Wednesday, October 31, 2007

HDR photography.

The more I play with HDR, the more I like it. It really makes scenes look better. Some of the processing can make pics look like cartoons but I prefer more natural looking outputs.

One problem that I keep coming across is changing environment between shots. I like taking nature photos and unfortunately, the leaves, flowers, grass, etc. shift due to the wind. The farther objects end up fuzzy and the closer objects get ghosted.

Below is an example of this: Compare the HDR and non-HDR, normally exposed, versions. The trees in the background are clearly noticeable while the white of the fence has details as well. Notice the leaves at the upper left corner. The branches have moved because of the wind between the three shots used for this picture.

Here is the HDR:

Here is the normal shot:

The moon on a windy day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An interesting article.

Slate has an interesting article about the wimpy Senate and executive branch in the US when it comes to dealing with the unreasonable demands from Turkey. When you stand back and think about it, there are only two countries in the world that can put such crazy demands in front of the US government to which our government will oblige: Israel and Turkey. While there is an explanation about Israel (a large and influential Jewish diaspora in the US and the fact that they have suffered throughout the centuries), there is no explanation for Turkey (they have been the ones who have made other people suffer). It might have been a strategic ally during the cold war but now they have very little value to the US. It actually makes us look bad for bowing to them.

The Slate article is subtitled "The United States should be squeezing Turkey, not the other way around" which is quite explanatory. It's a good read.

UPDATE 10/30/2007: Arsineh at has a similar point about Turkey.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Today I realized something.

The majority of the Russian proverbs I've come across involve pickled cucumbers. The majority of the Turkish proverbs involve either a donkey or feces, or both.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The laughing stock of the world.

We are the laughing stock of the world: A third of the Americans in a recent poll said that they believe in ghosts. It's a little surprising but when you think of it, a vast majority of Americans believe in God, too. If you believe in God, why not believe in ghosts as well?

The Cypriot government is amazing.

This is one of the reasons I am happy to be a Cypriot.

Defence kickbacks law ‘revoked by mistake’
By Jacqueline Theodoulou

A LAW penalising state officials for receiving kickbacks during arm deals was accidentally revoked during 2002’s tax reform.

The House Defence Committee, which came across the error by chance last week, yesterday rushed to patch it up with a bill submitted by Chairman Yiannakis Omirou of EDEK.

Omirou later explained that from 1985 until 2002, there was a law which said it was a criminal offence, punishable with up to 10 years’ imprisonment, for any state official or employee who received commissions during the purchase of arms systems or other military equipment.

“Evidently due to an omission or oversight, during 2002’s tax reform, these orders were cancelled and they will come back in force with this bill,” he pointed out.

The committee is now awaiting a response by the Legal Services on whether bringing back the law would be on par with the European acquis communautaire.

Omirou told reporters that he was not aware of any incidents where kickbacks may have been received.

“When a law is implemented, it is not necessarily to send people to prison; laws aim at averting or preventing criminal offences,” he replied when asked if anyone had been prosecuted while the law was in force.

The committee unanimously agreed on bringing the law back.

DISY’s Socratis Hasikos said the law had come into force following the suggestion of former President Glafcos Clerides. “We all believed the law was still in force and eventually found out that this legislation does not apply any more,” he said after the meeting.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Fun Ti.

Keep in mind to visit the "A Fun Ti" restaurant when in Beijing. If within a few weeks of your stay you get tired of trying most of the cuisine available in the city, and have started thinking about going to one of the American chains, you definitely need to go there. Postpone that visit to TGI Fridays as much as you can because you will regret it as soon as you sit down to order something! Yes, the food in American chain restaurants is as bad as back home.

A fun Ti serves food from the Xinjiang province which is predominantly Uyghur. Uyghur are a Turkic nation that live in a number of Middle Asian countries. Their cuisine is very similar to our cuisine - it's got a lot of kebabs. And since it's in China, the pieces are cut small so that you can eat with chopsticks. Basically, it's the best of both worlds.

The beer is served in giant glasses that look more like an alchemists chemistry set. They have a wide mouth, narrow neck and a large round bottom. So when you have drunk the beer in the neck, a large gulp of beer then descends towards you from the bottom of the glass. You have to be ready for it. After the third glass you'll be a pro!

Then there is the entertainment portion. The Uyghurs look very much like the Armenians. The music is similar, and you can even understand what they are singing about. Surprisingly, an Indian friend of mine could understand them as well. (UPDATE 10302007: After watching some of the videos I now don't think they look like Armenians. I guess I had been in China for too long that's why they looked like us).

