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В логи записываю книги / фильмы / программы / гаджеты / рестораны которые отпробовал в этом году. На все стараюсь давать оценку.

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Cost of flying in Indonesia

One thing that struck me about Indonesia is how cheap flying is here. I've flown about 10 times in the last 10 days - the average flight is about 1.5-2 hours. Here is an example of a flight I just took today - Jakarta - Bali (1.5 hours, ~ 1,000 km):

The ticket was bought 2 days before the flight and cost $75. SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS, Karl! It was not a special price or anything - I simply picked the time that worked for me (there is probably a flight leaving every hour on this route). This works out to roughly $50 per hought of flight time (including luggage).  I wonder how that compares to US / EU air costs (does NY - CHI flight normally cost $90)?

Now - I suspect that the government is actively encouraging low cost airlines because the country is extremely large with no real way of getting around other than air (it occupies an area roughly the size of the US but spread over thousands of islands and no highways outside of metro areas). Labor costs are obviously markedly lower here (which accounts for 35% of US airline industry) - but still, I doubt that you can buy a regular air ticket in US/Europe for $50-$60 per hour of flight time (all-in price, no dastardly fees).

Something I hope the West can learn.

Papuasia FAQ

I recently posted a photo of myself with a couple of Papuans in native getup and many people were asking 'Where the hell are you', etc. To simplify answering everybody and organize my thoughts I'm putting down this.

Where was I
I am in Indonesia, province called West Papua. Inside it is the Baliem Valley. It was completely unknown to the outside world until WW2.

Ie the people living there have been cut off from civilization since before civilization started - for the last 45,000 years.

Why did I go there
Because it's there.

It may be fast becoming just like any other third world locale, but still - visiting a place that didn't exist to the outside world until WW2 is pretty damn cool.

Do they always walk around like this (ie naked and with gourds over their cocks?
The almost butt-naked look is their national dress (ie like a вышиванка или кокошник). It's not worn outside of special occasions.

As far as I understand it was fairly widespread until 1970s-80s when the Indonesian government (which colonized these people in 1960s) had an anti-gourd campaign, effectively banning it (as it was seen as backward). Any papuas you meet on the street will wear regular clothing.

Most pressing question - what are those things around their cocks?

Is the festival organized for them or just for the tourists?
The reason most people go there is to attend an annual festival. It's sort of like a sports event in the West - organized for viewing pleasure of the fans but thoroughly enjoyed by the participants as well. The feeling I got is that it's a way for these guys to reenact their traditions / history, which would otherwise wither away.

How advanced was their society before encountering civilization?
They were settled and had mastered agriculture (sweet potatoes, pigs). They were living in villages - men in one house, women and children in another. Men had multiple wives (was kinda needed as they stopped having sex for 5 years after birth of a child).

Culture-wise they were pretty primitive. The villages were in a constant state of war. War may be too strong a word for it - more like low-intensity conflict (raiding parties for women / pigs, ambushing each other, etc). It basically gave men something to do - as otherwise their needs were fully met and they didn't have much culture or religion (they worshipped ancestors, etc). They did practice cannibalism - you'd cut out a body part of an enemy that you killed and eat it to gain their strength. They also had the habit of chopping off women fingers as a form of sacrifice - if a woman's husband died, that's what would be done to her.

What political entity are they part of today?
The entire Papua Island was split in two - Western part was part of the Dutch New Indies and the East was Portugese. Japanese have occupied the island during WW2 and after they were thrown out by the Americans, Indonesia proclaimed independence in 1945 (on Aug 17th). Papua was going to be an independent country administered by the Dutch until they could have self-governance (as majority of the population at the time was literally beyond illiterate).

The Western Part of the island became an independent nation
Papua New Guinea. The Eastern part was taken over by Indonesia in 1960s (kinda like Tibet and China). Even though the UN was set on granting them a status of independent nation (they have absolutely nothing in common with Indonesia other than being both ruled by the Dutch for 300 years) - Cold War politics intervened and the US supported Indonesia in the takeover (fearing that they'd switch to the USSR otherwise).

