High energy physics

Someone explained experiments in high energy physics, as follows:

"Suppose you have a whole bunch of identical mice. You smash them at high velocity, and measure what's flying out. Reconstruct the design of a mouse from the measurements"

I thought of a different way to look at it.

Suppose you are a train driver. The most boring job in the world - you have only one degree of freedom. Now, you try to accelerate your train beyond allowed speed, maybe collide with other trains, to have fun. This way you can start learning about your real 3D world, the world beyond 1D railway.


Floor failure

Sitting peacefully with CS on my window step, 59th floor Moshe Aviv tower. Then, CRRRRAP, and the sheet collapses 3 cm under my butt , leaving a funny hole in what seemed like bulletproof concrete. Opening a ticket to the skycraper's support HQ...

This morning a puzzled serviceman shows up. Staring at the hole for a few seconds, then he finally speaks up.

Serviceguy: "Ok... But what can I do here?"
Me: [ROFLing all inside] "I believe you should have some upper wisdom comittee that would know.."

[Manuel, VM IT support: "the correct answer would be, 'at worst you can replace the whole building' "]

Service guy, after a pause still confused: "well, here it would take work..."
Me: "...ok, sounds perfectly logical" (Actually, what he really wanted to say is that the whole sheet needs to be replaced)

Service guy: "My Boss, " he continues, still confused after another pause, "asked me to come up and look what happened here..... So I looked..."

[Oshri, later: I should really open a business, We look at your problems. "What is that you have? Water pipe leak? Sababa! That was $20.."]

Service guy: "we'll have to replace the whole plaster sheet"
Me: "this is obviously not a plaster sheet, have a look..."
Service guy breaks the piece in two and leaves.

Looking forward for what tomorrow brings..


VisionMap: How would you name a NIH source control system?

Q: Need a version control solution for large datasets, that cannot be stored in a source control repository. Coming up with a manual version handling solution and procedures to ensure correspondence to source revisions in Subversion. How do you name the server?

A: Perversion.



My first comic ever: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=4154086&l=316214b9df&id=501102619

Need help maybe to submit to xkcd?

1. "Hey, I need a driver for my device, but kernel mode development sucks.."
"...wrap some existing driver..."

2. Someone on electric chair, being plugged in

3. Comp: "Found new hardware... Human Interface Device"

(Inspired by LabJack U12. Credits: Me, Leonid, Oshri, Elad)



Carpaccio is the best food in the world. It is only two-dimensional so you can eat as much as you want.

On the other hand, also because of being 2D, so you can make infinite carpaccio from just one cow!


Recl'd 2001: Mathematicians at sunrise

My bro's company of math students in Tel Aviv, among them DG, MP, BG, others, heavy drinking to celebrate birthday of one of the buddies. As drinking continues and the clock arrows reach unreasonable angles, one of them suggests:

"Let's go to the sea and watch the sunrise!"

And so they went. No, this was was not in US Eastern Coast. It was on a beautiful sandy beach in Tel Aviv, famous for the Mediterranean sunsets that were imprinted in everyone's memories.

[Recently confirmed true by MP]

P.S. This story nearly killed someone dead from laughing suffocation in 2003 (it was a physics student from the APhO2003 team).


Managing the beer cycle

This is my new google spreadsheet:
  • Person's name
  • Closeness (expected beer period, in days)
  • Formula: Priority = (Now()-LastBeerTime)/Closeness
Now, this is sorted by priority, and when there's a free evening, scheduling an evening beer with the top (or editing frequencies).

Not everybody is there yet, but be warned.


Landing time

My mother calling Oshri for a ladies chat - when I was about to return from NZ:

Mom: "What's [his] landing flight ID and time?"
Oshri: "He didn't say..."
Mom: "He told me you will know everthing"
Oshri: "Yeah, he likes pointers..."
Mom: LOL (she knows I like pointers).



Story from YL. She was describing the free fall experience, reaching the terminal velocity, etc to her friends.

Someone_1: "well, falling at ten meters per square second, ..."
Someone_2: "nine point eight!"
Someone_3: "yeah, but it feels like ten!"

P.S. Skydiving is fun and recommended for all. Now my number of landings is less than number of take-offs, and I am not even on the plane. I am used to heights as in flying in small airplanes, helicopters and even a hot air baloon - but - every time it was connected with some kind of violence, engine noise, or fires from hell on the baloon. After opening the parachute and stabilizing at near-zero speed, it is completely different. You don't feel any wind, because you move with the wind. Decent speed is slow as hell. You hear your every breath and movement. You are not cold, coz you have no wind. All your feelings are back to normal, as if you are sitting and drinking coffee. All but one. What you see around you is totally unreal. The first thought - "is it just a pixar movie or really a dream?"


98% Chimp?

Before arguing about what does this mean, whether 2% difference in 1.2-gygabyte DNA (an entirely digital code) is significant, let me ask you this:

What minimum number of bits msword.exe must be changed to turn it into Microsoft Outlook?

Or even better, how much of VisionMap's airborne software has to be changed to turn it into a processing cluster?

Probably not more than 2%. Most of the binary image will be libraries. Most of them unused and will be present just because they exist. The used parts Concepts of string, spell checkers, window docking and toolbar infrastructure...


Back from a trip

Heavy rain, tough and somewhat dangerous crossing of water-filled streams in the north.

AS: "Hey guys, look at the map. The trail finally continues on the same side of the stream as we are now!"
P: "Aur, what's your favorite even number?"



"Roses may sometimes be red, but violets are indeed violet"



Me: "there's surely a genetic compound to gayship"
CS "no way. it would evolve out"
me: "so would headache"
CS: "pavel, let me tell you something. They did not have a headache!"

(BTW: "What women want" is a great movie)


Two more real-life "state puzzles"

[please suggest term for "state puzzle"]

1. DD is working at VisionMap. Every day at noon, he walks to his wife's work to get the car.
(Technically, they have one car, but instead of sharing it on a day-by-day basis, each of them holds it for half a day). Nurit answered immediately, but I would have no chance.

2. VZ, came to his base after the basic training. He was sent to join a car that was going to Ramallah, with three guys. One, knew the road. Two others were the drivers. What was Vadim's job on the mission?

----- SOLUTIONS ------
1. one had to put kids in kg, and the other to pick them up.
2. the navigator had to stay at the destination. VZ's goal was to remember the road and navigate the stupid drivers back.


Nullables in C#

AM2: "C# has a new and fantastic boolean type. It's called nullable bool. It can be true, false or unknown..."
P: "Fantastic? Depends if you are asking or answering"



Somehow I missed the news of what's known as Bintsagate othello cheating scandal (A well-known player, Bintsa Andriani, was caught cheating on a tournament organized by French Othello Federation).

What's flattering, is that he was using CEZebra - the program by Gunnar Andersson and myself.


Drinking is bad

DB is an amateur photographer. Yesterday, he had to smoke several hookah alone to to produce smoke for his photographic experiments.


Just because I am paranoid does not mean I am not being watched

The old line was brought up by OH recently.
This is by VZ: "Just because he's paranoid, does not mean he should not be watched"

Any further derivatives?


@Merida, Yucatán, México

¿How do you type the @ sign on the Spañish keyboard?

From my google talk today with Gal:

[Status] ¿¿¿ how to type with this kbd ???
Gal: ¿mexico upside-down questionmarks?
Me: and no at sign, so can´t login to facebook
Gal: lol. Here: @
Me: thanks man!!!

(gone to paste it)


Heart of gold

For the second time, we made a contest of funny stories and performance on the company bus trips. Yesterday was not an exclusion, yielding another whole bunch of stories from one day.

NK's story about a bar mitzva party. The kid's parents were new immigrants from USA, and what they tried to say was this: "He has a Golden heart with the capital G".

