Twenty five letters only

Here is my try on this tricky puzzle:

There are 26 letters in the English language, and we need every single one of them. Want proof? Choose a letter and write a blog post without using it. (Feeling really brave? Make it a vowel!)

You see, I only quoted the post for some context. There’s no problem, I think. More so, for someone who’s mother tongue is different.  I come from Russki territories. We use letters which were borrowed from Greece.  We just exploded them from twenty four to thirty three. Possibly, there is our lesson of unneeded letters.  We will survive with more.  We will survive with less. There is no problem.

I’m only trying things out here.  It looks like I might do this forever.

Now, going back.  It’s not difficult. You only need to word thoughts differently.  The use of tools like Internet (World Wide Web) or word lists might help.  Even with the vowels.  I should refer you to the letter frequency resource.  The letter I’m ignoring is the second most used.  (Much less so in this post.)  But I write just fine without it.  It is limiting, tricky even.  However one could get used to it.

Do you think it’s worth the try?  Try.  Let me know in the comments how it goes.

P.S.: The URLs of the links I do not control.

Daily Prompt: No, Thanks

The Daily Post asks the question:

Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and why not?

 Being genuinely open to travel opportunities, I was surprised how quickly my brain came up with an answer – Burma. Why?  Because I’ve seen Rambo.  And before you scream at me for it just being a movie, read a bit further – Wikipedia page for Rambo movie, and Wikipedia page for Burmese anti-government protests.

What’s in the room? A fear. Or two.

OK, you gonna hate me for this, but I just couldn’t resist and read one more question from the The Daily Post.

You’re locked in a room with your greatest fear. Describe what’s in the room.

I wanted to do a post like that for a while now.  But thinking of my fears takes away for a long time and then I don’t know how to connect them all,  with which one to start, and how to finish.  And on top of that I get really scared thinking of all my fears.  But, if I think in terms of the room, and I’m locked in there with my greatest fear, all of a sudden I see … just me.  And that explains at least four big fears that I have:

  1. Fear of loneliness.  That is probably my greatest fear.  I am not comfortable with myself for long periods of time, and I constantly need people around me.  I’d rather have the worst possible people next to me, than nobody at all.
  2. Fear of myself.  This one comes and goes.  But when it comes, it’s pretty scary, and, difficult to explain.  But I do fear myself sometimes.  For most time, I can control myself pretty well.  (Feel free to disagree.)  However once in a while I get into that mode where I have an almost out of body experience, watching myself from aside, doing something crazy.  It’s almost never good or bad, just stupid.  But having no control of it is scary.
  3. Fear of dentists.  And I hear you jump up immediately, screaming – YOU ARE NOT A DENTIST!!! And you are right, I am not.  But remember that this whole thing is hypothetical.  There’s me locked up in the room with my greatest fear.  Well, I am afraid of dentists.  I’ve had more than a fair share of bad experiences and something snapped.  I think I might be so afraid of them, that even if I become one, I’d still have the fear.  And given that fear #2, I might just once have an uncontrollable desire to fix my own teeth.  Isn’t that scary?
  4. Fear of the dark.  Yeah, remember that room?  Someone switched off the lights and closed the shutters too, so it’s pitch black.  That alone wouldn’t throw me into a panic attack anymore – I used to be afraid of the dark a lot more when I was kid – but given all those other fears in the room, I would be pretty miserable.

OK, enough, as I said before, these thoughts get me scared.  I should get of the Internet now and go hide somewhere with people and lights, and without dentists.

What are you afraid off?  What would be in that room of yours?  Answering ‘you’ is cheating. :)

This is your life. Would you read it?

A year or so ago, I’ve subscribed to the RSS feed of The Daily Post – a blog that tries to inspire people to blog daily, but providing questions, ideas, and unfinished thoughts.  I’ve checking with it once in a while, but often had enough things of my own to write about.  Still, I find their variety of subjects interesting.  And since, I’ve looked at them today, here is an example – This is your life:

If you could read a book containing all that has happened and will ever happen in your life, would you? If you choose to read it, you must read it cover to cover.

I totally would!  I think.  Sort of.  This is actually quite close to the arguments I held in a recent discussion at work.  A few of us in the office were discussing the benefits of finding out the gender of your kid during pregnancy, and doing DNA tests to find out which diseases are more pre-exposed to.

