ZX Spectrum 48K

An article in Joker magazine made me take a trip down memory lane


zxspectrum.jpg
The legendary “rubber”


ZX Spectrum was the first “microcomputer” which cost less than hundred pounds and my first computer ever was the version with a ludicrous amount of memory… 48 kilobytes. Yes… that is 48 kB… Just for comparison, the laptop I’m writing this post on has 1 GB of memory. That’s 2134-times more 🙂

ZX Spectrum, a.k.a. “The Rainbow” for the rainbowish stripes in the lower right-hand corner, a.k.a. “The Rubber” for its rubbery keyboard was my brush with the world of computers – which consisted mostly of playing Manic Miner. While I could never finish the game, my father actually made it, which made him the ultimate hero of our appartament building at the time 🙂

And in case you wondered: the price tag pf a Spectrum for us “Easterners” was 4.000 deutschmarks (say, 2.000 of today’s euros)… For a computer that has less memory than a lightbulb!!!! But, on the other hand, the one in the picture still works 😀


And if you want to relive the glory days of 8-bit graphics and a sound which consisted of only a varying pitch and lenght of a “beep”, visit www.worldofspectrum.org


UPDATE: Must be a computer day…. Michael M. posted some thoughts on Linux Ubuntu which apparently is not all that it could be

The Great Ripoff Case of 2007

According to comments over at Miss Nymphe, plenty of people received much the same snail-mail over the last few days from the largest health insurance company Vzajemna. The contents of the envelope suggest that there indeed is such a thing as free lunch – although Fras seems to dispute that…

Well, he’s right, of course. There is not such thing as a free lunch.


vzajemna_ponudba.jpg
The content of the envelope – click to enlarge


For those of you who are either not in the know or are just too lazy to click on image, a brief explanation. The document consists of two part. The upper (much larger) part is an offer for an insurance plan for a period of 10 years. The plan in itself is pure bullshit, only securing you a meagre amount (EUR 15-20) of cash daily in case you get injured (and that does not mean comming down with a flu), and even that only for a period of 30 days.

The catch – as always – is in the small print. The company claims to cover the premium with monies from your “elderly reservations” (more on that shortly). But a premium of EUR 62 per annum (for a period of 10 years) totals some 300 percent more than my “elderly reservation” (in a minute, what’s the hurry?!?). And the small print states that “in case the reservations do not cover the premiums for the selected period, the client will be billed the remaining amount


The second, much smaller part of the document is about Vzajemna returning your “elderly reservations”, which is basically a small chunk of cash that was put aside every month into a fund which was supposedly intended to cover the rising costs of health of the elderly people, but also making you eligible for the same level of insurance as you grow old. These “reservations” were hugely inflated and allowed insurance companies to spend them non-transparently and were thus abolished by law in early 2006, whereas the companies were instructed to return the monies to clients forthwith.


So, while Vzajemna is forced to give back a fistful of euros (no relation), it is desperately trying to hustle its clients of that money and even make some on the side. Which would all be only deplorable if this were just another health insurance company. But this is Vzajemna, a mutual health insurance comapny, created by lex specialis, a law which deals solely with mutual health insurance.


Someone at Vzajemna should be shot and then severely interrogated.


So – how to get your money from these people? Just fill in second form and leave the first one blank – better yet, put a large red X over it.

Aha, but this proves that a free lunch does exist, I hear you scream… Well, it doesn’t. This money doesn’t come out of the blue, but it was actually skimmed of your premiums, invested, laundered and is now grudgingly given back to you… Hell, it’s not even your money! It’s someone else’s money given to you as a compensation for the fact that the fat insurance companies rolled in your cash and made paper aeroplanes out of it.

It’s Starting To Happen…

jancic02.jpg
Jančič’s days at Delo seem to be numbered


Just to follow up on Satudary’s post:

Yesterday, Laško brewery, the near-single stockholder of Delo newspaper, named a new Supervisory Board of the newspaper. The new head of the SB, Andrijana Starina Kosem, until two days ago state secretary (under-minister, if you will) at Ministry of economy announced that “certain editorial changes will be made”.