Alas, no capital letters in the Hebrew alphabet, so here's what they got:
"yesh lo lev zahav im zayin gadol"


[Rcl'd] Self-sacrifice

A BBQ party, with AK and other good people. At the end, I was in charge of the fire-extinguishing job. I stepping on the burning ashes, and got a remark from AF: "hey Pavel, what a self-sacrifice.." then he corrected himself - "..sacrifice of the shoe"

This is a story of a great coincidence. Later that night I was reading "mostly harmless". Well, guess any more words are useless - either you are already laughing or I don't want to spoil it.

Ford Prefect rescued himself "by means of self-sacrifice". In that case, he threw half of the pair of shoes (which maks one shoe) while hanging on a weather baloon - to divert a vogon rocket that was fired at him.

When asked how does it make a self-sacrifice, he replied 'Because they were mine!'. In this new terminology - a regular, plain sacrifice is when you sacrifice something that belongs to someone else. Quoting King of the far far away from Shrek: 'Some of You Will Die, that's a Sacrifice I'm Willing to Make'


Happy Birthday :)

Last september I got a milluim-smelling envelope from the gaza division. "uh oh" I thought to myself. Jap knife, open, "happy new (jewish) year!" says the letter. whaah, thinks pavel.

Just a few days later I get another envelope - same size same color. OKAy, *NOW* it's reserve service call, thinks pavel. "Happy Birthday!!!" says the letter.

And the birthday was happy.


One-time key

"Never store your PIN number near your credit card" says your credit card company. AL has a better idea. When he gets a CC, he writes down in a think black permanent marker, right on the credit card.. the XOR of this PIN and other number which he never tells anybody.

This way, he can always recover the PIN if it is forgotten, and whoever steals the card will immediately be locked as he will try to enter the XOR.

All this is great, of course, and at last there's a service to help you. You just enter your life's master password, and neither it nor the generated per-website passwords will ever be sent to their server.


Baby swinging machine

Just brought home an electronic chinese weight measurement device. Unbelievably, I had to RTFM on how to turn it on. It just wouldn't talk to me. A "light tap" says the guide. Okay. The biggest bang I can possibly deliver, indeed does turn it on - and I am not considered weak. (Actually, I found a simple way to slam it against the floor - supposedly, it's not only the average force but the signal frequency which also matters).

This reminded me something. A short while ago I visited Dima Kuchin and his new baby in Holon. We had a talk about software and IT industries, and he told me about his friends, who also had a baby.

The little guy didn't sleep too well, so his parents bought an electric swinging device. The killer feature: an audio trigger. Whenever it detects cries above some volume treshold, the swing motor turns on for five minutes. And then there was evening and there was morning, and also a bug and a workaround. Yes, they were software engineers. Can you guess the end of this story?

The baby was too quiet for the automatic craddle, and all his tears would all be in vain. The parents sleep in other other room... Now, every time they hear their baby crying, they scream aloud. That keeps the young guy happy, without ever having to get up from the bed.

"услышав лай караульной собаки, часовой дублирует его голосом"

More on the subject of children: do yours have GUIDs?


Do you know percents?

Last Sunday together with the APhO team, we've meet the israeli science minister, Daniel Hershkovitz. He's a great guy and he told us many stories.

During the great professors' strike, he was not much into politics. Yet, he was in the committee responsible for the talks. It finished with a white night of agreements.

"Look, " someone said, "if we give you 1.5%, the other guys will also want. And if we give out 1.5% to both groups, it will already be 3% to the total budget".

"No, " he said, and started to slowly explain to the whole finance ministry and histadrut leaders the proper mathematics of dealing with fractions.

Ofer Eini, the histadrut chief, carries a pocket mathematician with him sometimes. The young guy says: "yes, that's true what you explain, in theory. In practice, it is not exactly so..."

I found it first

A story comes from Dr. Eli Raz, ILPHO. They have built a huge hot-air balloon for something [TODO add picture]. It was unconnected for a while and then accidentally risen and flew away. Eli went after it fast with a car to ramot itshak.

When he came, someone was nearly finished packing it into his SUV. Eli: "I am sorry, this is my balloon". The guy - "No, it's mine. I found it first!"

The balloon was successfully returned to owners.


Interviewing tips

Joel says there're on you two relevant parameters to measure: "smart" and "gets things done".

Together with DP we came up with easier, down-to-earth and more engineering-oriented quantities directly measurable in a human conversation:

1. Bandwidth
2. SNR

Bandwidth is how fast one can think to produce output. This might not always be important, but usually it is, especially when estimating price-performance ratio to make the hiring decision.

SNR - Signal to noise ratio - is the ratio of meaningful, smart, relevant and correct things s/he says to the total audio output. It's usually up to the interviewee to balance the trade-off between SNR and Bandwidth, but you should be able to factorize by it to deduce the total mental capacity.

All other skills you should be able to teach the employee yourself. If you cannot teach, don't hire anybody. Relevant background = oxymoron, if you are going to develop only new things. Remember - specialization is for insects.

Link: history of programming languages

"1972 - Dennis Ritchie invents a powerful gun that shoots both forward and backward simultaneously. Not satisfied with the number of deaths and permanent maimings from that invention he invents C and Unix"



Losing weight

While laughing at me for comparing my weight before and after long running distances, my friends compiled this ultimate guide for weight loss. Here's what you can do to reduce the mass of what is considered your body:
  • aerobic workout (2 electron-volts per C02 molecule)
  • going to lavatory (number one and number two)
  • sweating
  • haircut, shaving
  • sneezing/coughing
  • donating blood/bone marrow
  • donating organs
  • crying
  • spitting
  • vomiting
  • male orgasm, female menstruation
  • manicure/pedicure

Worth to mention that you may even consider leaving your mass intact. Accelerating downwards, ultimately in a free fall, will show immediate results. If you want it long-term, move to the equator , a space orbit or a smaller planet. Remember - helium inhalation is cheating (as is swimming or travelling to low altitudes), despite the added value of making funny voices.

Enjoy, and don't go crazy. Thank you very much.


Software development is not for humans

It's fucking 21st century, and I am amazed every time how bad we are at this stuff. Another day, and another encounter with an online service from hell.

It started with a water bill.

(Well, yes, we are in Israel, which was supposed to be a desert - so that much is okay).

The postal paper bill would never write a tinyurl to the form. Instead, "pay fast and easy - at ramat-gan.muni.il". This is obviously not a pay form. It is a homepage of my lovely city full of flash animation, and after a couple of Control+F searches in it, I finally got redirected to citypay thru 4 more pages of ads. So far is okay, I am doing the same procedure every month. It is supposed to take an hour anyway, even though I am a fast typer.

Citypay.co.il. After a minute of loading - nicely colored labels to guide you where exactly to grab each and every of the 41 digits you need to copy from the paper bill. 41 digits!! If you do the math, 41 digits are more than enough to identify a single H2O molecule in the Mediterranean (I just did the math). One of the 9-digit numbers I had to type twice.

Now comes the credit card number. No smartass, you cannot cut-and-paste into the form. You are not supposed to store your billing info on your computer. What did you think you are doing. OKay. Just twenty more digits - but the punishment was far from over.

An invalid character in my street number. Oh really?! I live on Jabotinsky street. A lesson in Hebrew grammar: you need an apostrophe to write the guy's polish surname. No, not that evil apostrophe from SQL injection horrors, advertised by the completely wrong XKCD comix about Bobby Tables. It's the friendly and toothless apostrophe, Unicode codepoint 05F3.

Oh, I remember that lecture by Nimrod Luria at TASE. He scared people with an SQL injection and then started mumbling around that apostrophe is not the only apostrophe, and that "%27" must also be sanitized (no, it's a URL escape codes, you idiot. No chance to harm an SQL query with that one!). Furthermore, he advocated white-lists instead of black-lists to sanitize properly (People, support the characters, instead of banning them, please. It's not that hard). One good thing they learned was not writing any more code without my review.

