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:


The Monthly OMG

I bet this blog, while still being kept more-or-less in secret, has already managed to make some people angry. Here's another try.

This is a report from a code analysis from hell (or from N*). Suppose you pass a pointer to a buffer to some routine, which has to fill up the buffer. But, alas, you are not interested in the first 8 header bytes of the data. What do you do?

Here's what KY did: you allocate a buffer
p = new char[manyBytes]
, and pass p-8 to the routine.


FIFO flow control

Having my spirit fly around the 2-week ILPHO summer camp in Technion and working for VM at the same time is not an easy task. On that day I was at N**** (a subcontractor) trying to help them debug the overrunning FIFO queues, which got overflooded with data of a DMA transfer.

At this time, AL calls me with horror, saying too many of the previous year's team guys have arrived, and he has a total of 10 people to manage and he doesn't know what to do. So I advised him to use the workforce to finally clean out the 601 room.

For those who don't know, the history of this room is, by itself, remarkable. We got it in 2004, to be one of the HQ offices of the physics olympiad. Yoav was the first to enter it. He noticed quite a strange phenomenon, which was later referred to as a "chemical attack". It seemed like the people have worked there, at some point went out for lunch and never returned again for 3 years. Open papers on the tables, bottles of water, food, working fridges with milk, all with expiry days of 2001. Notes on the walls with urgent stuff to do that dates back in 2001. A 2cm layer of dust on the floor. Right during a workday, people left, the site was locked for 3 years and now it was reopened again by Yoav.

We made the office useful by creating huge piles of garbage in the corners, piles of really enormous size. Then over the years we threw 1/2 of what's left, and what was supposed to be 1/8th looked just like the original. Today, under AL's command, still 4 more years later, the piles were supposed to face an end.

Then I got back to exploding FIFOs debugging and flow control. Several hours later I was talking to Igor over the phone. I asked him about cleaning of the 601, so he said that a great job was done. They threw out half of the garbage, but then the effort was stopped, he said. "It had to stop, because all garbage cans in the neighborhood were full". I had to explain what caused me roll on the floor when I heard this.

P.S. It was figured out what kind of disaster happened to the previous inhabitants of the office 601. During Rabin's rule, there was an edu budget increase disaster, during which some random money flowed in even more random directions. This created a huge series of useless projects. During the 2001 downfall they were searched for and destroyed. The guys working on this project named [censored] were called up for a meeting and told "you are all fired". So they didn't care to return to the office to switch off the lights, and so it stayed for 3 years.


Quote of the day

"A non-smoking area in a restaurant is like a non-peeing area in the pool"

It's interesting to point out that in both cases it's diffusion that invalidates the concept.

Though speaking about peeing in the swimming pools, my favorite one is "It's okay to pee in the pool, but not from the jumping stand". This can be used to illustrate the difference between "blatant" and "flagrant" types of chutzpah.

[sent by TY, the second one by GS]

How many fortepiano tuners are there in New York?

The first week of the summer camp for ILPHO2008 finished today. As usual, the week has generated many new anecdotes, and made us recall some of the the earlier ones.

In 2001, YM1995 was guiding ILPHO for the first time. To those who might not know, I will explain that not only 90% of the academic work is handled by ex-participants and other volunteers, we are also used to handle logistics ourselves. Due to an allegedly ingenious idea of how to deliver bed linens to the kids on the first day (the idea involved having no tracking) we managed to loose 2/3 of what we were provided. How did this happen, I don't know. YL2007 later said "there're millions of ways the linens could have disappeared, you are too old to understand that".

Great. After the respective fines were paid, next year YM carried out precise recording of who took what. Not before trying to convince everybody that we should not deal with that at all and the students should bring these from home. ER: "I cannot do it this way". While patiently assigning blankets, a student codenamed AL2003 (living in nearby haifa) approached me with a question - "why didn't you tell people to bring these from home?". So I sent him immediately to YM to ask exactly the same question again.

The next scene was YM jumping and screaming happily, exclaiming "genius!! einstein!!", causing a certain confusion and amusement, especially to the kid who didn't know what did he do.

It was even joked that Israel should never agree to host an IPhO. "We are incapable of handling logistics. It will be disaster, we'll be expelled from the Olympiad if we try", said YM.

And then there was evening and there was morning and a few more of these, maybe like 15K times more, people grew up, brought I/APHO prizes, got drafted to IDF, released, and AL2003 finds himself responsible for a few days of logistics as an officer in the camp for team 2008.

The problem from the subject line is from the class of "estimate based on the common knowledge and physical reasoning problems". I think it's something classical, perhaps invented by Fermi? [plz correct or add ref in comments]. We've played with a lot of those during these camps.

So Amir approaches to me and says, "you won't believe they refuse to provide us toilet paper this time. I need to go buy some". "How to estimate how much toilet paper I need for the 32 kids for two weeks??"

P.S. Igor suggested that we print stage B solutions for the kids after the first day. "No need, said Amir, it's a waste. But on the other hand, you won't need to buy any toilet paper today if we do".


