Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nexus, Ramez Naam

It was only a matter of time; I started reading the first of Naam's trilogy, Nexus, couple of months after I finished the last book in the series, Apex! Whereas, I had made up my mind about the main characters' past life, in Nexus I read Naam's version. The most striking difference, was Samantha Cataranes'. I would have never guessed she had such rough childhood, and by nature of living that life she had become a fighter. Of all characters in Naam's book, and Naam is a prolific character creator, Sam is the one I like to follow the most. She is neutral, and has the least to gain from investing in, believing, or promoting the human brain augmentation technology. She is making up her mind, as events unfold, and present her with evidence to take side.

 After reading two of the three books, I still have not made up my mind. That if intervention in evolution is unavoidable; and that, it is only a matter of time that we become one with technology; should we embrace it and make it available to all, regulate it, or squash it?! Naam's Nexus and Apex, doesn't want to, or doesn't know how to take a clear stance on this. What it does take clear stance on is violence is necessary, that many will perish. In the end there doesn't seem to be a clear winner --only a power shift. One thing is very clear, regardless of which category Naam's character fall in: normal-, augmented-, trans-, or post- human, they are all easily manipulated. They can easily become slaves of other's ideas and motives!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

[IBM High Level Assembler Language for z System-HLASM] No Active Using - ASMA307E

If you are here because you have hit ASMA307E error, then I suggest to generate a listing file, by using HLASM option LIST.  Study the section of the assembler source that has been identified as not having "Active Using".  If you don't see a meaningful "Active Loc" then it could be due to discontinuity introduced in your CSECT.  In my case a DSECT caused the section I want addressable to become orphaned, OR it could be due to code_size being greater than 4K between the USING statement and the symbol being addressed.

  • Solution_For_Discontinuity:  Move that section to the CSECT with Using statement, OR insert the CSECT statement before the orphaned section.


  • Solution_For_Code_Size_GT_4K: check out Base Register in assembler (1), (2), and (3) at Jens Elbaek Blog, System Z Assembler

Monday, October 12, 2015

Going from Paris to Ris-Orangis

The best way to get to Ris-Orangis from Paris, is via Taxi I was told .  Not so true.  Firstly, it is costly, especially, if you have to do it every day, back and forth for four days.  Secondly, it is boring.  There is lots to see on and outside of the public transit --and if there is not, one can sleep, read or listen to music.

A 5-days pass for zones 1 - 5 costs 67,40 € (2015, October).  And from anywhere in Paris you can get to Gare Du Nord or Les Halles Stations where you can catch RER D train operated by ROVO South (Sud) to CORBEIL ESSONNES.  I caught this at 7:42 AM and was in Ris - Orangis at 8:20 AM.

There was no cab at the train station, to my surprise.  So, I had to try my French in getting the point across to the attendant at the train ticket station, who kindly made a call on my behalf.  The taxi however arrived in sooner than the expected 15 minutes.  I tried my French again on reserving a taxi for tomorrow but I gathered from what the driver said, I have to call again tomorrow.  By end of the week the attendant at the train ticket station will either avoid me or we become good friends.  I certainly hope for the latter to happen!

Going back to Paris, I took RER D train North (Nord), at 5:31 towards VILLIERS LE BEL GONESSE ARNOUVILLE, operated by VUPE, from ORANGIS BOIS DE L EPINE, a different station that the one I arrived in the morning, and got to Paris around 6:10 PM.

There are many trains going through the same station, but they go one at a time :), so for the information about the next train approaching are on the monitors, this includes time of arrival, and all the stations the train stops.  This is truly a source of reassurance. However, if the system is down,  monitors showing a blue screen, it's best to know the train information, timetable, and operator from a previous time, basically get on the train that arrives at that time, and listen to stop announcements, those French statements starting with: Prochain arret ....., to ensure you are on the right one.

The following two websites are source of reference for planning to visit Paris and/or Paris and the vicinity.
Paris and suburbs:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ward Islands, Toronto Islands

If you are looking for something to do on any given day, and you happen to be in Toronto, head down to the Toronto Island Ferry port, and get a RT ticket for $7.25 (subject to change, fees are based on 2015) and travel to Ward island. 

The Rectory Cafe
Center Island is a popular destination, and with the Centerville Amusement park, water fountains, and the bicycle and boat rental stores it makes total sense that the line to that island is always the busiest.  But Ward has its own beauty --it's more mature, and more reserved.  You get off the ferry, and there is no sign or anything else to direct you or inhibit you from going in any direction.  But, if I may suggest you may head towards the lake and start walking west toward the Center island.  It's a lovely walk and doesn't take too long.  Along the way, watch for the sign (on your left) for The Rectory Cafe.  Don't think of leaving if you are hungry and there is a line; it's worth the wait, and the staff is quite accommodating and seats hungry clients quickly.  The Salmon and Steak there are cooked to perfection.  In the summer time, when we visited, August 16, there was quite a charming jazz musician singing beautiful tunes.  It was a whole experience.

There is plenty to do after lunch.  Continue with the walk to Center Island and explore the eastern point of the island via a rental boat or a bicycle.

Apex, by Ramez Naam

APEX, independent of what led to it, (events of Nexus and Crux), builds a story based on connection of minds through the NexusOS. Through this soft layer one human mind can feel and see the other's. In addition Nexus OS enhances the natural ability to think, learn, memorize, problem solve, and focus.

It is year 2040, and unrest is a dominant and recurring theme; the government of China, India, and USA are involved in secretly boosting their power position by enhancing NexusOS while publicly denouncing it.

In US, post a series of suspicious deaths of high ranking government officials, leaked government documents show it's involved in crimes post-human's are accused of committing.
In China a post-human, Su-Yong Shu, has been tortured so badly that has led her to create a cloned software that when activated will set the path to destroy all human life on earth.
In India, government officials bribe Chinese scientist to get a hold of part of the AI technology behind Su-Yong Shu.

Where there is evil, there is good. And in this story, the goodness comes into play quite often to defeat the bad. It's the author's belief that only compassion and peace can stop war and devastation.

What stood out for me, were meditation and concentration and how he used them in his story. It inspired me, to think what if? What if peace could be reached in the world if those of us who believed in it meditated?
However, I would have appreciated a bit of out of the box thinking for the governments of the imaginary year of 2040. Intentionally or inadvertently the political part of the story closely follows the happenings of past couple of decades.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

Paula McLain has penned a novel based on the story of Ernest Hemingway's, American novelist (1899 - 1961), first marriage.  He meets her, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, (1891 - 1979), at a mutual friend's boarding house in Chicago.  Between them there is an ease.  They fall in and out of conversation, and speak to each other about dreams and aspirations without any expectation.  Hadley, that's how she is known to her friends, is from St. Louis, and Ernest, Hem that's how amongst so many other ways, his friends call him, is from Oak Park.  Not that the location they are from matters; it is just a fact stated in the novel which attempts to be as much true to the original story as possible.
They correspond after Hadley returns home.  Ernest's letters is about his desire to establish himself as an author; not love letters.  He has heard aspiring writers go to Europe to be discovered.  One of his letters to Hadley begins like this, "Still thinking about Rome but what if you came along --as wife?"

They get married.  And move to Paris --instead of Rome-- she loves him, he is exuberant and vibrant. He sees in her the goodness truth, Hadley is good for him, is good for his writing.  Each lacks what the other offers.  It seems to be a perfect match.

Their life in Paris, despite Ernest's meager salary working for Toronto Star, is not too shabby.  They drink, socialize and travel well.  A big part of the book is about their trips to many different cities.  The most notable ones are the ski trips to Schruns, Austria and the bull fighting in Pamplona, Spain.
These trips strengthen his craft.  She is there for him, every step of the way, with little or no demand; her happiness is an extension of his.  Their friends, mostly the literary type, Gertrude Stein, Mike Strater, Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald, and .... say Hemingways know how to do marriage.

But even the strongest marriages and the most understanding couples can be teased.   What Hadley does to keep him is unfathomable; but in the end she has to let him go. 

Ernest moves back to the States as an established author with his mistress, Pauline Pfeiffer.

If I had been interested in Hemingeway's marriages and affair I would have picked up "Moveable Feast".  I may still do that, because Paula McLain's novel, The Paris Wife, made me interested in the artist and the city in a whole different way.

A good read!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Persian Pickle Club, by Sandra Dallas

As I was reading this book, I kept wondering about living back in the 1930's. I sure was not going to like it, or I sure was not going to like the version Dallas painted by chronicling the story of Persian Pickle Club. Quite a peculiar name for a club of ordinary women from all walks of life. There was definitely nothing specifically "Persian" about this club. Interestingly Dallas (in)advertently didn't let on the bond amongst the club members --so the end came as a surprise to me.

Being a part of the Pickles was an honor and attending the gatherings was the thing to look forward to in lives of these women who were otherwise (not so) busy with the chores of a sluggish farming season due to lack of rain --at least this was the case for Queenie Bean the narrator.

So, what happens when a new inductee to the club, not by choice but by association to another member, turns into a reporter and assigned to report on a local crime. Well, solving the crime is more important to Rita Ritter than being accepted to the club --this could be fine so long as the club doesn't have anything to hide.

Interesting read, written in old fashioned, supposedly 30's style language. At times I had doubts about whether Dallas was being true to that era, however I read someone's review on GoodReads who assures this indeed is the case, Jim Butler says: "Trust me, Sandra has done an awesome job of describing the people and the period in the flint hills area outside Topeka. One should read this book to truly understand our mid-American heritage and character. The plot is just a vehicle to get to that knowledge."

Mont-tremblant in April

You can get to Mont-tremblant ski resort by air too, but we decided to take the road.  There are a couple of options for flying there.

1. Fly to Montreal-Trudeau airport and take the shuttle, operated by Autocars Skyport, to Mont-tremblant resort.
2. Fly to Mont-tremblant airport and take the shuttle from the airport to the resort.

But if you decided to take the road, then prepare for six hours of straight, or nine hours of driving with breaks.  Most of the drive is in Ontario and on route 401 East.  Unless there is a an accident, the Ontario portion of the route is pretty straight forward.  If you get in a situation of abrupt halt and backed up traffic due to road construction or accident, it is best to look for the best way to get to, County Road 2 (formerly Highway 2), that runs in parallel and merges with 401 west of Brockville.  As for the Quebec portion of the route, I can only say --stay alert and pay attention to the signs!

We had a rental car, and although most of the route was in Ontario but had to pay $5 extra per day for permit to drive in the province of Quebec.  Tallying all the cost of renting, parking and filling up the tank of the vehicle we save $100 (per couple) over the price of air travel to this destination.

Booking hotel stay, ski lift, ski equipment, and spa in advance saves one up to 30%.

We stayed in Mont-tremblant Westin resort with special advance booking rate for the Starwood Preferred Guest members of $229 a night + $15 daily charge for parking.  I used the hotel gym and utterly enjoyed my indoor walks through the scenic forests of New Zealand and Germany on the treadmill.  The other nice thing about this hotel was the fire place in the room.  There was a well equipped kitchenette in the room which could have made up for the not very healthy and very expensive restaurants if we had taken our food with us.  The local supermarket has limited choices and is expensive.  Having said that dining at Maison De La Crepe provides an opportunity for a healthy start to the day. 
Maison De La Crepe, 113 Kandahar, Mont Tremblant, QCMiss Vitamines $11.33

The hills were covered with mix of man made and natural snow --which was more wet than powder.  But compared to skiing in Ontario even this was superb!
The South side of Mont Tremblant, the "trembling mountain." The summit is at  875 metres (2,871 ft), which makes it one of the tallest peaks in the Laurentians. [source: Wikipedia]

Friday, January 02, 2015

Visiting Montreal on Jan 1

Montreal Piere Trudeau airport is one building, all domestic and international flights depart and arrive here.  It is very convenient to navigate.

On the ground floor of this building, exit 27 [if you are paying attention to the numbers printed at each], is where the airport - down town bus, 747 AEROPORT P.E.-TRUDEAU / CENTER-VILLE, stops.  There is a ticket machine close by, where you can buy a day pass for $10, and pick up a 747 bus time table which has a map of metro from the information desk close to the exit.  The day pass is valid on the airport-down town bus as well as on metro, and all other buses operated by stm.  Most Montreal sights are accessible by public transit.  [I bought my ticket on the bus, I paid $10, exact change in coins.  But unfortunately, my ticket didn't scan at any of the metro station.  I went to the stm customer care, Service a la Clinetele, at the Berri-Uqam station and got a new day pass issued for me.]

There is metro station a short walk distance from the 747 bus' first stop, Linonel-Groux.  Taking the metro is faster than staying on the bus, I think, to down town, the Saint-Laurent station.

Now, since it was Jan 1, I had prepared a list of places that are open.

Notre - dame Bascillica - Roman Catholic church, Gothic Architecture, with a beautiful chapel in the back [110 Notre Dame street, metro: Place-D'Armes]  Jan 1 schedule morning mass, open for visitors 12:30-4:00 PM.

Bonsecours Basin Quays of Old Port [Ville Marie, metro: Champ-de-Mars] Skating rink admission: $9.00 Skate rental, $6.50+tax, themed music everyday in winter starting at 6PM, rink maintenance at 2 PM and maybe other times during the day, Jan 1 schedule 10 AM - 10 PM.

St. Joseph Oratory - Roman Catholic church - its dome the third largest in the world, Renaissence Architecture, escalators or taking the steps as a pligrimage to the chapel, overlooks the city of Montreal's Mount Royal Park. [3800 Queen Mary Road, metro: Cote-Des-Neiges]

Universite-de-Montreal, opened in 1878 with less than a hundred students in theology, medicine and law. [metro: Universit-de-Montreal]

I utterly enjoyed visiting all the places above; the city was clean, quiet and ready to welcome its visitors on Jan 1st.

Map of Montreal metro, run by stm.