Miraculously, since that lecture half of the online services ceased to accept my email address which usually has a plus sign in it. Okay, a spelling mistake in the street name convinced the page validator. But then goes Part B.

Remember all these online shops that crash right when you press the final "Confirm Purchase" button, so you don't know if you have purchased or not? Of course, they do so as they try to access the next layer of the application. If you are lucky, a refresh will make you pay twice (though on the other hand, you also get two teddy bears). Now, the dreaded white screen. Refresh. Nothing. Okay. Plan B. Oh, I can create an account @citypay! Maybe they will store my info once and for all...

Now, we have this "continue" button which is impossible to find, which is right in front of the screen, but no pixel of its beautiful image or the mouse cursor above it (WC_ARROW) would suggest it is something clickable. Clicking gets us to "Failed to Connect" in Firefox. Thank you very much. Plan C.

The "recorded aunts service" phone for the simple folk - here goes. After getting all the sixty one digits through the very slow blah blah, we have a message in a cute Hebrew voice "this bill is too recent for our database. Please try again in a few days..."

The bill goes right into my paper recycle bin (I wouldn't let morons kill any trees). That's enough fighting for one month. Luckily, the fine rates are cheaper than my time. Maybe, just maybe, humans will learn how to make software by then.


ILPHO archive: Size matters

This story was brought from APhO2005 in Kazakhstan. Our team was met by the Israeli ambassador. Yes, the one that was involved in resolving the long-remembered security problems (See ILPHO's pbwiki). He also shared this lesson on sizes, and lengths in particular, while talking about the local bureaucracy.

The guy was sent for a several years diplomatic mission. As usual, his house contents were packed and shipped to his temporary home in the ex-soviet country. Several months have passed, and the luggage still would't arrive. Nobody seemed to know where was it on planet earth, or how longer will it take.

At some point the guy went completely nervous, and managed to fight his way through the kazakh and the russian bureaucracy to figure out the fate of his luggage. The luggage container was stuck in Omsk*, at a railway station.

The problem was this: the container length is 25 meters. The train car base is 50 meters long. (guess the answer?)

So, the guys have been waiting for another 25-meter container to pack them together, to reduce waste.

*a.k.a. my place of birth


Random numbers

Any decision-making process ultimately comes down to tossing a random, which is much cheaper than most other techniques.

In the past, people used to toss a coin. Earlier I suggested a more high-tech way, to do it with a credit card.

If it's a matter of honor, you should use rock-paper-scissors, and if you need more choices, you may want to use random.org. Or just say,

int Random() { return 17; }

BTW: Watch the Futurama's S4E15 about coin flipping, The Farnsworth Parabox.

RCLD: More IDF stories - the discipline officer

This is a story about an IDF rasar, pretty similar to the guy described by JoelOnSoftware. If you never served in IDF and don't know what a "Rasar" is, please read Joel's story as an intro. (In fact, I am pretty sure that more or less exact thing with a toilet described by Joel, also happened to me around 97 - but that's not what I am going to tell about).

Being a newbie at the start of the remaining years of my love-and-hate relationship with the 277 regiment's base, I was sent to a gate guarding duty. I was allowed to sit, on a chair, which was a pleasant surprise after what I was used to during the basic training. If have seen an Israeli army base, you know the large concrete protection blocks at the entrance that once were made fun of in MK-22 TV Series.

The chair base was just slightly smaller than the width of a concrete block. So, I put the chair on the block. While sitting high above and waiting for the passing traffic, I have been amusing myself with thoughts about what am I going to answer when I will be asked what is that I think I am doing, like "it's for better visibility" or whatever.

Soon, none other than the car of the base's discipline offier, sergeant major Yosi Nachmias, was approaching on its way out. Uh oh. "Come here, soldier" he said, in the usual scary voice that was supposed to make people turn white at an instant. I jumped off the block with my galil. And, despite all my preparaiton, his next question left me speechless.

"Who told you to sit like that??" he asked.

This way of thinking just never occurred to me. I could very well imagine people doing something without being told to. "Don't sit like that", he told, after which I never did it again.

Friend's account: the 'enlargement' way

One day while V was serving at a [top-secret intelligence research facility], a bunch of high ranked officers surrounded him.

"We have a problem. Someone accidentally deleted a whole bunch of important files. Can you help us?"

He said, "okay, but no questions asked about what I am going to do".. And he shut down all, and took the hard drive to the internet station. While trying to run a few cracks for some recovery tools, a large promotion appeared on the screen with a male penis. It was an 'enlargement pill' advertisement that caused lots of amusement.

The data was successfully recovered. After the incident, a new word was coined. 'Could you please do XYZ using the enlargement way?'

(Serialized with permission)



Oh, did I say my twitter is http://twitter.com/bugpower ?

And - twitter is cool. What's particularly cool about it is the search though good luck finding the search button. This way, you can read a thousand human reviews about the best website launch checklist, for example, in 5 minutes.


Reserve service (milluim) 2004: 'The peace process'

RCLD: A training session for my second service in Gaza (not the one for which I got a 'homat magen' award). An officer is demonstrating shooting positions for one-on-one combat with a terrorist attacking our post.

As several alternatives are discussed, one of the miluimniks speaks up -

"I heard there's something new. You may also conduct peace negotiations..."


Elections 2009: Quantum voting for amateurs

So, you don't know whom to vote for? Hesitating between 8 different parties? Hate "strategic voting" which makes the big parties stay big? Your heart is with Liebermann but you want to support Bibi for the prime minister at the same time? Here's how to proceed.

Step 1. You will need
1. One voting coupon
2. Two hours of time to drive to your parents' place (which is where your address is registered coz you never bothered to change)
3. Lots of good will to defeat the dirty marxists

Step 2. Approach the voting calpi and take the voting envelope
Take any number of voting notes of the parties you support.

Step 3. Close your eyes.

Step 4. Mix and shuffle the notes every possible way. Do it fast because the line is waiting. Pick up a random note without looking. Put it in the envelope. Put all others in your pocket.

Step 5. Open your eyes. Proceed out of the calpi. You are not done yet.

Step 6. Find a trash can. Close your eyes again. Throw away all remaining voting notes. Leave the place in peace and wipe your memory with a strong white flash, for safety.

Done! Congratulations. You have now rendered the world in a superposition of your vote options.

And now! Exclusive 30% discount for Advanced Quantum Voting course, in which you will learn to give arbitrary coefficients to superpositions of the parties of your choice.

Disclaimer: The author should not be held responsible for any global disasters if one tries to play with imaginary voting coefficients.

EDIT: Clara suggested 'quantum pregnancy'. For instance, imagine you are a woman, hesitating whether you want your child to be mindbogglingly smart, a fast runner or sexy as Pavel. And there you have three men at your possession with these unique properties, By having sex with all three at the short time, you may obtain a quantum child [note for purists: this is not the same as QM superposition]. Interestingly enough, sperm sells are able to identify and attack foreigners.


To err is human, to forgive is devine; Neither is IDF corps policy

Or, Rcl'd: "a disciplinary fault"

Back in 98 when I was a soldier in IDF, one of the drivers in our base (the ex 277 tank regiment HQ) was imprisoned for making a road accident near Kyriat Malakhi. His commander, cap. Gil'or Peri, gave a lecture to the whole base about the incident. "This is, first and foremost, a disciplinary fault," he said.

I've been thinking about the meaning of that phrase ever since, until VG96 (himself a commando fighter) got it all explained to me.

"In the army," he said, "every mistake is disciplinary. After all, you were TOLD not to make any mistakes..."

P.S. also reminds me of the great Joel's post about a rasar in IDF.

P.P.S., also important to mention, before the elections, the 2006 Brigitte Gabriel's video. Thanks Brigitte.

Finite simple group of order two

The annotated Klein Four's "Finite simple group of order two" (recently dag out):


[The credits for the linkification go to AnnK, LR and myself]

Warning for this post (adopted from XKCD): "occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)."


Standards - who needs them?!

