Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

16 Jun 2001, 12:30 p.m.

Live from Leningrad, it's Saturday Morning

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I can't believe it's not butter, and I can't believe I've been in Russia for almost a day.

So, what's to say? Lots of stuff. I have successfully:

  • Bought and eaten food and water (no guarantees on the safety and healthfulness of said food and water) (or on not being ripped off -- I think my breakfast was twice as expensive as listed because I'm an obvious foreigner)
  • Not had my passport stolen
  • Gotten here, into an Internet cafe, to conduct e-mail and weblog business
  • Made a far-too-expensive phone call to tell my mom that I'm all right
  • Escaped some gypsy children who wanted money, and a random Russian felllow who said "hi" in that troublesome way
  • Showered & used toilets
  • Walked a great deal along Nevskii Prospekt
  • Spoken in Russian (some)

I'm sure there's more. I completely failed yesterday at attempting to purchase a phone card at some International Telephone Office. My Russian stinks to heaven, but perhaps not to high heaven.

Right now I'm very happy to be here. I've had a few moments of depression, as in right after I had a complete communication breakdown when trying to buy that phone card. And I know that it would be better for me to be practicing my Russian right now, rather than thinking in English and/or talking with/hanging out with my fellow Americans. But I need a little time/space to think to myself, and I prefer this diary to do that.

Seems that Seth, Steve, Leonard, and Dan have all sort of randomly interacted recently. Huh.

The panopoly of incompatible phone-card systems in this city are, as Neal Stephenson wrote in Cryptonomicon (and about almost the same problem!), "a case study in why gradualism is bad."

I entered Washington, D.C. via Dulles Airport, and left it the same way. "Ashes to ashes, Dulles to Dulles."

Is "I Like Big Butts" (1980s rap song) an homage to that one song in This is Spinal Tap?

Tonight's Episode: A Bicycle Built for Death

I saw Antitrust on the plane. So earnest, so unintentionally hilarious. Actual "found-object" Tonight's Episode within Antitrust: Murdered for Code.

I saw it with The Other Geek (well, one of two, maybe) in my group. There were spots where it was dead-on, and probably much better than Swordfish is (haven't seen the latter) at being somewhat authentic to geekitude and the free-software zealot POV. The RMS figure was Asian, which gladdened me. And/but I'm not sure whether bandying about the phrase "open source" in connection with very ideological, "human knowledge belongs to the world" sloganeering is a good thing. Oh, and also, as far as we know, Microsoft is not akin to The Firm (cf. John Grisham). So the analogy has been dramatized, and thus it seems harder to reallly go after Gatesism, since Gates is not actually (again, AFAWK) sending paid thugs after innovative young hackers to steal their ideas.

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at