It's an interactive experience. The dancers come down to the audience and engage them in their dances. There's a lady with a snake that she wraps around the necks of Western guests. There are games on the stage with the diners, and they teach them to dance Uyghur style. An Armenian learns these moves much quicker than say a Canadian. But obviously at that point nobody cares (It's probably after the 5-th pint). There is even Chinese acrobatics.

After the entertainment part is done, and the audience starts to leave, some of the tables are cleared and dance music is turned on. At that point you will be done with your 7-th beer so jump up on the table and enjoy the dance.

After all is done, you'll need to get a cab to your place. The cab ride will not be as scary as usual.

I guess the morale of the story is that the Armenians and the Turkic nations are culturally similar. The physical appearances, cuisine and language definitely are.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Still trying to listen to the Public Radio of Armenia.

Today the live feed is in Russian. The anchorwoman is an Armenian lady with an accent.

Again, when did Armenia change its official language?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Trying to listen to the Public Radio of Armenia.

Today I clicked on the live feed on the and instead of an Armenian language program I am getting Cantonese Chinese.

Has the official language changed in Armenia?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Turning the other cheek.

Jesus urges us to turn the other cheek when hit. What he doesn't say is what to do next. It's natural to assume that when you are hit on both cheeks, you'll be mad as hell. Is the next step a disproportionately violent response?

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Despite tremendous pressure from the Turkish governmental and non-governmental entities, the former and current US officials, including the President, HR106 has been approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Obviously, the Turkish government is very upset. In their short sighted manner they have painted themselves into the corner. They still do not understand that in order to be accepted as a civilized nation, they have to face their past. Instead, they keep making stupid mistakes and destabilizing their foreign policy.

A lot of blog space has been dedicated to this victory for justice. The best summary of these posts is on Observer's blog.

UPDATE: Onnik has an extensive coverage as well.

Below is the actual text of the resolution.