I got a pleasant and totally unexpected surprise from my bank. Following request to reset my password, a bank computer called me and spelled the new password to me... in the standard phonetic alphabet!! "b like bravo, s like sierra, etc.." I just couldn't believe my ears.

This was Mercantile bank, Israel just in case you want to switch.

And please, drive on the right hand side next time. And use boost, firefox and metric units. Thank you very much.

Joke #17

Everybody knows it. It's about a bunch of closefriends who, blah blah, oh well, ok, I will type it. They know each other for sufficiently long to tell the same jokes every time. So they numbered them, so that one could say "Joke 17" instead of the whole thing.

Next time, if you want to escape being told a joke you know, say "yes, joke #17". 17 is both the number of this joke and a random joke, for being the most random number.

Joke 17.1 is about one who laughs "oh, I haven't heard this before" and joke 17.2 is when one shouts "joke #800!" and gets a reply "shhh, why tell such rude stuff near women."

So, the time has come to build a global database. Please start by commenting to this post. The title should be a unique ID.


Dreams == unit test

Why do we sleep? For millennia, people thought they know the answer. If sleep is a state of inactivity, then it must be for rest.

This is false.

It is known that sleep is far more active state for a brain than solving a math olympiad. It was then suggested that it's a kind of efficient maintenance task. REM Sleep - the dreaming phase - is though less active, comparable to awake. In this phase, the muscle movements are though much smaller, no random violent shakes as in NREM. A human would have 4-5 dreaming phases during normal sleep (statistics from random emergency wake-ups). All funny information obtained during the dream is then recycled, and you are going to remember one if you are lucky.

It seems like while dreaming, the body is forcefully detached from its brain to avoid damage from unconscious mechanical activity. As with any system, internal implementation details leak out thru its bugs ("false on" and "false off"). Sleepwalking and cataplexy are exactly the opposite and not uncommon defects of the same valve. The first makes one walk or talk nonsense during sleep, while the second makes one collapse during wake state. Still, nobody (apart from mysticians like Sigmund Freud, to which we won't listen) seems to have a normal answer - WTF are the dreams?

I had a dream last night. It had to deal with a girl explaining a group about color codes for different failures of a train routing system. Nevermind that part. Then it struck me. This surely must be it. Obviously, it cannot be anything else. Dreams are not for garbage collection. They are not a maintenance task. Dreams are a self-test (aka BIT, QA phase, whatever).

It seems quite natural for researches to miss it. Quality Assurance is counter-intuitive even for software developers. It takes young specialists some time to learn that after development or maintenance on a system you need to fucking test it, because you might have broken something, and to debug it if it's broke. It seems reasonable that this is what a brain does, after an active maintenance cycle, by injecting a funny story called a dream, practicing some thinking and page faults in a test environment, disconnected from dangerous muscle machinery, instead connecting itself to nice visual and audio simulators for test data input.

GH: "This cannot be true. I know many people who like to sleep, but hate to do QA!"


If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

How many uses of duck do we have in technology today? Duck typing, duck test, etc..

And now, suggesting one more: duck, ducks - a physical unit (typically, voltage) corresponding to 1 LSB in raw integer data sent to a DAC (or ADC) for further conversion to voltage.

Example - "5V corresponds to 4096 ducks", "Atmospheric presure is 2200 ducks with this sensor", etc


The classification of hazzard

Q: What's the opposite of 'potential hazard'?
A: a 'kinetic hazard'

[credit for this wisdom goes to squark]


Best bang since the big one

Many friends keep asking me today what exactly happened and how did it feel, and one of them even found the story very funny, so I am going to serialize it all here.

Flight with VM and Of[e]k, four people aboard Cheyenne which was just back from a test flight following a long overhaul. Climbing to work altitude of 21kfeet, with headphones.

At 19k, BOOOM and all cabin suddenly white thick myst. Plunge down wheee fast (some good lunapark for free), mayday call, the pilot R shouts for someone to bring him oxygen fast. I am thinking fast and manage to figure out where the oxygen is (it didn't drop out), put away the masking tape which was used to seal it (so it doesn't drop out too much) and give the mask to the pilot. R asking M to fix it. M: "fix it yourself, I am holding the stick". R: "Don't hold the stick! fix my mask!". The back side was torn so we had to hold it. Then flying safely to land at Sde Dov.

The experience: the decompression was obvious immediately. It felt like a decompression, some throat ache and a headache. A bottle of window cleaning liquid on the back of the plane started to spray all over the place, which was fun.


Firmcopy: suggesting another useful word

Firm copy, n: a scanned hardcopy, like a raster image of a text. It's impossible to edit or parse programmatically, but is still better than a hardcopy in terms of weight, volume, storage, etc. For images, "firmcopy" may refer to reduced-resolution soft copy of the actual image.

It's analogous to "firmware" as something in the middle between hardware and software. Google seems to know nothing about it yet. I hope it catches :)


Another day at VM

R: "it's 0.5GB/hour..."
J: "yeah, about half GB per hour..."
P enters: "what were these bandwidth numbers you were just talking??"
J: "we got some memory leaks."
R: "these are ADSL-speed memory leaks".
R: "Would you prefer DSL-rate leaks or dial-up memory leaks? :)"

Earlier that morning was a developers meeting.

X: "is that design documented?"
H: "yes, I put it in wikipedia this morning."
R: "you mean the [company] wiki"
H: "yes.."
P: "I sincerely hope it's not in Wikipedia!"


Never eat a dog

ILPhO Summer Camp 2009 is in progress - and as usual, with its own stories. This time I was contacted by a kid with food problems - which made me think about it for a while. Some people like food, and some choose to eat food's food [Credit for this wisdom to SB, TY and myself].

The conclusion is to classify vegetarians to 3.5 types:
Type A: those who wouldn't eat animals for moral reasons
Type B: those who wouldn't use any product of animal labor, like eggs or milk, due to some much more sophisticated kind of compassion.
Type C, Introducing the next stage: people who love animals so much, that they would let themselves be eaten.

Well, of course, there are also these guys who are vegetarian not for loving animals, but because they severely despise plants.

Squark practices not eating only mammals for being too advanced, while YL07 suggested this morale: "Don't eat an animal that one can be playing with."


TAU, old: calibrating a spectroscope

This is an important lesson on why asking questions is important. You know all these people who are never afraid to make idiots of themselves for the sake of others? YM was one of them.

Sergei, the legendary labA guide, was by no means a brilliant dude. An earlier argument about how capacitor behaves at low and at high frequencies was stopped by "Stop thinking, you are not supposed to be thinking. You are supposed to be doing an experiment."

The announcement was "today, we are going to calibrate a spectroscope, by using a photoelectric chamber." This is how a 30-min instruction started. Okay then. Photoelectric effect is sensitive to light wavelength. Hmm.. Let's hear more, I thought.

While the instruction continues, everybody looks stupidified linearly, at precisely constant rate. Nobody asks questions. Some hoping it will get clear in just a moment, others planning to rely on their partner.

"This is a spectroscope" says S pointing to a black box. "And here it has an opening for the light." And this (round on a stick) is a photoelectric chamber.... Hmm.. we heard about internal photoelectric effect in semiconductor films. But.. but what?!

Now comes in a huge mess of wires and a digital HP oscilloscope and a demo about its time measurement features... what the hell...

Heck, a spectroscope is an accurate device. A photoelectric effect is by no means a precise thing. This candy stick and the box don't look like anything to match their names. "And this knob here in the back (of the spectroscope) adjusts the light frequency.." "and you can also switch unit scales!!" MAA?

Some kept wondering what have they missed and whether it was in the beginning of the explanation, or maybe they should have listened what their mother was telling them when they were young, but physics at TAU clearly started looked like a wrong choice for their small brain. The deeper into the swamp, the stupider any possible question would look. This time Sergei seemed like he knew perfectly what he was talking about. Some students made smart faces to pretend like they grasped some of his words. This collective stupidity added to the collective confusion.

