Friday, October 27, 2006

How do I get myself into these situations?

OK, this week has been going okay, until yesterday, in Stats class. You see, it turns out we have a pretty big project that I completely forgot about. It's a partner project, but my class is all seniors except for me, so I only know a couple of people, and needless to say my assigned partner (assigned last week - we were the only two people not in a group) is not one of those couple of people. I had completely forgotten even who my partner was, until yesterday, when we had to do an activity in our groups. All this time I had hoped that my partner had a clue (as I didn't), but it turned out that neither of us have even picked a topic for the project yet. We then had our presenting order picked, and of course we are to be on of the first groups to present, on Monday. That's right, this Monday. Class ended and I forgot to get my partner's phone number, or even his name. And now I have one day to find him so we can spend the whole weekend working on it...

Think that's bad? It gets worse:

This project is worth 10% of my grade at the end of the semester, or 15-20% now. The first quarter report cards are send out at the end of next week, after presentations. And my parents are not very tolerant of C's.... >.<

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Where have I been?

I realize that I haven't posted for two weeks, but I have an excuse - I have had a ton of homework and stuff for all my classes, especially Euro. Man, when they said 90 minutes every day for Euro, they weren't kidding. So, I suppose I should enlighten my blog readers to just what I've been up to lately.

I haven't tried any more translations, though I have read some more Strugatsky works. Monday Starts on Saturday is particulary recommended ... if you can find it. For some reason or another, English Strugatsky translations are rare and expensive, usually costing somewhere in the twenties range (USD), if they're available at all.

I am doing rather well in school, though I may not be doing so well in Euro. Nevertheless, Euro is undoubtedly my favorite class. I just took the PSAT today, and think that I did very well. Also, I'm the Vice President of my school's Chess Club, with meetings at lunch twice a week. I'm in charge of maintaining our school ranking system, for which I use the ELO Calculator that I conveniently made with Mgccl this summer. I'm currently ranked number one, but I swear, no data tampering involved ^_^

For some strange reason, I suddenly have this fascination with old stuff, from antique books to vinyl records. Since my family rarely eBays [yes, it's a verb!], I guess I'll have to take my chances at local garage sales - if I have time that is.

I still haven't gotten a guitar, but in the meantime I got a new hobby - digital photography - to help fill the void. Photography is fun =)

Realizing how old and pointless my old personal site is, I've started developing a new one, using a mixture of PHP and HTML. Since, as I mentioned before, I don't really have a lot of free time right now, I can expect this project to take me a month or so, if I don't give up halfway that is. You can view a very early test here.

Finally, I'd like to mention a very interesting online game that I found: Cosmic Encounter. Oddly enough, this game is based on a boardgame that one of my friends has. Who'd've guessed that a board game designer would also happen to be a web programmer? Anyways, be sure to try it out - it's incredibly fun and addictive in its own way.

Whew. That was one long and rambling post, two weeks in a nutshell. I must have used just about every one of my labels for this. ^_^

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Poor Cruel Folk (Take Two)

After reading my first draft of Poor Cruel Folk yesterday, my dad informed that I had tons of mistakes, dozens and dozens of 'em. So, I spent yesterday and today painstakingly editing it, ending up fixing over 50 mistakes. To top it off, I translated the afterword, which was written 35 years later by Boris Strugatsky. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

>>> Poor Cruel Folk: Definitive Edition! <<<


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Poor Cruel Folk

NOTE: A newer version of this translation is available here!

I decided to try my hand at translating, just for fun, and translated/edited a short story, originally in Russian, by the Strugatsky brothers, entitled "Poor Cruel Folk". (BTW, the Strugatsky brothers were perhaps the greatest sci-fi writers ever, and I'm building up quite a collection of their works, in both English and Russian. Sadly, many of their novels and stories were never translated into English.) Actually, the translation was done years before by a man named Fyodor Kondrashov, but his version was so bad that it was virtually unreadable, and I decided to edit it into shape, consulting the Russian version when necessary.

View it in all of its now-English glory! =)

Poor Cruel Folk - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

© Copyright by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky

© Copyright 1998 by Fyodor Kondrashov, English translation

Translated by Fyodor Kondrashov (

Edited by Alex Nisnevich (, 10/1/06


The King sat naked. Like a foolish pauper on the street, he sat leaning against a cold wall, drawing in his blue, goose-bumped legs. He shivered, with his eyes closed, he listened, but everything was quiet.

He awoke at midnight from a nightmare and immediately understood that he was finished. Some one wheezed and writhed by the door of the bedroom suite, he heard footsteps, metallic jingling and drunken mumbling of His Highness, Uncle Buht: “Let me through... Let me... Break it down, hell with it...” Wet with icy sweat, he silently rolled off his bed, ducked into a secret closet, and loosing himself he ran down the underground passage. Something squelched under his bare feet, the startled rats dashed away, but he did not notice anything, just now, sitting next to a wall he remembered everything; the darkness, the slippery walls, and the pain from a blow on the head against the shackled door to the temple, and his own unbearable high yelp.