1st Session
H. RES. 106
Calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide , and for other purposes.
January 30, 2007
Mr. SCHIFF (for himself, Mr. RADANOVICH, Mr. PALLONE, Mr. KNOLLENBERG, Mr. SHERMAN, and Mr. MCCOTTER) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide , and for other purposes.
This resolution may be cited as the `Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution'.
The House of Representatives finds the following:
(1) The Armenian Genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulting in the deportation of nearly 2,000,000 Armenians, of whom 1,500,000 men, women, and children were killed, 500,000 survivors were expelled from their homes, and which succeeded in the elimination of the over 2,500-year presence of Armenians in their historic homeland.
(2) On May 24, 1915, the Allied Powers, England, France, and Russia, jointly issued a statement explicitly charging for the first time ever another government of committing `a crime against humanity'.
(3) This joint statement stated `the Allied Governments announce publicly to the Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible for these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres'.
(4) The post-World War I Turkish Government indicted the top leaders involved in the `organization and execution' of the Armenian Genocide and in the `massacre and destruction of the Armenians'.
(5) In a series of courts-martial, officials of the Young Turk Regime were tried and convicted, as charged, for organizing and executing massacres against the Armenian people.
(6) The chief organizers of the Armenian Genocide , Minister of War Enver, Minister of the Interior Talaat, and Minister of the Navy Jemal were all condemned to death for their crimes, however, the verdicts of the courts were not enforced.
(7) The Armenian Genocide and these domestic judicial failures are documented with overwhelming evidence in the national archives of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, the United States, the Vatican and many other countries, and this vast body of evidence attests to the same facts, the same events, and the same consequences.
(8) The United States National Archives and Record Administration holds extensive and thorough documentation on the Armenian Genocide , especially in its holdings under Record Group 59 of the United States Department of State, files 867.00 and 867.40, which are open and widely available to the public and interested institutions.
(9) The Honorable Henry Morgenthau, United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916, organized and led protests by officials of many countries, among them the allies of the Ottoman Empire, against the Armenian Genocide .
(10) Ambassador Morgenthau explicitly described to the United States Department of State the policy of the Government of the Ottoman Empire as `a campaign of race extermination,' and was instructed on July 16, 1915, by United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing that the `Department approves your procedure . . . to stop Armenian persecution'.
(11) Senate Concurrent Resolution 12 of February 9, 1916, resolved that `the President of the United States be respectfully asked to designate a day on which the citizens of this country may give expression to their sympathy by contributing funds now being raised for the relief of the Armenians', who at the time were enduring `starvation, disease, and untold suffering'.
(12) President Woodrow Wilson concurred and also encouraged the formation of the organization known as Near East Relief, chartered by an Act of Congress, which contributed some $116,000,000 from 1915 to 1930 to aid Armenian Genocide survivors, including 132,000 orphans who became foster children of the American people.
(13) Senate Resolution 359, dated May 11, 1920, stated in part, `the testimony adduced at the hearings conducted by the sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations have clearly established the truth of the
reported massacres and other atrocities from which the Armenian people have suffered'.
(14) The resolution followed the April 13, 1920, report to the Senate of the American Military Mission to Armenia led by General James Harbord, that stated `[m]utilation, violation, torture, and death have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages'.
(15) As displayed in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Adolf Hitler, on ordering his military commanders to attack Poland without provocation in 1939, dismissed objections by saying `[w]ho, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?' and thus set the stage for the Holocaust.
(16) Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term `genocide' in 1944, and who was the earliest proponent of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide , invoked the Armenian case as a definitive example of genocide in the 20th century.
(17) The first resolution on genocide adopted by the United Nations at Lemkin's urging, the December 11, 1946, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 96(1) and the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide itself recognized the Armenian Genocide as the type of crime the United Nations intended to prevent and punish by codifying existing standards.
(18) In 1948, the United Nations War Crimes Commission invoked the Armenian Genocide `precisely . . . one of the types of acts which the modern term `crimes against humanity' is intended to cover' as a precedent for the Nuremberg tribunals.
(19) The Commission stated that `[t]he provisions of Article 230 of the Peace Treaty of Sevres were obviously intended to cover, in conformity with the Allied note of 1915 . . ., offenses which had been committed on Turkish territory against persons of Turkish citizenship, though of Armenian or Greek race. This article constitutes therefore a precedent for Article 6c and 5c of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Charters, and offers an example of one of the categories of `crimes against humanity' as understood by these enactments'.
(20) House Joint Resolution 148, adopted on April 8, 1975, resolved: `[t]hat April 24, 1975, is hereby designated as `National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man', and the President of the United States is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day as a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide , especially those of Armenian ancestry . . .'.
(21) President Ronald Reagan in proclamation number 4838, dated April 22, 1981, stated in part `like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians, which followed it--and like too many other
persecutions of too many other people--the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten'.
(22) House Joint Resolution 247, adopted on September 10, 1984, resolved: `[t]hat April 24, 1985, is hereby designated as `National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man', and the President of the United States is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day as a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide , especially the one and one-half million people of Armenian ancestry . . .'.
(23) In August 1985, after extensive study and deliberation, the United Nations SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities voted 14 to 1 to accept a report entitled `Study of the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide ,' which stated `[t]he Nazi aberration has unfortunately not been the only case of genocide in the 20th century. Among other examples which can be cited as qualifying are . . . the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916'.
(24) This report also explained that `[a]t least 1,000,000, and possibly well over half of the Armenian population, are reliably estimated to have been killed or death marched by independent authorities and eye-witnesses. This is corroborated by reports in United States, German and British archives and of contemporary diplomats in the Ottoman Empire, including those of its ally Germany.'.
(25) The United States Holocaust Memorial Council, an independent Federal agency, unanimously resolved on April 30, 1981, that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum would include the Armenian Genocide in the Museum and has since done so.
(26) Reviewing an aberrant 1982 expression (later retracted) by the United States Department of State asserting that the facts of the Armenian Genocide may be ambiguous, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1993, after a review of documents pertaining to the policy record of the United States, noted that the assertion on ambiguity in the United States record about the Armenian Genocide `contradicted longstanding United States policy and was eventually retracted'.
(27) On June 5, 1996, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Bill 3540 (the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1997) to reduce aid to Turkey by $3,000,000 (an estimate of its payment of lobbying fees in the United States) until the Turkish Government acknowledged the Armenian Genocide and took steps to honor the memory of its victims.
(28) President William Jefferson Clinton, on April 24, 1998, stated: `This year, as in the past, we join with Armenian-Americans throughout the nation in commemorating one of the saddest chapters in the history of this century, the deportations and massacres of a million and a half Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in the years 1915-1923.'.
(29) President George W. Bush, on April 24, 2004, stated: `On this day, we pause in remembrance of one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century, the annihilation of as many as 1,500,000 Armenians through forced exile and murder at the end of the Ottoman Empire.'.
(30) Despite the international recognition and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide , the failure of the domestic and international authorities to punish those responsible for the Armenian Genocide is a reason why similar genocides have recurred and may recur in the future, and that a just resolution will help prevent future genocides.
The House of Representatives--
(1) calls upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution; and
(2) calls upon the President in the President's annual message commemorating the Armenian Genocide issued on or about April 24, to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide .

Armenians still suffering in Iraq.