Since then a low-level war has been going on - Papua Conflict. Indonesia doesn't want to let the province go (it's fairly rich in natural resources) and is moving millions of "real" Indonesians (ie people from Java) to the island (so now half the population is not Papuan). The Papuas don't want to be ruled by what they consider an occupying colonizer. It's a situation very similar to Tibet but with lower stakes (as these guys never had a political entity and nobody outside the area even being aware of the issue).

Are they black (ie African)?
No, they are not. They are a disctinct group of people who are closely tied to Melanesiand and Australian Aboriginals:

In the photos they may look African as they cover themsleves with some kind of soot (perhaps war paint).

Should I go there myself?
That's a personal question. Overall the trip is long (it takes almost a full day of flights from Bali / Jakarta) and the conditions there are very, very basic. However it's a fairly unique place that's unlike any other.

If you really do make the visit, I'd recommend getting in touch with local guides to see if you can fly a plane to visit the real remote tribes (ie people who are still living in the stone age now).

Best headphones update

As you might know, I try to keep abreast of the top headphones market. Ie I basically buy / try whatever new headphones come out to see if anything out there is better than what I already own. I do this 2-3 times a year.

In general I am fairly happy with the state of in-the-ear headphones but am yet to still find the perfect over-the-ear pair.

Last week was a big one - I've been very happy to find two new pairs that now occupy my 'the best reasonable money can buy' perch.

In-the-ear headphones - thinksound ts02-blkchoc. $80

While I was fairly satisfied with my last pair (don't remember the name but they were red) - these are simply amazing. I give them a 10 on sound quality. Unbelievable power - I can not turn the volume on my Macbook above 2 (out of probably 15) - gets too loud.

The only thing I think of that can be improved is fit - not because they are uncomfortable (they are probably the most comfortable ones I've had as well) - but just because it's something that can always be improved.

There is one thing missing, though. There is no microphone and hence no easy way to tell L from R.

Over-the-ear headphones - Sony MDR-1A Headphone - Silver (International Version). $240

I have not had much luck finding quality over-the-ear headphones that I could wear for at least 30-40 minutes without feeling discomfort (from pressure oh my head and poor heat dissipation). Tried many different pairs (going up to $400-$500) - without no success. Last pair I tried before these was Master & Dynamic MH40's - that look like a piece of art and sound great as well. Unfortunately I could only handle them for about 15 minutes - after that the pressure and heat grew too much. Was a sad return.

Then I specifically googled for 'comfortable fit' and found this new pair from Sony. So far I'm blown away. They sound amazing and have, so far, the best fit I've come across. Still not perfect but better than anything I've seen.

They cost $300 everywhere but Amazon was offering a $240 "international version". I was a bit apprehensive but have to report that it's absolutely legitimate and that's the one I would recommend to get.

Купи козу

Since I work a lot at night, the humming of my PC was noticeable and kinda annoying. About 6 months ago I came across web pages that talk about building the “Quiet PC” - specifically from components that are made to produce very low noise.

First I tried to just replace the fan in the back of the case - which had not much effect.

So then about a month ago I decided to take the plunge and bought the following components - all German-made with quiet in mind from the outfit called

New case - 60
Power supply - 60
CPU Cooler -

The plan was to take all the innards from my old pc and move to the new, save for the new cooler (enormous metal contraption - 16cm tall, weighs about a kilogram) and the quiet power supply.

First Visit
Found a guy on Craigslist to come over and do the operation. He came, spent about 3 hours in my living room but in the end the computer wouldn’t turn on - the old motherboard refused to work outside the original HP case.

Second Visit
I went online and bought a new motherboard - Asus P9X79. The first guy didn’t want to come back for reasonable money, so I found another guy to do it.

He shows up - and turns out that the motherboard I got is a wrong size for the case (case is micro-ATX while the new mb is full-ATX).

Third Visit
I order a new case from Germany and return the other case.
Guy comes over - installs the MB, everything seems to work.
After he leaves I realize that Windows only recognizes 1 DIMM out of 3. I play around with various DIMMS / slots combinations and recognize that all components are fine but MB only recognizes one DIMM at a time.