They shall not enter here, he thought. No one shall enter here. Only if the King orders so. But the King shall not order... He snickered hysterically. Oh no, the King will not order! He carefully opened his eyes and saw his blue, hairless legs with scraped knees. Still alive, he thought. I will live, because they shall not enter here. Everything in the temple was bluish from the cold light of the lanterns -- long glowing tubes that were stretched under the ceiling. In the center, God stood on an eminence, big, heavy, with sparkling dead eyes. The King continuously and stupidly stared, until God was suddenly screened by a shabby lay brother, still a greenhorn. Scratching, with an open mouth he gazed at the naked King. The King squinted once again. Scum, he thought, a lousy vermin, catch the mongrel and to the dogs, for them to ravage... He reasoned that he did not remember the lout well, but he was long gone. So scrawny, snotty... That's all right, we'll remember. We'll remember everything, Your Highness, Uncle Buht. During the father's reign, I dare say you sat quietly, drank a bit and kept silent, were afraid to be noticed, you knew that King Prostyaga did not forget you ignoble treachery...

Great was the father, the King thought with an accustomed envy. You'd be great, if your advisors are God's angels in flesh. All know, all have seen them: their faces fearful, white, like milk, and their garment were such that one could not understand if they were naked or not. And their arrows were fiery, like lightning, they drove off the nomads with the arrows, and although they cast them overhead, half the horde crippled from fear. His Highness, Uncle Buht, whispered once upon a time, drunk and burping, that those arrows can be cast by anyone, that special slings are needed that the angels have and that would be nice to take from them. And he said then -- he was drunk then, -- that if it is nice to have, why not have it, why not... Soon after that table talk one angel fell off the wall into the moat, probably slipped. Next to him they found one of uncle's body guards with a javelin between his shoulder blades. It was a dark, dark deed... It good that the people did not care about the angels, they were scary to look at, but it is not clear why it is scary -- angels were happy, cordial people. Only their eyes were scary. Small, shiny, and they keep racing around... non humanoid eyes, not peaceful. So the people hushed down, although father, King Prostyaga gave them such freedom that it is shameful to remember... although, before the Coup, father, they say was a saddle maker. For saying so, with my own hands I had torn eyes out, and sewn ears shut. But I remember, he used to sit in the evenings by the Crystal Tower, and he would cut out leather -- beautiful work. And I would perch myself at his side, it's warm and comfy... The angels were singing from the rooms, so quietly, and in harmony, and father would start to accompany -- he knew their language -- it used to be spacious, nobody around... not like now, guards are stuck at every corner, but there is no sense in it...

The King lamented. Yes, he was a good father, just that he did not die for a long time. You can't do that while your son is still alive... The son is also the King, the son also wants to... But Prostyaga did not age, I'm over fifty, and he still looks younger than me... It looks like the angels had asked God for his health... They asked for his health, but they forgot about me. They say that the second one they managed to pin down in the father's room, he had a sling in each hand, but he did not fight. Before death, they say, he threw both of them out the window, they burst into a blue flame, there was no dust left... Too bad about the slings... And Prostyaga, they say, cried and got drunk then, within an inch of his life -- the first time since his reign -- looked for me, they said, loved me, believed...

The King drew his knees to his chin, and hugged his legs. So what if he believed? One should know one's limit, abdicate, like it is done elsewhere... and I do not know anything, and do not want to. There was only a conversation with my uncle, His Highness.

“Prostyaga,” he said, “doesn't age”. “Yes,” I tell him, “but what can we do, the angels pleaded for his health.” Uncle then sneered, scum, and whispered: “Angels,” he said, “no longer sing their songs here”. And I blurted out: “It is true, but now there is a way to deal with them, not just with humans”. Uncle looked at me soberly, and immediately left... And I didn't really say anything... Empty words, without meaning... And in a week Prostyaga died from a heart attack. So what? It was his time. He looked young, but in reality he was over one hundred. We'll all die...

The King was startled, and covering himself, awkwardly sat up. Into the temple came the High Priest Agar. Lay brothers were leading him by the hands. He didn't look at the King, came up to God and kneeled in front of the eminence, tall, hunch-backed, with waist length dirty-white hair. The King gloated, “It's the end of you, Your Highness, you did manage, I'm not like Prostyaga, you'll ravage your own intestines, drunken swine...” Agar spoke in a rich voice:

- God! The King wishes to speak to you! Forgive him and listen!

The room fell silent, no-one dared to breathe. The King contemplated: when the great flood happened, and the earth burst, Prostyaga asked God to help, and God came down from the sky as a ball of flame on the same day, and that night the earth closed up, and the flood disappeared. It means that this is how it will happen today. You were late uncle, Your Highness, you didn't manage. No one can help you now... Agar straightened up. The lay brothers that supported him, jumped away, turned with their backs to God, and covered their heads with their arms. The King saw, how Agar stretched his clasped hands and put them on Gods chest. God's eyes lit up. The King snapped his jaw from fear: the eyes were big and different -- one was snakes-green, the other white, as bright as light. One could hear how God started to breathe, heavily, with crackling, like consumption. Agar backed away.

