Everyman by Philip Roth (2006)

So how long does it take for a person to accept mortality? Is it a giant step taken at one time or lots of little steps taken during one's whole life? And is there indeed an acceptance or this is something, which our "self aware" selves just cannot comprehend fully. Short and sweet, some aspects of "everyman" lives inside each of us.


Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart (2006)

This is a book, you will love or hate. I had to read one third of it, just to try to figure out, where to place it. I decided on conditional loving. The title of the book is a name play on several "stans" created after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The author tries to make the suggestion in the book, but a new Nabokov the author certainly is NOT. But the description of the new Russia (with the main character's love for all things "gansta" obtained, while a student of the "Accidental College" in the Midwest of US) is quite of an entertainment. While the "ruling class" (meaning local gansters, policians and connected parties) spends its days in alcoholic and narcotics daze, the other half (read the other 99%) quickly degrading into third world living conditions. If the confusion in the society in St. Leninsburg does not faze you, than certainly the great details on Absurdistan will. From the local prostitutes, who are only willing to provide services to Golly Burton (Halliburton) foreign employees (they are all here for the oil only), through the two ethnic groups being killed and killing each other (where the main difference between them seems to be the direction of the lower part of their Orthodox Christian church cross, in the best Swiftian traditions), to the local ruling class living in feudalistic conditions, one may start seeing at the world in a different light. The best bet is owning a foreing passport (preferably US, but EU would also do) allowing the holder to leave at any time (of course local rulers permitting), which are also for sale for a "modest" sum. The last pages of the book still keep up the suspense. Good for a light read.


Free electronic books for download/browsing

General books:
There are various sites listing available for free technical books:

Save Karyn: One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back by Karyn Bosnak (2003)

Ever wondered how is shopaholic's day-to-day life is? You can have it all in great detail from shopping Bloomingdale's, buying Guccis, to facials and bikini waxing. And details on good dates and bad dates too, which in many cases are strangely being associated with restaurants as recommended in Zagat's. One wonders which has the worst impact, the spending beyond means (which was apparently a habit from teenage years) or showing off beyond means (maybe having a semi-clerical, semi-creative job like a show producer does not really "require" you to wear Gucci, Prada and whatever those other names were)? Of course these may not even be separated clearly from each other. But regardless, Karyn does have creative skills (including the accidentally discovered American Express credit refund policy, were refunds are processed right away, while purchases only posted the end of the billing cycle, making it a creative way to finance/roll-forward credit balance), and out of desparation with credit card debt and being jobless, she came up with the idea of Save Karyn website requesting readers to contribute some amount to help her paying out her $20,000.00 credit card debt (it should be mentioned, that she already was working with a credit counselor trying to pay down the debts), which became a recognized success. She posted progress on her site, with "Daily Buck" (how I saved a buck today) and fan/hate mail and replies. The website allowed her to pay off debt, write this book and other books, essentially transforming her from a low paid TV show producer to a somewhat recognized book author. Save Karyn was not the first "tipjar", begging website, that distinction seem to belong to SendMeADollar. At around the same time (2001-2002), OddTodd was also born, describing day-to-day existance of unemployed Todd. Her site also triggered satire, parody and hate sites, including Don'tSaveKaryn, SaveKayrnNot, Save Karyn's Complexion, Save Sheeba, and others (many of them disappeared or taken over spam sites, a good list of related sites is collected at Aid Kim Links), while Save Karyn is still being used pitching Karyn's newest book). There is also the Million Dollar Homepage since, marketing creativity is abound on the Net. Good for a light read.


Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America by John McWhorter (2005)

brings a different perspective on black and white race relations in the United States of America, how it arrived to today's state and what can/should be done to move forward.
(A disclaimer here, the author of the book is African-American, so even if someone disagrees with the conclusions, it maybe hard to call the book racist. And just feeling the need to point out this fact shows how charged this topic is).
The book is somewhere between a scholarly work and a book targeting a general audience. The author offers first hand observations and opinions on many topics in the book, including strong opinions on academic papers published by other authors.
The book contains three sections, the first details how this state of affairs came into existence, the second explains how it persists (as a "state of mind") and the third is what can be done to improve it.
The first section discusses how we arrived to this present state of affairs. First a historical lesson on black ghettos, they were by no means idyllic places, people did live in great poverty, but criminal behavior was an exception and not a rule, most people did work for a living and raised children in “traditional” families. Something changed at around 1970, as the author shows on the primer of Indianapolis, disintegrating whole communities. The academics give a whole lists of explanations (which are all refuted on the primers of Indianapolis and other communities):

  • the higher wage factory jobs moved away (only to bus riding distance in Indy)

  • housing discrimination didn't allow the blacks to move closer to the jobs (in Indy there was no need to move, as jobs are still reachable even by public transport)

  • the middle class moved away leaving no role models (the middle class actually became suspect in the new “culture”, and many other places didn't go to hell, because the richer folks left)

  • housing projects and high rise building invite chaos (strangely these same housing projects over went a steep downhill process transforming from a not really inviting places in the 1950s into a really uninviting ones in the 1990s)

  • highway construction killed thriving black neighborhoods (so here the dispersal is an issue, while the concentration is a problem with the high rises?)