Look up the issue online - turns out the pins on the motherboard CPU socket could be bent - which causes the issue. Extremely weird - as I ordered the mb new and I never heard of cpu bending the socket pins during insertion. I also expected the computer to not boot at all in this case.

I call the guy over to see if the pins can be unbent or maybe we try to reseat the CPU. Nothing works - but the pins are indeed bent, but really too small (maybe 1-2mm tall) to do anything with.

Fourth Visit
I order another motherboard. Guy comes over and installs it. Everything works. PC is so quiet I can’t hear it.

Whole process took about a month.

Cost of components - about 300 GBP (might be more if I choose to go further a fan-less video card - as that’s the only source of pc noise now)

Labor - 115 GBP

Overall the story was plagued by two unforeseen issues

1. Original HP motherboard refusing to work in a generic case
2. New Asus motherboard having bent socket pins

and one fuck-up on my part

1. Ordering a regular ATX motherboard for a micro-ATX casе

Overall I'm happy with the result. Would certainly prefer to make do with a smaller time wastage - but after all it's not that hard to watch other people work :)

Ski Gear Feb-14

I'm a gearhead. I love gear and gadgets - really enjoy the feeling of having the right set of tools for the job (or being appropriately dressed when it's super-fucking cold and windy on the slopes and I don't feel a thing).

Decided to write down the gear I'm using now - as most of these things went through a few rounds of trials and changes. If you have questions about any of these items - feel free to ask.

Gloves - Hestra Ski Cross - BackCountry
Pants - Arcteryx Stinger Bib - Moosjaw
Jacket - Arcteryx Alpha SV - Moosejaw
Helmet - Salomon Hacker (blue) - physical store
Goggles - Anon M2 - Backcountry
Skis - 168cm long, 75mm wide
Backpack - Salomon Quest 15 - EU web site
Boot Warmer
  Sidas Pro Set Warming System
Mid Layers
  Base layer - duofold tshirt
  1st thin warm layer
  2nd warm layer - a bit thicker
  3rd warm layer - either wool or puffy vest
Thermal underwear
  Icebreaker 260 base layer
  2nd warm layer

Not recommended - Intuition Power Wrap. Was very uncomfortable and hard on my feet, lost 3 days trying to break it in.

Apparently the boots I bought at the end of last season in London are too big for me. They were my size - 26, but apparently you usually buy a size smaller.

New Yorker on tablet - highly recommended

cover_newyorker_190I used to read the New Yorker - but then gave up. Each magazine was mostly left unread (and even unskimmed) and I had tall stack of piled up magazines in the corner. Guilt rose commensurately with size of the stack.

Then a month ago I decided to give it another try - on a tablet. I ordered the paper copy of the magazine. That gives me access to their tablet version - which is actually a much better interface. Each feature is presented as one long page that you scroll up and down. And you flick left-right to move between features. So if I start reading a piece that I find boring (which is probably 50-60% of the magazine), it takes one flick of a finger to move to the next one - genius!

This is the best implementation of a long-form magazine that I've seen. My only nitpick is not being able to set a constant font size. Each feature (ie article) starts off with a small font that you can somewhat increase (but still only roughly up to 12px). I would rather be able to change this once.

Hypothetical slogans of different professions

Archaeology: if you don't know what it is, it's probably ceremonial.
Astrophysics: "eh, i'm within an order of magnitude...."
Linguistics: "Well, it's not just about learning languages-- no-- okay, you know what, nevermind."
Linguistics: NO, I don't speak Mandarin.
Zoology: because you can't major in kittens
Creative Writing: Because job security is for pussies.
Biochemistry: Spend 4 Years Aspiring to Discover the Cure for Cancer, and the Rest of Your Life Manufacturing Shampoo.
Communications: "We'll teach you everything you need to know about convincing your friends that your degree is actually meaningful"
Psychology: good luck doing anything until you get your master's!
Nursing: Because Fuck Sleep

Article generation algorithm

I'm starting to notice a new theme in liberal MSM (ie not rightwing nut media). Generate articles based on the following algorithm:

1. Find something on
2. Write an article how this particular thing doesn't have that many blacks or Hispanics doing it
3. Decry lack of diversity
4. Imply that 'something must be done!'

Examples I saw in last few days