IDF Guarding duties

Imagine you are on a guarding duty, without a chance to read, write or even sit down. And say you have a cloudy sky so you cannot even look at the milky way. What do you do? You can use the following as tips for IDF service.

Two friends of mine found a way to entertain themselves with arithmetics - YoavM computed and learned by heart squares of 3-digit numbers. AmirL was working hard to break his rifle's serial number into primes. To his disappointment, it was a product of just two primes, both 4-digit.

As for my personal account for guarding duties, my top achievement was discovering the Haley-Bopp comet. It was a cloudless night. More exactly, there was one cloud. I came out of the tower and saw it. "Ha, funny cloud" I thought. An hour later the lonely funny cloud still remained in the sky. OMG, it's a comet! I thought. The next day the funny cloud was there too, and with no TV or anything I could know for sure what we have here.


Command line

[Unfortunately this post is only for russian readers]

During an argument about command line vs GUI it was discovered that some people are not familiar with this wisdom. Other's surprisingly didn't know that it's a spoof on V. Vysotsky. Now these two issues are settled, I hope.


Azrieli towers fire

For the first time in my life I got my photo posted on ynet.


A better one can be found here.
I don't know why they didn't post the previous one, which was also related to fires - "טוב שההגה הבידיים של אגד"


My channel on youtube and RSS

The RSS on youtube is indeed a well-hidden feature. Use this link to subscribe to my videos:

Unfortunately, it's not possible to subscribe to the favorites AFAIK. You will have to go to my channel's homepage for that. Enjoy.


18 years old?

Strange coincidence: 3rd time during the last 2 weeks they refuse to sell me beer without checking my ID. I don't really look 15YO I think. This time, when the waitress looked at my driving license, she was very surprised and screamed something like "1977, Oh MY GOD!" :)

Continuously updated, for reference: last time I was refused to buy beer without ID was: [5/10/2007]


UI Lessons

This one is too hilarious to send you to the source (which is http://www.thedailywtf.com).


Hot colors and cold colors

Most people think of red as a "hot color" and blue as a "cold color". This is, of course, completely wrong from the thermodynamical point of view. All astronomers and photographers known that. However, even the later still call the R and B sensor pixels as "hot" and "cold" ones sometimes, instead of vice versa.

The confusion is probably from the fact that people have only seen relatively cold objects, like the sun or a light bulb, which are just a few thousands of ºC.

So, it's suggested that from now on we refer to them as "hot" and "very hot" to avoid confusion. And by the way, pink is both hot and cold, and green is neither.


To my surprise, today is the first time I've seen boost's tuples. They are actually pretty cool.
Remember the matlab's multiple return values [a,b] = func(c,d) semantics?

Now in C++, with a few cool boost::tuples:
int i; char c; double d;
tie(i, c, d) = make_tuple(1,'a', 5.5);
For the rest, go to tuples reference.

Unfortunately the boost guys have completely missed the idea of physical units recently, but that's a whole different story.

Misplaced ads


If needed, lookup 404.

Another funny link from today is in Russian, so I will attempt summarizing. A couple was reserving a hotel room over the phone, and the first question was about the price. The second question left them ROFLing and speechless and was about their roof's color. Let's leave the reason for the later question as a puzzle [חידת מצב] for you...

Solution here: [They couldn't identify the hotel on Google Earth]


Waldek Gorzkowski [1939-2007]

DISCLAIMER: The following should not be read by anyone. It contains information which should never be serialized into text. It has a potential (even though no intent) to hurt others. It is not recommended for children and/or adults, quoting in written or oral form. With all due respect to , and there is lots of respect, please close the window now.

HEY?? By reading further, you confirm to have closed the window.

[text deleted, after a request by ILPHO authorities. moved to a private forum in ILPHO wiki]

Canonical hebrew translation

of the plumbers' ad "We repair what your husband's fixed"

By YoavM:
"אנחנו מתקנים את מה שבעלך סידר"


Magic numbers in code

The following is from a piece of code which has fallen into my hands. It's from [a large military industry]. There's a new approach to the problem of magic numbers in code.

Byte_1_type vmu_ver_minor;
Byte_1_type spare_bytes[SIXTY_NINE];
U08Int_type checksum;

(Yes that's a #define to 69. Now you have all the means to make SIXTY_NINE be 17, like in fortran :)

LevR: "someone really hates numbers out there, I guess".

A cool advantage of interpreters

There's a well-known site for stupidity wonders in software development, named DailyWTF. It's actually pretty nice, though sometimes I disagree with the editors. In either case, I have a whole bunch of programming WTF stories from my own environment(s). The following is a 2-year-old WTF from [some large financial organization, name withheld to protect the guilty].

We all heard about production software systems running in "debug" configuration, just because "they work better than their release counterparts". The later would crash, presumably because of higher chances to accidentally overwrite useful data in case of more dense static memory allocations.

This time it was something much more severe. ZM reports that he found a group working on a near-production version of a system, written on Visual Basic which they ran on a server with installed VB6 by means of "F5". They couldn't do it any other way, because their application ....would not compile.