“Speak,” he whispered. It looked like he was unsettled as well.

The King lowered to all fours, and started to crawl to the eminence. He did not know what to do or how. And he did not know how he should start and whether he should tell the complete truth. God breathed heavily, weezing; suddenly he started to whimper, quietly and thinly - scary.

“I'm the son of Prostyaga,” said the King in despair, smothering his face against the cold stone. “Prostyaga died. I ask protection from the conspirators. Prostyaga made mistakes. He did not know what he was doing. I have fixed everything: calmed the people, became great and unattainable, like you, I gathered an army... And the treacherous Buht is disrupting my plans to conquer the world... He wants to kill me! Help me!”

He raised his head. God, without blinking, was looking in his face with green and white. God was silent.

“Help me...” repeated the King. “Help! Help!” He suddenly thought that he is doing something wrong, and that God is indifferent towards him, and inopportunely remembered: they said, his father, Prostyaga, did not die from a heart attack, but was killed here, in the temple when the killers came in, with out asking permission. “Help!” he screamed desperately. “I'm afraid to die today! Help! Help!”

He hunched up on the stone tiles, biting his hands from an unbearable terror. Differently-eyed God hoarsely breathed above his head.

“Old vermin,” said Tolya. Ernst was quiet. On the screen, through the sparks of static, an ugly black shape of a human lay splattered on the floor. “When I think,” Tolya spoke again, “that if not for him, Alan and Derek would be alive, I want to do something, that you never wanted to do.”

Ernst shrugged his shoulders and moved to the table.

“And I always think,” Tolya continued, “why didn't Derek shoot? He could have killed all...”

“He couldn't,” said Ernst.

“Why couldn't he?”

“Have you ever tried shooting at a human being?”

Tolya made a wry face, but didn't say anything.

“Well that's what it was,” said Ernst. “Try to imagine it. It is almost as disgusting.

A sorrowful howl was heard from the loudspeaker. “HELP HELP I AM AFRAID HELP…” the auto-translator was writing.

“Poor cruel folk...” said Tolya.

I might upload the Word file tomorrow - it's much easier to read.

The story itself is rather interesting, in the Strugatsky style. Not my favorite work of theirs, but enjoyable, and short enough to translate ^_^

October 3rd: The Break-in

I should have made this post two days, but I've been pretty busy these past few days, so here goes:

Last Tuesday was a particularly interesting day. I got home after school to find that the garage door would not open from the outside, the reason being that there was a planned power outage that morning, and part of the garage door mechanism must have gotten disconnected when we manually opened and closed the door in order to get out of the house. Anyways, the door wouldn't budge, and nobody was at home, and so I had to find another way to enter the house. I walked around the garage and tried the side door. It was locked. I walked back and tried the front door, to no avail. In desperation, I walked all the way around the house and tried the back door, which, of course, wouldn't open either. Just as I was going back, I saw my brother and his friend walking home from the middle school. I had forgotten my cellphone that morning (I could hear it ringing inside the house >.<), so I asked for my brother's friend's phone and used it to call my dad at work (finally reaching him after trying three different numbers). After listening to our predicament, he informed me that my mom was coming home ... in an hour (turned out she didn't have the front door keys either, go figure...), and as an afterthought, told me to try to open the windows. After politely returning the phone (which I had been using for some fifteen minutes, much to the annoyance of its owner), my brother and I went around the house, trying every window. Finally, halfway around the house, we found a window that for some reason was unlocked. My brother managed to crawl through, run and unlock the front door for me. While I was putting the window frame back in, I saw my brother's friend running across the street (he ran for two blocks, and was a hilarious sight to see) with his phone open and facing me. I took it and it was my dad again, informing me that my mom was almost home. I told him that we had somehow entered the house already, and all was well in the world. Sorta. And that's the story of how my brother and I were able to break into our own home.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

White & Nerdy

Wierd Al's new music video. Funny thing, he's practically describing me. No, seriously! Check out the lyrics. D&D? Check. Wikipedia? Check. Holy Grail? Check. Name on underwear? Uhh... maybe not this one...

However, it should be noted that the song is not quite nerdy. As a matter of fact, it's mostly geeky and dorky. And yes, there is a difference - nerd = academically smart, geek = obscure speciality (i.e. Star Trek, D&D), dork = socially inept.

Just for fun, I decided to take a test to see which of these categories I fall into. I got:

Outcast Genius

65 % Nerd, 52% Geek, 52% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in all three, earning you the title of: Outcast Genius.

Outcast geniuses usually are bright enough to understand what society wants of them, and they just don't care! They are highly intelligent and passionate about the things they know are *truly* important in the world. Typically, this does not include sports, cars or make-up, but it can on occassion (and if it does then they know more than all of their friends combined in that subject).

Outcast geniuses can be very lonely, due to their being outcast from most normal groups and too smart for the room among many other types of dorks and geeks, but they can also be the types to eventually rule the world, ala Bill Gates, the prototypical Outcast Genius.


Yay! I'll take over the world someday! =) Of course, I already knew that... ;)