Monday, December 22, 2008

Body of ideas

I noticed I have this habit of not mentioning the names of the persons when I tell a story or talk about something. I somehow feel it is not the exact person who was the subject of the story that matters, but the story itself with the meaning it has for me. It is the same when I say a quote, many times I forget who initially said it, it is never my intention to become a fan of somebody who said something interesting, what matters is the idea she/he expressed. Any idea in fact becomes "open source" once it was uttered to the world. I think it is a body of ideas we are always talking about, isn't it, buddy?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hamlet's prolog without words

European House (Hamlet’s Prologue Without Words), Regia: Àlex Rigola, Compania de teatru Lliure, Spania, Festivalul Uniunii Teatrelor Europene, Teatrul National Bucuresti, Sala Mare, 2008-12-20

First of all, it was not in Spanish or Catalan, but without words (and it was not pantomime) which made it quite challenging to get the idea. It was not Shakespeare, but some parable with the characters from Hamlet and one needed to know well Hamlet in order to identify all the characters. I didn't know Hamlet that well, but in the discussion we had afterward many of the mysteries were elucidated. The acting was good, but you needed a lot of imagination to fill in the the blanks (i.e. the missing words), otherwise you could get easily bored and lost. And the scenography was very nice.

For a different opinion on this performance read Less is bore.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New book - letters to my son

I started a new book, Letters to My Son by Gabriel Liiceanu. It's the first book by Liiceanu I read, I felt he is kind of a fashionable writer (not at the same level as the trio Eliade, Cioran and Noica, but still...) and I usually avoid reading fashionable writers. But since I received this book as a gift, I said I'd give it a try. And I like it, although this is supposed to be some kind of philosophy, the story telling style of Mr. Liiceanu is captivating. A while ago somebody said about me that I read philosophy (as a compliment I suppose :) ), but I was very puzzled when I heard that. I don't remember reading a philosophical system (like the one of Kant for example), I rather like story reading/telling. And if it happens the story has a deeper meaning that's for the better. But what I don't like from such stories is when the author explains at the end what you are supposed to understand. That is plain stupid. That's why I stopped reading Coelho.

Monday, December 15, 2008

City FM

City FM is probably the only radio station in Bucharest where you can listen Iron Maiden at 8 o'clock in the morning. One of their jingles sounds like this: "Hey, pelican, did anybody say you are not allowed to listen rock music in the morning?" They totally rock most of my mornings :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mathematics is hard, even when it's fiction

I finished the novel about the murders in Oxford. The book was fine, but I got somehow disappointed about the mathematics story the author was telling. One of the main characters was a professor of mathematics and he was trying to somehow minimize the consequences of the incompleteness theorem of Godel. So his idea, as the author puts it, was to show that the statements that cannot be proved true or false in an axiomatic system will be somehow not-natural and at another level of detail, so they will be irrelevant for the work of a mathematician. But this is completely wrong and we have a famous and well known example of the Euclid's fifth axiom (parallel postulate). It took mankind almost 2000 years to prove it cannot be proved true or false based on the other axioms of geometry, but has to be considered as an axiom. And for sure the Euclid's axiom is not some obscure statement or at another level of detail, but a very intuitive and "obvious" statement. And in 1963 another not such obscure statement in mathematics, continuum hypothesis, was shown to be impossible to proof or disproof in the context of the standard axiomatic set theory. So Martinez's character was in an impossible quest, but luckily for him and the readers he got involved in a series of crimes just to entertain us :)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Romanian stand-up comedy

I heard a while ago about this club in Bucharest, Cafe Deko, where there are stand-up comedy shows. I didn't have the chance (one wins the tickets at lotery of course :))to go there yet, but here is a very good piece from Teo (one of the comedians) found on YouTube. It is called "reflexive verbs and Eminescu". So in case you understand Romanian, enjoy!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New book - The Oxford Murders

