Misc updates

I seem to have covid-19, judging by the symptoms; again, after almost exactly a year. I guess the level of antibodies went down during the winter and here I go again. So far, it’s nothing serious, I just get a slight fever (37°C or so) after physical exertion, so I had to cut down on physical activity, especially during the cold. The worrying part is that it doesn’t seem to go away; the situation is unchanged for the last month or so. Another worrying part is that it’s affecting my brain function, most likely due to low-level inflammation level that’s more-less constant, and it appears to affect my brain functions. So far it’s not very serious, but it’s similar to the last time when it was serious; I have trouble focusing and remembering things, my mind is not clear and I tire easily. Another thing is that my immune system is in turmoil and I am more prone to allergic reactions that just flare up all of the sudden. I increased the vitamin intake just to be sure, because this is very tightly correlated with the time I spent in cold and dark; sunlight helped a lot last year, and it gets much worse as the winter progresses, and the obvious culprits might be low vitamin D and melatonin levels, which degrade the immune system, which then becomes both ineffective and prone to overreaction.

Since I’m half-sick and my brain isn’t working properly I haven’t been doing much thinking lately, so I don’t have much to contribute; mostly resting and watching things on YouTube, but I do wish to comment on a few things.

The first is that I observed that people seem to think that investing in Bitcoin or some weird stock is a much better idea than actually working for money, and the worst part is, the economy is in such a state that they might actually be right – if you are locked down, businesses are closing all over the place, and everything is so regulated it’s almost impossible to find something that pays well and isn’t regulated into extinction already, and things like Bitcoin and Tesla seem to go vertical, it’s obvious what will make sense to most people. Of course, in my experience this is always a precursor to collapse.

The second thing I want to comment on is saving money. I saw several situations where it looked like a very bad idea; for instance, kids trying to save money by buying silver and gold, and people trying to save money when it’s obviously that their problem is insufficient income. This made me wonder where the actual limit is, in a sense of who should save money and reduce spending, and who should simply work on increasing their income. It’s hard to tell, but as a general rule, if you find yourself buying unnecessary stuff after you got everything you actually needed, you should probably think about saving. Also, if you have a stable career which brings significant monthly income, and there is no obvious path forward in a sense of an income multiplier, saving money is the obvious choice. Conversely, if you’re a kid who is just starting his career, saving money in gold and silver coins strikes me as a bad move; rather, you should invest in your skills, buy a better computer, buy tools that will increase your effectiveness on whatever career path it is that you chose. Basically, there is a time to invest, and there is a time when investments pay off, and then you save.

The third thing that provokes my reaction is a case of a person who applied for a job and then figured out “oops, I only have a smartphone and I would need a laptop in order to do this”. We don’t live in a parallel universe where laptops are expensive. Sure they are, if you buy a really fancy one, but really, you should only think about a fancy one after you did lots of work on your cheap one. Not to have one at all, today, is actually dangerous, because everything is done over the Internet, and if you actually want to get anything done, you need a proper computer, not just a smartphone. The level of equipment at which you are a “player”, meaning that you can technically do serious work for money online, is so low, you need to be a dumbass not to have a laptop and a smartphone. For fuck’s sake, a cheap Xiaomi phone and an Acer Aspire 5 will get you in the game, for everything up to really, really high levels of professional work, at which point you will already have made so much money with a Xiaomi and an Acer, buying the newest and best equipment will be something you just do in your stride without even feeling the financial sting. Not having a smartphone with a good mobile network contract, and a decent laptop you can use to do work and stay informed, it’s not even borderline careless, it’s actually self-endangerment by outright foolishness. In my case, having less than two fully functional computers at any one time, having only one way of connecting to the Internet at any one time, would be something I would consider risky. Don’t think it’s just because I have money. I had redundancies of that kind even when I was really out of money, because the first thing you need to look after when you’re out of money is maintaining access to means of making money. If you lose that kind of access, your life is basically in danger. Losing access to means of making money, and here I mean access to making money by doing skilled work online, and not chopping wood for pocket change IRL, is something that starts a very steep downward spiral that ends with you starving and freezing on a street somewhere. Never allow yourself to lose full access to the Internet, and full capability to function in an online environment. This means a computer capable of running the right kind of software for the work that you do (whether that’s Office, AutoCAD, Visual Studio, UNIX terminal or Xcode depends on what you do), it means a webcam with a good microphone so you can do telepresence, which is absolutely essential during the lockdown and probably in the future work of any kind, and it means comfortable interface, which means “not phone”; a good laptop is usually fine, and a big monitor, proper keyboard and mouse are usually a welcome improvement. As for the operating system, don’t get a Chromebook if you need MS Office or Xcode for work. Don’t get a Mac if you have to write .NET code. Basically, being able to do work completely online today is absolutely essential, and good smartphones and laptops can be had for so cheap, compared to what used to be the case until very recently, that failure to equip yourself at least in some minimal sense necessary to get started, is sheer fucking idiocy. If you lose your home, you can bounce back easily if you have a smartphone, a laptop and some money saved. If you lose access to the Internet, and/or means of making money online, you are in a much worse peril than if you only lost your home. You basically lost access to civilization.


Another powerful earthquake here in Croatia. Epicentre Petrinja, magnitude initially reported as 6.3, revised down to 6.2 on momentum tensor scale; EMSC reports 6.4. Reports of strong damage at the epicentre. Seven people reported killed so far, many severe and light injuries, widespread damage in the Petrinja city – apparently half the buildings in the city centre are destroyed.

Day later (30/12) multiple aftershocks, some very powerful, further damage, more casualty reports. There were utility disruptions in Zagreb yesterday, now mostly restored. The Sisak/Petrinja region sustained extreme damage, almost the entire population is left homeless in the middle of winter.

Damage reported on dikes on Sava river during high water levels which creates danger of flooding. Damage on the roads, deep cracks newly formed in the ground.


Pictures (C) Jutarnji

Felt very strongly here in Zagreb, my estimate is 6-7 on the Mercali-Cancani-Sieberg scale. My condo suffered slight additional damage, according to my visual inspection. Plaster and pieces of concrete on the floor everywhere, things flew all over the place, but nothing really bad.

Language peculiarities

I’ve been asked many times what’s the difference between a crow and a raven, and my answer was that crow is the species in general and raven is a male specimen, something like sheep and ram. However, I never felt perfectly satisfied with this answer, until one day I found out that the Icelandic word for raven is “hrafna”, and then it clicked – they come from two completely different languages, raven is the Norse “hrafna”, and crow is the Latin “corvus”.

I apologize in advance if you learned about this in kindergarten or elementary school, but it’s actually new to me. 🙂 The same goes with the names of the days of the week, where some are obvious, but I didn’t really get the etymology of others until recently:

Sunday – Sun
Monday – Moon
Tuesday – Tíw (old English for Norse Týr), the one-armed god of war
Wednesday – Wōden/Wotan (old English for Odin)
Thursday – Thor
Friday – Freya
Saturday – Saturni dies, Latin


I just had an abortive OS upgrade on the web/mail server. This produced an outage that lasted longer than predicted because someone changed something in the new Ubuntu Focal (or, should I say, Fecal) LTS, where postfix and dovecot can’t authenticate a connection to mysql database, which is interesting because PHP applications authenticate just fine, and it’s not an account/privileges problem because that’s the first thing I tried and it did nothing. Fortunately, I created a snapshot of the working system on AWS, and after two attempts of re-installation, I threw the towel and restored everything to Bionic, which is why everything works now. I think Linux and IT community in general have a problem with SJW infestation, and they are more preoccupied with trigger warnings, preferred pronouns and similar bullshit nobody cares for, instead of actually making shit work, or, to be more precise, keeping things functional and not fucking them up in newer revisions. Nobody gives a shit whether you think you’re saving the world by consuming copious amounts of soy and avocado products and driving electric; just don’t break postfix/dovecot connection to mysql, and it will be fine.

In addition, the condo I’m renting was damaged by the Zagreb earthquake in March and the damage keeps manifesting in various ways, from plaster occasionally falling from the ceiling, to, more worryingly, hydro-insulation on the roof being cracked, which resulted in two separate points of water dripping through the ceiling after strong rains, and it’s now rain season. I initially reported the damage to the landlord more than a month ago, still no repairs. I’m both fixing stuff that keeps falling apart around me (for instance, yesterday I changed the faucet in the kitchen which fell apart, and the washing machine is so loud it’s actually worse than a jet plane on takeoff, which hints at bearing failure in the near future), and trying to have backup plans, but this is really not something I want to be dealing with now, when the economy is about to shit itself and everybody seems to be preparing for some kind of a genocidal world war.

I almost forgot, the water here turned out to be diluted sewage – a neighbor did a bacteriological test and you don’t want to know, so I had to subscribe to a service that delivers 19l water tanks on demand so we at least have a source of good drinkable water. Oh goody.