Shortly the instruction was over. "Now you can proceed to make an experiment," said S, "are there any questions?". A long dramatic pause. Nobody moves.

YM stands up.
- "Yes, " he says. "Please explain it all from the beginning. I didn't understand anything.."
People seen starting to breeze as in "god bless YM".
S, angrily: "What didn't you understand?"
Y: "nothing. What do you mean by calibrating a spectroscope with a photoelectric chamber?"
S: "oh.. have I said 'spectroscope'?"
Y: "yes, you did. 20 times"
S: "It's a stroboscope!"
PPL: "omg..."
S: "Ooops. sorry. OKay, now please proceed to do the experiment.."
Y: "No. Now you explain it all from the beginning."


The "photoelectric chamber" was just a single-bit light detecting transistor. Lab purpose was to demonstrate a digital oscilloscope, using it to measure pulse frequency.


VM - Ichthyophobia

Some people don't eat fish. When asked why, HB asked us if there's a medical term for hysterical fear of fish. Two guessed "Ichthyophobia", and later this was discovered to be true.

Then the discussion went into a direction of possible strange phobias and treatments by exposing one to the subject of his fears. Bungee jumping for acrophobics, etc. Someone said it should be done gradually - "First, you are given something small, like a piece of tuna. Later in the course, you advance to a bigger salmon, and so on" P:"and on the final test, you are eaten by a big shark!"

On another occasion, it was a design meeting. "Is this thing a tree?" someone asked. "No, it's a DAG". "What's dag?" Someone: "A directed Acyclic Graph". AL: "In hebrew it's called 'fish' "

(Then it was developed further, 'okay, where does this DAG piss from', 'where is the fish burried', etc)


...on the trails of Pooh

DISCLAIMER: the following post contains dirty language, disinformation and some right-wing propaganda. Therefore, it's not recommended for children, adults, aliens and others. Please close the window now.

Good news everyone! At last, the western pole was discovered - under the supervision of prof. Yuli Tamir, or our education minister. The pic is from certificates received by students on a special party dedicated to those who brought home some prizes from the international science olympiads.

Example of a certificate brought by a member of the physics team.

AA: "What's the problem? That signifies the freedom of choice for a coordinate system - an important symmetry"

Some comments were more emotional. KL: "Ой, у них глобус раком :)))".

She gave an 'average temperature over the hospital' kind of speech, too. When I asked people what's wrong with the certificate image, some said that it's the fact YT is our edu minister. Others pointed out the flip between first and the last name. Some said that it's the professorship (Was that philosophy?).

*Credit to YB for 'the western pole' term


The 60th independence day

A friend of mine from Singapore said they all like food very much, more than any other reasonable nation. I always thought this is not true, and here's a proof. The following is a true story.

"What holidays did you have back then in the Soviet Union?" my father was asked by one of his local students.
"Well, mostly socialistic-ideological ones", he answered. "For instance, the first of May".
"Oh, cool!", replied the student. "but.. what do people usually cook (/eat) for the first of May?"


Shrek: "And you are going to be a father!"

A complete "mastool" kid calls me this evening (Name withheld to protect the guilty):
- "Hello, my name is ***. I'm a son of your teacher.."
- "Hmm, what teacher.....??"
- "No, I am a son of your father.."
- "What??????"
- "Oh, sorry, I am completely confused. I am a student of your dad".

(he wanted to get consulted on where to learn physics from)

[Itsik Maor story withheld, as well, because it cannot be written. Placeholder remains]

[the subj quote is from Shrek 3, Shrek to Arti]



I joined the Pi day celebrations on 3-14 at AO's place. Obviously, this should have been 6-28 instead, because the important constant is 2pi. Who cares about diameters - the period of imaginary exponent is, of course, much more fundamental. This way it will also join the club of Physical Constants Starting With 6 (like G=6.67e-11N*m^2/kg^2, h=6.626e-34Js, ...).

DC: "Well, before you interfere in My domain, please take a moment to fix the sign of electric current."

(In fact, mathematically, chances for a real physical constant or value with arbitrary units start with 6 is not the same as to start with any other digit. For 1 it's much higher and for 9 it's much lower. It's easy to understand that. The constant's log is what should be uniformly distributed).

Changed my mind: reference params are better than pointer params

Confession: for long time, I've been thinking that C++ reference is a fancy and a completely stupid way of writing a pointer. A way useful only for two things. One is operator overloading when an lvalue is needed - i.e. where "&a += c" semantics is not an acceptable way of writing "a+=c". The second thing is to make it easier to cut-and-paste code across functions, so that a lazy programmer wouldn't have hard time adding all those stars. The truth is different: reference is a significantly different language tool than a pointer. A reference can never be invalid, at least unless forced to be so with a far less-trivial construct than what is needed to make a pointer invalid.

In the modern era of C++ references and boost::shared_ptr, pointers can really be confined to something that is "explicitly nullable" and where you need this nullability.

VZ: "But of course. Every * and -> is an access violation waiting to happen"


Google calculator

Google calculator query of the day [rus]: 1 python in parrots.

To summarize all googlecalc capabilities known to me (if you don't know what's google calculator, try searching for 4*5 on google):

1. sqrt(2)^sqrt(2)^sqrt(2)^sqrt(2)^sqrt(2)^sqrt(2)^sqrt(2)^sqrt(2)^sqrt(2) (can be continued)
2. G*(mass of the earth)/(radius of the earth)^2
warning: small g is gram, not earth gravity field
3. (answer to life, the universe and everything)/6
4. c in furlong per fortnight
5. 5J in calories, 6500 USD in ILS, 1 MeV in Joules
7. Complex numbers: sqrt(-4), i^i, e^(2*pi*i)
8. Functions: sin(17), ln(-8)
9. 9!, or even 0.5! (!!!) (well, i! too)
10. Data units: 1Mb in bytes , 1GB in bytes, 1GB/128kbps in days

Quote of the day

"Murphy's law doesn't work only when you actually need it." [Credit to BoazS]


Russian plurals

I told DN that the Russian language has a special amusing plural form for 5 and more. Her response was "Pity, they should have had a special form for primes"


Carbon dioxide emissions

Funny - my car (Toyota Prius) emits less carbon dioxide than if it's passengers would have been walking or running the same distance. This is the only such car.

A typical 70kg human burns about 75Kcal fat per km (running. Walking is even less efficient). That is about 1.05kg fat per 100km. Toyota Prius at slow cruise (80kph) burns about 3.3liters per 100km and can carry 5 passengers. Human fat has about the same energy density than octane (roughly 25% less).

It seems like lack of wheels is what makes our bodies so inefficient.

Speaking of which - many people attribute Prius efficiency to the hybridity - ability to regenerate energy back from breaking. They don't know that this is only one third of it's story. The #1 invention in the Prius is a unique continuously-variable transmission, of a type only possible in a hybrid car. The so-called ECVT, only possible in a hybrid car, is a complete wonder. It's a very lightweight transmission, which is truly continuous but does not have any ribbons or cones - all the way rigid toothwheels. How is that at all possible - is an amazing story. The third part is of course the Atkinson-cycle engine, which beats the inherent thermodynamic inefficiency of the 4-stroke ICE.


Airline seats

People are always being asked whether I prefer the window set or the aisle one. Dima95, however, provided an eye-opening idea: the best seat in the airplane is the middle one.

This way you have two neighbors, and you can choose which one is less annoying to talk to (or possibly, more pleasant to sleep on). Also you can seal the other two off from communicating - this ensures that they don't get any pairs/couples in your line who probably reserved two consequent seats from ahead of time so that they can sit together - further increasing chances of interesting interactions, which certainly are the best time-wasters in the air.


Israeli cellphone numbers

I am surprised how many people don't understand my recent gtalk's status message: "No more 054 4818021. Since November, please find me at 05 44818021."