I started reading a new book this week-end: The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez. So it is about some murders, finding their author and it also involves some mathematics. It should be fun to read, since I enjoyed other thematic mystery novels, like the ones of Arturo Perez-Revert and also novels about mathematics like Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

18 years

In 1995 when I started my studies at University of Bucharest I met a student at Mathematics who was in the sixth year (master degree) - Ionescu, who became a good friend of mine. And he told me one day: you know, Bogdan, these very steps that we are walking on in the Mathematics department were full of blood in June 1990; the blood of the students beaten by the miners, who also devastated the computer science labs (they were told the computers were used to print fake US dollars). Last night I saw comrade Iliescu again on TV giving advice about the economy. Seeing Iliescu on TV alone is a reason for me to go yet again to vote this week-end.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Go to type in "prostanac" and press "Ma simt norocos" ("I'm feeling lucky").
Mr. Geoana, you were (Google) bombed :))

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Somebody to vote for

The elections for the parliament are approaching here in Bucharest. It is the first time when people will vote a person, not a party list. In fact, it is a mixed system (and also very flawed), but I think it is still better than the previous one. Unfortunately this new voting system didn't bring many new faces on the political scene, and even among the new faces there are few that one can trust. Still, in this "black sea" of Romanian politicians there is one name that I would like to recommend: Theodor Paleologu, the son of Alexandru Paleologu. Read his blog and his resume and see for yourselves. Since I cannot vote directly for him, I wish him good luck in the electoral college #9 from Bucharest. And I encourage everyone from that electoral college to go and vote for him.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Coming to an election near you

If an election is coming to your place then watch this video. And then send it to 5 of your friends.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New book

I'm kind of slow on the Deaf Sentence novel I started, but meanwhile I bought a new book by Lucian Boia Occidentul O interpretare istoric (Occident - A historical explanation). It describes the history of the western Europe civilization proposing a theory for the reasons why it became so successful and dominant in today's world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The black hole in their heads

So the new Cern collider will aim recreate conditions from the times closed to Big Bang and possibly even black holes and that made many people worried that the end of the world might come with this experiment. The Conservator Party from Romania even sent an open letter to some European institutions to stop the experiment :) The good news is that if a black hole is indeed produced they would not even feel when they will get past its horizon (the line that once passed you cannot escape the gravity of the the black hole). So we will not see them anymore!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Green Day

Green Day (Ziua Verde) is not the rock band, but a series of events organized in various cities of Romania to encourage people recycle more, especially electrical devices. Last Saturday it was in Bucharest as a concert with some rock and ethnic bands. I liked very much the old Timpuri Noi (the best Romanian rock band from my high-school years) and Zdob si Zdub which I saw live for the first time. As for recycling, I hope they open many more recycling corners, so I don't have to go half of Bucharest to recycle a light bulb (I already recycle plastic bottles and paper at the containers next to my house). The best moment of the evening was when they were showing samples of electrical devices brought by people for recycling and they showed a HC85 computer! :) I guess I have my HC91 computer somewhere in Constanta, I should proudly dispose of it at a recycling corner for the sake of the planet.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New book - Deaf Sentence

I managed to finish Doctor Zhivago on a sunny beach (actually Sunny Beach - Bulgaria). Now I started reading Deaf Sentence by David Lodge. A novel about a man who becomes deaf and how that changes his perspective in life. Sounds interesting and being written by Lodge I suppose it will also be funny.

Friday, August 15, 2008


It's official, I'm on vacation! Each day felt just longer and longer for the last two weeks (am I missing something?). Although it's only a week I hope to come back with some more energy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The phenomenom called Phelps

Michael Phelps is probably the greatest swimmer of all times. So far he won five gold medals at Beijing Olympics, all of them with world records and he is on track to win eight gold medals, which nobody ever did.
The number of world records at natation in this Olympics is huge. I know there is a new swim suit designed by Speedo and NASA that helps a lot, but still, aren't we seeing a little bit of cyclism here?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Iron Maiden in Bucharest

Last night I saw Iron Maiden live in Bucharest. The show and the atmosphere were just incredible. See a sample bellow, Fear of the Dark with the whole stadium singing along.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

BBC in Romanian is gone

Yesterday was the last broadcast of BBC in Romanian. This was one of the iconic radio stations in Romania (starting 69 years ago) during the WW II and the communist era. This was also my favorite news source in the 90ties and the place where I first learned about what market economy means and what was wrong in our country in those days. They will put up online an archive with many of their broadcasts here. Good bye BBC in Romanian, I will never forget you!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Well done Nadal and Spain!