  • drugs came in (as in somebody sending them in?)

The authors contention is that it was the open-ended welfare (allowing “reproductive choices” for teenage black women/mothers, meaning having multiple children in many cases from multiple fathers without finishing even high school and obtaining no education enabling them to work for living, and living in mostly women households, with the men/fathers not staying around, and also allowing men not to work the “menial” read: paying less than welfare, and would need to wake up early morning to get there, jobs) and the alienation against the “System”, the “Man” and the whitey (think gansta rap, Ebonics and casual gangland style killings here). Social activists pushed a great number of minorities on welfare during the 1970s and later, and even with the welfare reforms of 1996, the established lifestyles are not going away quickly (although some encouraging changes can be observed). And strangely the rap alienation also seems fashionable with non-minority young persons (together with the clothing choices and attitude towards life).
The second section describes how the therapeutic alienation persists as a “meme” (things were always bad for us, and we have to blame the “System”, and how Ebonics is the first language we speak, and English is just something forced on us by the “System”, and other similar trains of thoughts). Even many of the Civil Rights like actions simply became a caricature (the motion stayed, but the meaning is no longer there). The Black middle class mostly no longer sees discrimination in day-to-day life, in careers, in society, and indeed giving into discrimination would be considered as a betrayal to the values of the ancestors, who were able to carve out a dignified living in spite of real racist conditions. Scholarly works also trying to distort reality and advance their own propaganda, not recognizing the progress made since the Civil Rights era.
The third section offers steps on how to change the today's status quo. From affirmative action (which essentially serves little purpose helping minorities, as it mostly goes to students whose parents are already middle class, thus to be discontinued), through hip-hop (which advocates violence, defeatism, sexism and perpetuates the alienation, thus causing great harms to individuals and communities as a whole), to the need of having a new generation of black readers (who instead of dwelling on imaginary discrimination wrongs and trying to keep the whitey “on the hook” by discussing various failures, and provides real leadership improving integration in society, achieving and celebrating black successes).
Recommended for readers who are interested to understand these issues and how they can be improved.

The Stranger by Albert Camus (1943)

So how far one can be from the norms of the society before the society rejects them? Maybe not very far. Although the "hero" of the book does commit the unexcusable crime of killing another person, it seems that the main problem of the society with him is not this crime, but the fact of not fitting in. A short book making the reader think about small and large things.


Eclipse SWT/JFace 3.2.0 jars/libraries required for standalone (JFace) applications

There are some vague references at Eclipse Bugzilla and Eclipse Porting Notes to the list of dependencies required to run a standalone SWT/JFace application. After generating a skeleton JFace plugin application (as suggested at Manning's Sandbox), I found the following files needed to be added to a project to be able to run standalone (using Maven2 local installs in current project):

/* org.eclipse.jface.text_3.2.0.v20060605-1400.jar */

(replace detailed version numbers with earlier/later numbers accordingly)

When incorrect libraries are specified, when running, Eclipse simply displays:

"Could not find the main class"

with no additional information available on what exact dependencies are missing (??).

Hopefully Maven2 soon be updated with these libraries (including the proper dependencies between them ...)


Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende (2004)

is an interesting tale on experimenting with living with minimal needed amount of technology amongst the "Minimites" (this is a nickname for an Amish group, who let the author join their settlement). The settlement adheres to Anabaptist traditions, living without the use of electricity, and powered machines (although machines are still being heavily used, in some cases built using parts from powered machines). At the same time, they are also open to receive benefits created by technology, e.g. it is considered proper to use the phone to call a trained doctor, when a midwife's skills are no longer considered sufficient during childbirth. As an interesting tidbit, as it comes out, that many (most?) Amish groups really playing with their own restrictions on the use of machines. Telephones cannot be in the house, but they can be in phonebooths in the settlement. Cars cannot be owned, but they can be rented. Only electric and gasoline powered machines are disallowed, leaving pneumatic and other type of machines for use.
The author takes a pragmatic approach, not using machines is really a means to "increase income, and lower expenses" allowing lesser workload necessiated for living. It seems, that expenses spent an acquiring machinery by farmers make farming an unprofitable enterprise. Also less dependency on machines strengthens the community requiring cooperation between members. So how this experiment turns out? Read the book to find out.