I’ve stood my grounds on the side of: the more information, the better.   Since the beginning of times, the human race was trying to find out more information, and then pass it on to the next generations.   That’s probably one of the reasons why we are social animals – to get easier access to peer information, and better insure the passing to next generation.  Humans have a large brain, and we found amazing ways to use.  We’ve started mining for information early on, and came up with ways to organize and communicate information better.  From cave drawings, to alphabet, to scrolls and paper, all through to digital.  We’ve traveled miles, went into great depths and flew to remote planets – all in the drive for more information.

And then, some choose to not know.  I don’t get.  I can understand information filtering, when it just becomes too much – not everybody wants a Ph.D. in every single science and art after all.  I do understand time and money constraints, when you just cannot afford to learn something, thanks to the costs of modern education.  I do even understand fatigue, when you have all the information at your fingertips, but just can’t take it anymore.  But when none of this is a factor, when you do have access to the information, and it doesn’t cost you much more to learn it, I cant’ think of a reason not to learn it.

Now, back to that book thing again.  I would read it for all the information that it has.  If it covers my future, my goods and my bads, and even if it covers my death and after-death – I would read it.  I want all that information.  The thought that stops me from saying that I would absolutely read all of it cover to cover has to do with time constraints.

I am 34 years old.  Even with a rough calculation, that’s over 12,000 days.  I haven’t lived all days to the full – sometimes I was sick, sometimes I was lazy, sometimes I just slept a day through.  But those weren’t too many.  I can probably imagine at least a half a page for each day of my life.  That’s a book with 6,000 pages, give or take.  I’ve also had quite a few of those days that would need a book of their own.  But, for the sake of simplicity, I’m not taking about those now.  I’m not the fastest reader.  It would probably take me a month or so to read through that.   And that’s only up to now.  I have no idea for how long the book goes further.  Every coupe of days add a page.  Do I really want to read for a month a full memory of what happened to me until now?  Probably not.  I have a blog with over 6,000 posts and I’ve never read it cover to cover, even though I wrote all of it on my own.  Sure thing it’s nice to read memories once in a while.   As I mentioned before, I do enjoy my ‘On this day …’ widget on the sidebar.  But that’s just a 4-5 clicks, not a whole book.

I would probably go for something electronic.  Like if I had a blog with all everything that happened or will happen to me, instead of that book, I’d love it more.  Just think of that!  A full life’s blog archive, with all the tools – search, post calendar, tags, categories, occasional images maybe – and all of that without any work.  Someone just gave it to you.  I would totally jump on that!

P.S.: Now I think I now why I don’t frequent The Daily Post blog.  It’s tricky.  They ask a simple question, and it throws me into a long post mode.

Shakespear? Yes, sure

Daily Post, a blog that suggest a topic to write a blog post about for each day of the year, raises an interesting question: do you think Shakespear existed? Apparently, a few people doubt the fact because there is way too much work credited to him for a single person to create.

While I’m not that big on history in general and Shakespear in particular, I do have an opinion on the “too much work” reasoning. I’ve heard it before a few times and it was wrong every time I’ve heard it.

15-20 years ago, before the Internet was mainstream, most of the Russian connected people were using the FidoNet. As with any community, there were celebrities in FidoNet, and one of them was a writer under the name of “Alex Exler”. He was credited with so much stuff that rumors were going around that Alex Exler is not really a person, but a creative group of a few individuals. It turned out to be false. Alex Exler is a somewhat known writer, and a very well-known blogger on the Russian web. These days he has a website as The website is updated daily with movies and gadgets reviews, opinions on software and political news, personal experiences and what not.

10-15 year ago, when I was just getting into the world of Linux and other Open Source software, I’ve heard rumors that Alan Cox is not really a human, but a bunch of goblins working underground around the clock. Alan’s contribution to Linux kernel and many other software projects was huge. More so, he seemed to have never slept. His patches were coming out any time of the day, he replied to his emails within minutes, and also managed to somehow follow all the discussion at Linux Kernel Mailing List (aka LKML) – a mailing list known for its huge traffic. Of course, Alan Cox is not a bunch of goblins. He is a very talented and productive individual.

Without knowing too much about Shakespear, I think that it is much more probable that William was a very talented and productive individual rather than he never existed or he was a group of people.

How’s your PrimeTel connection doing?

Just before the New Year, I’ve posted the good news from PrimeTel – free increase in the connection speed for all subscribers.  I was excited back than.  But over the last few days I had a number of discussions with a number of people and most of them seemed to complain about the degraded quality of service – speeds were not up, connection is not stable, and so on and so forth.  On one hand, I trust all these people.  On the other hand, my connection is doing fine.  Compared to speed tests that I did in December, I see better results now.  And I haven’t had any of the other problems.

So I am interested in hearing what are your experiences like.  Have you seen any changes in speed?  Have you seen any change in quality of service?  Have you seen any differences since the New Year at all?   Please let me know via the comments or directly.

Pages of history

Yesterday I came across this collection of nostalgic photographs that bring back memories from the USSR times.   I was too young to see some of those images in real life, but they still have meaning to me.  Most though are as they were back then.

Yet, these are staged photographs of some every day items.   Today I came across something much more real and something much more dramatic.  It is again a collection of images, but in a video form.  The video shows the staggering difference between the modern day Saint Petersburg and Leningrad (as it was called back then) during the Siege.  As Wikipedia puts it: “It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history and one of the most costly in terms of human casualties”.  It lasted for 872 days and it took lives of millions of people.  As per Wikipedia: 1,017,881 were killed, captured, or missing and 2,418,18 wounded or sick from the Red Army forces.  Civilian casualties are in the numbers of 642,000 during the siege and 400,000 at evacuations.  These are only those numbers that were verified.  In reality that was much more.

Motorola Defy – my first Android device

It has been more than three years since Google announced their Android platform, but I still remember how excited I was.  I knew that it would be years before I’d own a device running Android, but that didn’t matter to me.  It was (and still is) a very cool concept and initiative.  Not everything worked out the way it was supposed to workout, and the process is still in its infancy, but I am super glad that I can finally participate rather than just read about it.  A couple of days ago I spent 355 EUR to buy my first Android device – Motorola Defy smartphone (specs on one page).

Choosing which smartphone to buy was easier for me than it was for my friends.  While most of them had to count on website reviews and comparison charts, I could actually spend a few minutes playing with different devices, since I was among the last people to get one.  But the decisive factor was this video review (in German, but quite easy to understand even if you are like me and don’t speak the language).  See, for me, one of the biggest problems with smartphones is that they are quite expensive, but at the same time, they are too fragile.  No matter how carefully I handle them, it takes only a year and some to render them unusable – touch screens get stack, buttons fall out, etc.  Motorola Defy seemed indestructible by comparison.  Plus it was moderately priced and of a smaller size than most other similar phones.

So far I’ve been using this smartphone for two days and I am very happy with it.  I am already used to the interface (which differs quite a bit from Symbian that I used on my previous phones).  I am comfortable with configuration options.  And I already went through hundreds and hundreds of applications.  The variety is just amazing.  Anything you could wish for is there – wallpapers, ringtones, games, calculators and converters, news and social updates, and much much more.  And I haven’t even started yet with commercial applications.

Of course, as with any other device, there are issues and nuances.   For example, there seems to be an issue with Android devices not being able to connect to ad-hoc wireless networks.  (I guess not many people use them, but I happen to be one of those who needs this often – some of the offices that I work at don’t have wireless networks, so I connect my laptop via Ethernet cable and then create an ad-hoc wireless network to share the connection with my phone.  I’m sure that it will be fixed in the future updates.)  But what I get now is different from what I had before.  Before I had to Google for the answers myself, read pages and pages of forums, and fight the problems on my own.  Now, all my friends are using Android devices.  And even though the devices vary, they have enough in common for us to share solutions to problems, cool applications, tips and tricks.  And I absolutely love this bit.

This phone is very much like a modern computer – it’s not very useful when offline.  With built-in synchronization of contacts with Gmail and Facebook, calendar synchronization, and support for Twitter, YouTube, and pretty much every other major social network, this phone shines when it’s online.

An extra layer of awesomeness is guaranteed by built-in GPS.  And unlike the previous generation of devices with built-in GPS, this time it actually makes sense.  No longer I need to wait for 5 minutes until all satellites are acquired and my position is triangulated.  It just works and takes mere seconds.  My position information can then be utilized by a whole range of applications – camera geo-tagging pictures that I take, Twitter telling where I am, and foursquare which is a lot of fun in itself.

Even though I had this phone for only two days, I’ve kept in touch with Android platform for years.  So now I can talk about this for days.  It turns out I am as excited about Android as I was three years, and getting myself one was exactly what I needed to do.  My only regret is that I haven’t done it earlier.

Are Facebook Pages Killing the Corporate Web Site?

I came across this blog post asking the question of whether Facebook Pages are killing the corporate web sites.  Just by coincidence, I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days.  And not only thinking, but discussing it with other people and collecting their ideas, feedback, and data.

With a question like this its easy to fall into an extremist black and white view of the world.  But an answer in the middle isn’t quite as interesting as an answer from either side of the debate.  In my personal opinion, the answer is more yes than no.  Let me now explain.

Corporate web presence is increasingly important.  It is so important in fact that today it’s almost a requirement.  Web site is one of those first things a company needs to do, together with the office, logo, and business cards.  Yes, I am aware of the fact that not every company needs an office, or a logo, or business cards, or even a web site, but these are minority and more of an exception rather than a rule, so I’ll ignore them for now.

But as much as web publishing technology developed and improved these years, it’s nowhere near the accessible level.  Take for a example a brand new company.  And let it, for the sake of the example, be a small business.  A store, or a small services company.  At the stage where we are now, the company basically has these routes to establish its web presence:

  1. Employ a web design/development company to create the website.  There are a lot of variables here, but from what I’ve seen and heard around, such an option would cost somewhere around 700-3,000 EUR.  It will also take somewhere between 1 week and 3 month to be completed.  And then there will be maintenance/hosting/support charges ranging between 50-500 EUR a year.  Roughly, of course.
  2. DIY.  Either one of the company owners will create a website in MS Word and upload it to his ISP hosting folder.  Or a there would be somebody technical, somebody from the IT department, who will be able to find some cheap hosting, buy domain, install an open source CMS together with some free themes and plugins.  Even though cheaper and probably faster for the company, this will end up being a one-time job and soon nobody will remember who is supposed to update the web site and how to even get to the administration.
  3. Follow the white rabbit.  As much as I wish for this option to be a free blog over at, the reality of the situation suggests that it’s more likely to be a Facebook Page.  Free, fast and with no hassle.

Larger, richer companies have resources to invest into a proper web site, which would be maintained and updated, as well as constantly promoted.  However many smaller companies simply can’t afford the option.  And for them Facebook pages work surprisingly well.

In fact, I’ve spoken with a few local people who use Facebook pages to promote their business, services, and products.  And most of them are very satisfied by this option.  The outcomes vary, of course.  Some people said that Facebook doesn’t help them at all.  But they don’t mind since they spent only a few minutes setting up the page.  Others are much happier.  Two people in particular told me that they even had their own websites before, but those were a waste of time, since nobody ever visited them.  But on Facebook they managed to capture their audience and now they have larger client base and its much easier for them to keep everyone in the loop on stock updates, as well as to collect feedback.

I think that this last bit is particularly important.  It’s not about how much time or money you can invest.  But whether you can break through and reach your potential audience.  And somehow Facebook pages seem to be doing it better than standalone corporate website.  At least for some types of businesses.  And if it goes this way, I think more and more companies will start downgrading corporate websites from top priority to an item of lesser importance.   After all, it’s never too late to start with your own website, but if you can survive for some time without it, and save money and time – why not?

Suckling pig – a dream come true

Cooking and eating a whole suckling pig has been a dream of mine for a few years now.  Not just me – it was a dream that I shared with a very good friend of mine.   Yesterday it finally came true. My friend decided that we’ve waited enough and that we should finally do it.  So he got the pig and invited me over (as well as a few other people).

We soon discovered that cooking this thing was not as easy as we imagined.  For one, it seemed that the pig was too heavy for the motor to rotate it.  A new motor, more powerful, was bought.  But it still it didn’t work.  Luckily, almost everyone at a party was an engineer in one sense or another.  So we figured out that the pig had to be re-adjusted, for better balance.  It took us a couple of tries and a few meters of metal wire, but we managed to set it perfectly.  Too bad it was still too heavy for the motor and it simply died.  Gladly, we had more motors that finished the job.

One other thing we had to re-adjust was timing.  Somehow we thought it would be somewhere around two hours to cook it.  But finally it took more than four.  I know there is some formula to calculate the time based on weight of th meat, but nobody seemed to knew it.  Not to worry though – we had plenty of beer and things to talk about.

When the pig was finally cooked, put on table, and tried, I realized that all the wait was definitely worth it.  It was one of the best dishes I ate ever.  And it was the best pork ever.  So soft and so tender, it was unbelievable!

Now that we tried it and realized that it’s even better than we expected it to be, something tells me we’ll do it again.  With more preparations and better understanding of the process.  And even though I’m still digesting it, I can’t wait for that next time.  And if you never tried a suckling pig, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s one of those things everyone just have to try.  Yes, it was really that good.