This is the year of Spanish sport. After Spain won the European Cup at football after 44 years, tonight Rafa Nadal is the first Spanish tennis man to win the Wimbledon in 42 years. Both the Spanish football team and Nadal won in style, playing superb matches. Felicitaciones a ambos.

Update: that does not diminish the merits of Federer, this final was the best tennis match I saw since I started watching this sport. Both Federer and Nadal are great players, it's a pleasure to watch them.

The cost of wind energy

I read a very interesting analysis regarding the total cost of using wind power to generate electricity on The Register. Basically, the idea is that since wind is not guaranteed to blow all the time, you need to have back-up energy generating capacity to keep the energetic system in balance. There are various theories and proposals to fix this problem like: wind doesn't blow in one region/country but might blow in another one so the spread of wind mills will create a balance, or when you have excess wind you can use a part of the energy to pump some water uphill and use hydro-energy as back-up when the wind doesn't blow. This study demonstrates that in the case of UK these solutions are not feasible (using statistics regarding the wind intensity patterns), so in the end you need to have gas/coal back-up power plants. This leads to a total different cost of wind energy. It's interesting to see who will pay this cost. Normally the ones who install wind mills should be asked to pay for the back-up capacity too.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New book - Doctor Jivago

I started a couple of weeks ago to read Doctor Jivago by Boris Pasternak. It took me a while to get in the mood for reading, so only a few days ago I started reading more than a half a page per day :)
It has many characters so it takes a while to fix them in your memory, but I'm enjoying it. I also saw the movie many years ago, but I don't remember much, just the atmosphere and a sleigh going through the Russian fields covered in snow.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Federer during a training session


Nadal serving in the first round against Bellucci.

Roland Garros

I spent a fantastic week at Roland Garros. We were in a group of tennis fans who go to grand slam tournaments for about 10 years. This was the first time I went to a grand slam tournament (I went to Romanian Open a couple of times and at some Davis Cup matches) and I really enjoyed it: all the big players, the atmosphere, everything, even the rain was fun :) I didn't see much of Paris this time, a short walk to La Defense and on Rivoli street and Tuileries gardens, Brancusi's studio (which was also nice) and I met my old friend Danutz. I have some pictures too, I'll put one or two samples here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Consume less instead of consuming green

Today I read an article that says it all regarding consumption in our society. Basically, the author argues that it is not enough to start consuming greener products (like using economical light bulbs, hybrid cars) but we need to decrease our consumption altogether. If this would happen we would end up with more time for contemplating the world around us and more money in our pockets. Isn't this good for us after all? Of course, we would want to do this mainly to still have a planet to live on :)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Madrid holiday

I'm back from a five days holiday in Madrid. The city is not outstanding, but nice to visit and the weather was ideal (sunny, but not very hot). We went to Prado and the museum of modern art and rambled around the old town. We also went to Toledo, which is a nice old city on a hill. We didn't have a good map of it though and it was very confusing to get around the narrow streets and to find the particular places we wanted to visit. It was also difficult to get out of the old city in the right direction to the railway station, so we almost had to run to catch the train back to Madrid. I made some photos, maybe I'll post some here later.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Biofuels and food price

The food prices started to climb since last year. And some people are blaming the increased bio-fuels production for this. This is indeed one of the reasons in my opinion, especially since the production of bio-fuels is subsidized in some countries, which I think it's a mistake. The other reason is an increase in income in China and India, where people can afford to eat more. See an in depth analysis of the food crisis here. The good part of this is that some land that was not used in Romania because it was simple not profitable for farmers to cultivate them are now used. On my last trip to Constanta I saw lots of rapeseed (one of the plants the bio-diesel is made of) fields in bloom.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New book - Theft of a Nation

I started reading a new book "Theft of a Nation: Romania Since Communism" by Tom Gallagher. It is a history of bad governance in Romania traced back to the creation of the Romanian state in the 19-th century. What I expected from the book and it doesn't provide is a more in depth sociological analysis of the causes of the facts described. Otherwise I know most of the facts presented there, so it's not shocking for me. I can say though that the society evolved a little bit in the latest years. The miners marching towards Bucharest in 1999 seems so long ago...

Monday, April 14, 2008

I don't block the crossroad

The traffic in Bucharest is a mess: there way too many cars in the city, they exceed both the street flow capacity and the available parking lots. And to make it even worse, many drivers don't respect the law: they pass on red, drive on the other way occasionally and block the crossroads, by entering in it although the street in front of them is full and they cannot pass by the crossroad. So some guy created a web page that urges people not to block the crossroad. From that site you can get a sticker to put it on your car to show your commitment to this behavior. I totally agree with this guy, but in order for this to work you need cooperation from all drivers. On a one lane per direction street everything is OK: if I'm the first one and I see the crossroad is blocked then I stop and wait for it to clear. The ones behind me will have to stop too. But if there is a two lane street some other drivers from the other lane can still enter the crossroad and block it. Moreover, some of them will change lanes and block my lane too. This is an example of a game where everybody gets more if all respect some rules. Unfortunately, most of the people are too shortsighted and selfish to understand it. Anyway, I will keep not blocking the crossroads as far as I can...

You may notice that police is out of this story, cause the law is most of the time not enforced in Romania.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Downgrading an application

For the first time in my career I'm working on downgrading an application. We worked for about 7 months on an application where persistence is handled by Hibernate. Due to some license/patents issues with our partner it was decided to migrate the persistence layer to EJB3.0/JPA using the container provided JPA implementation(the application is supposed to be deployed on various application servers - WebSphere and WebLogic for sure - depending on the client). The problem is that the EJB 3.0 standard is less powerful than Hibernate and also the implementation is in version 1.0 (for example WebSphere uses OpenJPA from Apache which is in version 1.0.2) which means missing features and bugs, so this migration turns out to be a downgrading of the application :(

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Earth Hour

Last Saturday I joined the people who celebrated the Earth Hour. I turned off all the lights and electrical appliances (except for the fridge) in the house and enjoyed the silence for an hour. It reminded me the times from the communist era when the electricity was cut every day. Except that back then they weren't doing it for the Earth, but for the "country" and without asking people if they agree. I didn't notice people around doing the same thing, anyway for sure it wasn't a massive turning off of the lights, but maybe in the future Romanians will be more aware of these environmental issues. Here is a report of what happened around the world with this occasion.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Einstein could be refuted

I read an interesting article in The Economist about some mismatches discovered between the predictions of the general relativity theory and some actual measurements. These mismatches were found a couple of times when various space missions used planetary gravity for acceleration (this is a cheap method to accelerate a space probe by swinging it around a planet, instead of installing powerful engines that also require a lot of fuel). The researchers are still checking the flight data of the various space probes to make sure there is no other explanation for this deviation, but this could become a serious flaw in the general relativity theory. Who wants to fix it? :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The last Harry Potter

I just finish reading the last novel of the Harry Potter series. Impressive! I liked very much the last two novels, there is much more action and suspense than in the previous ones. Overall I think the world created by the author is quite complex with strong characters and conflicts and many twists to keep you on the hook. All the ingredients to get a best-seller.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jules Verne goes to space

After more than a hundred years of wild imagination Jules Verne finally made it to space, in the form of an ATV, which is not an all terrain vehicle, but an automated transfer vehicle which can attach itself to the International Space Station without any human driving. This first ATV is called Jules Verne after the famous French science fiction writer. This is one big step in the European space program, showing some commitment into developing more and more advanced space technology. See details about first ATV mission here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Down but not out

I spent the last three days in bed having a severe flu. I still have some fever, but it's getting better, so probably I'll go back to work on Monday. Meanwhile, I managed to finish the fifth book of Harry Potter series and I started the sixth one, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince". It is very entertaining and I think this is the best book of the series so far.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The prince that went to war

It's not a fairy tale, it is about Prince Harry, the third in line for the crown of United Kingdom. Harry was enrolled into the British Army, and was deployed in Afghanistan last year. This was kept secret from the media in order not to spur an increase of attacks on those troops from the Taleban forces. Once media started to report about his presence in Afghanistan the Army decided to withdraw him from there. See a report here. Most people will not expect a prince will actually practice a profession nowadays, so deciding to be a soldier and actually going to the front line is really cool from his part.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I like drinking wine rather than beer and I find the diversity of wines fascinating. It's amazing how you can obtain from the same grape vine totally different tasting wines from one year to another. I read once in a book about wines an advice for amateur wine lovers like me to keep tracking in a notebook of the wines they are drinking in order to fully appreciate a wine from another. Of course, everything takes very long from draw board to implementation (especially in my case :)), but yesterday I finally started this "notebook". Of course it is a virtual one and can be seen here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My own Java puzzles

Programming in Java for some time now (about six and a half years) I started discovering myself some Java puzzles. They first appeared as bugs in my code or in some colleague's code and investigating them lead me to discover some unexpected behavior in the core Java API. The two examples I found are the equals and compareTo methods in java.sql.Timestamp and the behavior of HashSet when holding mutable objects. Of course these issues are documented in the Sun's Java API docs(see the notes regarding java.sql.Timestamp and java.util.Set in the Javadocs), but I bet most of the people discover them the hard way :)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo!

So Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo! for $44 billions. The reason for the offer is to better compete with Google, but how do they plan to do that: they will definitely better control the instant messaging and web mail markets, but they badly need to improve in search. Also this move would mean that maybe Microsoft will have more open source and Java technologies on their (new) premises. Isn't that funny? :) Maybe we'll see some Java documentation on MSDN network, who knows :)

See two interesting comments on this move on The Register: here and here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Nutcracker

Last night I saw The Nutcracker ballet in the interpretation of Bolshoi Theatre from Moscow. Last year I saw the same Nutcracker at the Bucharest National Opera last year. I'm not in any way an expert in ballet, but what I think adds value to a performance is to transform as much as possible the music's rhythm into movements. The choreograph needs to imagine those movements and the dancers to be able to perform them. And that's what Bolshoi troupe did better than the one from Bucharest Opera. On the other hand the scenography was scarcer (they are on a tour after wall), and they sacrificed somehow the story in the second act in the favor of individual performances.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Shopping spree

Oracle is buying BEA for $8.5bn, Sun is buying MySQL for $1bn. So for now on when I'll work on a project with BEA Weblogic application server and Oracle DB I'll have only one company to bash at. I wonder if BEA closed that bug I opened regarding their server re-start last year. The application would fail to load on server re-start if some work flow exception logging table contained data in it. Cool, isn't it? Probably they closed it to look good to their potential buyers. Anybody buying Microsoft or Google? :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The golden age of mathematics

I'm done with "measuring the world" and I started a new book "Mathematics: the golden age" by Keith Devlin. It's a captivating view of the progresses made in this field lately (after 1960), many of them with the help of the computer. So applied computer science in mathematics, yeah :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New year and a new book

It's already old news, but a new year started recently. I interrupted my Harry Potter reading during the holidays. On our way to Budapest we stopped one night in Cluj and the friend were we slept over gave me a book she read recently: Measuring the World by a German author Daniel Hehlmann. I was not blown up by this novel, but nevertheless I found some nice anecdotes about Gauss' life.