cars and started the second part of the journey - the search for Dobri's place itself. This involved a couple of wrong turns too, a scouting expedition by Iva and me, and two phone calls to establish our exact location (and among the mountains there, the coverage is not all that good for purely physical reasons) - but in the end, we made it!

Once we got there, we pitched the tent, gathered some wood, built a fire, and set on the daunting task of cooking, eating, and generally having fun :) After a couple of hours, Dobri called to say he was getting ready to bring his girlfriend along and asked whether it was cold out there. Imagine our surprise, then, when it turned out that Hristo and his wife had decided to come along with him, and to bring their daughter, too! And come along they did - Dobri, Vassi, Hristo, Mira, and the four-month old Dara - out in the partly-tamed wilderness...

The rest of the camp pictures were taken on Sunday morning, after Iva, Petya and I had spent the night in our tent, and the others - in the small house. We fixed some quick breakfast, fried some fish, Iva and I helped Dobri at bringing water up from the well, then we ate the fish... and then it was time to go. The drive back seemed so much shorter than the way there, maybe because Dobri took us the other way, through Dragoman and Slivnica. Anyway, we ended up in Sofia at about 5pm, somewhat tired from the hot sun beating down on us on the way back, but quite rested and happy to have escaped the city for yet another weekend.

Ah, about the pictures... As noted in the previous entry, anonymous access to the Ringlet gallery has been disabled, but all you have to do to view them is just drop me an e-mail.

Posted by roam at 08:16 PM

Whirlwind Tour Pictures

Some of the pictures from the Whirlwind Tour are now online at the Ringlet gallery. For various reasons, anonymous access to the gallery is not allowed any more, although all you have to do is drop me an e-mail and I'll let you see them.

Those are only a few of the pics; the full collection is available on CD for anyone who asks me, but you'll have to do it in person, since unlike some great people out there, I'm not in the business of distributing CD's by e-mail :)

Posted by roam at 07:22 PM

September 09, 2004

The World's Oldest Family Companies

Georgi Penkov pointed me to a fascinating list of The World’s Oldest Family Companies. The idea of compiling such a list, and the implications of the fact that family companies really *can* outlive governments, countries, and anything else you care to name in history, is somehow warming - looks like there still might be some hope for the human race, after all, if there are people who can keep on brewing wine, making pottery, building houses, or running inns and hotels, day in, day out, father-to-son (or mother, or daughter, as the case may be), over the centuries...

Still, I wonder if the list isn't slightly skewed by the choice of sources. The two organizations "most helpful" in providing the sources are an English one and a French one. Strangely enough, the following simple script that counts the number of businesses per country from the page's source:

#!/usr/bin/perl -wT
use strict;
my %cnt = ();
$_ = do { local $/; <> };
while (m{^<P><B>.*\n<BR>.*/ *([^\/\n]*)$}mg) { $cnt{$1}++; }
printf("%2d %s\n", $cnt{$_}, $_) for sort { $cnt{$a} <=> $cnt{$b} } sort keys(%cnt);

...produces the following ranking:

 1 Australia
 1 Belgium
 1 Chile
 1 Ireland
 1 Mexico
 1 Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
 1 Norway
 1 South Africa
 1 Sweden
 2 Canada
 2 Portugal
 2 Switzerland
 3 Netherlands
 3 Spain
 6 Japan
12 Germany
16 Italy
18 France
24 United Kingdom

So, um, I wonder what would happen if the sources were not, as mentioned above, mainly an English and a French organization. Still, even with these sources, the list is fascinating.

Posted by roam at 02:35 PM

Why Specs Matter

I wonder if Mark Pilgrim's Why Specs Matter post could be applied to other facets of life, not just software development. Still..

Most developers are morons, and the rest are assholes. I have at various times counted myself in both groups, so I can say this with the utmost confidence.

That's how it starts, and I can second that - err, no, I don't mean that Mark Pilgrim has been a moron or an asshole, although if he himself says so... ;) I mean that *I*, myself, have been in both groups at various times, multiple times, so yeah, he got that part right!

Now go read the whole thing, right up to the end. If it doesn't strike you as particularly correct, well, you could blame me for wasting your time, or you could blame Kev where I found it :)

Posted by roam at 01:37 PM

September 03, 2004


Well, it seems that the recent rumours about the demise of BlueTooth have been greatly exaggerated. Or, at least, concerning my Nokia 6310i phone, Iva's Cambridge Silicon Radio USB BlueTooth adapter, and FreeBSD 5.3-BETA2. In fact, thanks to the awsesome work by Maksim Yevmenkin for developing the BlueTooth stack support for FreeBSD, Pav Lucistnik for documenting it in the FreeBSD handbook to a point where all I had to do was follow the instructions and pretty much copy/paste the command lines after reading a couple of manpages for good measure, and undoubtedly countless other testers and contributors, I am writing this very blog entry over a Dial-Up over BlueTooth connection - and it seems to work quite well, doesn't it now? :)

And now it's off to the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics for me, to torture the poor students who have come for a retake of the Network Security exam... Wish them luck! (them, not me, obviously ;)

Posted by roam at 02:00 PM

September 01, 2004

An Illustrated Guide to Cryptographic Hashes

Well, Steve Friedl does it again: in response to the recent flurry about the MD5 and SHA1 collisions and the End of Cryptography As We Know It[0], he has written another one of his Tech Tips, An Illustrated Guide to Cryptographic Hashes (mentioned in his blog). Even though he claims he is no crypto expert, this either does not show or, if true, even *helps* his writing style: it's clear, it's simple, it's helps dispel the hype and hysteria.

[0] Newsflash: the crypto world is NOT, repeat NOT ending this week!

Posted by roam at 08:12 PM
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