In plain-speak that means that Peter Jančič (a.k.a. The Satan) will soon be replaced.


No word on Danilo Slivnik, though – to be exact, the SB is in agreement with Slivnik’s short term plans, which include a new adpaper Total Tedna.

An Overly Elaborate Plot To Remove Janša From Power

While I obsess over Zoki’s dealings with the government, an entirely different plot is unfolding in national politics. You already know about SOVA spy scandal, but a couple of things have happened recently which put the events of the past few weeks in a totally different perspecitve:


1. Matjaž Gantar resigned as a member of Janša’s Strategic Econonimc COuncil (SECO).

gantar_matjaz.jpg
Gantar’s had a change of heart

Matjaž Gantar is one of the winners of Slovene transtition from socialism to capitalism. An enterpreneur and self-made man, he created one of the first so called “management companies” to which people entrusted their privatisation vouchers. Not being the first to do so, he picked a target population of farmers and peasants who were notoriously uniformed about what to do with the vouchers. But to actually reach his target population (and gain credibility) he aligned himself with SLS (Slovene People’s Party) which at the time near-monopolised farmers’ vote.

Gantar was thus always perceived as a right-leaning busniessman, unlike his opposite numbers in other financial institutions who were mostly pro-LDS.


2. Matjaž Gantar aligns himself with LDS

Resigning from Janša’s counciliatory body is a bobmshell. Going straight into the oppostition camp is a stab in the back. Picking a defunct, paralysed and almost clinically dead political party to align with is either tantamount to suicide or an extremely clever investment, not unlike buying undervalued stock.

Fact of the matter is that Gantar is first and foremost a businessman and a political animal only by necesity. But as investment funds craze is slowly comming to an end, he and his KD Group are looking for new means of securing a constant influx of cash. And there is only one way to do it. Buy a bank.

Gantar has had his sights on many a Slovene banks for a couple of years now. The 2004 elections and Janša’s rise to power promised to be a good omen. His affiliation to the political right was a plus, Janša’s former spokesperson Alenka Paulin was head of KD Group’s PR departement (she was named acting director of Slovene Press Agency on Friday, BTW), Gantar himself was invited to sit on SECO, he even lent a hand (and money) in government takeover of Mercator and Delo and they all looked chummy together. Fast foward two years, and he still doesn’t own a bank, as the prime target, A Banka, was snached just under Janša’s nose in late 2005 (methinks), and as plans for selling the largest bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) to Belgian-owned KBC or anyone else were brought to a grinding halt by finance minister Andrej Bajuk.

So Gantar apparently asked around who would let him buy a bank. It seems only fitting that liberals would. Especially if it means access to a shitload of cash for a party which is struggling with a € 860.000 of bad debts.


3. Laško brewery sacked the Supervisory Board of Delo newspaper.

This was a complete surprise. Laško cooperated heavily with Janša’s government in taking over Delo newspaper. It started before Janša’s reign and while Tone Turnšek was still Laško’s CEO, but he soon retired to the company’s Supervisory Board and was succeeded by Boško Šrot, who is now largely believed to be behind Delo’s takeover.

Laško even allowed people affiliated with Janša’s party SDS to sit on the Supervisory Board, so the whole thing looked as if Laško bought Delo as a present for the new government. The new SB of course promptly installed Janša’s henchman Danilo Slivnik as paper’s CEO and he almost immediatelly went on a rampage, almost completely destroying what used to be quite a presentable paper.

But couple of days ago, as Laško completed its takeover (buying more than 94% percent of the stock), it immediatelly fired the entire SB, replacing it with its own people. That’s second knife in Janša’s back in just as many days.


4. Laško Tone Turnšek aligns himself with LDS

turnsek_tone.jpg
Turnšek is coming out of semi-retirement

OK, not a complete shocker, as Turnšek even ran on an LDS ballot in local elections, but nevertheless. He came out of retirement to align with a crippled party, which was instrumental in his creating the “soft-drinks” empire, but which he alienated (the party, I mean) in 2003 when he took over Ljubljana Union Brewery, contrary to the whishes of the LDS-ran government of Tone Rop (now a member of opposition Social Democrats).

Turnšek is also a member of “The Old Boys Network“, a informal and now largely defunct group of powerful CEOs who ruled Slovene economy until Janša came to power. This “network” was believed to be closely connected to former president Milan Kučan, Janša’s political arch-rival.


Smell a rat already? Not yet? Bear with me…


5. Little known Katarina Kresal is put forward as the new leader of LDS

kresal_katarina.jpg
From corporate lawyer to party leader

This (at least publicly) never-before-heard-of lawyer was named as a front-runner for president of LDS. Things became a little clearer as it emerged that she’s not just a partner in Miro Senica law firm, but also his real-life partner. Miro Senica is one of Slovenia’s stellar lawyers, earning a lot money and ink on well-publicised corporate and “transition” cases. He was always believed to be closely connected to powerful movers and shakers. I guess there’s no doubt about it now.


So… Those are the facts and their backgroud. And now for same brainwork…


PUTITNG TWO AND TWO TOGETGER


On one hand we now have a Liberal Democratic Party, purged of its social(ist) element (with some of its prominent members either joining the Social Democrats or forming an independent group Zares), which has suddenly arisen from the dead with a small but potentially deadly combinations of political veterans and ecnonomic heavyweights. Not only has this occured at what seems the height of Janša’s power, but it also seems to indicate that LDS has hit rock bottom and is bouncing back rapidly.

On the other hand you have the PM who failed to institute radical economic reforms, is now steeped in a spy scandal, and is desperate to pass at least one meaningful and long-term piece of legislation – the regional legislation – but will most likely fail at it, thus keeping the result of his reign at a total zero (not counting Slovenia presiding over EU in the first half of 2008, but we’ll call that a success as long as a catastrophe is averted).

jansa200705.jpg
The man needs a drink, for sure

Thirdly, we must not forget one of the few politicians who are actively pestering Janša right now (and I don’t mean The Prez). Ljubljana mayor and former (pre-Janša) CEO of Mercator Zoran Janković is also considered an economic heavywight and his political influence is considerable at the moment, especially if you take into account that a) he is close pals with former president Milan Kučan and b) Ljubljana’s voters are at the moment largely anti-Janša oriented .

Four: LDS is apparently calling in old favours and granting new ones. Turnšek and Senica have seen their heyday under the reign of LDS and the liberals in the party (the only ones to remain) have apparently reminded them of how to show their gratitude. At the same time Gantar was probably given firm assurances that he’ll be able to take over one of the larger banks, possibly A Banka.

And – last but not least – five: There is one person who at the moment remains at the political sidelines and is constantly denying any re-entry into political orbit. Former interior minister and a hero of independence war, former EU-affairs minister, a general political heayweight, once a close friend of PM Janez Janša and current CEO of Istrabenz Igor “The Bear” Bavčar.

bavcar_igor.jpg
“The Bear” just might be making a political comeback


So, try this on for size:

As Janša is losing his grip in economic and media areas, he’s desperate to cling on to power and is digging up dirt on everyone and everything, throwing mud in every direction, perhaps even trying to make an example of the ailing Prez. His tenure is more than halfway through (parliamentary elections are due in a year and a half) and his running out of time to create a politicaly legacy and clinch a (political) victory which will get him reelected – short of that, he aims to make everyone else look worse than him, starting with The Prez.

At the same time, LDS is drumming up some unlikely support, both from people who are dissapointed in Janša as well as from people who rode the gravy-train while LDS was in power. Installing a beautiful-but-inexperienced lawyer as a party leader only paves a way for Bavčar to take over party leadership sometime down the road. Suddenly, the party that was a political lepper nobody would touch with a ten-foot pole is threatening Janša’s rule by seizing his two most powerful weapons: radical economic reforms and control of one of the (still) most influential newspapers.

Should Borut Pahor of Social Democrats decide to run for President in autumn this year instead of waiting for parliamentary elections in 2008, and should he win (few people doubt that he would), a possible brawl for leadership of the political left would be averted, as Social Democrats, Liberal Democrats and both of their renegade fractions (group Zares and people around Zoran Janković, formerly known as “The Faction”) would unite under a common banner, with one goal only – to remove Janez Janša and his SDS from power. There would probably be no nominal leader of this coalition, as the true mastermind would probably remain in the shadows.


There are only two people on the political left who can mastermind such a scenario: Former LDS secretary general Gregor Golobič or former President Milan Kučan.

The way things stand now, my bet is on Kučan.

kucan_milan.jpg
Seems like Kučan’s pulling strings again


So, the question is, does Janša know (it seems he does) and what’s he doing about it?




P.S.: Some people would call this post “speculation”. I’d call it “political analysis”. I could be wrong, of course, but the truth is that the future of this scenario depends mostly on Janša. If he finds a way to neutralise it, then it may all be back to square one…

Dan Mladosti / Youth Day

As promised, a special post on May 25th, the fake birthday of The Old Man


YOUTH DAY

May 25th held a special place in Yugoslav mythology. It was a mass celebration of Tito’s birthday, which culminated with a Relay of youth being handed over to Tito (or the current president of the Presidency after Tito’s death). It started more than a month earlier, usually on top of Mt. Triglav, Slovenia’s and Yugoslavia’s highest peak. The relay would then travel all around Yugoslavia, clocking in thousands of kilometres, before making it to Belgrade on May 25th.

The final leg was also known as “slet” (a come-together, if you will), which aimed to show how the Yugoslav youth adored Tito. This included but was not limited to mass-excercise (now you know where Kim Jong Ill got his idea :))


slet.jpg
“Slet” in Belgrade, probably in mid 70s


At first the event was named Tito’s relay, but the Old Man asked for it to be renamed the Youth relay. It is still a matter of some debate whether he really meant it, or was advised to do it (for he was quite a vane person) as not breed too much of a personality cult. If the latter is the case, it was of course too little, too late 🙂


ENJOYING LIFE

Tito enjoyed the company of famous people and he was also a womanizer. It appears that his last wife (out of suspected five) Jovanka Broz was highly jealous of her husband even as he grew old (she was 34 years his junior), and given the picture below, she was quite possibly correct 😉


tito_nurse.jpg
Check out the guy’s right hand…. He’s nursing a nurse 😉


According to an anecdote, the Old Man was in the hospital, just after they amputated his leg due to medical complications, when a nurse (I think that it was the same one as in the picture) told him that he would have to change his pajamas. Apparently Tito replied by saying: “Young lady, I hope I won’t have any obligations to you after this!”… And he was eighty-eight years old! :mrgreen:


WHY MAY 25TH?

On that day in 1944 the raid on Drvar took place… Again, the event is steeped in mythology, but the official line is that the Germans got the date wrong and thought that Tito was celebrating his birthday, surrounded by a token Partisan force which would be easy to defeat.

The truth is that there was only a small force present at the village of Drvar, but Tito was not celebrating and he escaped, together with most of his forces. Those which remained, fought bravely to ensure a safe escape of Tito’s HQ.

The raid on Drvar is considered one of the greater miracles of Partisan forces, much like the evacuation of the British forces at Dunquerkue in 1940.


THE END OF THE RELAY

As Tito died and Yugoslavia was increasingly becoming a parody of itself, the concept of Relay of Youth was getting really old really fast. And again, it was (perhaps unintentionally) up to Slovenes to call spade a spade. in 1987 an art group Novi kolektivizem, made a poster for the event, based on an old Nazi poster. The message was of course clear, although the artists later claimed ignorance (which probably saved them a lot of grief)

stafeta_nk.jpg stafeta_nazi.jpg

The Yugoslav remake and the Nazi original


Naturally, all hell broke loose and the government came down really hard, probably because it approved the poster in the first place, thus proving the designers’ point. It was up to a guy from Serbia who recognized the original image an alterted his local Party cell.

The relay was canceled that year and never again ressurected in its original form.