Lawyer's education

A nice quote, best used during an introduction talk for law studies in a university:

"Civilization starts with the idea of a real agreement -- for example, 'We crap here and we sleep there, OK?' "

The Fibonacci salad

As known, I've recently moved. This triggered series of celebrations of the new place, and I received various gifts. It's common for people to bring chocolate or wine (especially when they don't know what to bring,) but AO was original and brought a huge salad. This reminded me of a story about another salad (no connection).

It's said to be from the folklore of [censored] military intelligence unit. The idea of the Fibonacci series was used by their kitchen to make the so-called Fibonacci salad which they used to serve every day. The recipe is to take yesterday's salad and add to it the one of the day before yesterday.

(While writing this, I decided to look up google and discovered that there is a real thing named Fibonacci salad)

Session state

It was a design discussion meeting for Visionmap's flying system software. In stateless protocols, session state is usually maintained by means of exchanging some kind of a session cookie. It is also known to everybody around that my brain is nearly completely stateless.

When I asked the guys to remind me where we finished yesterday, I was brought this (by RM).

Traffic jams on ayalon? No problem!


(Relax, he's not fallen down. And this is of course a joke)

This is also from Ayalon, not funny:


Recycled: Know your universe

(An old story reported by DimaG, years later confirmed by MichaelP)

A group of mathematicians (from my bro's company) were celebrating a birthday of one of them. Then, after severely long drinking it got very late (aka early). Consequently a suggestion was raised "to go watch the sunrise at the sea". [End of story]

Yes, that was in Tel Aviv. It was later confirmed by MP that the plan was indeed carried out. For the readers who don't yet know what kind of a world they are living in - it weights about 6e24kg and is about 13Mm wide. Tel Avis is in the east part of the Mediterranean, enjoying lots of beautiful sunsets daily.

I guess their act was not because they didn't know, but just a combination of late night thinking and extended drinking. One day, on the plane back from Thailand, one of the APhO2003 members caused me fear for his life due to suffocation danger from laughing from this story. (I was asked to tell without thinking where would the sun rise now, and after a correct answer I had to tell him this legend.)

Cleaning the windows

As in most skyscrapers, windows cannot be opened more than just a little bit. This is not because of the safety in respect to accidental dropping of long uranium nails, and neither to prevent residents from launching origami airplanes. The real reason is building safety. This might sound pretty strange at first - one would think that opening a window would release the wind pressure buildup on the building, but in fact it's tangential wind force which is significant.

Such buildings' windows are very strong, because if an incident storm is strong enough to break a few - it can bring down the whole structure. The problem here is, of course, cleaning these windows after a dust storm, which usually takes months. So my windows open just a little bit, and from the wrong side (bottom). They are double windows here at 59th floor (for safety) so magnets wouldn't work.

Here's a list of ideas - most of which contributed by the APhO2007 team while visiting me recently (for future reference):
[1] Yoav's idea of a sophisticated mechanical construction
[2] Jonathan: start a small fire, and they will bring a huge water pump outside
[3] Me: Installing wipers (like windshield wipers in cars)
[4] Catching a few bugs to stick little brushes to them, and release them to crawl outside
[5] Hamutal suggested that cleaning a window of someone below me is easier than cleaning my own. Assaf's added an important insight that residents of the first floor will clean the windows of the top floor, and it's their problem how they do it.
[6] AssafS also suggested that we could clean the inner side VERY hard
[7] Amos: cool the room down with the air conditioner to let drops condensate on the other side, and then use a standard ultrasonic cleaner.
[8] Inverted pendulum mounted on the roof: would bump into walls with something soft, and once started, maintaining the motion should be as easy as in a normal pendulum.


Coding standards

Yesterday, I was holding a development conventions meeting with all developers at Visionmap. It was an interesting discussion with many humorous highlights.

At one point during discussion of variable, function and project naming strategies, it was suggested by VadimK that keyword "Utils" should be banned in library names, or they drift into becoming garbage cans. Some raised concerns what happens when you don't place a garbage can in a certain area. Then someone raised the issue of "New" keyword in function names.

Was it in Futurama where they had "New New York" and the old city of the future new york was named "Old New York"? (Base one numerals - says VZ). Then, LevB told us they have two functions named something like ComputeTransformationMatrix() and ComputeTransformationMatrixCorrectly().

(a typical situation which would happen when one doesn't want to risk breaking 128 other working projects, during a war)

RoieM: "This is surely very bad. It should have been a boolean parameter! :)"
LevB: "With a default - false."


Getting started

A few years ago I noticed that nearly every day something unusual, funny or fantastic in any other way happens to me. I thought making a blog out of this could be an interesting idea, but then I would have first to collect enough written stuff before going online, and that just never worked out.
I've been always thinking "if I had a personal blog, I would have published this".

At Visionmap, I was taught that everything told more than once should have instead been written, and yesterday I was finally broken. I know almost for sure that I won't have any time to maintain it, but maybe it's a catalyst for some stuff to get out for my friends' amusement.