Last week there was another shooting of Armenians in Iraq. This time it was not the Islamists who did it: It was the Australians. Unity Resources Group is an Australian private security company that's involved in the Iraq war. They opened fire when the car driven one of the victims came too close to a convoy guarded by the Australians. They opened fire and killed two ladies - the driver and the front passenger, and wounded two other passengers - one was a kid. Obviously, they will be cleared of the murders as it happens daily in Iraq.

Timesonline has a more detailed story about this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Interesting charges against a corrupt cop.

An Indiana cop has been caught letting drivers go for a bribe instead of ticketing them. Westfield, Indiana, police Lt. Scott Fross would stop Hispanic drivers and extort money out of them. The Hispanics are perhaps the most vulnerable minority in the US as some of them are here illegally. As such they are prone to a lot of abuse; they obviously cannot complain to the police/authorities.

But the most interesting part of the crime is that Lieutenant Fross has been charged with armed robbery. This is a far serious crime than an act of bribery. I believe that the charges are valid and not exaggerated. In the US we have a culture that the cops can kill anyone with impunity so when a cop asks for money, you better give it to him/her as consequences can be serious.

I wonder if such harsh charges can have a place in the Armenian law enforcement when and if the Armenians start doing something against corruption. Most of the Armenian cops do not carry guns so the armed part is not viable. Bribery on the streets is certainly an act of extortion and can be classified as robbery.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Got myself a bottle of pomegranate wine.

Yesterday I was at the neighborhood Russian store and was going through their alcohol shelves when I saw a bottle of pomegranate wine. Upon close inspection, it turned out to be a product of Armenia made by Proshian Wine Factory (I had never heard of it before). The distributor even has a web page for it. As you can see from the picture there, the label is not very flashy (it looks very modest in real life) and you may miss it if you are not careful.

The saleswoman highly recommended it but, obviously, you have to take such recommendations with a grain of salt.

I can tell you right away that my wife liked it. It's very sweet for my taste but she thinks it's pretty good.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dragging Armenia into the 21-st century.

In my opinion, Armenia has two major priorities - education and military - at this point in history. I will address the military needs in a future post. This post is about education.

There was a post on the Blogrel blog some time ago where there was a proposal to provide free wi-fi service in Armenia. I was against it. After all, there is no free lunch in this world. I was an outcast in the comments area and Rick at TourArmenia portrayed me as a heartless capitalist. I still think that there is no free lunch. Just one look at what is happening with the free wi-fi in the US - most of the initiatives have fizzled as the municipalities fail to come up with a way to generate revenues in order to pay for it.

How can Armenia do something about the mediocre internet access in the country, especially the regions beyond Yerevan? My idea is two pronged - help build the internet infrastructure and give the population the tools to use it.

The wi-fi does not need to be free. Free products make people feel entitled and make them lazy (it's a general view held by the conservatives and I agree with it). A small chunk of the Armenian vochinch mentality comes from the feeling of entitlement during the Soviet times and the period following the Earthquake when the humanitarian aid arrived. In order to appreciate the product/service, people need to pay for it.

That said, the internet prices are outrageously high in Armenia due to the stupidity of the Armenian government in giving Armentel a telecommunications monopoly in the late 90-s. Because of that, people cannot afford to have proper service. Go outside Yerevan and it gets worse. The rural areas don't have any service at all. Some people have not touched a computer in their lives! In a typical free market fashion the government has let the telco do whatever it wants. So far it has not worked well and something needs to be done.

Why not the Armenian government become an ISP itself? One of the ministries, let's say education ministry, purchases internet service from Armentel. The deal would be that there would be wi-fi networks in the rural areas and small towns in the regions. Then the ministry would sell this service to the population at discounted prices. In order to be able to use it, someone signs up for the service (say 5000 drams a month) and specifies a MAC address. That way, the ministry would have control on who can use the service, collect usage patterns, etc. The backbone could be the same as the cellular network since land lines are not very well developed in the country.

The other portion of this would be to give people the tools to use the wi-fi service. With the availability of the XO computers, there is a cheap and durable alternative to your typical desktop or laptop computer. These could be purchased by the ministry, or charitable organizations, and sold to people with favorable financing options like low or no interest payment plans. This would provide two benefits: 1. gives the people the tools to be a part of the modern age, and 2. teaches them credit management.

I do not have any hopes that the current administration will do anything about this. If Serzh Sargsyan comes to power next year, nothing will happen again. I hope that if a new force wins next year's elections and manages to enforce the results of the vote, the new administration will concern itself with this issue. Instead of wasting so much money on low value added road construction projects in Yerevan, some of the money can be allocated to making sure that Armenia has an educated population in a couple of decades instead of turning into an underdeveloped third world country.