Hint: I used to be a slave [of a mobile phone company]. Now I am a free man!

More on that matter: a super-funny bug in VM's phone system was discovered - it's no longer possible to call 054 numbers which are not Orange. They are directed to the Orange line which then replies "only orange numbers can be called from this line".

Funny story #3: It appears like landline company phones are now also interchangeable. One can move from Bezeq to Hot and still have his 03 number. IZ was trying to move an apartment to another area in Tel Aviv, and was trying to keep his 03. "No" said bezeq, "we cannot relocate to a different station". His only way to keep it was to move to another phone company, and then back to bezeq.


Frogs are diamagnetic

And so are humans. This video - http://www.hfml.ru.nl/pics/Movies/frog.mpg - shows a levitating frog in 16Tesla constant magnetic field. I wish they could build a big one for humans.

Perhaps my levitating globe just has a frog inside? :)


Google multi-chat

At last! GTalk got the conference feature (N-user chat). What's funny - it extends it both ways. When everybody quits a multi-chat window - N can become one. Now THAT's a feature - you can finally talk to yourself.


Multiple universes

It is said that about 50% of physicists today are in favor of many-worlds interpretation of the quantum mechanics. BS: "When I was young, it sounded like something totally freaky".

I have never liked it though, from the point of view of software design strategies.


Logon to windows

TASE managed to ingeniously name their active directory domain on the unclassified network - "LOCAL", standing for a local network. So when you have to enter your user/password and choose an AD domain, you are miserably left with the two choices. VG: Pity they didn't call it "This computer".

54 °C ??

[Did you know?] The Eurasia's hottest recorded air temperature was measured nowhere else than in Israel (Tirat Zvi), according to this source. For obvious reasons this is Israel's second occurrence on that page.


A quote

Garrison Keillor: "Intelligence is like 4-wheel drive. It enables you to get stuck in ever more remote places".

What does this remind you more of? Politics? Law? Software design? Physics?

Oh, speaking about stucking.. We recently agreed with Roie that "stuck" is okay as a present-tense word. I think "getting stuck" is too long for the modern world dominated by (ms) software, where it happens much more frequently than to things in the past. RM: "I think it went from past-tense to adjedctive to present-tense. I used to hate it, but now I think it's cool."

Okay, it's time to finish here, and to send you all to re-read the "Share and Enjoy" stucking story [Restaurant at the end of the universe]


Mouse odometer

This thing measures mileage of your mouse.


Funny, but the prog itself is not something. VZ suggested that this information could be used for "10K maintenance" for the mouse and for the hand. In case of ball mice, separate maintenance and therefore mileage for two axes could be interesting.

Some raised a concern whether the PC can actually know the real distance traveled by the mouse.

Surely you are joking..

I am frequently being asked why is the blog's name so strange and how does it relate to the Feynman's infamous book. Some time before starting, at last, with the crazy idea to serialize some of the everyday funny stories into UTF-8, I came across a stupid and severely buggy and dysfunctional program, sent to me by my accountant/bookkeeper to print out 'tlushei maskoret'. According to the bookkeeper, MC, the app was very special - it was supposed to let me print a document but not copy it. Strange. During the installation, it displayed a large splash screen "Thank you for installing [Your application name here]".

The rest of the app was not less wonderful.

More about the title. I was talking to a high-school-time friend of mine, YoavM, whom I met again at TAU physics faculty after our 3-year service in the army. He asked me what I managed to do while serving, and I said that one of the useful things I did was reading the whole of Feynman's book. He asked me "oh, you also read surely you are joking". I said "no, actually I haven't. I read Feynman's lectures on physics". He replied, in English, "surely you are joking..."



Another anecdote brought from the WOC2007: Imre Leader says he had a problem to sign himself up as a leader of the British team to the International Mathematical Olympiad. "Okay, so Imre is the leader, but what's his surname?" they kept asking. VladikG: "Escaping is a common problem in languages, including programming languages. This leads to idiotic bugs like SQL Injection holes"

Perhaps Russian speakers remember the Nikulin's joke about a georgean guy named "avas" who was asked what's his name and after three iterations they gave up. For Hebrew readers, there's an even better one - at least in being a real story - brought by my brother from his army base. They had an Ethiopian immigrant soldier named "moshe lama". He also had severe accent and troubles with understanding. So every time he was asked for his last name for authorities, he answered "lama" (=why, heb) and made some ppl really angry with that.

Speaking of the army, this reminds me of another story of an ethiopean soldier also named Moshe, the story also told by VladikG when he was in Giv'ati. The legend says that the guy was very talanted and learned to speak Russian pretty well - which was a disaster, because for uneducated (officer's) eye his black appearance was misleading, and they were seeking someone else to punish if he speaks out. One night the shortwave frequencies were filled up, as usual, with curses in russian (mat) from unidentified sources, but the truth about Moshe started to leak. At some point a "russian" officer broke the code of silence, "Moshe, shut up already!". After a short silence, the reply was in perfect moscow accent - "Mark, go suck my black dick."^Z. I don't know what punishment he received, but certainly he was one of those clowns who could humiliate themselves to the worst extent possible to give others a good laugh.


Tournament of Towns - maths olympiads

The Israeli TOT site, taharut.org has published yesterday the problems and solutions of the 17th tournament held in 1996. This reminded me of a personal account - a heroic story from that Olympiad which made the entire ceremony hall laugh.

During the ceremony, the event leader prof. Boris Begun said he is gonna tell about three highlights from checking the works, before giving the prizes. The first was about that all 8 first-place diplomas are from one school this year (It was Shevah-Mofet, TA). Second was a story of the legendary Mark Braverman from Karmiel who got a TOT prize despite being a 3rd grade elementary school student. The third story was about a severe clownship found in one of the works. Well, two of the three stories were related to me.

"In problem #5 (spring season, at the end of the page) there were two parts, A and B. The student haven't succeed to solve either of them, but presented a correct proof that one of the statements of either A or B is correct".

I cannot remember for life what was my proof, but I definitely thought of it as of something simple compared to what looked then like a hard puzzle, which I failed to solve in 5 hours of the competition. I wrote it as a joke, of course not hoping to get any points. I still hope I didn't, and that other 3 solved problems sufficed fair and square for the said diploma I got that year - after very low luck on earlier TOTs.


Charging laptops

Two weeks ago I was stuck in Athens hotel without a laptop charger. More than 20 stores couldn't sell me one for a ThinkPad x60. VZ told me on the phone, "Try to find one, or maybe make one. Shouldn't be too difficult for you to build a buck converter." He was surely joking, as an electronics engineer he should have known that laptop charger needs as well a rectifier. I didn't find any charger in 3 days, but this reminded me of another short but yet heroic laptop charging story from a few years ago. Now it can be used a a DIY guide if you are stuck in a similar situation, but please be careful.

It was late night in a hotel in Prague, and I didn't have an appropriate plug - but the charger was okay with an Israeli plug. All stores were closed and I desperately wanted to use my laptop, which ran out of battery. It took 2 hours to search the area for something suitable, and a couple more for thinking, after which the following was done: I went to the nearest pizza bar, and asked them for a tiny piece of tinfoil. That seemed to amuse them a little bit, but they gave me. From that, I twisted two electrical wires to stuck into the socket. [NOTE: please don't do it, this is a very dangerous practice. If you do not know how to take electricity precautions, don't blame me for burning your house down].

The mission was a success. Another charger horror story is from a friend of mine codenamed EK. He flied to Washington DC to make an important presentation. To his horror, he forgot the charger for his laptop. After 12 hours flight, he found himself in the conference room, and started it with "questions at the end, please" and was talking very fast. At some point the battery ran out - "Do you have any questions?" he said. He said that the public was amazed, like they didn't know such stupidity is at all possible.

Othello for Pocket PC

I met someone who bought a Qtek phone with MS WinCE instead of a better one just in order to be able to run my program (CEZebra). That was cool :)

However, google search sucks. People are also telling me that they've been searching for mobile Othello/Reversi software, and seen that people keep producing powerless reversi programs for Pocket PC, instead of downloading the right thing. Oops, I see a number of links there are broken, maybe that's why. My mail there is not correct anymore, I will have to update this page. (Double oops).

So, this is to add a little to CEZebra's web footprint. It continues to be the strongest mobile Othello program. If anybody doesn't know the real Zebra, please have a look here: http://radagast.se/othello/

Unfortunately, we haven't been working on it for a few years, it's hard to motivate myself into working on a freeware project. Hopefully, one day we'll resume the effort.

The Princess Bride (1987)

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." - was quoted by Ilya Shifman before the game with Jian Cai on the World Othello Championship 2007, after she's beaten Leonid Shifman.

Watch live WOC coverage at http://www.othello.nu/woc2007/live/


At last: musical pavement

Finally, something I'm talking about for a long time - to make scratches on the road to play some music when you drive on it with the right velocity.


I hope they do go further - like stereo and multiple tracks :)

MarkK suggestion - encoding voice messages, like "This lane ends" or "End of freeway" or "This lane goes to Jerusalem".

The Gregorian calendar

A friend of mine told me that he doesn't really know exactly what months are there in a year and which order they come. This amused me, and I heard different comments on whether it's okay :)

Boaz [TASE]: "It's absolutely trivial and non-interesting info". "though he surely remembers 20 digits of PI instead.."

What do you think?


Congratulations for the new premises

Two fantastic stories were told me recently by YL. (Note - usually, I don't publish second-order stories, but these two are both a real something and 2-rd order-sweared to be true. Also, I can see no way how could one have made it up).

The first is about a guy who moved to a new and larger office with his firm, and received flowers with a "my condolences ..." note. So he called up the flower company which quickly apologized. Then they said, "you might be glad to know though that the second guy was much more upset." ^Z. (see headline)

The second story was about her boss who was fighting in Vietnam war. The group was parachuted somewhere, and one guy was stuck in the trees. Next morning they go search for him and see the following picture: the guy is hanging with his parachute, asleep, 20cm above ground. Explanation: they were dropped in a moonless night and he had no idea what height is he above the ground.

...Or is it the wind? There really is a lot of that now isn't it? And wow! Hey! What's this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like ... ow ... ound ... round ... ground! That's it! That's a good name - ground! I wonder if it will be friends with me? [HHGG]


George Boole is turning in his grave

enum Bool

Comments are useless, only credits.
This is from TheDailyWTF.


Segway is cool - brief summary

The "4x4" variant can go anywhere, on any reasonable and unreasonable slope (like 45deg), in any direction (not necessarily gradient). It's very hard to fall from it but not impossible. It can feel jumpy on hard terrains. Speed = 25km/h. You can drive handsfree, the UI is very intuitive. After 5 minutes you don't feel the machine anymore. Charged by a teapot plug (like a comp). It can be yours for about $7K.

The city variant - can be riden on sidewalks only [israel], but requires no license. Can be used instead of walking in any possible way, you can drive slowly with it into elevators, etc.

It has regenerative breaking (for descents and stops). Full charge time - a few hours. Max reasonable speed - 25km/h. Gyro sampling frequency - 100Hz. Min age to ride it in Israel - 16YO.

To try one - go to Eilat, call 077-2199906 to schedule a long segway trip to the birdwatching park. I asked about renting one - this would actually be a cool toy in Eilat, because a car there isn't very handy. They didn't sound too cooperative, the idea was kinda new to them.



We went to do some carting (with VM). It was the first time in my life, but at least I finally got a "gold medal" for something (which cannot be said about IPhO).

On the way back I complained that it sucks to drive after carting - a very unhealthy practice. RM said that tetris is the most counter-educational game before driving. VK: "yeah, but it's very educational for parking."

Road#10 to Eilat is a bad idea

I've decided to try this out. First, it's much longer than anyone would expect. Second, it's almost as wide as my car's exhaust pipe (and Prius isn't big). Third, you have egyptians with Kalachnikovs on the other side every a few kilometers.

However, it's an ultra beautiful road. My mistake was to drive the 'philadelphic route' alone and unarmed. The army wouldn't let me thru most of the checkpoints, I had to wait sometimes for millitary (or other) traffic to accompany me. This was funny. It's because they posess some kidnapping alerts.

What's less funny is that one of the magavnicks I gave lift to, explained me that nearly every day they have border events. Mostly influx of ppl thru the border, some of which they couldn't catch. On the way I visited a base (they let me in - either case they are stuck in the middle of nowhere) and bought water in a military Shekem. The shekem was basically a plastic box with some ice and crembo.


How many mathematicians does it take to change a light bulb?

The answer: N. Unlike nearly all other lightbulb jokes, this one is not even offensive to any group - even though "N" is usually considered a positive integer unless said otherwise (in maths and in Fortran).

My favorite bulb jokes involve sending someone to watch out for incoming electric current.

For more serious stuff, read how many legislators does it take to change a light bulb - a bill to ban selling incandescents. I wish Israeli lawmakers could be smart enough for that, too.


Database security

Well, let's start with a comix:

For those who hate parsing comixes, I will just summarize that a kid introduced himself to a teacher as an SQL injection , and got his code to database thru spelling and the stupidity of the teachers. In the category of machine-human interaction anecdotes, this is of course no match to the real story of how a guy manually wrote gibberish on an envelope he posted, because he thought these letters (copied from an email) were a real russian font.

But that's not what I wanted to say. What amused me is that the conclusion they come to at the end of the comix is plain wrong. All possible inputs should be supported - not filtered out - to achieve the required security.

I am also amazed by stupidity of some security experts, who recommend people to use stored procedures to achieve just that. As if "not concatenating string inputs into SQL as is" is a hard instruction for coders to follow otherwise.

public static string SqlQuote(string s) {
return "'" + s.replace("'", "''") + "'";

would definitely do the trick. Don't let them ever scare you.


Minesweeper vs. Notepad

I have been trying to view a 0.5GB text file recently. No, Windows Notepad was clearly not the first choice, because I perfectly knew what would happen. (To my greatest surprise, neither UltraEdit nor Notepad++ could perform this task smoothly.)

And no, I don't want to say anything bad about Microsoft. I grew up on Windows and used to be a certified Win32 API god. All I want to say is that a moderate-size software vendor can afford to make a text editor in 15 years of work on their OS package. "The size of that company is insane. Can you imagine Safeco Field filled to the brim with software developers? And that’s just the Vista Shutdown Menu Team."

The above quote is from Joel. He also writes elsewhere about craftsmanship in software development. In my opinion, this is how notepad should have been implemented:
1. It takes 10 milliseconds to determine the size of a file. For the very least, it could have not tried to open it.
2. The only reason it would need to read more than the first kilobytes when launched is to display scrollbar position. For this it needs to count the number of lines. This task could really be postponed, with a 200-codeline logic, and you don't need any threads for that. The user could really afford to stay without scrollbar for a while.
3. Even that same scrollbar could have been displayed - based on byte position instead of line position, assuming that this is a good first-order approximation. Then during user's idle time it could dive into heuristic estimation of average number of new lines per file size in different areas, scanning randomly only parts of the file. Optimized to harddrive storage units, of course. This way the scrollbar display would be perfect for large files and this can be accomplished relatively fast.
4. I don't even mention how switching to word-wrap mode should be immediate and save the cursor (and not the scrollbar) position.
5. And last but not least, this can be done within 10K executable file, no more than 20K RAM (ok, we let it use 1MB) and no visible CPU overhead.

So, this they couldn't achieve in 15 years (in fact, the only changes in notepad since Windows 3.1 are the status line and UTF-16 support). Nor could they fix the old bug that Windows Explorer hangs during CD acceleration. By no means it's a simple bug - the short acceleration phase does not fit well into the two possible return values of IsDiskInDrive() somewhere, so they are probably left with thinking it's more inside than outside and wait for the hardware interface until it can actually bring data. An API expansion beyond bool would probably require to rewrite tons of code right up to the UI support, and some of it is not actually actually their code, or something like that.

But then again, aren't they being paid for it? Is it really difficult to recognize my need in good working notepad, calc without 3rd-part addons? (The calc, I must admit, knows to compute "0.5!" - GOOD!). Does Steve Ballmer use CDRoms? Recently I've discovered what really kept them busy during all this time - minesweeper. This article explained me all about it, now I can imagine why redesigning a Win2000 start menu into the WinXP one takes 70 programmers. Enjoy.

P.S. Notepad recognized as the best software that came out of Microsoft :)


Demotion procedure

A friend of mine (codenamed AP) was thrown out of talpiot for some academic misbehavior (aka copying homework). Of course, it's a regular thing, but once upon a time somebody had to be caught so it was him. Others have been trying to save him from the punishment, but this didn't help. Of course, he believes until today that this is one of the best things that ever happened to him - because - honestly speaking, Talpiot is not something.

While discussing the story today, someone asked - 'how is the demotion ceremony actually performed in the army? Is it like puting the poor guy naked in the middle and everybody shouting angry words at him or something..'

YL seemed to have an idea. "A rebuke procedure starts with the ceremony leader entering the scene. Then he should say 'good bye, and thanks for your attention'. Following that part they continue playing the usual rank ceremony reversed, and of course, all people should be walking backwards.


Special deals for tuning forks

A friend of mine [named Tom Yuval] went to buy a tuning fork. He explains that nearly all tuning forks are 415, 440 or 442 Hz. 440Hz would be the standard and the most popular one or something.

When he finished, he got a 442Hz fork and a gift from the salesman. "This is for you to remember our service, and also you got additional 2Hz for the price of 440Hz one", he said. [End of story]

(442 is said to be a different standard, allegedly used for tuning orchestras because some sound-producing devices are problematic with low frequencies so they raise the whole thing a little up. Which doesn't matter, at least not as much as the relative frequency ratios between such devices.)

P.S. Someone please remind me the source of this Russian quote (a real one), about an experimental physicist getting visited by a KGB agent:
- what is this part?
- it's a transformer.
- what is it doing?
- it decreases the voltage.
- intentionally?
- yes.


ILPHO: Shush is now open

Nearly all ILPHO participants since 1993 know a lot about Dejour's grilled cat with rice and sauce. Those who don't, please skip to the next post. Others are welcome to get amused by this, take care to zoom in.

That was collected during the 2008 summer camp, held in August 2007.

Vilcus for sale



See also: http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/rozetkus/


Sick of kernel-mode transitions?

We know that mode transitions are a performance killer of any application, but protected mode is a must for being any serious, secure and stable. Once upon a time, there was Windows 3.0 which supported the so-called "real mode" in which the hole thing ran in ring zero.

I am publishing this post only because a friend of mine googled for my today's gtalk status and discovered that nobody has come up with this wisdom before, so I want to index it:

Real men use real mode.


Recalled: Clean desk - a sign of sick mind?

I was told an interesting observation recently that all cubicles in a typical workplace usually look different. Some employees always have clean desks and keep entropy levels very low. Others have huge piles of crap on their tables. This reminded me of a story from long time ago.

It was one day at TASE when I came in the morning and started ordering my table. When I was a kid, parents taught me that when I don't find something it's a good sign to clean up some mess. and then came my boss named B (who always has the biggest pile on his desk). "What do you think you are doing?!" he asked, very surprised. I told him that I cannot find something important so I decided to make some order. He replied "ah, so you are punishing yourself". Someone else at the place (ZC) nearly exploded from laughing. It was then discovered that what amused him was the idea that ordering things is considered a punishment.

Recalled: I'm feeling lucky

Remember the "feeling lucky" button on Google? Nobody uses it, but it's been there from the beginning. For those who don't, go to http://google.com and hit lucky button for a search string "french military victories".

The suggestion is to add a "I'm feeling lucky" button to food delivery sites like 10bis.co.il to order random lunch to your registered address (without telling you what's going to arrive, of course). I think this could really save some useful working hours..


Use the force, Luke!

At last, I've solved all my keyboard needs and problems. I bought another three DASes and now I have them on all computers that I use frequently.

When I was a kid, I've been searching for a blank keyboard to buy and it appeared to be not an easy task, so I tried to wipe out signs off an existing keyboard, but the result somehow failed to please. And of course, it's not only the point that it's blank. The point is that it's just a very good keyboard. It's a little too noisy, but not as noisy as the old IBM PS/2 keyboards. Some people say it's also less good than the old PS/2.

So, no more wrong-insert-delete-block or function keys grouped by 5 (I wonder how stupid one has to be to design a keyboard with wrong layout though, like some keyboards which are found today in stores with these features). And, it's also cool. You can get one here - http://www.daskeyboard.com/ , to prevent some of your friends from impersonating your logins.

P.S. A month later, our sysadmin (who couldn't type blind) approached saying that those who use Das Keyboard should also have a Der Monitor, and turned my monitor off.


Recalled: Cleaning guns

Many people are getting drafted these days. This creates some sadness, but also several cool recruitment parties and some funny stories are being recalled at these - usually by friends about their own service. One of these I want to share today. It's a story told by MK from his tironut (basic training course). It was long time ago, and I don't quite remember the exact reason why it didn't find its way to the honorable mentions on DarwinAwards.

The story is about a kid who was very stupid. It started with that he's locked his gun to his bed (so that it won't be stolen by the bosses) and when the time came for the night guarding, he couldn't find the key, so MK had to guard an extra hour (they were not allowed to exchange guns).

The following morning the key was found and they went to the shooting ground for their first time. As usual, it started with long gun cleaning with a stick brush (a stick with "flanelit" on it's end) but instead of putting the kids in a line like it's always done, they've let the soldiers to operate stick-brush themselves.

At some point it was discovered by the commanders that the soldiers are doing nothing, and the question about the location of the stick-brush was raised. They couldn't identify the guy who was using it the last, so they sent for another stick-brush. Then they repeated the same mistake again, and after an hour shooting safety talk they started shooting.

Group1, group2, group3. Approaching the targets.. And then they can't believe their eyes.. A piece of stick-brush stuck in one of the targets! Meaning, the guy was not only stupid enough to be ashamed and afraid to tell that he pushed that brushstick into his gun - he proceeded further with shooting and even shot at the targets.

It was in fact very dangerous, because guns are usually designed to hold gas pressure for only a very short time, and heavier bullets usually make them explode.

* * *

A short bonus IDF story. In IDF, the kitchens always get bread supply. They store it, and always use the yesterday's bread. Safety, they call it - what if something happens to the bread supply? So, every day soldiers find themselves eating yesterday's bread, while the kitchen management actually has today's shiny bread stored in the next room. We asked, "could we please have some of today's bread?". The answer from the kitchen boss [aka IW] was "But of course. Come tomorrow".


Recalled: two mice

VM's secretary left us recently. She was okay, but this reminded me of a story about another secretary. The story brought by LR [unconfirmed].

A secretary called up the company's sysadmin, and asked him whether it is possible to install a second mouse on her comp. The technician was surprised, and said "Yes, sure it's possible. But why would you need it?"

"When I am playing solitaire, " she replied, "I want to look at the card below the one I am holding".

My favorite Engrish

This pic is my shot from our solar eclpise trip, 29/3/06. I was asked by VZ "there is no such word in english, is there??"

What's remarkable is that this clearly could not have been a spelling mistake. They missed an appropriate word, so they decided to invent their own.
That's certainly very creative.

The following are some of my favorite posts from Engrish.com.
Be sure to read the priceless comments.

Happy strinking!

[I liked the editors comment more than the pic itself]

















Bowling with bilbo: