The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Overall, a Great Year!

Posted by thearrow on December 21, 2011

Osama bin Laden, check.

Moammar Gaddafi, check.

Kim Jong Il, check.

Speaking of, here’s some inspiring “mandatory public crying,” as The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch aptly describes it.

Then, enjoy the cheerfulness of this great photo essay with images from North Korea: Those dreary apartment buildings are only a tad more depressing than what you could see in Romanian cities, especially in Bucharest. Which you can see at

Oh, and this other report from VICE, via CNN:

Hopefully, these long-overdue deaths will mark the end of the respective eras created by their distorted heroes. Or at least the beginning of the end, although, considering that in Romania things are still far from normal 20 years after communism fell and, in some respects, have got worse, I can’t be too optimistic.


Posted in government | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

My Wish for 2012

Posted by thearrow on December 9, 2011

To win a million dollars (or more) and have my friend, Diana, be my personal shopper. I’ve never had patience shopping for clothes and I’ve always had a utilitarian approach to it: get things that generally match, in some basic, solid colors and wear them to shreds.

When I went to Romania, Diana, a dear friend from college, was purging her wardrobe and asked me if maybe I wanted something. I looked at the myriad shirts, dresses, skirts, and pants. Um, yes, all of them. And, while we’re at it, can I just have your whole wardrobe, actually? Diana has fantastic taste and a great sense of play. Everything she picks is cool. As for me, give me something brown and comfortable and I’ll wear it for 15 years.

And yes, I could easily turn this into a conversation about money and how I’m squeezed by large but necessary expenses, etc., but it’s really about me not being able to play with clothes and get maybe once fanciful item a year. It inevitably has to be something practical.

So there, Santa. I don’t need you to bring me a gift. Just arrange with the lottery. Diana is already on board and ready to assume her new role.

Posted in fun | Leave a Comment »

Steve Jobs and Craftsmanship

Posted by thearrow on November 15, 2011

[Note: totally self-congratulatory post.]

Did I say that Steve Jobs was a craftsman or did I not? He uses the word at least two times in excerpts from The Lost Interview, as reviewed by Time.

– “there’s a tremendous amount of craftsmanship between a great idea and a great product.”

– “The product genius that led to that monopolistic position is rotted out by people who have no conception of good products vs. bad products – the craftsmanship required.”

Of course, I didn’t know anything about this until today. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. Then I started to suspect that maybe I did hear about this somewhere and then it seemed like it was my original thought. Although I usually remember if someone else said something, even if I don’t remember who exactly.

So I searched for “Steve Jobs craftsmanship” on Google to see what else is there and if it rings any bell. The only other thing along these lines that came up at the top of the search results was a blog post from August this year, titled Steve Jobs’ reverence for craftsmanship. So, OK, someone else stumbled upon this before me, but prompted by another Jobs quote:

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it.”

This other quote offers me even more validation of how smart I am (ha ha!): Jobs uses carpentry as an example of craftsmanship, which is what I did. Sure, that’s a very obvious example to pick, but I thought of Jobs as a craftsman after I had actually visited the shop of a guy who was both a carpenter and an electrician, who makes custom electric guitars.

Iz smart.

Posted in technology | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

TeamViewer Rocks!

Posted by thearrow on November 14, 2011

First, watch this hilarious short film that captures perfectly how (at least) Romanian parents react when having to turn a computer on and use it to communicate with their overseas kids. Almost everything in it applies to my mom, particularly the fear that she’ll break the computer if she clicks on some button.

If your parents are in a similar situation, TeamViewer is there to help. I never had enough time to show them everything I wanted. With TeamViewer I get access to their computer and show them whatever they need to know. Hundreds of pages of notes would do nothing in that regard because the first thing you need to do is allay their fears that they’ll break something. Showing them how to do stuff is the perfect learning experience!

Posted in my parents, technology | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

My Cybermom

Posted by thearrow on November 12, 2011

One of the best things I did when I was in Romania was to buy a laptop for my parents; a purchase long overdue. I had not seen them in three and a half years and just wanted them to get on the interwebs so that we could Skype, email, they could read newspapers and explore this whole fascinating world out there. Not a small thing for retirees entrenched in their routines.

They resisted the idea for a while, thinking oh, we’re too old, we’ve never touched a computer, we’re not going to understand anything, etc. I told them I’m not interested in the reasons why they don’t think it’s a good idea.

I spent a few good hours here and there to show them how to navigate folders, how to search on Google, how to send an email and download pics from one, all very carefully documented in tremendous detail in a big notebook. It felt like explaining this to Martians. I wrote stuff like, “in the corner of the window there’s an X; click on it if you want to close the window.” Or, to send an email, click on “Compose Email,” which is even more interesting because Yahoo! has a Romanian version, so my mom didn’t even have to understand a foreign language. I talked to her again today and, because she hadn’t sent an email in two-three weeks, she forgot that she had to click on “Compose Email.” Beginner’s anxiety. Now she has to write me emails regularly. That’s an assignment.

But she’s clearly interested in learning, which is very exciting. Two weeks ago I taught her how to search for funny videos on YouTube, by using the word “funny” (in English,) and she had a blast with it. Last week she said, “I’ve watched all the funny videos I could find, so I’m tired of them now. I want to get to the next level: How can I read blogs?”

I thought I was going to fall off the chair. My mom wants to read blogs?? She doesn’t even know what a blog is! So I told her that, like with Google and YouTube, you have to know what you’re looking for first. Did she have a blog in mind? Turns out she did. So I told her a bit about blogs, showed her how to search for them, and I’m now waiting for my update on where she ran with this in the mean time. She asked me if I have a blog and was disappointed to hear that it’s in English.

Yesterday, she just wrote me the following: “I’m absolutely astonished by how much I have to learn. I noticed that the more I know, the more I want to learn, but I don’t have anyone to show me. You do show me quite a bit, but there’s never enough time.”

I only have one thing to say, Wow! Of course, I’m delighted she’s so into it, which I never expected. I thought she was only going to be interested in Skype. I should get ready for the day she friends me on Facebook.

Posted in my parents | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Treacherous Trail

Posted by thearrow on November 9, 2011

Two Sundays ago, I was biking to DC on the Crescent Trail pretty fast when I started admiring some foliage over on the left side. My bike slowly veered outside the trail on a patch of wet leaves (it had rained heavily the entire previous day). And when I tried steering it back on trail, tough luck. And when I say tough luck, I mean losing control of the handlebars and landing on the cold, hard asphalt with a bang. It felt like I slammed into a wall.

First, I thought I broke all my left ribs, elbow, and shoulder. It took me a bit to regain full awareness of where I was. I don’t think I lost consciousness as much as I blanked out. When I looked around me, the basket was lying in one place, the bike in the other, and the stuff in the basket in yet another. And then the pain struck me. It wasn’t pretty.

But I lucked out on several counts. First, the woman biking ahead of me had a small backpack full of bandages, alcohol wipes and other first-aid stuff. She stopped to see if I was OK and then bandaged my elbow, which was banged up and hurt like hell, but only had a small raspberry-like wound. Then, I fell very close to a picnic place with a parking lot, so the friends I was going to came to rescue me. Third, said friends bike, too, and therefore they have a bike rack.

And fourth but not least, I didn’t break any bones. I still have some dull pain, mostly in my ribcage and shoulder when I make certain moves, but boy, I could have broken any number of bones in that accident.

It reminded me of what a friend who rides motorcycles said: where you’re looking, that’s where you’re going. After hundreds of miles on the bike, it took one moment of inattention to fall. Ugh. I’ll keep my nose in the right direction from now on.

Posted in biking | 3 Comments »

Proper Treatment of Terrorists

Posted by thearrow on October 26, 2011

And the shop’s pitch:

I didn’t post a picture with the Sarah Palin toilet paper because, as much as I don’t like her (or any other Republican for that matter),  she’s not a terrorist.

But I sure hope they make some Gaddafi toilet paper soon!

Posted in American Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »